Former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and a group of tech titans have teamed up to revolutionize financial and governance structures with blockchain innovations, loosely translated as “Web3”. Offered on the basis of the decentralization of existing power structures, it could easily turn into a system of total control over everything on earth. ⁃ TN editor
Members of the tech elite have come together to bring the web back to its idealistic origins. They call their vision “Web3”.
The internet didn’t develop the way it should.
In its early days, before some Wall Street Journal readers were born and the rest had less auto-renewing digital subscriptions, it should be distributed, user-controlled, and, in a word, democratic.
Then came big tech and the centralization that came with it, unexpected profits, culture wars, misinformation campaigns, congressional hearings, EU decisions, cartel battles and techno-nationalism that have shaped the past decade.
What if there was another way?
What if, to take just one example, social network users collectively owned, or at least could vote on, how they are conducted and what kind of speech they allow? And what if you could ask similar questions to any other technology company whose main product is software and services – be it in the financial sector, in cloud computing or even in the entertainment sector?
These are the questions investors, engineers, and more than a few dreamers ask themselves – including former Twitter boss Jack Dorsey, whose interest in these questions explains his sudden withdrawal from Twitter.
The answers take the form of services and applications that are the first outlines of what their creators hope the Internet will one day disappear completely: a distributed, democratically governed “Web 3.0” or “Web3” that feels like a The 1990s phoenix of Web 1.0 idealism will rise from the ashes of the enterprise-controlled Web 2.0 that we all currently live in.
Here’s the basic idea: New technologies like blockchain are an opportunity to loosen the centralized stranglehold that corporations and governments have on everything from internet platforms to intellectual property to the creation and distribution of money. These technologies work by dividing responsibility or ownership among a group of users who, for example, use their computing power to electronically produce – or “mine” – cryptocurrency or record transactions for digital art.
These technologies represent a further development of the cryptocurrency beyond Bitcoin, which some in the crypto community now deride as mere “digital gold”. In addition to their monetary value, the “tokens” that make up these systems are each encoded with information that has a different use, be it membership in a club, the right to vote on the business conduct of a company, or even just data.
The blockchains that underlie all of this are just information books that are stored on many different computers at the same time. This allows any blockchain to be removed from the control of a government or company, and people can securely and transparently exchange tokens on that blockchain.
This future, a second chance to use technology to turn traditional power structures upside down, is touted by eloquent hype people of all stripes, from venture capitalists to chair oracles on social media.
Others consider the whole company to be more than just a waste of time. They view Bitcoin as a currency with an oversized (and, many argue, completely unnecessary) energy and carbon footprint. And they see cryptocurrencies by and large as a classic, doomed, techno-solutionism-Ponzi scheme (the belief that technology can solve any problem) pushed by modern-day medicine show hucksters eager to Get out of their investments in unregulated securities before the market collapses or the securities and exchange regulators get around to regulating them.
Mr. Dorsey, not a quack, is clearly part of the camp of believers – and is indeed one of its most prominent members. In July, he told investors that bitcoin would be an important part of the future of Twitter, and in August, he tweeted that bitcoin would unite the world.
His departure from Twitter reflects the pull the Web3 has on many of the tech elite. Dorsey now works full-time at Block – the new name he has given Square, his digital payments company – and is an enthusiastic advocate for cryptocurrencies.