7 January 2024
The Labour of our Time, and the Work of our Minds: Moca ID will power the network effects of individuals
Back in 2018 we went out on a limb to articulate the idea of content as a platform: we argued that, because decentralized technology allows a piece of digital content to become an ownable and openly composable asset, that piece of content actually functions as a platform for various new experiences. It is able to accrue network effects that deliver value to all the participants involved in it – which is the essence of Web3, something I have often discussed (for example, in a TED talk I gave last year).
Our favourite real world example to illustrate this phenomenon is the automobile: mass ownership has enabled cars to become a platform of vastly expanded products, services, and entrepreneurial activities, each of them contributing value to the greater ecosystem of car ownership.
Under the Web3 paradigm, ownership of content can be represented by NFTs (or NFT-like assets), which accrue network effects that can deliver value to all the participants involved in the ecosystem surrounding the content. Such content in the form of NFTs functions as a platform that allows others to compose on top of that content – just like providers of car services and products compose on top of the platform that is car ownership.
In particular, personal profile picture (PFP) NFTs embody the powerful idea that digital content can serve as a platform for additional products, services, and value.
Perhaps the best-known example of this is Bored Ape Yacht Club, which has already accrued more than a thousand licenses through its Made by Apes program to verify, support, and amplify holder-made brands and products that use the NFTs of the Bored Ape Yacht Club and Mutant Ape Yacht Club collections. Ownership of Ape NFTs has given rise to coffee shops, burger joints, water brands, game content, and various other products and services that contribute to (and share in) the overall value of the Ape platform.
Photos source: Vivienne Tam
Web2 social media has effectively made each of us into micro-platforms. Humans are social creatures and in the last decades technology has facilitated social sharing on a massive and scalable basis. We form groupings and generate content based on the things we own and like, for example cars, fashion, games, books, films, music, and all other aspects of culture – but the value created by all this massive activity is owned by the companies that provide and monetize the spaces where we create and aggregate. This situation is sometimes described as digital feudalism or manorialism, wherein the masses are the serfs toiling on a lord’s property.
But now the rise of decentralization carries the potential to uplift the serfs: we, as individuals, will become the platforms. We will own our fair share of the value and benefits we generate in our digital lives. I think that this is not only likely but inevitable as more and more valuable products and services are built on top of the virtual things that we can genuinely own thanks to the spread of digital ownership.
In order to accelerate the realization of this future, we saw a need for a soul-bound, non-transferable, unified digital identity that can permanently represent individuals as platforms and allow third parties to create added value and more powerful network effects without the need for intermediaries – and with benefits that can be retained on an individual level forever by the end users who contribute to those network effects.
Such a uniform decentralized identifier (DID) makes it easier for service and content providers to serve millions or billions of people with products and services built specifically to benefit the end-user. Each user both receives and delivers value to the user-centric platform. Web2 already transformed the end user of a service into the product itself, but now we can give users the power of controlling the benefits of being the product. The most important characteristic of a DID is that (unlike most NFTs) it is not transient and it certifies the identity of one user, exclusively.
This is where Moca ID (.Moca) comes in. It is an extension to the Mocaverse ecosystem that provides a unique .Moca identifier that functions as a soulbound (non-transferable) NFT to manage your unique and non-transferable self-sovereign identity. For example, mine is ysiu.moca.
The vision we set out for Animoca Brands is to enable true digital property rights for all. This includes the ownership not only of virtual items but also of the value that we create by spending time on platforms and thus generating valuable data – value that until now we have simply given away to the platforms on which we generate the data.
The philosopher John Locke – one of the OGs in the field of ownership and a major inspiration for both the European Enlightenment and the US Constitution – argued that life, liberty and property are fundamental natural rights of all human beings. In the Second Treatise of Government, Locke observed that:
… every Man has a Property in his own Person. This no Body has any Right to but himself. The Labour of his Body, and the Work of his Hands, we may say, are properly his.
Locke was primarily concerned with the physical world when he wrote his theories on labour, but his reasoning also provides a basis for ownership of intangibles including intellectual property, usage time, data, and the derivatives of data. This was also, in many ways, the foundation and inspiration of capitalism and our democratic institutions today.
That’s what makes decentralized identifiers so important: Moca ID will usher in a new future in which (to paraphrase the great philosopher) the Labour of our Time, and the Work of our Minds, we may say, are properly ours.
Our digital lives will become our platforms, and we will rightfully own those platforms and their connected (economic) benefits through Web3. I am immensely proud that Moca ID is helping shape the decentralized future and restore the fundamental personal digital property rights that have been denied to us during much of the Internet age. I think that Locke would have found this a most interesting time indeed.
Co-Founder and Executive Chairman