A lot of writing about GPTs and LLMs in 2023 asked whether writing itself might become obsolete. In the same year, media companies cut 20,342 jobs. 2023 was a year where broadcast feed social networks like Lens, Warpcast, and Bluesky dented X/Twitter’s dominance. Yet despite having more platforms than ever to broadcast one's ideas, more and more people sought smaller, niche communities online.
As a web3 publishing protocol built on credibly neutral infrastructure, Mirror is in many ways an anticipation – a reaction – to these tech and media trends. On Mirror, writing is collectable, ad-free, and stored permanently online. But what about the writing itself on Mirror? In the era of GPTs and algorithmically curated feeds, would it too become obsolete?
We’ve seen the opposite. Readers have further defined their cultural identity through collecting, not just liking. While some writing on Mirror is meant for a global audience, much more is written for niche communities. These niche communities are in themselves an answer to why we still write. Writing is an invitation. It’s an attempt to bring people in – into new ways of thinking about art, technology, and society.
There were a lot of invitations into niche worlds on Mirror in 2023 — 217,464 to be precise.
People wrote about complex topics relevant to people building in the blockchain and distributed systems space: scaling blockchains, internet governance, MEV supply chain, retroactive funding mechanisms, and wallets-as-a-service.
We write to find our communities online, and to signal support for ideas, or disagree with conventional wisdom. But perhaps most importantly, the reason why we write, or collect art and music, is to see ourselves in another.
From the start, we wanted to build a web3-worthy publishing tool. As a creator, though, you need more than just publishing. You need to bootstrap an audience on the networks they use most. You also need a platform that incentivizes people to find and collect your work. In addition to improving our core editor, we rolled out a bunch of new updates — from better discovery, to notifications, to collectable embeds, rewards, and more.
Perhaps our most significant update was creating a new homepage for Mirror. As some social media platforms diminished in significance as primary news sources, homepages and curated feeds made a big comeback (RSS anyone?). Mirror made it a mission to build new discovery and curation surfaces to help collectors find interesting content, and help creators reach new fans.
When you log in to Mirror, you’re now met with an Inbox tab and an Explore tab. The Inbox tab is a chronological feed of the latest entries from creators you subscribe to, as well as the entries that they are collecting. It's your personalized content stream, ensuring you never miss an update. The Explore tab features a curated collection of entries that the Mirror team thinks are worth collecting. All the news fit to mint.
One of our snappiest feature improvements this year was collectable NFT embeds. Whether you used Zora, Manifold, OpenSea, or your own custom NFT contracts, we wanted sharing an NFT to be as easy as pasting a link.
Artist collectives like N3XTWAVE used Mirror to provide context to their drops.
And curators like Spotlight helped surface NFTs and drive collection activity to their favorite artists.
One year ago when we launched Writing NFTs, Mirror was one of the first dapps to use a Layer 2 network for a consumer use case. While L2s rely on Ethereum for security, we designed Writing NFTs to be completely gas-free for creators to publish. Collectors only pay a nominal platform and gas fee to mint, enabling creators to earn their first ETH.
Mirror now allows for creators to choose among four blockchain networks to publish writing NFTs: Optimism, Base, Linea, and Zora. This feature empowers creators to select the network that aligns with their goals in the ecosystem that they are most active in. Stay tuned for more network support in 2024.
Having an exportable list of subscribers is key to re-engaging your top fans. In web3, re-engagement doesn’t just mean email. It also requires onchain addresses. We built Subscribe to Mint, which works a lot like an open-edition NFT drop, but in order to mint, a collector must subscribe to a creator’s Mirror publication with their email. It’s become a powerful way to bootstrap an engaged audience.
With cheaper NFTs and negligible gas costs, some brands treated commemorative NFTs like digital swag; a more sustainable version of a branded t-shirt or New Yorker tote bag. For collectors, commemorative NFTs are a way to signal belonging – that you were there as a supporter since day one, or even part of the creative process.
But the major benefit for web3 brands was having a way to contact their biggest fans, either onchain or by email. Not to mention showing up in their collectors wallets.
Optimism grew their newsletter by 334,650 with their Subscribe to Mint campaign.
Coinbase bootstrapped the launch of their Layer 2 blockchain, Base, by dropping a commemorative NFT.
Linea dropped a commemorative NFT to celebrate the growth of L2 networks, which saw 131,878 people minting the NFT and subscribing to their publication.
Most recently, Mirror added rewards for minting or collecting Writing NFTs. Now, Mirror’s mint fees are split between creators who publish free Writing NFTs, the first collector of a Writing NFT, and people who refer Writing NFTs they’ve collected to other collectors.
Collect to show appreciation for a post. Collect to tip the creator. Collect to keep track of interesting ideas you read online. And now, earn a reward for yourself and for the creator via your collection activity.
Mirror wouldn’t be anything if not for the writers, artists, analysts, polemicists, newsletter writers, podcasters, and brands. Here are some of our favorite entries in 2023.