By Li Jin, Geoff Hamilton, Jesse Walden, Spencer Noon, Derek Walkush and Medha Kothari
Thirty years into the development of the world wide web, a handful of companies control most user attention and advertising revenue, with closed ecosystems that hold back innovation by independent developers. The economic interests of the biggest internet platforms are poorly aligned with their most valuable contributors: their users.
Ownership has long been embraced by Silicon Valley startups to align incentives among employees through option grants. Still, the vast majority of internet users own exactly 0% of the services they contribute to. Creators don’t own their content, developers can’t control their code, and consumers can’t influence the policies or decisions of the platforms they use. This scenario, which once went unquestioned, looks increasingly archaic.
Before tech, I was an artist manager in music. When I started the firm, I believed one thing about the music industry very firmly: ownership endows power. Typically, labels had ownership over the music, and thus, power over artists.
Our goal was to help artists retain ownership of their work and run their business independently, using technology to reach their fans directly. Today, we’re all creators online, and ownership continues to carry a ton of weight. Yet the role of ownership on technology platforms is often overlooked.
Every day billions of images, videos, songs, and more media are shared on social media. When those files are posted, a copy of the media is taken from the creator’s device and pasted to the server of the platform distributing it—Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok and the like.