🔭 A changing philosophy of the web

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The Fūtch
The Fūtch
“Technology is a word that describes something that doesn’t work yet.”
Douglas Adams

The ethos of the open web
I’ve been mostly bored with the internet for the past 10 years.
At least, I hadn’t felt the excitement that I had when the Apple announced that the iPhone would be able to record video, and apps started to pop up that would allow anyone to broadcast live video from anywhere. At the time, that seemed like it would change the world, and it kinda did.
Since then, it’s felt like most advancement in the space have been about consolidating power and creating more shareholder value for Facebook and Twitter. That’s a bit hard for me to get excited about.
The conversations I’m seeing now remind me a bit of that time, but they also remind me of the unburdened optimism that came with the first version of the web. The idea that the protocols upon which the entire internet is built should be free and open, and that we should be free to work together to build it.
We lost that when social media ate the web, but for the first time in a long time, it feels like we have a chance at getting it back.
What I'm thinking about this week
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how new categories will emerge as web3 matures. The more I think about it, the more I believe that there has never been a more perfect time for small groups of entrepreneurial people to unseat some of the most powerful companies in the world. It may not play out that way, but we’re definitely at an inflection point of the business model of the web.
From Chris Dixon's "Why Web3 Matters" (linked below)
From Chris Dixon's "Why Web3 Matters" (linked below)
The Business Model of the Web
The saying goes “if you’re not paying for the service, you’re the product.” That idea has come into harsh focus in the past couple of years as it’s come to light how our data is bought, sold and weaponized against us from services like Facebook.
The current model, in reductive terms, is to grow your database of active users, extract as much data as you can from them, and sell that data in the form of advertising, or something much more nefarious.
Through our desire to connect with friends, find new affinity groups and answer math questions wrong on LinkedIn, we have helped a handful of companies to grow to the size of small countries, seemingly impervious to the law.
Much of the ethos of web3 is about taking that power away from one central figure, and distributing it among the users of the platform. Web3 comes with ownership, which comes with the right to governance and decision-making. In short, if decentralized Twitter wants an edit button, all they have to do is vote on it.
Would a decentralized Facebook be perfect? Almost certainly not, but the point is that how it operated would be decided by the users, and not by one person wielding a trillion-dollar weapon of propaganda.
The Core Values of the Open Web
The values of the web3 movement are far more important than the technology behind it. Here are a few that I’ll try to break down into a few paragraphs:
Trustless
To enter into an agreement, even with a standard contract, requires trust. Trust that the other party will fulfill its obligations; trust that payment will be made on time; trust that you won’t have to go to court.
By contrast, smart contracts are programs that make agreements transparent and self-executing, meaning that once a condition is met, the next condition can happen automatically. For instance, a vote reaching a 51% majority within a specified timeframe can trigger an action that was voted for without the need for human interaction.
Smart contracts don’t eliminate the need for trust, but they do mitigate it enough that it is possible to collaborate with large groups.
Decentralized
Spotify is the perfect illustration of where centralized power fails. Artists create 100% of the value of Spotify, but receive a comically small amount of the capital it creates.
A decentralized Spotify would give ownership of the platform to musicians and developers based on how much value they brought to the platform. How much they were paid per stream would be transparent and voted on by the collective, and Spotify’s current $46B market cap would be owned and shared by the artists and the team that builds it.
Permissionless
To me, this is where the philosophy of web3 gets interesting. In a world where almost every interaction with the economy requires someone’s permission - opening a bank account, making an investment, applying for a job - the open web proposes a different way.
The blockchain is open to anyone. Anyone can join a DAO and participate in the work. Anyone can start a project and issue a token that will rise or fall in value, and share that token with everyone else involved. Anyone can take part in building, without the approval of a central authority, much to the chagrin of central authorities.
This is also where the most friction and uncertainty lies in web3, as they still need to operate in a world in which laws are entirely based on who has permission to do what. I’ve spoken to a few lawyers in this space, and while there are some best practices, what official government policies will look like is still anyone’s guess.
This week in the Fūtch
One of the issues that makes web3 so impenetrable without going all the way down the rabbit hole is the lack of communicators in the space so far. That’s starting to change. Here are some of the best pieces I’ve found in explaining why the fads we’re seeing today may become part of your everyday life in the future.
The Value Chain of the Open Metaverse
Why Decentralization Matters. We’ve forgotten there’s a better way to… | by Chris Dixon | OneZero
How to Become a Crypto Person: A Normie’s Guide
Get in touch.
I want to hear back from you. What are you most excited about or terrified by in the future of tech? What needs more explanation? Respond to this email and let me know.
Yours from the fūtch,
Ryan
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The Fūtch
The Fūtch @ryananderson

I write about the future of the web and how it may impact business, media and culture.

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