I've spent a lot of time thinking about the future of content publishing online.
When you run a content website, you must understand a couple of strategies to build an audience.
If you're focused on attracting traffic from Google, you need to figure out search engine optimization. Alternatively, if you're looking for traffic from Facebook, you need to understand social media marketing and paid advertising. And if you want to build a relationship with your audience, you need a way of connecting with them over email.
With some of those methods, you're not always in control of that relationship. And in fact, I know many creators that run content publishing businesses and have seen their sites plummet in traffic and value after a Google algorithm update.
In other words, you're at the mercy of Google for how your website will perform over time. There are similar issues with Facebook, Twitter and Amazon.
As a content creator, you must play within the walled garden of whatever platform you use.
Web 3.0 could change all of that.
One way you can own a relationship directly with your audience, readers, and fans is by creating a non-fungible token or NFT.
This week's guest may help you understand how creators can use NFTs in the future. His name is Julien Genestoux, and he's the founder of Unlock Protocol.
Even if you're not quite ready to create your first NFT or even to purchase an NFT, it's worth figuring out what this technology can do because I guarantee in a few years, we will use NFTs in some way on the online platforms that we take for granted.
In this episode, we discuss:
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Julien: I do you think that most of them will eventually be, you know, NFT-based and not so much because when you say bear market, I assume because people are saying, “Oh, it’s an investment,” it’s like, no, I don’t think the interesting point about these membership NFTs is the fact that they appreciate in value because, again, I think most of them won’t, it’s just convenience in the end.
Welcome to the Become a Writer Today Podcast with Bryan Collins. Here, you’ll find practical advice and interviews for all kinds of writers.
Bryan: NFTs for creators, what should you know? Hi, there. My name is Bryan Collins and welcome to the Become a Writer Today Podcast.
So I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the future of content publishing online. That’s perhaps because I run a couple of different content websites, including Become a Writer Today. Right now, when you run a content website, you have to understand a couple of strategies if you want to build an audience. So, if, for example, you’re focused on attracting traffic from Google, you need to figure out search engine optimization. Alternatively, if you’re looking for traffic from Facebook, you need to understand social media marketing and paid advertising. And if you want to build a relationship with your audience, you also need a way of connecting with them over email. Now, the problem with some of those methods is you’re not always in control of that relationship between you and your audience. So if, for example, you have a series of articles that are ranking highly in Google, Google can release an algorithm update and then the traffic for your content website can fluctuate or even drop. And in fact, I know many creators who run content publishing businesses who have seen their sites plummet in traffic and in value after a Google algorithm update. In other words, you’re at the mercy of Google for how your website is going to perform over time. Similarly, years ago, you could publish lots of different articles and content on Facebook and expect thousands of visitors to your sites and your articles and go viral and go famous online. That’s all but impossible today unless you’re prepared to build up a platform natively on Facebook and on other social media platforms and invest in paid advertising. Similarly, if you spend time on Twitter posting links to your articles, chances are nobody’s going to click on them because Twitter likes to keep you on their platform because that’s how they earn their dollars.
So, in other words, as a content creator, you have to play within the walled garden of whatever platform you’re using, be it Google for search engine optimization, Facebook, Twitter, and, yes, even Amazon if you’re self-publishing books, because as many authors will attest, these days, it’s impossible to sell self-published books unless you’re paying for advertising.
Now, Web 3.0 could change all of that. One way that you can own a relationship directly with your audience, readers, and fans is through the creation of a non-fungible token or NFT. It’s a space that’s fascinated me over the past 12 months or so. And, yes, I know it has many critics from creators, for example, NFTs are expensive, they’re scammy, they’re difficult, some of them are plain ridiculous, and there are environmental considerations too. That said, a lot of these issues with NFTs will get ironed out over time. It’s kind of like when we all connected to the internet, or at least those of us who are over 40 like me, connected to the internet in the 1990s with a dial-up modem.
This week’s guest may help you understand how creators can use NFTs in the future. His name is Julien Genestoux and he’s the founder of Unlock Protocol. Even if you’re not quite ready to create your first NFT or even to purchase an NFT, it’s worth figuring out what this technology can do, because I guarantee in a few years’ time, we will use NFTs in some way on the online platforms that we take for granted.
So I hope you enjoy this future thinking interview with Julien. If you do, please consider leaving a short review on the iTunes Store and you can, of course, share the show with another writer or another friend, because those reviews, ratings, and stars really help the Become a Writer Today Podcast grow.
