Buzzword becomes battleground in more ways than one
Above: photo collage by Lynxotic, Original Photos Tesla, TED
Web3 Definitions to help stop confusion:
Web2 refers to the version of the internet most of us know today. An internet dominated by companies that provide (purportedly mostly “free”) services in exchange for your personal data.
Web3, in the context of Ethereum, refers to decentralized apps that run on the blockchain. These are apps that allow anyone to participate without monetizing their personal data.
A broader view is that web3 is, by definition whatever comes after web2. The powerful response to the idea that a web3 could be coming (or according to some is already here) is mainly a result of the disappointment and shortcomings in web2.
The broadest interpretation, that is also the most meaningful, is that the internet and digital networked communication will evolve and there will inevitably be an inflection point that will, in retrospect, mark the beginning of web3 and the end of web2.
For many that moment was in 2020 when crypto and blockchain began to open up technological alternatives to the web2 status quo and the discontent with big tech web2 platforms began to deepen and expand.
One interesting observation is the open and extreme criticism of big tech internet platforms, in general, and social media in particular by detractors from all sides of the political spectrum.
One watershed moment for open and explicit criticism of the system came when the documentary “The Social Dilemma” featured Silicon Valley insiders, from Facebook and Google and others, who strongly condemned the system and it’s shortcomings and faults.
Add to this antitrust issues, extreme billionaire tax avoidance, and other flashpoints, and the feeling in the air became one of a corrupt empire with a limited future.
And, therefore, it’s no surprise that the most powerful vested interests in web2 are already responding to the threat this represents to them and are trying to pre-empt and “buy in” to web3 as protection.
In an appropriately bizarre paradox, most opinions and chatter around web3 until now have been taking place almost exclusively within web2!
Meaning, all the problems, including dis and misinformation, having Algorithms decide what you should see or read, even being being potentially shadowed-banned by the companies that have the most to lose if web3 actually, eventually, overtakes web2.
The ground is shifting as the end of web2 looms
Even more convoluted is the fact that the most powerful and entrenched forces of web2 are actively trying to somehow dominate access to, and, in a sense, pre-empt web3 before it reaches critical mass.
This pre-emptive strike easily disguises itself as “support” for the ideas and new platforms that threaten the old systems where the power still resides.
The ideas is to somehow convince everybody that this bogus “web2-disguised as web3” phase will not only become the next phase of the internet (which is de-facto reality since is will come after web2) but is a real change toward decentralized power and egalitarian systems. Which of course it could never be if the spoils of control continue to flow to the same people that control and benefit from web2.
Examples of this are “Meta” by Zuckerberg, “Nifty” for NFTs by the Winklevoss twins (combined worth around $10 billion, according to Forbes , the brouhaha over “a16z” which is the moniker used to refer to Andreessen Horowitz ( a.k.a. a16z, legal name AH Capital Management, LLC)
Venture capital firm, founded in 2009 by Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz. The company is headquartered in Menlo Park, California.
Next you have a backlash of sorts, with favorite tweet-leaders like Elon Musk and Jack Dorsey pointing out that web3 is not yet “real” and that there is a danger that the power elite behind web2 will create an ersatz web3 to stop the real one from happening.
“You don’t own Web3. The VCs and their LPs do. It will never escape their incentives. It’s ultimately a centralized entity with a different label,” Square now known as Block’s former CEO tweeted.
On Thursday, Dorsey tweeted in response that he had been blocked on Twitter by Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz, a.k.a “a16z“
Meanwhile, Tesla chief Elon Musk says Web3 is more of a “marketing buzzword” than reality.
“I’m not suggesting web3 is real – seems more marketing buzzword than reality right now – just wondering what the future will be like in 10, 20 or 30 years. 2051 sounds crazy futuristic,” he wrote on Twitter.
That’s my take on what they were getting at, especially Jack Dorsey, but, due to the paradox above, they were not explicitly saying that the “real” web3, a decentralized, peer-to-peer and more egalitarian way for humans to communicate and interact on a world wide digital network, is a “good” thing, while some kind of an extension of the same centralized power and control of web3 into the future is not.
And, unsurprisingly, the media twisted this into “Web3 is the new phase of the Internet, and why are Elon Musk and Jack Dorsey against it?” Which is a very different and seriously twisted reading of the situation.
Talking about “what web3 is or isn’t” cannot go forward in a meaningful way, therefore, without addressing this sick, dangerous elephant in the room. My take is that web2’s most powerful and entrenched entities will no go down without a war. Unless a mass exodus of people wake up tomorrow and abandon the current corrupt mess we call web2, the transition will not only be technologically challenging, but the transition will be fought tooth and nail minute by minute until the future finally arrives, hopefully in the form of a real, decentralized, more egalitarian web3 and with web2 in the dustbin of history, along with web1.