Mudslinging and tantrums filled the air this week before the holidays. Tis the season to be jolly they say, but not this week.
Elon Musk, Jack Dorsey, and Marc Andreessen set to it in ninja style. Dorsey accused Web 3 of being a fake. Implying that Venture Capitalists were using the name to disguise a very centralized Web2 kind of world, just using blockchain, tokens, and DAO-like software as a veil. Nothing to see here was the meaning. And a dismissal that only a true believer could deliver to a false messiah.
No sooner had that need said and the “false messiah” blocked Dorsey on Twitter. Marc Andreessen is fond of blocking people on Twitter. Personally, I don’t really have time to figure out who to block and who not. It takes a lot of attention to detail for that. But Marc, clearly a busy guy, found the time to pursue his instincts.
Dorsey of course tweeted a picture, triumphantly, as if to say, look, I was right. Andreessen is really miffed that I called out his scam.
Not to be rendered irrelevant, Elon Musk of DOGE fame did what I think was the funniest tweet, asking, “Has anybody seen web3? I can’t seem to find it” or words to that effect. It wasn’t clear and still isn’t, whether that was in support of Dorsey (web3 is fake) or Andreessen (we are investing in web 3 but it is early).
The metaverse hasn’t had this much fun for months. And many words were written and published in the 48 hours since.
But, and I am sorry to change the holiday mood here, there are serious points on both sides of the spat.
Web3, Crypto, and the Metaverse are all labels for what might come next in technology. And as with all revolutions, labels matter. Dorsey, Andreessen, and Musk are all similar to the religious sects in Monty Python’s Life of Brian. I mean this in a complementary way. They are believers in a specific narrative about what comes next. And their narratives differ in some important ways.
Dorsey believes in true decentralization. Because of that, he sees Bitcoin as symbolic of the real future. Bitcoin is not owned by any central authority, and as the network enabling it grows it does not create fiefdoms. He sees Bitcoin in the context of fiat currencies and the frailty of those currencies when it comes to storing and maintaining value. For Dorsey, the future is truly open and distributed with networks enabling tokens to deliver products and services to us all.
Now enter A16Z and its war chest. Venture Capitalists invest in people and ideas, at least at first. Andreessen understands that web 3 will be distributed, it believes that DAOs are important, it thinks people will not work for companies in the future. All of these are important elements of its investment thesis. However, the journey to that end game is a journey. Today it invests in tools, protocols, services. Many of these are not decentralized. They look and act just like centralized Web2 companies. For Dorsey that is a compromise. For Andreessen, it is a pre-condition.
Musk is just a comedian (in a good way) compared to the other two, he is having fun. Where is Web3? I haven’t seen it. DOGE is his toy to ridicule Dorsey’s pet love - Bitcoin. He seems to enjoy stirring it up. Not a lot more to see there.
My personal belief is that Dorsey and Andreessen should talk. They are not far apart. Venture investors are already seeking to fund many elements of the next stage in technology and society. They are moving from buying equity to buying tokens (sometimes both). They are devoting resources to explaining what a truly decentralized and network-driven value creation system looks like. And they are believers in Ethereum, Bitcoin, DAOs, Smart Contracts, NFTs, and other blockchain innovations.
As Dorsey acts to help Bitcoin fulfill its potential, as he surely will. And as he seeks to build software that enables human behavior without creating centralized fiefdoms, as he surely will. So too will Andreessen fund and help anything offering true value while being flexible on how to participate and own part of it.
Revolutions need healthy debate. And money and passion. This week, for me, showed that there is plenty of that. 2022 will not see this slowing but accelerating. Dorsey, Andreessen, and Musk are each of them, key innovators. They agree a lot more than they disagree. They will contribute more than they will criticize in 2022.
I did say I would take a break this week, but the events that unfolded drove me to publish. Happy holidays to all of you, and see you in early January.