Is Web3 Bullshit?

Interesting article putting a big question mark on the Web3 hype:
https://www.stephendiehl.com/blog/web3-bullshit.html

Excerpts:

“At its core web3 is a vapid marketing campaign that attempts to reframe the public’s negative associations of crypto assets into a false narrative about disruption of legacy tech company hegemony. It is a distraction in the pursuit of selling more coins and continuing the gravy train of evading securities regulation. We see this manifest in the circularity in which the crypto and web3 movement talks about itself. It’s not about solving real consumer problems. The only problem to be solved by web3 is how to post-hoc rationalize its own existence.”

“Web3 is a deeply polarizing topic for technologists because it’s designed to be that way. It’s a rhetorical trick to set up a false dichotomy between the legacy internet world of popup ads and Zuckerbergs—which legitimately does suck—and a fantasy world built on technologically incoherent pipe dreams and phoney crypto-populism.”

“Web3 is that technical manifestation of this empty grasping for a messianic solution that’s going to solve all our problems. It’s entirely rational to want to build a more decentralized technology stack and to aspire to a more egalitarian internet, a more equitable society, and a better world. However web3 is not the golden path that leads us to that world, it’s the same old crypto bullshit just packaged up in a sugar pill to make it easier to digest.”

Yes, “Web 3.0” (like Web 2.0 and the rest) is just a buzzword.
His cynicism is definitely in the spirit of the times, but he’s not wrong to say -

And I also totally agree that the cryptosphere is at its “kiddie phase”, and it can be horrible to watch at times. Whether or not that’s the whole story remains to be seen. Personally I believe it will grow out of it, but that doesn’t matter.

What matters is the point of this colossal and unprecedented experiment is -
Whether it lives up to the hype or not is really up to us.
So just because the hype is bullshit, doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a problem with the fundamentals…

I only read the excerpts, but he doesn’t really make a case against crypto, he just shines a light on the obscene marketing practices of the industry, and the maturity of the projects, and he’s right in that respect.

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Okay, that was a bit of clickbaiting. Sorry! The “making a case” points in his piece are:

Although I don’t share his view that proof of stake is necessarily plutocratic (but we also have this discussion here, cf. “What can we do to help small stake pools???”), the large cost of computation (every single node has to do every computation of all smart contracts in the world to verify them) is also true for us (even if on a much less catastrophic scale than for proof of work).

That seems to be very much true. You can just go through all the support questions in this very forum to see that people seem to want a centralised entity to go to, complain, get their problems solved. It does hardly matter if this entity runs on Dollars, MySQL and AWS or on ADA, IPFS and something that has not even been developed up to now.

Also a valid criticism. An append-only, very public database with very high storage costs – which all blockchains basically are – cannot and should not be used to store data items that are private or large ord both. So, the blockchain is not really part of any solution. We will still have platforms off-chain for that and the case has to be made what problems the blockchains in that architecture really solve that cannot be solved just as good or even better by traditional solutions.

OK so he is against blockchain :slight_smile: .
There are 2 different points here I see -

  1. Case against the tech
  2. Case against the ethos

About the first I think it’s important to understand that the only thing you really need on-chain are governance and control. So for the Facebook example all you need is a way to make decisions (using an elected board for example) and assign master accounts authentication in a decentralized manner - you don’t need to host all the posts and media directly on a blockchain.
It’s not an easy challenge by any means, but it cracks the case of “blockchain as a technology has no application”. The utility of blockchain as a data structure is always “trust”. (My understanding is if you don’t need data to be trustless, you don’t need it on chain).

The second point is the more serious one to consider imho and it’s not actually a technological issue at all. It’s quite possible that people as a whole are not interested in decentralization. However, it is clear there is a group passionate and dedicated to it. “Who will win” seems almost an abstract question if you believe this will take decades to manifest fully.

An important bit that’s often misunderstood is that it’s a decision, and a spectrum - meaning you don’t have to make it either/or. You could have a DAO (meaning governance and control are decentralized) that works centrally in any other sense - centralized staff, services, solution, etc. Same goes for plutocratic models, you don’t have to use them, their just the best we have so far (with DID you get democracy, with reputation systems you can get meritocracy, on-chain certification allows for technocracy, etc.).

But we will finally have a chance to choose! and even a relatively small groups that adopts the highly autonomous versions could have a huge impact on the whole system (:crossed_fingers:).
The difference here is not to pick this Mark Zuckerberg or another. It’s to remove the necessity for him, and see if we can build and manage a “competitive Facebook” together, with no single person in control, and hopefully many more voices heard. Could we? I dunno (emphasis on “competitive”).

This is what blockchain tech “can do for us”, and I agree it’s not clear yet what that means on the implementation side - with many projects doing “crazy things”.
There is definitely a tradeoff between centralization and decentralization.

Will people choose autonomy and self mastery, or will they cling to the safety and convenience of authority? Have to wait and see. But I would hope that even if the decentralized alternatives are merely allowed to exist, their impact on the whole system will initiate a fundamental shift (has initiated :slight_smile: ).

Hope I’ve made a decent case or just gave you something to think about. It’s been wordy! :space_invader:

I dunno… I read some of his other articles too and while I agree with with some of his criticism, in my opinion at least, he doesn’t seem to have a very deep understanding of how… lets say; human society actually works… Not that I claim to have either but at least our opinions on the topic differ significantly. And by the tone of a lot of his criticism, he just sounds bitter that he didn’t get on the bandwagon early…

He seems to think that the only thing that gives bitcoin and other blockchains value is because people wants to buy it. I used to think this too, But, I’ve come to realize that there is a deeper reason why people wants to buy into it in the first place. It’s simply because of neat combination of scarcity and immutability. And this is what makes it such an excellent digital store of value! And while the price is fluctuating heavily now I think that the more people who hold an asset the more stable it should become… where one point I want to make is, the price is fluctuating yes, but in comparison to what?

