Every big platform is bracing itself for Web3. NFTs will arrive on Instagram soon. Spotify is hiring for Web3 experts. Twitter already lets users show off their virtual art as profile pictures. YouTube isn't far behind on its own NFT plans, which are vague at the moment, but CEO Susan Wojcicki said they'll help relatively small creators jumpstart their platforms.
"We are seeing that creators are selling their videos and memes as NFTs," Wojcicki told livestreamer Ludwig Ahgren on a recent podcast episode of The Yard. "If creators are selling their videos as NFTs, then that's an important form of monetization. I don't think it would be good if that all happened on another platform."
Wojcicki said allowing creators to sell NFTs on the platform can help smaller influencers who are just beginning to build up their accounts, pointing to musicians who have begun using NFTs as a way to fundraise.
“At the end of the day what YouTube does is, we’re a platform that distributes content and monetization,” she said. “If NFTs are an important part of that equation, then we think we should be there.”
Wojcicki, who owns "a few" NFTs herself, didn't provide too many details on YouTube's Web3 plans. But she said YouTube is in the “best position” to verify virtual assets that belong to creators through its Content ID tool, which lets creators track and manage their content. “It would be a problem for you if some other third-party site were selling your videos without knowing that it belonged to you,” Wojcicki added.
Ahgren pushed back on NFTs, saying they're a "blight" in the gaming world and will only help already big influencers in the long run. Gaming companies that have introduced these tools have gotten their fair share of backlash, both for environmental reasons and because some see crypto in gaming as unnecessary. Wojcicki acknowledged that YouTube's decision to work on NFTs was "polarizing" but that the platform's goal behind NFTs is to protect creators. “We’re going to be really careful. I think you are going to be OK with what we do with NFTs," she said.
YouTube's $100 million Shorts Fund has also been polarizing for creators. Wojcicki told Ahgren that the money from the program is only a temporary form of revenue. “I don’t think [Shorts funds are] permanent,” Wojcicki said. She added that YouTube is working to make the Shorts program “more scalable” in the future and that the platform is working on a new program for creators to make money. “But I can’t say anything else,” she said.
Ahgren pointed to a video posted by YouTuber Hank Green, who said creator funds aren’t sustainable because the pool of dedicated cash is static even though the number of creators eligible for the fund grows. But Wojcicki said the Shorts Fund was only an initial form of monetization for short-form creators, and the platform is looking to run more ads on short-form content so people can earn money like they would on longer YouTube videos. “YouTube has a great monetization program for long-form creators, and we want to extend that for Shorts,” Wojcicki said.
YouTube's decision to stop displaying the dislike count may not have been a popular one, but Wojcicki said even though the move got its fair share of backlash, it was made in the best interest of creators.
"I understand there were many people — and yes, we heard loud and clear — why people were unhappy with that decision," she told Ahgren. "But then we also saw the impact that it was having on a lot of new creators, and that’s bad. We need to have, and continue to support, smaller creators and how they’re growing. That’s really important for the long-term health of our ecosystem."
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Ludwig Ahgren's name. This story was updated on April 11, 2022.