Bryan: Welcome to the show, Julien.
Julien: Thanks for having me, Bryan. I’m excited to be here today. Thanks for welcoming me.
Bryan: I’m always interested in new ways creators can earn a living online and in what direction earning a living online is going, which is what I want to talk to you about today because you have a pretty exciting company that’s working in that space. But before we do that, could you give listeners a flavor for who you are and what you do?
Julien: Absolutely. So, first of all, I’m a software engineer. I’m French. I live in Brooklyn, New York. I’ve been here for about six years after I sold my previous company to Medium, the publishing platform that I think all of you might know. I’m a big fan of the idea of the open web. I call it our collective brain. It’s a way that we human beings basically collaborate on a daily basis. One thing that I’ve realized, obviously, is that one of the business model or maybe the number one business model that is being used on the web attention is detrimental for a lot of reasons and that’s why I’m excited to work on something called memberships and we’ll talk about this in a couple seconds, I’m sure.
Bryan: So what is Unlock Protocol, your company?
Julien: Yeah, absolutely. So it’s a protocol for memberships. It’s an easy way for creators, you know, writers, podcasters, software developers but also organization, brands, companies to deploy what I call a membership contract, an easy way for them to set a price, a duration, and then sell memberships to their fan, to their community as a way to support their work but also allow them to be access some of the content that they produce, et cetera, et cetera. It’s a protocol because it’s not a platform. It’s not something that users have to go to and the platform acts as an intermediate and has to determine how much people are selling, what kind of content they’re selling. It is really about moving back to the initial idea of the web, which is basically protocol in a kind of a peer-to-peer way where nobody can sit in between a creator and their fans.
Bryan: When did you say you set up Unlock Protocol?
Julien: Yeah, about four years ago now, in late 2018.
Bryan: Okay, and what types of things are creators doing with Unlock Protocol today?
Julien: Yeah, very different things. So we actually have people doing podcasts, which is kind of a cool use case where they have, basically, you know, free episodes that everybody can listen to and then episodes that are members only and the way these episodes works is basically you connect to a website and you prove that you own a membership card. It’s an NFT. We’ll talk about this in a couple seconds. And if you do, then you’re able to listen to the content. We have people using Unlock for tickets to conferences. It’s kind of a weird way to think of this but if you think about a conference, the tickets are membership cards for the conference, even if it’s just a conference happening once. We have people using Unlock for media sites like paywalls or, you know, blogs that are monetized where some of the content is public and the rest of the content might be private. We have all kinds of those, people doing membership that allow them to participate into decision making for a group of people online.
Bryan: Yeah, interesting. I’m going to an NFT conference in a few weeks and they’ve distributed the ticket as an NFT. I guess with being an NFT conference, it would make sense, but it struck me as quite a clever way to do ticketing,
Julien: Yes. What’s really interesting about NFT ticketing, yeah, it’s like another ticket in some ways, but it’s also something that exists outside of email — usually, a ticket is an email attachment and a secure code in an email. Here, it’s an unchained element. It’s an NFT, as you said, which mean that I can use it to authenticate and log in on websites and so you can imagine a scenario where, hey, you got a ticket for that conference, you can actually go watch maybe after the conference the replays or the recording that they’ve done, or you can join another conference because you weren’t on the first one. So, really, it’s the idea of making a ticket programmable in that scenario.
Bryan: So if I’m listening to this and I’m thinking, but I can do this with a Web 2.0 tool like Patreon or Kickstarter or some other piece of software, what’s the advantage to me for using a Web 3.0 tool?
Julien: Yeah, so you can do something like that with Patreon and Kickstarter but not quite because it means that your membership relationship, your relationship with your members is stuck on Patreon. If I’m paying for your content on Patreon, it’s through Patreon. If you decide to leave Patreon, then you’re gonna lose me as a fan, as a member, because that relationship is mediated issue on my Patreon. You mentioned Patreon but Facebook is another example of this. If you have a Facebook page that I like, well, any interaction that we have has to go to Facebook. Really, our focus is to say, “No, no, it shouldn’t be limited to platform, it should be something that is kind of cross platforms,” and if this is NFT based, well, maybe you move to, you know, Twitch at some point and if Twitch allows me to connect my wallet, they can identify that I’m a member even though I got my membership initially from Patreon in that example.