And his definition of a ponzi-scheme ( for which he repeatedly calls all blockchain projects) seems to be that if early adopters fair better, then it’s a ponzi-scheme. Well, half of it is almost right, but get this; there’s an actual immutable blockchain behind the whole endeavor! tadaaaaa!!! … a project that didn’t really have this was called, Onecoin, and that was a ponzi-scheme.

Imo it’s in the nature of technology and any other new endeavor; that early adopters, take risk. And are thus rewarded if the thing succeed!

From the end of “The Internet’s Casino Boats” ;
“If you peel back the slick marketing and technical obscurantism of every crypto exchange you’re confronted with a simple inescapable cashflow question about their Ponzi-esque business model. Where will all the money come from to pay out all these new paper bitcoin millionaires? The answer is simple: they need it to come from you.”

Isn’t that also true for the banks and any stockmarket exchange?

Yes, the “crypto space” is schmuck full of pump’n’dump schemes but imo, that’s simply in the nature of new tech that is based on something that at least the fundamentals of is comparably easy to implement… Buyers beware thank you…

I think he should stop whining and use his apparent haskell skills to try to make things better instead… at least that’s what I’d do if I was a programmer… Again, not that I think that all of his criticism is wrong, but, he seems to be shouting: Ponzi!! Gambling!! a little bit too much…

This is a question that I find very interesting; I’m afraid most people will choose the centralized route. I actually don’t think that most people can properly take care of the their passphrase for instance… I wouldn’t mind a hybrid solution at all tho, as long as people who choose to take custody over their assets are allowed to play the same game and vice versa… The problem with that is that what then what happens to the decentralize staking, on which the whole system of cardano rests on. For instance right now there’s the question of binance stakepools, there is nothing that says their stake won’t grow and grow and grow untill they own the network, unless there have been some new development in the area that I’ve missed…

I agree this is a spectrum and should be.

But if “decentralized folks” get X% on their money, then that will cap or at least restrain the greed of centralized services.
And people who stay “centralized” will need to justify their choice by at least checking they’re getting the protections and lower risk that they are paying extra for.

I don’t think exchanges vote atm. And I think it shouldn’t be too hard to decide exchange wallets can’t vote. On the flipside we should (perhaps) aim to get voting supported through exchanges, so people can get a centralized solution but still vote themselves.

I think IOG are working on several ideas to “push power to the edges” and avoid these scenarios.

Okay, but is that really a problem in traditional companies? A problem that needs to be solved by blockchain? I have never heard of massive trust problems in shareholder meetings that elect a board and decide on fundamental issues.

Where is the big, fundamental difference, when the shareholder’s do not buy shares on the stock market and vote in online or offline shareholder meetings, but buy their shares on a blockchain and vote with the technologies currently developed for the Cardano ecosystem?

Is there a larger difference or is it just that people here hope to be early bird enough to be the ones with the higher shares, the higher profits and more power in this new system?

And again it is not totally clear, why you need a blockchain for that. For DID as well as certification, the blockchain is a quite non-essential part. You need to decide who can verify identities and issue certificates off-chain. There is no way to establish such a trust with crypto and transactions. But then it’s maybe easier if these verifying and certifying entities that you need to trust anyhow also provide some less cumbersome infrastructure to publish these credentials than a blockchain. Reputation can maybe be put on a blockchain, but to prevent sock puppets issuing reputation, it seems to need identity as an underpinning and – whoosh – we can remove the blockchain again and just let the government sign unique identities and these unique identities sign reputation.

Attempts at decentralised solutions have more or less, often less successful existed for ages. There’s Mastodon, there’s Diaspora, there’s XMPP, … maybe that’s what you mean by “competitive”, but why should it get more competitive with just the governance level exchanged. We could have (and sometimes have) founded cooperatives instead of stock companies. Solutions have been developed in academia, as hobby projects, as open-source projects cross-financed by other cash cows. There’s no need for a new blockchain economy for that.

Will Web3 attempts be more successful? Attempts, where you not only have to convince people that the decentralised thingy is better, but also that the economy it is built on is somehow better. An economy that by no means is less capitalistic than the one we have. It’s just that other people are, hope to be the lucky ones.

Solutions have to be developed and run by people. Is there any reason these people should be more happy to serve some mysterious DAO than to work for Zuckerberg, in academia, try to make a living through Patreon or one of the other possibilities that already exist?

Thank you! Yes, interesting discussion.

And another good Web3-critical essay that has gotten quite some acclaim in the German tech bubble:

How someone who has “been an expert for the German Bundestag on the topic of Blockchains” can be so ignorant of the topic is a sad mystery (the article feels like it’s 2 years old tbh). Or perhaps not ignorant, just biased against it. He says himself that he is unbalanced, but I still find the article, well, unbalanced (not very good imho).

Saying the climate impact is despicable and discarding the PoS solution as an afterthought seems cavalier, and rather shortsighted. Just a one (mega-) example.

I’m no “Web 3.0 evangelist”, and I’ll admit I don’t really get NFTs (yet?), DeFi is atrocious atm, and the whole space is totally infantile (compare to .com bubble), but I’m still amazed at informed people’s ability to deny reality, and cherry pick facts to fit their rationale, rather than try to make sense of what is already happening.