We’ve already written an article about the history of Web3 in our blog. There, we’ve also touched upon its features, challenges, and applications. In this article, we will continue exploring the world of Web 3.0, but this time in close relation to affiliate marketing. Specifically, how affiliate marketing can capitalize on the advent of Web3, how fellow affiliates can leverage it, what are the benefits, and who are better off at the end of the day. Long story short, is Web3 of any use to affiliate marketers?
Recap of Web3
In our previous article, we have already defined Web 3.0, but to make sure we’re on the same page, let’s define it once more. Let’s put things in perspective, Web 1.0 was essentially a digital library — a source of information with read-only option. Web 2.0 is about empowering the fellow users with the ability to create content, share it online, and interact with each other. So right now, anybody can contribute to the online ecosystem.
Web 3.0 promises to be the next step, which is decentralization. Right now, most of online platform has moderators, which hold excessive power over casual users. Basically, people are at mercy of the moderators not to abuse their power and enforce their ideals and visions, right, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube?
Thanks to its reliance on artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, virtual reality (VR), and other cutting-edge technologies, Web3 might be not that far away. And it might impact all spheres of our lives, beyond just cryptocurrencies, e.g., Big Data, Internet-of-Things (IoT), Finances & Banking. But what about affiliate marketing? What’s the influence there, and is it for good or bad?
The influence of Web3 on affiliate marketing
Potentially, there are a lot of ways how decentralization can influence affiliate marketing. Here are the most obvious ways how Web3 can revolutionize the sphere.
Decentralized affiliate networks
Blockchain specifics allow removing any intermediary, moderators included. Or better yet, the moderation is not completely removed but rather reassigned to fellow community members. This can be achieved thanks to the fact that each user basically stores a whole database, which happen to match the databases of the other participants. If a database mismatch the majority of its clones, then the user either adapts and adopts the dominant version or forks the network and starts to exist separately from the community.
Decentralized networks eliminate the need of having a central authority and sharing personal data, in theory at least. Affiliates can connect with the advertisers directly and negotiate their own commission rates, which are enforced with the help of smart contracts (more on that later). To some degree, this resembles an ad exchange but with no central moderation.
On top of that, affiliates can use digital wallets to earn their commissions faster, with more security, and in a more transparent fashion. With the help of smart contracts, it becomes much harder to cheat the system for both parties, so no trash traffic and no shaving — win-win. A smart contract is a set of steps, basically an algorithm. Once a step is achieved, the AI grants access to the next step or reward. Unlike human, AI cannot be bribed or incentivized to act malevolently. That’s why decentralized affiliate networks can also improve mutual trust in the industry and decrease the level of fraud.
Tokenization of commissions
Traditionally, the commission of affiliates is paid out in fiat currencies, e.g., dollars or euros. A bank or PayPal account is required to process such kinds of transactions, which also happen to take time. Besides being just inconvenient, this option also is not universally applicable. With the help of Bitcoin, altcoins, or stablecoins, commissions can be paid out in tokens, which can be traded relatively quickly, securely, and transparently. The affiliate can decide which coin they prefer and receive their payment on their terms. Stablecoins, for example, are backboned by casual currencies, hence the name. Altcoins, on par with Bitcoin, enjoy better growth potential.
Smart affiliate contracts
Thanks to the development in AI, it is possible for it to oversee the execution of various agreements. Instead of adding 3rd parties, auditing the results, and double-checking the counterparty here and there, the contracting sides can rely on AI to make sure the contract is executed as planned. Of course, it would require precise programming to begin with, but once it is assured, there is almost no way to undo the contract. Affiliates can rest assured they get paid for their hard work, and advertisers can be certain the traffic is of top quality.
Typically, smart contracts are run under Ethereum blockchain, but there are other options out there too. Besides eliminating the need for manual tracking and reporting, smart contracts simplify the participation in multiple affiliate programs. Tracking the commissions and managing all the activity from a single dashboard is much easier, and enables to focus one’s resources on something more useful.
Traceable payments for affiliates
Blockchain is based on the principle that each subsequent block supports and empowers the previous one. The more transactions are made — the more trustworthy the old ones become. Moreover, all the participants of the chain can see that the obligations were or were not fulfilled. Not only it saves resources on watching over each other and guessing whether you are cheated on or not, it also improves mutual trust, facilitates transparency, and empowers word-of-mouth.
Shaving the affiliates or driving in bot traffic disguised turn out to be ineffective, because smart contracts enable payment only when the prerequisites are met. Misleading the others and claiming that AI deceives you will not sound credible in this case. Affiliates will know that they are paid in full and on time, while advertisers will have no worries about the quality of traffic. This improvement on the accountability part can give rise to the industry and facilitate its growth even further.
Non-fungible token affiliate programs
Non-fungible tokens (NFT) are unique blocks in a blockchain. Unlike traditional coins, they are not interchangeable, and each NFT has its own unique value, much like Taj Mahal cannot be swapped for Eiffel Tower. Some compare NFT to pieces of digital art, storing some pictures, audio, video, or other sort of content. But don’t let the mainstream agenda deceive you, for NFTs simply have not enough space available to store a whole video. Usually, it is just a link to a webhosting, where the video is stored. Long story short, if the hosting is closed, the link (NFT) becomes useless.
Still, NFTs are here, and there are even some affiliate programs, promoting the offers like that. NFT artists will feel more secure, because they pay out the affiliates for actual results, instead of giving the money upfront to pseudoinfluencers, who generate few or no sales.
Now, you might be thinking that everything cannot be that utopian — and you’d be damn right! We’ve already mentioned briefly that NFTs are limited in terms of storage space available, which is why they often serve as a simple link to a centralized hosting, rendering the entire decentralization quest a facade.
The good news is that there might be a way to circumvent this problem, with the help of brand new kind of data storage, designed specifically for data centers — ceramic nanolayers. Besides reducing data center costs by 75%, they also boast extreme longevity. The bad news is that this is not the only problem.
Smart contracts cannot be tweaked on the fly, without both parties agreeing to do so. When laying out the conditions, if there was made a mistake — you’re basically a hostage to strict AI logic.
Historically, blockchains are slow to adopt major changes, because of its nature. Remember that each participant stores their own individual database? Well, if an update conflicts with someone’s values, the person might be reluctant to implement it. And if the persons are many… the fork is inevitable. The fork is when the blockchain is split in two, with all the assets before the division being doubled too! Now, it might sound lucrative on paper to have your wallet doubled, but when all the participants do the same, the value of cryptocurrency will plummet. But the real problem here is that the trust in the system is blown to pieces along the way.
Blockchain is also an unregulated territory, so enforcing smart contracts in a legal way is impossible for now. Besides the negative word-of-mouth, there is simply no way to enforce somebody to follow the contracts provisions.
Finally, Bitcoin and altcoins are subject to speculation, which is why their market value is a constant war of bulls vs. bears. This instability is never good for such a tool as money — nobody wants to be able to afford a Rolls-Royce one day, but be unable to pay for the groceries the next one.
Web3 and blockchain are by no means a silver bullet. But their goal is noble — to decentralize various institutions and give ordinary people more control over their own assets. The problem is that Web3 is basically at a beta-stage, so there is a long journey ahead, before this thing becomes a reality.
On the other hand, 30 years ago our cellphones were akin to bricks. That’s why it is a good idea to prepare in advance for the advent of Web3 by reading more literature, exploring smart contracts, and experimenting with its concepts. Nobody expected Bitcoin to become a cash cow back in 2009, especially the guy, who ordered two pizzas with 10k Bitcoin.