Web2 Pessimism and Web3 Optimism
The future of the internet has changed
The future of the internet has changed.
Over the past three years or so I have been really fascinated by the ways in which the internet is organized, especially as it relates to the companies that provide the infrastructure in which we engage with everyday.
That's right, I am talking about Big Tech: the main players being Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon.
Chances are if you have an internet connection you are engaging with one of these centralized companies while online daily.
One inherent "lie" we tell ourselves about these platforms like Facebook is that we say they are "free" to use when they are not really free. Facebook makes money off of our personal data, just as Google, Microsoft and Amazon do. Apple, makes money primarily off of securing our privacy (or at least that's what they want us to believe now).
Due to this business model where we engage with "free" platforms, we have shifted towards an economy online based entirely off of our attention. This is why it is often called the "attention economy".
There is an abundance of resources out there as to the perverse incentives that these companies are creating for the everyday internet user such as you and I. Never did I realize just how much our attention is taken for granted while online.
Books such as Shoshana Zuboff ‘s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, Adam Alter’s Irresistible and Jaron Lanier’s Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts were very influential for me early on in my research on this topic.
For those who prefer video, Tristan Harris’s masterful TED Talk (“How a handful of tech companies control billions of minds every day”) is another great place to start.
This path of inquiry led me to wonder why don't we get paid for our attention? Why does Big Tech get written check after check to fuel essentially a prediction machine to then sell better catered personalized advertisements for us? Why did I feel unhappy after using social media? Was social media incredibly addictive or was it just me?
Due to my uncovering of more & more of what I felt were wrongs with the internet as it was currently built… I found myself being a pessimist. It came to a point, where I deleted pretty much every social media account off of my phone (which was freeing). This allowed me to not only experiment to see what the “social medialess” lifestyle was like, but also to learn more about what I felt was this very critical topic for the future of humanity.
I wanted to take a step back and reflect on why am I actually using these dominant tech platforms?
Looking back, I am going to call this state of reflection that I had at the time: Web2 Pessimism.
As a prerequisite, here is a general definition of what Web2 is.
“Web2 is an internet dominated by companies that provide services in exchange for your personal data.” (courtesy of Ethereum Foundational Topics)
Being an optimist, and spending ample time online over the past year due to COVID, I then pondered.. what can come after this time of Web2 pessimism? I recognized this area of research (Web2 pessimism) wasn't all that fun anymore. It frankly got depressing.
This led me to question… what can lead us out of this day-and-age of the internet? What is the next more ethical, humane business model for the next wave of internet companies?
Opening the Web3 floodgates
Asking the right questions led me to a trove of learning on a realm I previously was clueless about. My process of questioning started with a simple question: what is being built on the internet that I can be optimistic about?
This led me to discovering Web3.
“Web3 refers to decentralized apps that run on the blockchain. These are apps that allow anyone to participate without monetizing their personal data.” (courtesy of Ethereum Foundational Topics)
Web3 is based upon the idea that the new internet will be built so that it empowers individuals to rightfully own and be compensated for their time and data. This is a revolution in comparison to the previous way of operating, as centralized repositories (such as Google) own and profit from the data we create.
Ownership is a great thing. Ownership alters our relationship to time. Ownership transforms our mindset in that if we own something we are very excited about, we are more likely to go out of our way to make it great. This is something that occurs not out of necessity, but out of passion.
Rather than treating our attention as a commodity to simply be traded away to the advertiser that pays the highest amount of money... Web3's architecture enables us to better value our time online, and drift away from the dominant attention merchants. The future internet powered by Web3 infrastructure is an internet with smaller “gathering” places.
When I think of what builds excitement for Web3, I think of the tokenization of everything as well as DAOs (Decentralized Autonomous Organizations). This is all enabled by the blockchain and specifically the Ethereum blockchain that I have discovered so far.
An example of something I am completely psyched about is: Friends W Benefits, a DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization) that I joined this past month. To join this exclusive community: I had to transfer ETH (Ethereum’s Native Currency) from my MetaMask crypto wallet using Uniswap to then acquire $FWB (Friends W Benefits) tokens.
Friends W Benefits, is the first online community in which I actually have ownership. The value of this community is something I invested in because it is something I believe in. You can actually see what price $FWB tokens are trading at here.
This led me to question, as an early adopter of many different platforms, how it really should be easier to have a financial stake in something/someone you believe in. If I find an incredible musician who I feel deserves more recognition, shouldn’t there be a easier way for me to invest in them?
A future in which everyone can act as a venture capitalist… think of just how fundamentally the incentives for our work would change? It is my belief that this would create an ecosystem with more entrepreneuers than ever.
Raoul Pal’s tweets above highlight some of the potential Web3 applications which will transform the ownership dynamic on a societal level. As we have learned from COVID, change that happens online eventually ripples into our lives offline. This leaves a lot of room for my excitement about Web3, and I suggest it does for your excitement too.
It is time to embrace the shift from a state of Web2 Pessimism to a state of Web3 Optimism.
Let’s build the future.
Cheers to lifelong learning,
Next Thursday, July 1st, I will be releasing my monthly mix, this time for it’s seventh iteration: BARTYDARTY VOLUME 07. Listen to my previous mixes in preparation for this one.
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