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Is Web3 anything? (chris-granger.com)
271 points by mharju 5 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 415 comments



Nice read. What I don't get about all the crypto haters, who will probably make up the majority of replies here, are they really just happy with the status quo? Do they really think the current financial system is great and their online bank account is perfect and nothing radical is worth trying? That usernames and passwords given to each of a million different companies are so great, why would people want to manage their own information?

I get it, it's hard to see past the memes and bubbles and bullshit and buzzwords in the crypto industry. But there is a very real, very powerful, politically agnostic idea of self-sovereignty at the core to all this stuff. You dictate the terms of your data and your money and your stuff to an ultimate degree.


As a crypto skeptic, which I think is not fairly categorized as "hater," I think you're painting this in far too black and white terms.[1] "The current financial system is not great" and "cryptocurrency is not great" are not mutually exclusive propositions, right?

> ...there is a very real, very powerful, politically agnostic idea...

There's very little about the way cryptocurrency and NFTs and even blockchains as a concept are presented that seems politically agnostic; "you shouldn't have to trust anything or anyone in order to complete a transaction" is not a conventionally partisan position, but when you're applying it to government institutions, surely it's political.

[1]: I would say this happens a lot with crypto-adjacent technologies -- sometimes it seems like the only two acceptable opinions are "this will revolutionize literally everything, how can you not see it" and "this will destroy the entire world, how can you not see it" -- but I think it happens a lot with everything right now. That's a different rant, though.


I think the problem is that blockchain tech has moved far away from the original Bitcoin white paper at this point. The original was a cypherpunk wet dream which was indeed a system for financial transactions resistant to government manipulation/interference. The current strain of NFTs and other junk coins have pushed the tech into a scammy world that has developed an increasingly worse reputation and adds little value.


I think it's very easy for people to categorize you as "hater" because it makes their argument much easier, no need to argue with "haters" and just easily build a strawman to fight.


> As a crypto skeptic, which I think is not fairly categorized as "hater," I think you're painting this in far too black and white terms.[1] "The current financial system is not great" and "cryptocurrency is not great" are not mutually exclusive propositions, right?

They are not mutually exclusive. However often retorts to Web3 or DeFi are along the line of "I can receive my salary for free" or "I can send a bank transfer for low fees and it settles in 24 hours" - the implication being, why do we need anything else this is fine. My question to those who roughly hold this position (whether they be haters, skeptics, curious, critical) would be, if we can agree that generically technology is improving many elements of our modern life, isn't it sensible that we should also be trying out new technologies for finance and banking? Banking and credit cards have largely stayed the same for decades, shouldn't we be innovating here? Regardless of whether you consider Web3 to be innovative or not, isn't it better that people are trying other ways to improve?

> There's very little about the way cryptocurrency and NFTs and even blockchains as a concept are presented that seems politically agnostic; "you shouldn't have to trust anything or anyone in order to complete a transaction" is not a conventionally partisan position, but when you're applying it to government institutions, surely it's political.

There's a line of argument that basically everything is political. But that's often kind of a pointless statement. I would say that Web3 is non-political in the sense that, if you have a credibly neutral trustless global operating system, secured by validators around the world and used by users around the world, this environment is apolitical. It's not Western, Chinese, Russian, no one is gate kept from interacting with it. It is open for all, transparent and unable to be censored. Having you're Paypal account locked because you're from Iran feels intuitively political in a way that the system I described above does not.


You are pretending things like Revolut, Venmo, Zelle etc. do not exist. They are centralized but solve most things an avg. person dislikes about their bank services.


So, one bank and 2 transfer services with patchy compatibility? I disagree.

My bitcoin wallet isn't looking to trap me in a cycle of debt[1] if I run low on money; most banks are. My bitcoin wallet is auditable down to first mathematical principles, and will never steal my identity[2], create accounts in my name without my knowledge[3], etc. Nobody can cancel my access to my wallet because I said something politically incorrect[4] or because I tripped some opaque anti-fraud system.[5]

Banks are, as institutions normal people are expected to deal with at least, inherently exploitative and lack accountability.

