Web2.5 in action: media

If there were an industry particularly ripe for disruption by web3, it’s media. The woes of web2 media — information vacuums, siloed conversations, controversial censorship, and ad-driven content — is well documented. Starting with one of the most powerful media companies of all, Twitter, we’ll dive into how organizations across the industry have started adopting web2.5.

Twitter: Where the Action Happens

In March 2021, Jack Dorsey made headlines by selling an NFT of his first ever Tweet for 1,630.50 ETH (~$2.9 million at the time of the sale). Dorsey’s sale was quickly followed by Twitter’s first official step into web2.5 with “The 140 Collection” in June 2021. The NFTs, distributed for free through Rarible, have to date generated 3k ETH in trading volume on Opensea.

In January 2022, Twitter stepped back into the NFT scene by announcing hexagonal profile images that verified ownership of an NFT. For well over a year, NFT creators, builders, and influencers had been changing their profiles into different NFTs through the much-maligned process of right-clicking, saving, and uploading. The hexagon release, available to subscribers of its premium “Twitter Blue” service, connected the dots between web3 on-chain ownership and web2 promotion.  

NFTs have allowed Twitter to test blockchain technology without excess risk or commitment. The 140 NFT project was not a quest for revenue, nor did it require special development from Twitter. It was a brand play — Twitter’s crypto coming-out statement, executed with brand-bolstering visuals and deep community activation. The hexagon NFT release, limited to a smaller portion of Twitter users, was a small yet vital step in connecting two separated tech stacks of web2 and web3.

 If web2.5 is epitomized by brands finding a mutually-beneficial midway point between all (complete web3 decentralization) and nothing (typical web2 centralization), Twitter has demonstrated a strong roadmap for how to do so while leveraging hype, retaining brand authority, and rewarding community.

And we have not seen the end of Twitter’s NFT or web3 involvement. Just one day after unveiling NFT hexagons, Twitter’s stealth decentralized social media network project “Bluesky” made its first official update since 2019, sharing a thorough ecosystem review of the decentralized web ecosystem. On February 7th, 2022, Bluesky announced the formation of Bluesky PBLLC (public benefit) with the mission of “developing and driving large-scale adoption of technologies for open and decentralized public conversation.”

Taking a step back to look at the last year as a whole, we see the following web2.5 roadmap from Twitter. When NFTs began skyrocketing, Twitter saw an opportunity for immediate involvement through The 140 Collection  — facilitated through Rarible and marketed through its own centralized channels. Soon after, it developed and released the hexagon integration that gave the crypto community on Twitter the ability to verify ownership. All the while, there appears to have been a covert resurgence of internal development on Bluesky, which seeks to create fully-web3 models for decentralized communication. If web2.5 is epitomized by brands finding a mutually-beneficial midway point between all (complete web3 decentralization) and nothing (typical web2 centralization), Twitter has demonstrated a strong roadmap for how to do so while leveraging hype, retaining brand authority, and rewarding community.

web2.5 trends in media

Media brands with deep IP are looking to find new revenue streams and remain relevant, experimenting with NFT mechanisms, artist collaborations and engaging their loyal communities on web3 native platforms. Keith Grossman and TIME magazine led the charge in this realm with the TIMEPieces, an NFT community initiative, which currently encompasses a series of NFT collections inspired by TIME's nearly 100 year history.

TIME has gone all in on this space, even inviting 12-year-old Nyla Hayes aboard to create its first “Artist-in-Residence'' collection, entitled “Long Neckie Women of the Year.” With regards to utility, owners of TIMEPieces unlock unlimited access to TIME.com through TIME’s 100th Anniversary in 2023 - meaning you can simply connect your wallet to peruse the site. Holders also get exclusive invites to both physical events and digital events.

Time Pieces Utility Matrix Chart

Time Magazine NFT edition cover featuring Vitalik Buterin

In March of 2022 TIME took things a step further, releasing the first-ever fully decentralized magazine issue available as an NFT on the blockchain, supported by a TIMEpieces Twitter following of 28k and an active discord of 19k. Not too bad for a 99 year old media company. 

Marvel has gone in a different direction, beginning its web2.5 foray with a gated ecosystem, partnering with VeVe to sell its NFTs. VeVe creates a streamlined buying experience for a wide variety of brands, though creating a profile does require birth date, gender, and email input — not exactly web3 ideals. A great play by the VeVe team to create a product geared solely towards protecting IP, the app is built for the retail consumer who wants access to their favorite brands with no web3 knowledge needed. Fantastic for shepherding consumers into another microcosm of a brand’s ecosystem and protecting IP, the app does gate ownership to in-app only, limiting the possibilities of web3 network effects. 

This isn’t to say the Marvel move wasn’t successful - in the past few months Spiderman, Fantastic Four, Mutant X and more have all gone live on the app with active trading. It’s also easy to get excited about the NFT showcasing possibilities. On VeVe there is a distinct experience for fans around the digital collectibles. In addition to an ever-evolving showroom, there is also an augmented reality feature that transforms your NFTs into 3D versions of themselves and superimposes them into whichever physical room you’re in.

VeVe in-app AR NFT viewing experience