With all of the back and forth regarding the efficacy of cryptocurrencies, I find myself more and more looking for use cases outside traditional “currency” definitions, i.e. that which is used primarily for transactions, where a unit of account is traded for a product or service.
Doing so often brings me to arenas that while well known to many in the crypto community, are still relatively green space for me. As a markets-based professional, I attempt to be transparent in my crypto journey. While there are many topics that I have a significant degree of comfort with, Web3 is an area where I see opportunities to increase my base of knowledge.
Conceptually, the value proposition for Web3 makes perfect sense to me. Web 1.0 covered the earliest days of the text-based internet, an era of read-only websites that users “surfed” to consume content written by others.
Roughly two decades ago, Web 2.0 emerged, representing an expansion of the “read” era, characterized by users’ ability to contribute their own content, interact with others in real time via social media and garner attention for themselves (both good and bad) via their actions. This is commonly referred to as the “read-write” era, and incorporates a lot of what we do in our day to day lives.
Web3 is meant to add the concept of “ownership” to the first two, where users have control over their data, payments within the network are done on a peer-to-peer basis and data itself is decentralized, rather than being warehoused by a few centralized entities.
But why is this important? Well, speaking for myself, I’ll say this. We’re all the sum of our own experiences, to one extent or the next. And those experiences can often be distilled down into individual data points that can tell what we’ve done in the past, and heavily infer what we may likely do in the future.
Simply by interacting with this very content, you’ve likely revealed something about yourself – to an entity that you’re unaware of and that you may or may not be comfortable with.
Those pieces of information about yourself are extremely valuable to third-party businesses, some of which have built billion-dollar operations with all of our personal data at its foundation. And like an undisciplined fan revealing the ending of a movie, we’re all essentially just giving it away.
In many ways, we’ve exchanged our data as the price of admission to centralized protocols with robust networks. One mental model would be the idea that everything that you use in the physical space is rented, from your house, down to your shoes.
As far as content creation is concerned, that which you create is within your control only to the extent that the centralized entity allows. In these instances you are surrendering personal data and what amounts to intellectual property.
Web3 would conceivably turn that concept on its head, resulting in users having complete ownership and control over their data and content, with digital assets or tokens – see, there’s an angle here for a crypto publication – providing each user with property rights.
Instead of businesses being given unfettered access to your personal habits and preferences, they would conceivably have to compensate you for it.
As an individual, you would personally warehouse your own inventory of data and tokens, which you would bring with you from protocol to protocol, supplying and removing them as you see fit.
In an ideal world, the attractiveness of robust networks that we find in centralized networks would be married with greater ownership of personal data, with the blockchain acting as a trustless and permissionless vehicle to govern peer-to-peer interaction.
And if we can own something that truthfully belongs to us, and decide how and to what extent we want it distributed, I expect that people will find value in that.
So why doesn’t this already have widespread adoption? For starters, I expect that scalability is a real issue. Widespread adoption is needed for Web3 to work effectively.
Moreover, users need to not only believe in the concept of Web3 itself, but also must see value in the tokens that are used as incentive mechanisms.
It stands to reason that inertia will be a huge factor in users transitioning from the current way that they interact on the internet to a Web3 framework. People are comfortable with Web 2.0, even if that comfort level is displayed by seemingly grinning and bearing the loss of privacy and transfer of personal information.
Moral issues, for lack of a better term, will likely present a hurdle as well. It goes without saying that not all content creation is good content creation. The reduction of one’s digital footprint will likely incentivize some to produce content that is illegal and/or deemed harmful. This is not to cast aspersions or make judgements, as much as it is to highlight what I believe would be a reality.
For all of the ills regarding scalability and legality, I believe that time and innovation will be the antidote.
In my opinion, the ability to maintain ownership of one’s personal information, while maintaining the right to monetize it themselves, is something that will grow in favor.
The professional investing community appears to agree as well, with companies like JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, Disney and Apple exploring the benefits of Web3 or investing capital into the space.
From a market perspective, assets like Chainlink (LINK), Filecoin(FIL) and Audius (AUDIO) represent ways to gain exposure to Web3 development. The same holds true for protocols such as Ledgermail, Presearch (PRE) and DTube (DTUBE), whose Web 2.0 analogs would be email, Google and YouTube.
All told, I believe that Web3 has a long way to go, but remains well on its way to getting there. I have yet to reach the individual who speaks favorably about the extent to which they lack control over the dispersion of their data.
It only makes sense to me that the alternative would be viewed in good terms. But it will take time, patience and innovation before many see it.
From CoinDesk Deputy Editor-in-Chief Nick Baker, here’s some news worth reading:
- BITCOIN TURMOIL: As often discussed here and elsewhere, bitcoin (BTC) has had a terrific year as an asset, zooming higher by a hard-to-believe degree amid an avalanche of bad news. It has also been a time of, let’s say, creativity around how to use the Bitcoin blockchain, with the emergence of what amounts to NFTs (called ordinals) now offered on the protocol. But this has caused strains in the ecosystem, triggering a surge in transaction fees that was so intense that Binance temporarily halted BTC withdrawals. It’s also shaking up the economics of bitcoin mining in a way that miners may welcome, especially given the pain the industry has suffered over the past year or so. The big question is this: Ordinals are a relatively modest addition to the blockchain, and they’re creating problems. Could Bitcoin handle a bigger (but not necessarily big) flood of mainstream use as a transaction processing platform?
- PEPE MILLIONS: The rise of meme coin pepecoin (PEPE) has been covered lots of ways. A relatively fun way of looking at it is this: It turned somebody’s $263 pittance into a more than $10 million fortune in just a few weeks. (Past performance does not guarantee future results, etc.) The point of bringing this up in an institutional-focused newsletter is not to spark a run into PEPE – and recent returns have been terrible, presumably as newly PEPE rich folks pare back. Is this a sign of unsustainable froth for the whole crypto market? Is this the kind of thing regulators and politicians will seek to tamp down? Am I overthinking this? Time will tell.
- NORTH CAROLINA: The movement against central bank digital currencies (CBDC) notched a victory last week as North Carolina’s House of Representatives passed a bill that would ban state agencies from receiving CBDCs as payment. Not being able to pay bills to a single state would be a pretty minor setback for these government-issued digital currencies, but the unanimous passage of this particular piece of legislation may say something about the prospects for getting crypto-y things incorporated into everyday American life anytime soon.
- FTX’S BILLIONS: FTX is seeking to get $4 billion back from Genesis Global Capital (which, like CoinDesk, is owned by Digital Currency Group). Both (arguably systemically important) companies are in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The reverberations from last year’s crypto collapses continue.
To hear more analysis, click here for CoinDesk’s “Markets Daily Crypto Roundup” podcast.