When web3 platforms die, communities can rebuild: a Hic et Nunc case-study

Hic et Nunc was a successful NFT marketplace until it was suddenly, and without warning, ‘discontinued’. It was part of the way many artists had started making their living. Imagine Spotify, SoundCloud or TikTok suddenly calling it a day and shutting down.

However, due to the decentralized nature of the technology, this is turning into quite a different story than if a web2 platform had gone down without warning. The community is regrouping, rebuilding, and improving on mistakes from the past. Nothing important was lost.

How though?

Rather than on Hic et Nunc’s own servers, all the important information was stored on Tezos, a proof-of-stake blockchain. That data includes:

  • Metadata like the name, description, images and sounds. This content is actually stored on IPFS, a decentralized way to store files. IPFS links are in the NFT metadata, so any platform can read them.
  • The history of all sales and transactions.
  • Social graph: which wallets transacted with each other?
  • The smart contracts.

Using that data, the community has managed to rebuild Hic et Nunc, essentially creating a clone at hicetnunc.art which intends to become a DAO. This last part is important: Hic et Nunc, from what I gather, was a one-man-show. They decided to take it down and they could. By organizing as a DAO, the governance and ownership spreads out to the community. This decentralisation makes an organisation much more resilient.

If DAOs haven’t clicked for you yet: decentralized data allowed the community to reboot when the platform went down. Decentralized ownership and governance of the actual platform means it’s way harder to bring the platform and the organisation down.

The NFTs I bought on Hic et Nunc (by the wonderful artists Tea Stražičić and Tabitha Swanson) are still in my wallet and they render perfectly on its successor.

HEN Radio still works too, by the way, since it always read data directly from the blockchain rather than from a server owned by Hic et Nunc.

Far too much data, like art and music has been lost. Over a decade ago, when I was writing my thesis about online music, imeem was a significant player. It got acquired, by MySpace if I recall correctly, and promptly taken down (on the same day!). Poof. Uploads gone, connections gone, everything you worked for on the platform gone.

These things happen. Regularly. Either through situations like the above or through startups dying or pivoting. As the Hic et Nunc story shows, though, this dynamic is now a choice rather than a tragic default feature of the web. As one of IPFS’s claims goes:

The average lifespan of a web page is 100 days before it's gone forever. The medium of our era shouldn't be this fragile.

Twitter threads

I saw a number of excellent takes on Twitter and wanted to make sure to include them here. They’re threads / discussions: click through and have a read.

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