Bryan: Okay, okay. Is it quite technical to get started with something like this?
Julien: It’s early days, obviously, in the ecosystem so it’s I’d say more technical than a lot of the things that we’ve got used over the last 20 years but it’s also not that complicated. If you have your own crypto wallet, you can fairly easily connect it to the website. There are many, many websites who support this and then the website will then verify whether you own that membership NFT and move on. What we are focusing on at this point is helping developers create integrations into existing platforms and softwares. A good example of this is there’s a WordPress plugin, for example, that makes it really easy for anyone who publishes content on WordPress to have this membership token getting aspect where they require users to connect their wallet and if the user has the right membership in their wallet, they will serve, you know, the full version of the posts or the full version of the podcast episode.
Bryan: So I run a couple of WordPress websites and I use various forms of membership —
Bryan: — and I have an email list and so on. If I were to set something like this up for one of my sites, do I need to hire a developer? Could you walk me through what I need to do?
Julien: Yeah, you would need to install the plugin, which is not that complicated. I mean, it’s like any other WordPress plugin. You would need to also deploy the smart contract. We provide a little dashboard for you to do that easily. So, I don’t think you need to hire a developer but it’s also, first time you’re gonna do this is gonna feel a bit different from what you’ve done so far. So it’s not difficult, it’s just a new thing.
Bryan: That smart contract that you mentioned deploying, is that something that I have to come up with or does the plugin and Unlock Protocol provide that?
Julien: So the plugin provides you a link to a dashboard where you can actually deploy the contract and, again, not complicated but if it’s the first time doing it, it’s gonna feel a bit awkward.
Bryan: So it sounds like I don’t need to be a coder or developer but I need to understand how to manage a WordPress site, that will be enough.
Julien: Exactly right. In that scenario, you don’t need to be a developer, you don’t need to be a coder, you don’t need to be, you know, to know code. You need to be able to tinker with your WordPress installation. If you know how to install a plugin, you’ll be good.
Bryan: Interesting, interesting. So, another use case that stood out to me when I was looking at your page is membership NFTs. So I’ve experimented with various membership platforms like Teachable and so on for our courses, as many people who are in online businesses do. So how does that work for a membership NFT?
Julien: So, same. I mean, the WordPress example that I described is a membership NFT, it’s a membership to a special contract that is your contract. You can imagine Teachable like sites that actually have the same mechanism where if you want to unlock a course, you would need to prove that you own a special NFT that gives you access to this and these membership cards, if you want, and I was alluding to this earlier, are all non-fungible tokens. They’re all NFTs. And what’s interesting about that is they become much more programmable if they’re just rows in a private database on some server somewhere.
Bryan: So am I as the creator, as the host of the membership program or the podcast or the WordPress site getting paid in Ethereum?
Julien: So it depends on where you deploy your Lock and Lock is the name of the smart contract, the membership contract, so you choose the currency and you choose where you deploy it. So if you deploy it on Ethereum Mainnet, yes, you can choose to be paid in Ethereum, but we’re also on five other networks, so Polygon which might be familiar to some people, Gnosis Chain, Binance Chain, Optimism, and at each of these you can choose to be paid in the native currency of the blockchain, which is Ethereum, or, for example, a stable coin and that’s actually what we’re starting to see a lot of people do, being paid in USDC because they don’t want to have, you know, fluctuating revenue based on the fluctuation of the markets.
Bryan: Good idea. And do you find that creators and people using Unlock Protocol are concerned about additional costs, like, for example, gas fees?
Julien: So if they go on Mainnet, yes, absolutely, because that’s where gas is expensive if you’re Mainnet, but most of the ones that are being deployed now are not deployed on Ethereum Mainnet, they’re deployed in Polygon or Gnosis Chain and there, the gas fees are sub-cents so, in practice, it doesn’t really matter in terms of extra costs to deploy the membership or to purchase a membership card.
Bryan: So Web 2.0 online businesses, you often give away something for free, could be an eBook, could be a guide, could be a discount on one of your courses, whereas in Web 3.0, it seems to be more AirDrops which is giving away a free NFT to the wallets of holders. Is that something that’s hard to do?
