What Kickstarter Going Decentralized Means for Web 3

Will other Web 2.0 giants glom onto crypto, DAOs and next generation web technology?

CoinDesk Insights
Dec 9, 2021 at 6:09 p.m. UTC
Updated Dec 9, 2021 at 6:09 p.m. UTC

Daniel Kuhn is a features reporter and assistant opinion editor for CoinDesk's Layer 2. He owns BTC and ETH.

Kickstarter going decentralized is the latest boon to the Web 3 narrative, the idea that cryptocurrency and other decentralized tools are reinventing the internet as we know it.

On Wednesday, the crowdfunding site announced it will embark on an ambitious technical overall of its core business. Details are scant, but the entity will spin up a separate company to build a crowdfunding platform using the Celo blockchain. Once that’s ready – there’s no timeline – Kickstarter will transfer over and even open source the tools for others to make use of the protocol.

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This is a significant turn of events. Although fading from cultural memory, Kickstarter was once a key component to the “creator economy,” the financial revolution of sorts that saw individuals strike out on their own to form new business models using powerful web tools. It was the golden goose of Web 2, a series of developments to websites that brought together social media and other collaborative efforts.

As Bloomberg notes:

[Perry] Chen started Kickstarter with a pair of art-loving friends in 2009, and it was a near-instant hit with cash-strapped go-getters and eventually with celebrities and big companies looking to test consumer demand. The Peloton stationary bike started with a Kickstarter campaign ($307,332 raised), and so did the Oculus VR headset ($2.4 million). Kickstarter helped finance new records from Amanda Palmer ($1.2 million) and the pop group TLC ($430,000) and revived cult classic TV shows like Mystery Science Theater 3000 ($5.8 million) and Veronica Mars ($5.7 million).

Crowdfunding has long been a potential use case for crypto. As my colleague Will Gottsegen wrote on Monday, there is a developing trend of online groups gathering together, forming DAOs (or decentralized autonomous organizations), and buying random things online.

This was typified by ConstitutionDAO, a group that raised over $40 million to buy one of the original prints of the U.S. Constitution. All this could have happened with the tools, like Kickstarter, we have today. And perhaps Kickstarter would have saved people on ETH gas fees or made it simpler to return the funds – after the DAO failed to acquire the Constitution.

But crypto adds a radical new element in that these free software projects are designed for anyone to use, basically without restriction, and, more importantly, are uncensorable. Kickstarter as an entity will not let you donate to a North Korean startup, no matter how benign the project. With ethereum or bitcoin, it’s completely your call – so long as you’re willing to pay the fees (and comfortable evading sanctions).

It remains to be seen whether Kickstarter will retain some control over their new chain. Or if this works out for them. Others have noted that the promise of Web 3 seems like more hype than substance. There are many curious onlookers that just want to see a functioning project. (ConstitutionDAO, for one, could be seen as a positive development or a demonstration of the hype – but it definitely brought attention to the industry.)

It also remains to be seen how other legacy companies – even former “disruptors” like Kickstarter – adapt to this new internet landscape. It’s easy to mint a few NFTs, harder to reinvent your business. But if Kickstarter is a signal above the noise – then we might expect a lot more Web 3 developments down the pike.

DISCLOSURE

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