The Myth of Decentralization and Lies about Web 2.0

Blockchain has gotten a bad name. A promising technology found widespread adoption with the development of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, and lately the NFT trend, seemingly manufactured overnight, has promoted as much ridicule as it has created debate about next-generation digital marketplaces.

• Emily Gorcenski • 2,019 words • 9 minute read

Emily Gorcenski’s take is a pretty good encapsulation of what I think is wrong about the whole “web3” situation. By trying to rewrite the history of the web make it seem like it is centralized by design, the “web3” crypto-bros are just putting themselves into a position where they’re doomed to repeat the mistakes that lead us to where we are today—most of the “web3” “platforms” that exist right now are making those same mistakes, just adding cryptography to the mix.

Very little in the web3 advocacy space addresses how it will match Web 1.0 and 2.0’s successes in terms of discoverability and sharing. It offers little by way of guarantee that it will protect its users’ digital rights, in some cases making them much worse because of the blockchain’s immutable nature. Centralization was an emergent property of Web 2.0, not an intended behavior. By reframing Web 2.0 as centralized by design, web3 exposes itself to the exact same threats that caused Web 2.0 to be centralized by effect. This is enough to merit caution when embracing the web3 mentality. This is not to say that blockchain and web3 tech doesn’t have some promise, or that the centralization inherent in Web 2.0 is a positive.

This is a much, much more articulate version of what I’ve been banging on to friends about for a while now. The intent of the “web3” (I really fucking hate that moniker) crowd may be good (which is debatable… from what I’ve seen, most of it is a pretty transparent attempt to transfer wealth and/or power from the incumbents to a different entity, not to create a more equitable distribution of control or give people more agency over their data or privacy or anything along those lines), but intent alone doesn’t provide a guarantee of a better outcome.

Cam Pegg