[1]: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/10/20/overdraft-fees-hit-another-r...

[2]: https://abcnews.go.com/Business/bank-tellers-increasingly-in...

[3]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wells_Fargo_account_fraud_scan...

[4]: https://nypost.com/2019/05/25/jpmorgan-chase-accused-of-purg...

[5]: https://www.reddit.com/r/paypal/comments/niwiu1/paypal_took_...


I’m not sure about patchy. I transferred money about 10 times this year and all the recipients wanted Zelle.

All of your other criticisms are valid, but also exist in a system where you trust your wallet with a third party service. the majority of Americans would use a bank like service that manages their key instead of managing it themselves.

You also ignore the other risks that crypto introduces. Like losing your key, password, your exchange gets seized, your exchange just straight up steals your money, or having a 1 character bug in a smartcontract.


All of those failure cases you mention have mitigations. Dealing with banks? Not so much.

And I'd go so far as to call what the majority of Americans prefer wrt. key management a result of inertia due to a few centuries of having always done it that way. That's not necessarily surprising, a lot of this is new and doesn't have a good "real world" analogue to tie back to.


I’m not satisfied by the standard quo and want something better. But the current state of trustless web3 is not it.

My bank account is great. If I die there are clear procedures for getting my assets to my spouse. Even if I forget my account number or my password, my lifetime of earnings does not simply disappear. This can’t happen in crypto unless I trust a third party, in which case just using a bank in US dollars is much safer as there are actual laws and insurance covering it.

Maybe other countries are different,


There are middle grounds here. Sovereignty, like security, is not binary, it's a spectrum.

You could use a scheme where two of three signatures allow transactions : you, your 'bank' and a notary. Or have such schemes for anything above a value. Or allow transactions by and to a list of whitelisted addresses after a certain date or event (such as a missed canary).


> You could use a scheme where two of three signatures allow transactions

So now social engineering hits and someone convinces my ‘bank’ and notary to allow the transaction to a third party. Now my life savings are gone forever.

In my real bank (no quotes) you have regulation. Banks are liable for fraud. Blockchains aren’t.

Now you could have pre assigned addresses that the notary and bank are allowed to transfer to, but now you have to think about edge cases. Every time i update my will I have to hire a blockchain engineer to update my smart contract and then hire another firm to audit it for errors so a bug doesn’t drain my account. Huge headache and much more expensive compared to the status quo.

> Or allow transactions by and to a list of whitelisted addresses after a certain date or event (such as a missed canary).

whats triggering the canary? How can I trust that it will be accurate?

Also, my spouse can change or die. If my spouse and I died at the same time and my parent’s should get the money if they are still alive. now what happens? You have to map out hundreds of edge cases, like every permutation of my relatives wallets. Then I have to trust that the blockchain can tell these people are alive.

Current California State law takes all of that into account. It handles the edge cases in a way that code does not. Probate court is expensive but its better than everything going to zero.


You are dismissing the examples for being too simple. They are simple because they are examples.

My point is not that these three examples "solve all issues we have with Authority/Govt/BigFinance". Nor to prove that "Bitcoin Fixes this".

My point is to show that crypto-currencies, by design, are programmable, and this allows a lot of use cases to move from Authority/Govt/BigFinance to DIY. Not all cases, not everywhere, not for everyone. But in a spectrum.

To clarify with your refutations:

> Now my life savings are gone forever.

Which is why you probably want "your life savings" in a secure, goverened, trusted environment. For many people Blockchain or DIY is out of the question for "my life savings". But that leaves a giant spectrum of other use-cases. From checking accounts to saving-for-a-friends-present. Use your imagination.

> Then I have to trust that the blockchain can tell these people are alive

You are dismissing a giant set of use-cases on one that will, indeed, probably never work. I never mentioned that this the ultimate and only replacement for Deed. I deliberately did not, because I think this is a bad use-case for Blockchain for the reasons you mention and much more.

But this could be a "here's some money for when you turn 18" or "bonuses for managers which can only get extracted after a year", a "tip jar that pays out every month" etc.

