The Web3 model proposes an overhaul of our current state of the internet — one which will allow users to see greater ownership of their assets and connect with software without the need for intermediaries. However, where does this place our most-used intermediaries — such as Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and Spotify?
As our current version of the web continues to evolve, it appears that executives and leaders at Big Tech firms have started finding ways to apply cryptocurrency and blockchain technology to their business models. Also, with large blockchain platforms (such as Polygon and Circle) now hiring some of the world’s top talent, it’s become abundantly clear that new roles and departments will need to be created for Web3.
Let’s take a look at 10 Big Tech companies that have started, or plan to start adopting Web3 technology in the near future.
At this point in time, this one probably needs no introduction — we all know about Mark Zuckerberg’s plans to turn his social media empire into a leading metaverse platform. Last October, Zuckerberg officially unveiled the company’s rebrand from Facebook to Meta, claiming that the new name would better reflect the company’s shift in gears.
Upon announcing the rebrand, Zuckerberg touched on his goals to bring Meta to the forefront of a more decentralised and interoperable web model: “Together, we can finally put people at the centre of our technology. And together, we can unlock a massively bigger creator economy.”
However, so far things haven’t boded well for Meta’s adoption of crypto assets. After a series of controversies and an ultimately abandoned plan to launch its own coin, Zuckerberg hasn’t yet given up on trying to cement Meta’s role in the crypto space — with reports that the tech giant has filed 8 trademark applications within the last month. Amongst these trademark applications are crypto tokens, crypto trading, wallets, blockchain software and crypto exchanges.
As Web3-based music platforms have risen to the fore, word about Spotify’s entry into the Web3 fray has finally caught wind. The music streaming leader has recently posted a series of Web3-based job openings on their official website — including roles for managers, engineers and other experts in emerging trends — “especially as [they] relate” to creators, Web3 and other technologies.”
Given that a growing list of artists have also started selling their work as NFTs, it’s no surprise that Spotify is creating its own foray into Web3. After facing accusations of not giving artists the lion’s share of their revenue, NFTs have also started presenting new ways for artists to monetise their work. Whether Spotify will create a marketplace for NFTs is yet to be seen — but after artists such as Snoop Dogg, Grimes and Kings of Leon have seen success with music NFT sales, there’s a high likelihood that we will see the streaming giant adopt some kind of Web3 model in the near future.
Many of those new to the Web3 space have probably wondered: what exactly does one do with an NFT image, besides trying to sell it? Setting it up as a profile picture seems to be another popular way for owners to showcase their status and general ownership of the popular digital asset. And out of all the Big Tech platforms, Twitter seems to be the one looking to capitalise on this new phenomenon.
“Twitter is where people go to talk about things they care about — and often where people have their first experience with crypto and NFTs,” a company spokesperson has recently said in an official announcement. Moreover, they’ve noted how more users have started using NFTs “as a form of identity and self-expression, and as a way to join the thriving community and increasingly active conversation on Twitter.”
Those subscribed to Twitter Blue service will have the option to choose an NFT as their profile picture — and those with verified NFTs will now see them appear on their profile as a hexagon shape.
At the time of writing, however, there are still a number of barriers to setting up an NFT as a profile picture on Twitter. For example, the feature is currently only available to those who use iPhones and to those who live in the U.S. Canada, Australia or New Zealand. Also, only NFTs minted on Ethereum and stored on OpenSea are compatible with the service.
While it wouldn’t be right to classify Twitter as a Web3 company until it runs on a blockchain, its adoption of NFT technology is still proof that the company wants to find their footing in Web3.
In February 2022, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet — Google’s parent company — announced that the company is exploring ways to integrate blockchain technology into its flagship products and services. More specifically, Pichai mentioned a number of interest areas — with hints at adding more AR-based features to its applications and exploring ways for blockchain technology to add greater support to popular services, such as Google Maps and YouTube.
Alphabet’s cloud team (a growing area of business that competes with Microsoft and Amazon Web Services) has also expressed interest in finding ways to “support customer needs” through blockchain-powered platforms.
On building Web3 technology into its services, Pichai has also commented: “Anytime there’s innovation, I find it exciting — and I think it is something we want to support the best we can. […] The web has always evolved, and it’s going to continue to evolve, and as Google, we have benefitted tremendously from open-source technologies, so we do plan to contribute there.”
