What is web3? It’s Silicon Valley’s latest identity crisis

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EXCERPTS: For something that doesn’t exist yet, web3 sure is getting a lot of people riled up. [...] Tech scions are fighting about web3 on social media. Investors last year shoveled $30 billion into startups premised on it. And bright engineers are leaving cushy jobs at companies such as Facebook to get in early.

The very idea that there’s a new frontier on the internet even has people paying millions of dollars for digital tokens themed around cartoon apes. But so far, web3 has been more like a buzzword that’s designed more to confuse than to illuminate, and it’s causing something like an identity crisis for the tech industry — with implications for the rest of us.

[...] The thinking goes that Web 1.0 was the first World Wide Web that took off in popularity through web browsers in the 1990s, and that Web 2.0 followed a decade later with the rise of mega platforms like Google and Facebook. Most mentions of web3 treat it as an umbrella term, a vision of the future of the internet where ownership and power are more widely distributed...

[...] If web3 is unproved, why the optimism? The cause of the optimism is the development of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies. ... no-one-in-charge, blockchain-based system. ... If Bitcoin can work, so the thinking goes, why not other blockchain-based financial products like insurance or loans?

“Crypto is not only the future of finance but, as with the internet in the early days, is poised to transform all aspects of our lives,” Andreessen Horowitz...

The firm defines web3 as “the internet owned by the builders and users, orchestrated with tokens.” And a token, in this sense, is like a deed of ownership for a small piece of the internet, whether that’s an object in a video game or anything someone else might value, like art.

[...] So we’ll all get rich from tokens? That’s what web3 evangelists say. But one high-profile tech founder recently threw cold water on all the preaching.

“You don’t own ‘web3,’” Jack Dorsey, co-founder of companies Twitter and Block, tweeted last month. Instead, he said, the investor class will own it, as usual. “It will never escape their incentives. It’s ultimately a centralized entity with a different label.”

[...] the early winners of web3 may in fact be big businesses. Non-fungible tokens that people are buying and selling as art ... need to be traded in a marketplace somewhere...

[...] Is this really the future? The future is always uncertain, but the tech industry is generally on the leading edge and the buzz around crypto is unmistakable, whether it’s a bubble or not.

Benedict Evans, a London-based tech investor, wrote this month that the crypto world is characterized by both “irrational, religious hype” and “straw-man attacks.” And he said it has helped to shift the center of gravity in tech away from, say, smartphones or social media.

“Crypto is so big and potentially important, and yet so vague and so early, that we can’t even agree what to call it,” he said, without using the term web3.

[...] Andreessen Horowitz is ... predicting voters may favor pro-crypto candidates. “Web3 has emerged as a major political force,” it said last month, based on one survey it paid for... (MORE - missing details)

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