Julien: No, it’s actually pretty easy to do. On the dashboard that I mentioned earlier, we have an interface that allows you to easily put some users’ addresses Ethereum addresses or wallet addresses so that you can then AirDrop a membership to them. What’s really cool about that AirDrop mechanism is that you can AirDrop kind of a preview, so a membership for a day, a membership for a week, and then people have to extend or top up to pay for the rest of the month or the rest of the year in that scenario. One thing that I do on my blog, which is I think pretty fun, is I tell anyone who follows me on Twitter that if they can connect their Twitter account and I can verify that they do follow me by software, then I AirDrop an hour worth of membership, which gives them enough time to read maybe one of my articles and get familiar with the kind of stuff that I write.
Bryan: Oh, interesting. And can somebody send sell that NFT themselves on OpenSea or another NFT marketplace?
Julien: So, not the one that we AirDrop for free but the one that they paid, yes, absolutely. They become basically assets and they can just sell them to somebody else. Arguably, though, since they have an expiration date, they’re not worth as much if you’re halfway through the membership than if they’re from the beginning of the membership. Let’s say you have a gym membership for a year, if you sell it after six months, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to sell it for the full price of the year in that scenario.
Bryan: Okay. Okay. And do I earn a percentage of secondary sales?
Julien: As the Lock creator, you mean?
Julien: Yes. So you could. It’s one of the settings that you can set on the smart contract, say, “Hey, I want to be able to monetize the secondary sell,” and you can do that. You can also disable transfers if you don’t want them to be possible. We also have the concept of cancellation so you can cancel the membership. I mean, it’s pretty obvious when you think about memberships, but you can cancel the membership, which in practice means kind of burning the NFT and you get a refund, a prorated refund based on how much time has, you know, elapsed since you’ve got that membership.
Bryan: So the holder of the NFT gets the refund, is that right? Okay.
Julien: Yes, absolutely right. And same, you can decide how much they get a refund or if they do get a refund at all. As the creator, you can customize all of these things.
Bryan: Okay. As the creator, the other thing I’d need to do is come up with something that visually represents the NFT. What are users of your protocol doing?
Julien: So you don’t need to. You can, but you don’t need to. It’s optional. We provide a default kind of little, you know, UI that’s a little circle that says, I mean, unlock and there is a name called the membership — you pick up the name. So the thing you have to do actually as a creator is pick up a name, pick up a price, pick up a chain on which you want it deployed. These are stuff that you have to do — and the duration. The rest, we provide some defaults, like the cancellation, we’ll provide a default, say, “Hey, there’s a 10 percent cancellation penalty and then it’s prorated.” The transfers we actually don’t have a default charge on transfer. So these are default that you can then later change, including the visual aspects. We have seen — and to answer your question, like what people do? They do a lot of different things. Some of them upload nice images to IPFS which is this file storage protocol and then they render from there good looking things. Some other people make every single membership card look different, which is a lot more work but it’s also possible. We even have people that make them dynamic where they change their visual aspect based on who owns the NFT so think of like you have a membership card in your wallet that changes its aspects, visual aspect based on what time of the day it is or what other memberships you have in your wallet, et cetera, et cetera.
Bryan: Oh, that’s good. I like the idea of dynamic NFT that changes. So, to flip things around, let’s say I figured out how to do all this and I’ve installed the WordPress plugin, I’m ready to create a membership section on my site using NFT and I’m gonna experiment with this to see if this work, you know, how do I go about convincing and reassuring followers or subscribers or potential customers to purchase this NFT?
Julien: Yeah, so there’s, I mean, first, if they don’t have a crypto wallet, if they’ve never used it before, we provide an easy credit card gateway. So if they don’t have a crypto wallet and they’ve never used it, the UI on the checkout flow might just be, okay, cool, put your card, put your card number, like you would do on any normal site and they create an account, email, password, and then they actually get an NFT attached to that account that they have. So it would work completely seamlessly for these people as well. For the people that have a crypto wallet, I mean, if you need to convince them, you will have to tell them like it’s pretty lower friction, they actually don’t have to do, you know, quit accounts and put all that information upfront, which usually you have to do online. And one of the critical benefits here is the idea that you can tell them, “Hey, okay, I’m publishing a WordPress now but maybe next month, I’m gonna do a live stream using a platform like Beam and they do support token gating and only the people that have my membership NFT in their wallet will be able to watch my live stream. So it really, again, is the idea that the cross platform membership is the really powerful thing. You don’t actually have to have a single platform that intermediates all of your relationship with your fans and your members.
Bryan: So basically I can use something like a Meta Mask Wallet if I’m a little bit comfortable with Web 3.0 tools, but if not, I can just put in my details and I’ll just need to take it there in the platform.