In December 2021, Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, claimed that the company had plans to “actively explore” NFTs in order to bring Web3 technology to a bigger audience. In an Instagram Story released that month, Mosseri further elaborated on the benefits of bringing NFTs into the platform: “I think it’s an interesting place that we can play and also to hopefully help creators.”
At SXSW this year, Mark Zuckerberg also announced the tech giant’s plans to introduce NFTs into Instagram in the “near term”. While Zuckerberg kept his details sparse, he’s hinted at the addition of NFTs into the platform’s ecosystem.
In a conversation with Shark Tank’s Daymond John, Zuckerberg also mentioned that he was “working on bringing NFTs to Instagram in the near term.” He continued: “I’m not ready to announce exactly what that’s going to be today, but over the next several months, the ability to bring some of your NFTs in, and hopefully over time be able to mint things within that environment.”
In March 2021, Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced the availability of Ethereum on Amazon Managed Blockchain — a fully-managed service that allows users “to join public networks or set up and manage scalable private networks using popular open-source frameworks.”
Amazon Managed Blockchain also gets rid of any overhead required for users to create or join a public network, scaling automatically to meet the demands of applications running millions of transactions. Once a network is up and running, Managed Blockchain makes it easier for users to manage their blockchain network — including the ability to manage certificates and invite new members.
Despite a growing list of his digs at Web3, Elon Musk’s electric vehicle company has still recently deployed blockchain technology for a special use case. One of these includes a platform that aims to create a “transparent, open and global registry” to track cobalt from mine to battery, assuring that the volume of any traceable material is understood in the production of electric vehicle batteries.
It was also recently announced at the Bitcoin 2022 Conference that both Blockstream and Block have begun the construction of a pilot crypto mine in Texas, which will be powered by Tesla’s solar installation and batteries. Blockstream CEO Adam Back further detailed the project, claiming that the pilot aims to show how bitcoin (BTC) mining has the ability to fund renewable energy initiatives.
In 2021, leading e-commerce platform Shopify launched a beta version of its NFT-compatible marketplace — allowing merchants to mint and sell NFT collectables on various different blockchains. The option to purchase NFTs using cryptocurrency was also made available to buyers.
Shopify has also been integrating AR-selling functionalities into its digital storefronts since 2018. More recently, however, it acquired the team behind Primer — an AR-based, home-design startup.
As known Web3 enthusiasts and NFT collectors, Shopify CEO Tobi Lutke and president Harley Finkelstein have already been quite vocal about their enthusiasm for Web3. Finkelstein has commented: “I think the future of retail, the future of commerce, is going to happen everywhere, on every surface area. That may be online, in the metaverse, AR, or VR. It may be offline at a beautiful boutique or a great farmers market.”
Jack Dorsey’s growing fintech company Block (formerly known as Square) has announced its plans to start mining for bitcoin — with a goal to make the process more efficient and accessible. Thomas Templeton, the company’s general hardware manager, has revealed the company’s overarching goal to create a future that is “fully decentralised and permissionless.”
In a tweet posted in October 2021, Dorsey vocalised his belief that: “mining should be more distributed.” Furthermore, he commented that: “The more decentralised this is, the more resilient the bitcoin network becomes.”
To solve the issue of mining rings being expensive, difficult to find and hard to deliver, the company is also open to building a new ASIC — the specialised gear used to mine for bitcoin. With the help of Tesla’s technology, Block also plans to carry out its cryptocurrency mining on deregulated power grids found within Texas — an area where they’re more likely to see cheaper energy sources.
Last year, Sony filed several patents that would allow it to accept cryptocurrencies for e-sports betting in-game. Details have revealed that the patent would accept both physical and digital currencies for in-game betting, also coming with a system that would allow players to bet in real-time while participating in e-sports games. Betting odds would be determined by AI, based on each competing player’s play history.
It also appears that this patent doesn’t seem to be exclusive to PlayStation consoles. Sony has since mentioned that it would be willing to carry this technology over to consoles “made by Microsoft or Nintendo or other manufacturer virtual reality (VR) headsets, augmented reality (AR) headsets, portable televisions, portable computers such as laptops and tablet computers, and other mobile devices — including smartphones.”
To keep learning more about Big Tech’s advancements into the Web3 space and all things NFT and metaverse-related, be sure to keep reading gmw3.