My point was that trust is a spectrum, and not binary. Yet you take the most extreme outliers thinkable, refute those and then conclude that none of the cases in the broad spectrum can ever work. They can. And Blockchain is one of the tools. As are trust-funds, banks, payment-APIs, courts, notaries and so on.


If you notice the phrasing, all the crypto arguments are in the realm "it could be...". The major difference is that all the legislation, be it good or bad, "is". Which makes crypto very convenient to paint imaginative rosy futures, and actual legislation very convenient to point out actual flaws and dark patterns.


Not being happy with the status quo and not liking cryptocurrencies are not mutually exclusive. You can "hate" both.

My problem with "crypto" is that the industry is so focused on getting rich, is all about money. That's not changing the status quo, that's wanting to be a part of it.

If you TRULY want to change the status quo your focus can't be on how you can get rich quicker. There's been centuries of thought on self-sovereignty, of dictating your own terms, anarchism, freedom, etc. There's been literal wars about this all over the world and I just don't see how some dudes with bitcoins are really adding anything new to the table.


I’ve proposed to a crypto company that they explicitly prevent themselves from getting rich off the ICO. They were decidedly completely uninterested. We all know the actual motivation of crypto bros, they want money. They don’t really care about improving the world, it’s all marketing bullshit.


I agree but there is one thing -- if enough of the crypto-rich convert enough of their crypto-money to "fiat" then eventually, we may have a class of billionaires even more disconnected from the traditions of society than the Silicon Valley crop has been.[0][1]

And these people may found universities, buy politicians, sit on the boards of art museums.

So, while I personally don't think it'd be a good thing, I think there's a decent possibility the "crypto people" will someday use the spoils of their business to dabble in large-scale social engineering, and in a roundabout way that's how the dudes with the bitcoins will leave their mark.

[0]: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/10/business/elon-musk-philan...

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Francisco_General_Hospital

...I could go on and on...


Idk. I get my direct deposit into my account from my employer for free. I can transfer funds to pay bills for free. And I can go anywhere in the world and withdraw money for less than a 5$ fee in less than a minute.

Try doing that with crypto.


You must live in a developed nation. I'm from one of the tier-2 cities in India.

I cannot hold stable, diversified collection of global currencies in my bank account and cannot invest in global markets without going to a branch in a bigger town and without significant paperwork. I cannot legally accept money from around the world for my software development skills without being a part of the existing banking system. My relatives in my native village just 100 KMs away don't even have a bank they can walk into (they have mobile phones with data though).

Do we just have to wait for regulated, for-profit entities to calculate when it will be profitable for them to provide us with services? What benefit did maintaining the status quo provide for people in countries where inflation wiped out savings overnight? If we have the skills and the opportunity to participate in an alternative, mostly open system, how long should we need to wait for permission?


India Post offers savings accounts services through its post offices. Non-profit public enterprise and a post office is available in every PIN code. There is probably one within walking distance of your relatives in your native village.

Cross border transactions are heavily regulated precisely because they cross jurisdictional boundaries - without regulation it becomes trivially easy to commit fraud and make the money effectively disappear. Does the current regulation come in the way of the average person trying to accept Paypal money? Sure. But that is not a technological problem - its a regulation problem, which is ultimately a social problem.


I know options exist, but better, more inclusive options can be possible.

Take for example messaging – Jeff Bezos uses (used?) WhatsApp, I use it, you probably use it and my relatives use it as well. No matter what the geography or your social/financial standing, you probably have access to a world-class messaging product easily.

The same is true for a lot of things: Wikipedia, Linux, Bicycles.

Why should the same not be true for wealth protection and growth? If it is possible to come up with a such a system, shouldn't we at least give it a shot?


You can invest in mutual funds which invest in foreign companies. Creating online accounts for direct mutual funds investments is fully digital using Video KYC.


Yes, I'm aware of that. However, I need to go through a mutual fund and rely on their stock picking strategy and fees (we've had mutual funds default very recently). I want to enter into a position in a specific stock according to my strategy at a price I'm comfortable at.

This again leads to the same point: why are we so _comfortable_ with the status quo?