Julien: Email, password, absolutely right. Yes.
Bryan: Okay. Okay. So I suppose to step back and go a little bit higher level, do you think a lot of membership programs are going to move into this NFT model in the future? And if so, how long is it going to take? And the reason I ask that, Julien, is right now, NFTs and like most crypto are in a bear market so there’s a lot of skeptics out there.
Julien: Yeah, I do think that most of them will eventually be, you know, NFT based and not so much because when you said bear market, I assume because people are saying, “Oh, it’s an investment.” It’s like, no, I don’t think the interesting point about these membership NFTs is the fact that they appreciate in value, because, again, I think most of them won’t. It’s just convenience, in the end. It’s like that identity that you own versus is owned by Google or Facebook, that allows you kind of authenticate on websites and then prove that you need to be able to access this, in the end, is so much more convenient than the status quo of going to Google and Facebook and having them own kind of the relationship between you and your fans. So, my conviction is that we’re eventually — many, many of these memberships are gonna be NFT based. We’re actually having discussions with large social media, with small indie creators, but also with large publishers and it’s pretty clear to me that the technology is going into that direction and that everybody’s gonna use that. Now, whether it’s like 2 years, 5 years, 10 years, I don’t know. It depends on a lot of different factors. I do think that it might actually happen faster than what we realize, because these audits are going everywhere. I think PayPal announced yesterday that they now have a full-blown crypto wallet instead of their PayPal application. So you go to a website, you connect through your phone probably by scanning a QR code and you can easily prove that you own the NFT or purchase NFT from the PayPal app if you have it then you keep accessing the content. One of the deep convictions that I have is like paywalls, you know, on media sites are extremely friction right now. You have to create accounts, you have to log in every time and then pay and you don’t really know what you pay for and then if you allow them to charge your card, they’re gonna charge it a hundred times over the next 6 months. In practice, having a crypto wallet provides a much better experience. You don’t have to create an account, you just connect, they see you have the membership, they give you access, you don’t have the membership, you can easily purchase, you know, a one-off, a day, a week, or whatever that is and then move on with your life without being too worried about the rest. So, my deep, deep conviction is like it’s same as in 2002, you might ask, “Is every business gonna have a website? Feels like it’s a lot of work and it’s not a very additive practice.” Twenty years in, every business has a website. So that’s my conviction.
Bryan: When you get into the NFT space or even if you read about it, it seems very scammy. So, you get a lot of direct messages as soon as you start talking about it. You read lots of news stories about people losing JPEGs worth tens of thousands of dollars. So, could I be reassured using this type of protocol as a creator and also as a customer?
Julien: Yeah, absolutely. So there’s a ton of things that we do already to make these safer. Again, the number one thing that makes them safer is the fact that they’re pretty nuts, good speculation objects. A gym membership is not something that you really want to steal from somebody else unless you really plan on going to the gym in their place, which, again, might be a thing. One of the things that we do actually is making stuff a bit safer by allowing people to — members, I should say, to own an NFT but also allow the manager of the NFT contracts or the creator in that scenario to transfer it on their behalf to somebody else or to someone else or to some other address that they own. So say you use MetaMask, at some point you lose your access to your MetaMask, you can easily — I mean, as the creator of the Lock, transfer the membership from one wallet to another one, say, “Okay, cool, I know you’ve lost it. I can reassign it to some other wallet of yours,” in that scenario, making it much easier and safer and actually fairly similar to how Web 2.0 works at this point, like if you’ve lost access to your email, you can probably transfer your Netflix account. I’ve never done this but I assume it’s possible.
Bryan: So you used some terminology and words that kind of demonstrates that there are still some technical hurdles to navigate Web 3.0, so, for example, you have to understand what a smart contract is, figure out how to set up your MetaMask Wallet, keep your seed phrase safe, and figure out the type of chain that you want to use and so on. So, are we gonna get to a point in a few years where we won’t have to worry so much about all of the technical standards and concepts behind NFTs?
Julien: Absolutely. I don’t know how old you are but we’re pretty kind of the same generation. The first time I connected to the internet was the mid-90s. My mom at the time had a computer, not in the basement but could have been a basement, it was — we didn’t have a basement. When we connected to the internet, we have to go buy a modem so we had to go to a shop, buy a modem —
Bryan: Oh, I had to buy a modem too so we’re the same age. A dial-up modem.
