Why it’s time to veer towards an Open Web


Written by Shivam Srivastava

When a friend wanted to build an online music tutoring service and called me for his advice on how he could market, the obvious areas we discussed were social and digital media. He asked me a few very pertinent questions and left me wondering why these questions are not asked more frequently. Or perhaps we don’t know how to ask the right questions?

For instance, he asked me why was everyone advising him to spend money and build content only to post it on a third-party social media when he is already spending money to build his own digital asset?

For any new business or brand starting up, there are two things that take centre stage. One, the product itself and two, a web asset to market the product. What follows after is a bewildering journey to generate traffic and leads to build revenue, spending those hard-earned savings that one had set aside to build his business.

Businesses and professionals are really spending their hard-earned money to build content for aggregators like Facebook and Instagram. Walled gardens and big tech like these are driving their user growth based on creators and businesses like these who are building content to drive engagement. To make matters worse, on platforms like Facebook, one does not even have first-hand and verified information about the users who have consumed the content.

What if, just like my friend suggested, we could build our own followers on our own platforms. It is possible. Let’s look a little deeper.

What does social media do?

Globally 70% of content consumed on social media are in stories format. Stories are short video content in a vertical format that gives you a full-screen experience on your smartphone. Given the fact that India is a mobile-first country, this format’s popularity has leapfrogged over the last few years and validates the growth of platforms like Instagram, Tik Tok and so on.

With this insight into the content consumption trend, wouldn’t it be wise to consider building such content for your own web asset, upgrade from text and image-based websites to one that can offer an immersive, engaging experience that is in line with the consumption trend?

The next big thing

There is no doubt that, in a mobile-first country like India where a majority of the content consumed is on mobile, video is really deriving significant engagement over the last couple of years. But the real shift will be driven by the demand for vertical video, ideally full screen. Now let’s slap on “Stories” format content with vertical video and you have a winner at hand. Let’s elaborate on this.

We all know that be it Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter or Insta, all have integrated “Stories” within their environment. Now imagine “Stories” on your website, offering a seamless, app like tap-able, Swipe-able experience on mobile. With this, you can offer the same user experience of the app to your followers, keep your own followers on your website, rather than offering them to the big tech.

The decentralised ecosystem

The decentralised ecosystem is not a dream anymore, it’s a reality and the world over there is a call for an ecosystem that encourages privacy. One that does not give away control of the web to a handful, rather make the web a democratic place for users to consume and share information and content.

The Open Web, which is an ecosystem that every independent website is a part of, has close to 350 million websites that get 250 billion visits month on month. The leading apps, however, garner only about 20 billion users, but still manage to grab our attention with the user experience they offer. Now, with a better user experience, there is a potential for a unified open web to take on the big tech and make the web the democratic space that it should be.

What is in it for independent creators, businesses and users?

Open Web encompasses democratic concepts like free expression and digital inclusion. There’s a single underlying principle connecting all these ideas: An open web is a web, by and for all its users, not select gatekeepers or governments. Much like other public resources like water or air.

The web cannot exist without society. The web is where we engage with journalism, form opinions and share knowledge. It’s an arena for politics, education, culture and science and business. An open web will encourage us to be more informed; encourage civic participation; more opportunities to learn and connect with each other. It discourages misinformation and ensures we do not lose trust in our institutions and in each other.

For businesses and creators, the open web promises first-party data instead of third-party data that is usually handed out on social media. In addition, you finally will have your own followers, instead of sharing them with the social aggregators. More importantly, your monetisation strategy only benefits you, rather than the big tech that takes the lion’s share of your revenues

When closed, proprietary technology proliferates, innovation and competition are stifled. The web no longer remains a level playing field — it’s a platform controlled by a select few.

The writer is vice-president, monetisation at Firework India

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