Gavin Wood, now based in Switzerland, is crediting with coining the term Web3 in 2014 when he was CoFounder and CTO of the Ethereum Foundation.
Web3 is a vision of a an Internet that is not controlled by a few big centralised players such as Google, Facebook and Amazon ie the Web2 we use every day.
Roy Amara was a Stanford University computer scientist and long-time head of the Institute for the Future who said that we tend to overestimate the impact of a new technology in the short run, but we underestimate it in the long run. That became “Amara’s law”.
The timeline of Web3 is a good example of Amara’s law. Taking 2008 as the starting point (invention of bitcoin) and 20 years being “long run” implies that by 2028, Web3 will be mainstream. Today, a bit over half way through the cycle, there is an abundance of negative chatter about Web3, stemming from two current realities, both based on the macroeconomic inflation scare:
Reality One = Digital Disruption Slows. Disruption requires investors to bid up the price of high risk assets. That price is impacted by expectations of inflation and interest rates. So negative chatter about something as disruptive as Web3 becomes the norm.
Reality Two = Bear market in risky assets. During the 2020 Bitcoin bull market, driven by institutional investors, Bitcoin became just another asset to be traded. When most of their assets decline in price, many institutional investors sell their winning positions such as Bitcoin to meet margin calls. Bitcoin became nothing more than an asset for Wall Street to trade. When even that asset declines in price, fear replaces greed and the negative chatter about disruption becomes deafening.
Another factor impacting negative chatter about Web3 is that as Richard Brown reminds us “technologists are pathologically pedantic” (check out Hacker News if you doubt this). Technologists will point out that Web2 was driven by technology such as Ajax and REST APIs, even if most of us know Web2 through the social tools that allowed us all to create as well as consume (vs Web1 which was consume/read only).
For a while Web 3 referred to semantic web, but that never went mainstream, despite being much loved by technologists. It is natural for markers to seize on a meme as obvious as Web 3 often to promote scammy crypto projects and technologists are also allergic to marketing hype.
I am NOT promoting any crypto projects, but as Parts 2, 3 and 4 will show I think that Web 3 based on decentralised and permissionless exchange of value is real and not hype.
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