Julien: Yeah. And so things like trying to think, okay, 56k modem, like what it was —
Bryan: Yeah, I had one of those.
Julien: Then you’d plug into your computer, you’d have to find what is the right place to plug in because the computer has so many ports, you had to find where to plug it. And then you plug it in the phone line, which is kind of like already starting to get really, really weird, like why am I playing my computer in my phone line? Then you have to like do some settings on the computer and it was doing this weird noise, you probably remember that, right? Like — and then you were connected but anytime my mom would pick up the phone, either because somebody calls or because she’s calling someone, it would just take everything down which again is a pain. We had to then download a web browser and nobody knew what a web browser — like what I’m trying to say is like this massive friction, we went through this and now, I mean, we’re literally recording a podcast on two different continents in real time and I see you as clearly as I can see the rest of the room here. It’s pretty obvious that even though there’s friction now and it’s hard, we’re in exactly the same kind of situation that we were 25 years ago with Web 1.0 or Web 2.0. People are learning very, very fast. The fact is, a lot of the things that we think are strange with Web3 today, kind of installing whether it’s MetaMask or another one, the seed phrase thing, I think it’s gonna evolve as well. Changing network is gonna change as well, like it’s gonna become easier and easier. All of these things are going to be just artifacts of a new system that we’re gonna very quickly become familiar with and not really worry about too much anymore.
Bryan: Yeah, it’s good to hear because that will certainly help with onboarding. So, another reservation some creators have using Web 3.0 tools once they get to understand it is that some blockchains are energy inefficient and can be bad for the environment. What would you say to that?
Julien: That’s absolutely true. Some blockchains are not great. Other blockchains are much better. There’s actually even blockchains that are carbon neutral. Stellar is one of them and we’re not there yet but we’re gonna be there. Polygon and Gnosis Chain that I mentioned earlier are using proof of stake, which means that, in practice, they’re not consuming more energy than, you know, your regular home PC at scale. So there is no significant impact when you move to these proof of stake chains. The big one that we are on at this point that is still proof of work is Ethereum Mainnet, but yesterday, and we’re talking in June 2022 here, but, yesterday, they merged one of the test nets to the proof of stake mechanism and the goal I think at this point is to do the same thing for Ethereum Mainnet by the end of summer, which mean that after this, well, the energy consumption of Ethereum I think is reduced by 99.98 percent, which is pretty much down to — I won’t say nothing but less than, you know, what Google for sure runs in terms of server and search.
Bryan: So, if I’m listening to this now and thinking, okay, I’m going to try out Unlock Protocol, but, you know, maybe as an experiment because I have something online that’s working for me already, how could I do it as an experiment or what would you say to me to do just to put my toe in the water to test it?
Julien: Absolutely. So the first thing is, I mean, as a creator or as a fan or…?
Bryan: As a creator. If I have a newsletter, for example —
Bryan: — or if I have a publishing business.
Julien: Absolutely. So, first, I would go to the Unlock website and you can learn a little bit about how things work and then I will deploy my first smart contract, my first membership contract on a test network so you don’t need to spend real money. We’re deployed already on a couple of test networks so you can pick the one of your choice. And then you deploy the contract and you see, okay, this is how it behaves. And what’s interesting about the test network is like they work really much like the real networks. So you can install the WordPress plugin and then hook your test network plugin — your test network Lock smart contract into the plugin. We have a bunch of guides on how to do this, it’s actually pretty easy. So that gives you kind of confidence of how things work there. Then what you can do is maybe use — a couple of weeks ago, we partnered with a team called RaidGuild to release a product called Headline. That Headline product is very much like a Web3 substuck that allows you to do anything you would do on the substuck but using Web3 technology so the data is actually stored on IPFS, which I mentioned earlier, it’s encrypted using Lit Protocol and it’s unlockable via Unlock.
Bryan: Is this like Mirror.xyz? Is it similar?
Julien: It’s kind of like Mirror even though Mirror is more like Substack than it is like Headline in that way, like Mirror is a publishing platform like Medium, if you want, that uses some Web3 technology but it doesn’t necessarily have as much customizability that I want these things to have. So, that would be the kind of thing that I would do if I were to try, you know, how to use Unlock as a creator. Test net, we have a pretty vibrant community of people that are helping you build things and/or implement things. And then once you’re ready to move on to a real version, you can, again, pick one of these networks, whether it’s Gnosis Chain, Polygon, Optimism, and then deploy your real Lock, replace it in their WordPress configuration and be good to go.
