Excited about web3
So, I’m super late to the party on this, but I’m telling myself I'm just fashionably entering as things are heating up — not like, missing out on the action late. Whatever helps the FOMO 😜 What looked to me like a hot bed of shit-coin speculation and libertarian anti-government idealism seems to have evolved into a fascinating community of makers, artists, and builders. I don’t know exactly when it happened (maybe it was there all along). I had my head down building a product studio and making web2 things. Anyway, this really feels like the next exciting chapter of the web — named web3 by believers.
I’ve seen a few webs – I got my first paid gig writing code at 14 years old, in 1995 when the internet felt fresh, information was free, and nobody used their real name. Strangers would chat on ICQ or AIM and spin up web sites together, sharing FTP access (no GitHub or version control) — aligned by the stoke of creating the future. People were exuberant (perhaps irrationally ie 1999 when the dot-com bubble burst). I feel like I'm picking up on some of that early energy again in podcasts, newsletters, and on Twitter. I find myself eager to participate in these enthusiastic communities building optimistic, future tech — I keep joining Discords.
With that in mind, I thought I'd dust off my keyboard and start blogging again — something tells me there will be a lot to write about in 2022. I'll start by writing about what I'm finding interesting on my journey down the rabbit hole — in no particle order.
Using the word “decentralization” can lose an audience, but I heard it described as “anti-corruption” (on Bankless) and this resonated with me. As real-world example, the US government has three arms (executive, judicial, legislative) — it’s broken up so each unit provides checks and balances to the other. Similarly with blockchains, no single actor can exert control since millions of users apply checks and balances (validation). In contrast, think about how most of the current web is controlled by Facebook, Google, and Amazon. Huge data warehouses owned by private corporations, housing the majority of human knowledge and intellectual output – our chats, photos, web sites, credit cards and everything important owned by a few profit-seeking corporations. When Amazon or Google go down, half the internet goes with them. Aside from all the ideological reasons, decentralization is just a less fragile model for storing important data.
IPFS (a new file storage model for the web)
On that note, I think it's the IPFS protocol (interplanetary file system) that got me curious about blockchain in a real way — thanks to a talk the Fission crew gave at Cowork just before the pandemic. Prior to hearing about IPFS, I assumed blockchain was for finance — like a hedge against fiat currencies used primarily by tax dodgers. IPFS is a decentralized file storage system — kind of like BitTorrent, but for anything static files, web sites, etc. Think Amazon S3 but completely decentralized, files stored on millions of individual nodes. It's a bit slow at the moment, but the tech is exciting and futuristic. I think it's the future of the web.
Digital ownership (income for digital artists)
After exploring IPFS I discovered NFT's (non-fungible tokens) and found a whole world of artists getting paid for making digital art, for prices that I'd only seen for tangible works before. Back in 2000, my website was a home for my digital art and it would have been a dream for me to be able to sell those pieces at the time. If you can disregard the fact that pixelated faces are selling for $100k+ you can see that the concept of digital ownership introduced by NFT's is a real innovation. I guess art has always been subjective — I learned that at the MOMA while viewing a very special wax urinal sculpture with (maybe real?) human pubes on it.
I've seen very talented artists working regular jobs just to get by, while pouring massive amounts of creativity into side projects that reaped them zero financial benefit, and I daresay this is the norm for most artists. In recent months I've watched as artists I know personally have made life-changing money. Something about adding publicly validated ownership of digital assets has created an entire new art market. I suspect other markets will emerge as well and I think this is just the beginning for NFT’s.
Wallet based login
Something I hadn’t experienced before a few months ago is wallet-based user authentication — simply connect your Metamask browser extension, and boom, you’re logged in to whatever web site or service. It really feels like magic. This reminds me of when "Log in with Facebook" emerged, it was a paradigm shift — a third party had validated that I was indeed a real user, and then I could port my identity to this new website. Now, instead of Facebook validating me as a user, it's my public record on the global blockchain that is validating that I exist and am the user who holds the keys to this particular wallet address. I think we'll see a lot of new ideas here, and I’m excited to see user authentication move away from the Apple, Google, and Facebook's of the world to a more open and global network.
Token-based participation for fans
Many projects in this space have their own tokens (currencies) and as a fan or user. I can choose to buy, earn, and sometimes even get airdropped free tokens. As the projects or people succeed, I share in their financial success as the value of the tokens I hold increases. We’re just seeing the beginning of this, but in future, you might hold tokens from your favourite restaurants, celebrities, musicians, and also the companies and services you like to use.
Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAO’s)
As leader of an agency with 20-some teammates, I spend a ton of time working out processes. Additionally, as a developer who writes code (at least sometimes) the similarities between writing code and defining human processes has definitely crossed my mind. There is something very fascinating about the idea of automating the functions of an organization based on smart-contracts — creating a more fair and equitable future. This is an area I plan to read about more. I recently discovered the product studio Deep Work, who re-invented themselves as a DAO, and I’ve also joined Crypto, Culture, and Society to learn more.
I think each of these topics is worthy of a post on it’s own, but I’ll save some thoughts for future writing — thanks for tagging along on my journey. 🙌