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Let’s Talk about the 'Real' Web3by@fczuardi
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Let’s Talk about the 'Real' Web3

by Fabricio C ZuardiApril 26th, 2022
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The term "web3" has origins in a necessity to rethink the web after the Snowden revelations. Financing our services with personal data collection and surveillance is not acceptable, and after the invention of Bitcoin, we have the tools to build it. Money and hype will force the BAU model to win and are co-opting the term. We must reclaim it.

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Where does the term Web3 come from?

According to Wikipedia, the term came from Ethereum¹ network developer Gavin Wood in an April 2014 blog post: ĐApps: What Web 3.0 Looks Like.


The first paragraph sets out very clearly the motivations for a web redesign, below with my emphasis:


As we move into the future, we find increasing need for a zero-trust interaction system. Even pre-Snowden, we had realised that entrusting our information to arbitrary entities on the internet was fraught with danger. However, post-Snowden the argument plainly falls in the hand of those who believe that large organisations and governments routinely attempt to stretch and overstep their authority. Thus we realise that entrusting our information to organisations in general is a fundamentally broken model. The chance of an organisation not meddling with our data is merely the effort required minus their expected gains. Given they tend to have an income model that requires they know as much about people as possible the realist will realise that the potential for convert misuse is difficult to overestimate.


A possible summary of this vision, back in 2014, would be something along the lines of — well, now that we have Bitcoin²we can rethink whether the model of financing the web by selling personal data remains acceptable.


Those were exciting days that brought conversations about the foundations of this possible new world. Two essential texts from this same year are Michael Goldstein’s “Everyone’s a Scammer”, in September, and “The dawn of trustworthy computing”, by Nick Szabo, in December (which I mentioned before in another post about smart contracts on my Portuguese blog in 2015).


In both Galvin’s interview linked on Wikipedia and in the materials from Ethereum’s website, the values of decentralization and minimization of trust are two major components of this promise of a reimagined web.


In this utopian world, the term Web3 carries a promise of replacing a need for trust in the powerful few (big techs on Web2) with something more widespread, auditable, censorship-resistant, accessible (in the sense of permissionless), and managed by the participants themselves. “Less trust, more truth.


But what about NFTs? Isn’t web3 something related to monkey JPEGs?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8f-BQFo7lw


Crypto Curious — South Park


Rereading those old texts today, many years later. One might ask herself what led the idea of a post-Snowden web to become synonymous with image collections, a marketing tool for opportunists, a gold rush full of vapourware, centralized projects, scammers, and frauds of all kinds. In short, it is a super harmful and dystopian hype.


it seems worth thinking about how to avoid web3 being web2x2 (web2 but with even less privacy) with some urgency.


Moxie Marlinspike — My first impressions of web3


If you have two hours and want to know a very skeptical opinion of the NFTs I recommend watching this video: “Line Goes Up — The Problem With NFTs” (at 1.5 speed it’s pretty easy). But if you’re short on time, just watch chapter 4, which is an excellent summary of NFTs in 20 minutes:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQ_xWvX1n9g

Line Goes Up — The Problem With NFTs


Perhaps it is the natural course of buzzwords that carry great promises, to be co-opted by the marketing rush, and become meaningless.

Is there any wheat in this mountain of tares?

Does a hype as big as this still deserve attention?


If you follow where venture capital is going, and also the flow of talents (the real scarce asset) between startups in the technology area, this is a case of a wave “too big to overlook,” in the words of journalist Kevin Roose in his guide to crypto for the New York Times. He writes (and I agree):


I’ve also learned, in my career as a tech journalist, that when so much money, energy and talent flows toward a new thing, it’s generally a good idea to pay attention, regardless of your views on the thing itself.


By comparison, during the dot-com bubble, the euphoria and fear of missing out directed fortunes to several wrong bets. The subsequent burst of the bubble brought great lessons to our society. But not everything was a failure; projects like Wikipedia and the Internet Archive were born during this period. And other major survivors, like Google and Amazon, seem to have enjoyed some benefits from being there from the start.


I consider it important to observe, know and even participate with discretion, in the subcultures, memes and technologies that are part of the lives of young people and early-adopters today. For this generation, buying shitcoins, getting hacked, losing money, embarking on bogus ventures, dreaming of Lamborghini, spending their allowance on game items and skins, is part of the path of finding each other, finding peers, living, and growing. In a way, all these bad experiences are also schools.


A young woman who learns Rust to write smart contract on Solana, or some other altcoin today, will not have totally wasted her energy, she will end up with important knowledge in her bag. The same goes for someone who installed Metamask to collect kittens and was disappointed with the price of “gas”. This person had contact with BIP39, had some training and had to stop to think about individual sovereignty.


A CEO, CTO, or company director interested in some permissioned ledger because someone in a suit sold him a “solution”, may eventually stumble upon Antonopoulos videos and start his own individual journey towards the orange pill. And so on… Attempting things and failing is still more educational than not trying at all. Or in the words of the military John Paul Jones, father of the US Navy: “those who do not risk cannot win”.

Reclaiming the term

To close, I think it is important to claim back this buzzword — to be once again synonymous with some ideas of autonomy, independence, sovereignty, privacy, freedom of expression — and direct our efforts toward a world with less concentrated power, more free software, more home servers, more robust and self-hosted initiatives, in short, a true Post-Snowden Web, after all, as André Staltz says, in his response to a generalization by Moxie Marlin: “some people want to run their own servers”.


I like this tweet:



Appendix: Retrospective of the last eight years

From the origin of the term Web3, in those first years after Satoshi's gift to the world, until today, a lot has happened.


In the Ethereum field, we had ERC-20 tokens ; the wave of ICOs ; the "The DAO" hack ; crypto-kittens ; ERC-721 ; EIP-1155 second layer networks like Polygon, other forks, and alternate networks…


In the field of Bitcoin, with which I particularly have a greater alignment of values, there were the block size wars; the UASF ( BIP148 ), and No 2x movements that ensured important upgrades in the protocol; layer 2 Lightning Network has flourished, and continues to evolve (see recent Taproot entry ); privacy-focused wallets and exchanges; open projects of hardware wallets and homemade full nodes with a focus on usability; space satellite; demystification about home mining; El Salvador; Brazilian communities are talking more


And, of course, the help that certain political arbitrariness gave to accelerate awareness that the separation of money and state is important.

Footnotes


  1. Ethereum: an “altcoin” that purports to be a “decentralized” computer, or, in the words of Gavin Wood: “a completely generalized global transaction processing system”.
  2. You have to consider the context, Gavin Wood’s text was written at a time when people were looking for a “Bitcoin 2.0”, he himself believed that Ethereum was this evolution and was selling this idea that his competing network was supposedly better. In my summary, I took the liberty of using Bitcoin, as it was the project that actually gave us what was not there before, it was the one that solved the problem of transferring value in cyberspace.

Originally published in Portuguese at Egoismo Duplicado.

Header photo by Wioleta Zakrzewska on Unsplash.

English translation by Marcio Galli and revised by me.