Bryan: Yeah, I’m glad you mentioned the guides. I’m looking at your guides page on the site and you do have some documentation to walk through what you just described and it’s great to see so many use cases for Unlock Protocol. But is there anything else that you’re working on at the moment for the protocol that will be interesting to check out in a few weeks or months?
Julien: Absolutely. There’s a couple of things that we’re working on right now. One of the things that we just released actually is the automatically recurring membership so it’s a way to say, hey, my — in the same way that your card is charged automatically every month once you have a Substack or a Netflix membership. Here, you have the same thing with the blockchain and it’s really kind of — it might sound like little but it’s actually a pretty big, significant technical innovation that we did a couple weeks ago and we’re doubling down on this, adding more and more tools around this to make it really easy for creators to use that on their own. Some of the stuff that we’re working on that we’re gonna ship soon, a completely refactored checkout experience. Right now, our checkout experience is good but it has too many, I’d say, inconsistencies or things that might appear to be a bit strange for non-crypto users and we’re refactoring this completely to make it much easier and it’s gonna feel exactly like checking out on, you know, on a Shopify store or on an Amazon store at some point. It’s just like the same steps in a consistent way, allow you to click five buttons and then get your NFT right away. So that’s one of the thing that we’re really excited to ship soon. In the second half of the year, one thing that we’re gonna work on a lot is everything around this cross network membership. So, you know, we’re in five networks, you say, “What chain should I pick?” Our goal is to make this really, really smooth and really, really easy so you don’t actually have to worry too much about what chain you pick and how your users are gonna pay you on each of these chains. So that’s one of the next things that we’re going to work on in the second half of the year.
Bryan: Oh, it sounds like there’s a lot in store. So one last question, let me just step back from the Unlock Protocol for a second. I mean, you’re clearly very passionate about Web 3.0 and it’s your bread and butter, your full-time business and you’re also the face of Unlock Protocol. So what I’ve noticed with a lot of NFT projects is some of them you can tell who’s behind it, and in other cases, it’s a JPEG and it’s an online avatar and a pseudonym. And it’s very hard to figure out if this project is legit and so on —
Julien: Legitimate, yeah.
Bryan: — but I understand there are reasons why people use avatars and digital personas. But as somebody who’s decided to be the face of their Web 3.0 business, do you have any thoughts on that?
Julien: Yeah, absolutely. So, first, I mean, I’m definitely a Web3 fan but I’m actually more than a Web3 fan, I’m a Web fan, like I do think that we’re kind of a dead end in the Web2 world, like platforms own everything. They control the business model, they control the data, they control the relationship with fans. And so, really, the context of Unlock, yes, it’s Web3, but more important than this, it’s Web. It’s like going back to the initial vision of Tim Berners-Lee and others, which is basically building a web around protocols rather than platforms. The reason why I’m, you know, the face and trying to be anonymous is because I do think that it’s — I have nothing to hide. I do think that I’m trying to actually build something better and I should do that in the open as much as possible with everyone who’s interested. All of the stuff that we release is obviously completely open source, using MIT, which means that people can just take it, run with it, and maybe not even come back with improvement if they’ve done some of these. And I do think that transparency is a critical aspect. I know there is kind of the feeling oftentimes that blockchain is, you know, used for nefarious purposes. It is used for nefarious purposes, but in practice, it’s actually a pretty bad platform or, you know, a pretty bad infrastructure to use for nefarious purposes because it is all trackable, like you can actually see the money flowing from a place to another and easily identify at some point who is doing what in ways that are really, really hard to obfuscate. So I think one of the values of what we’re doing is actually trying to build in the open, build as open — I mean, as decentralized but as transparent way as possible, I should say. And so, in that scenario, then, yes, I shouldn’t be worried or hide my face when I do things.
Bryan: I agree. I agree. So, Julien, where can listeners go if they’re interested in learning more about using NFTs for their online business?
Julien: Yeah, unlock-protocol.com is the first place and then you can find links to social networks from there because we’re on social networks. I say the first step is to unlock the membership to our Discord server. So we have a little community — I mean, growing community of people that are building on top of Unlock. It’s hosted on Discord right now, you should definitely join it and come and ask questions. We have a set of people that are here to help.
Bryan: Thank you, Julien.
Julien: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.
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