If The Product is Free… Your Identity is the Product.
The big technology playbook is simple. Build some remarkable tools (Google Search, Facebook, Gmail, WhatsApp, LinkedIn) and give them away for free. Then turn around and sell information back to advertisers.
It works like a charm. Combined Google and Facebook and Microsoft are collectively worth around ~$5 TRILLION. Not bad for a free product.
Here’s the thing that’s becoming more and more uncomfortable… YOU are the product. You’ve heard plenty of privacy arguments before, so this isn’t a rant on privacy. You gave up your privacy LONG LONG AGO. It’s the trade-off for free, innovative software. Search is free and in exchange for that free software, you agree to let Google know EVERYTHING about you. That search for what part of a blowfish you can eat without dying… Google knows. That curiosity you had about leaving your partner and moving to the Bahamas… Google knows. And Facebook knows everything about your childhood, what you eat, the dirty photos you send.
We’ve collectively agreed that it’s a reasonable trade. I don’t pay for Instagram, and therefore people get to sell to me. I don’t pay for Gmail, and therefore advertisers get to target me with YouTube videos about baby products (we’re due this summer).
We’re about to see a HUGE shift, however that will make our current privacy … uh, challenges.... look very small. Identity is about to shift to a fully digital construct. We’re already building and launching tools called Verified Containers - think of it as a digital ID card that can go in any wallet. Verified Containers are being explored for all sorts of problems: Covid Vaccinations, Medical Records, Voter ID Cards. This shift to truly digital identity can take one of two paths: A) Big Tech can control it or B) It can be Neutral.
The internet is a marvel of technology because NO ONE OWNS IT. Think about that for a second… The single invention that created the most wealth in the last 200 years is owner-less. No one pays a royalty to use the internet, no one fights over who controls it (well, mostly) and the benefits for humanity are only getting started.
We get to build digital identity in the same way. Neutral. Ownerless. Widely distributed. Equal. We deeply believe that if we succeed in this endeavor, we will create wealth and abundance for all 7.5+ Billion people.