In my many, many pieces attacking the philosophical and literal framework of the cryptocurrency industry, I keep running into people that insist that “Web3 is the future.” Web3 as a term can mean a great many things, but I boil it down to the web as we know it, but decentralized and “democratic” in the sense that the user somehow owns part of, and has the ability to influence the future of the network itself.
This is theoretically a nice idea before you think about how it’d work — users are rewarded for sticking around on a platform, for investing their time, for doing things to make the company better (this is also known as a job, but I digress), and for being “invested” in the company or network itself. Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) are also a theoretically interesting idea — that you could program a piece of code that is impartial and unbiased (we’ll get to that shortly), one separate from geographies and a central authority that could sway it.
I can see (if I squint hard enough) the attraction, especially in a world where massive tech company valuations tend to only enrich those who were early or on top, and where communities put hours into things they love without any expectation (or availability) of compensation. It would be nice if people that were early and helpful to a community were rewarded for doing so.
The problem is that nice does not necessarily mesh with practical in any given sense, in part because of the fallible, imperfect human beings that would build and participate in any of these given systems.
Web3 — as with anything directly related to cryptocurrency — wraps financial incentives into every single one of their sales pitches, and suggests you “own” something as part of your investment in said “network.” Except you rarely if ever own a single thing — you may own a token that’s part of the network that can be transacted in some way, but you don’t own stock, voting rights on the board, or any actual part of the company.
Furthermore, the inclusion of a financial incentive — by which I mean a token that can be given a fiscal value — means that the people that are attracted to the platform are those that can manipulate it. There is no system where someone is financially compensated (even by proxy of receipt of a speculative token) that will not attract people who just want to make money — and this is, in part, why the Web3 philosophy is unlikely to reward real fans.