Likes are the backbone of web2 social media. Often expressed as a heart, they’ve taken on meanings of their own. They’re as much ammo as they are currency—invoking support as much as they do jealousy or a cold shoulder. More recently, a like has come to mean about as much as “lol” entails actual laughter. No one’s really laughing out loud. With so many opportunities to like something (see Kyle Chayka’s Like Inflation), the gesture has pretty much lost its significance altogether.
So why do we still have Likes? It’s no secret there’s another side to the Like coin serving an ulterior function (please note there is no such actual coin). Likes first and foremost benefit the platform. Engagement feeds their algorithm and appeases shareholders, steering design decisions to whatever generates the most likes. Not only is the creator-fan relationship secondary, it’s potentially forged into being.
On top of that, likes hold no real value—benefiting neither the creator or the audience. For example, early fans aren’t rewarded for identifying high-potential creators or for their ongoing engagement and support. Lastly, even if we could introduce value to the Like, they are ultimately centralized, mediated by a single platform and stored in proprietary databases. Likes don’t belong to us, nor do they effectively bind us together in any meaningful way.
Okay, back to web3.
At Mirror, we have the upper hand of a credibly-neutral protocol built on decentralized infrastructure. We’re constantly thinking about ways to utilize that to better bridge creators and their communities via innovative tools enabled by smart contracts. But what’s that backbone equivalent of a Like for a web3 publishing platform?
We’d like to propose the Collect feature.
We introduced Writing NFTs back in May, empowering writers to mint their entries with a customizable supply—at no cost to them. While that directly benefits writers, it also turned readers and fans into collectors. Collecting entries imbues a sense of real camaraderie and investment into engaging with content. There’s almost something material about collecting Writing NFTs—bringing to mind personal libraries and record collections. In that sense, collecting on Mirror becomes a curatorial process, giving readers a way to define their cultural identity (and replace algorithmic curation of the web2 days). Finally, collecting Writing NFTs brews community from the bottom-up—binding community members by their likeminded collections.
For writers, the collect function provides more than just financial value. In a world where Likes have lost any kind of sincerity, collecting signals real support. With that assurance in mind, writers can build a direct on-chain relationship with their audience. The NFT then acts as a ledger of fandom for the media—free from platform control and oversight. And with the freedom to customize the price and supply of any given entry, writers can play with incentives to create experiences around patronage, funding, collection, fandom and more—a totally achievable manifestation of the “1000 true fans” thesis.
A few experimental models for writers that make their writing collectable:
Free and abundant, the on-chain version of a like.
Free and scarce, a model to gift to your more attentive and avid fans. While free at first, these can always obtain secondary market value.
Expensive and scarce, a model for patronage and fundraising.
We need no further evidence that to Collect is the new Like. And, yes, that conclusion comes with a platform update. Starting last week, all entries on Mirror are collectable NFTs by default, each with a supply of 500. There’s no gas for a writer to mint. Using lazy minting, the initial cost to deploy is charged to the first collector. Writers have the option to enable funding and customize pricing and supply—meaning a creator’s onramp to the web3 economy can be as easy as sharing an idea.
Swimming amongst a sea of likes is an archaic state of being online. The real value and community-building inherent to collections has a lot of potential for moving us forward. We hope it opens up new forms of social connections between creators and their communities.
Connect your wallet to Mirror to start creating, collecting and exploring the best writing in web3.