I want to think about what could be possible, not what sub-par alternative is available today.


I understand your context 100% as I am an African currently living in Europe. It is almost impossible for anyone who has grown all their lives in the western economic system to fully grasp what is wrong with the status quo and the need to engage in a plausible alternative. Heck even I get so comfortable sometimes here and forget the context I grew in and question the need for change.


Just for the sake of argument, the same can be said about dark web: it offers freedom to do whatever business one pleases, with minor government interference. Is that a great alternative? For some, yes. Could it sell also cancer treatments for people unable to obtain them otherwise? Yes it could, but that doesn't make the dark web a good thing. My point is that what "could be" is very different from what "is". And from what I can see nowadays with crypto we find the positives only in the "could be". I beg the crypto advocates to make those possibilities reality, then I guarantee everybody will jump ship, or at least I definitely will.


The dark web is a good thing – it's a good utility. Whether someone uses it for a good thing or a bad thing, it's up to the individual, but I'm glad that an investment was made to come up with a more secure, privacy-focused protocols was made (and continuing work is being done to improve it).

I'm also glad other protocols exist and the market will ultimately determine adoption based on utility. We mostly used HTTP until FireSheep happened and now use HTTPS very widely and someday, if governments and organisations continue to pry on online activity, we might move to the protocols powering the dark web.

It's the same with crypto. I, too, feel a lot of the use cases being talked about right now are just words – but at the same time, I'm glad that people with the skills and the resources are making investments into coming up with these experiments and the experiments that will offer the most utility might get widely adopted in the future.


>I beg the crypto advocates to make those possibilities reality It's up to people to start utilizing the technology. But some need it more than others, for you it might not be necessary but millions of people are already using cryptocurrencies in countries where government caused hyperinflation of their currencies.


I don't think that the convenience of moving money around has much to do with what the article's talking about. It's more about flexibility when there're more than just one party involved--the kind of stuff that with fiat you'd have to hire lawyers for.


"I can get my favorite articles delivered to my door, I can watch my sports games live, I can talk to my parent's across country instantly and cheaply over the phone. Try doing any of that with 'the internet.'" Sometimes you're just early, bud.


How many more decades until we're there?

Scale comparison: Cryptocurrency-based technology has been publicly available for at least 12 years now. If I place initial public availability of the web at about 1992, we're currently in the equivalent of 2004, when two of the three described usecases were already widely available in developed nations. Amazon was maybe not a household name yet, but e-commerce was already an accepted purchasing model for several product categories, and Skype gave the world very cheap international phone calls. Only the video usecase was still terrible because of the available bandwidth.


DEXs(uniswap), Auction Houses(zora), Community Voting Systems(snapshot), Reputation and trust networks(circles), public goods funding(clr.fund), self publishing and fundraising(mirror, and now kickstarter), e2ee messaging and chat rooms(status/whisper), ubi and sybil resistance(proofofhumanity). These are all things I and lots of others are interacting with pretty much daily, it doesnt get so much coverage because its not all speculation and imo what people are actually angry about with crypto is more exposure to abusive capitalism games, money is a painful trauma so more of it in new forms is hard to imagine as positive. But there is plenty of useful stuff being built and I think it is progressing pretty well. 5 years ago the ideas of rights management combined with open distribution (rather than DRM that locks down distribution) was a strange idea we didnt know how to make work, now NFTs are mainstream.

In 2004 i was downloading textures and skins for the sims and xplane, and joining forums to chat and share music. Then there was a while imo where the internet felt dominated by facebook/google/youtube, but the past couple of years ive sunk into smaller communities making things in crypto/web3 and its fun and exciting. I spend most of my online time in that space. It feels more like being in a WoW guild than using twitter. There is profit/loss and speculation that excites/angers the masses, but theres also the best online communities ive ever been a part of, doing things like making games and custom skins and sharing music. Some things change and some things stay the same. Im pretty positive on the idea that making new tools, providing permissionless access, and building it with free open source software, people can do neat and surprising things. Till then people will see what they want to see, because its all there. Sturgeons law etc


I disagree. When email came out it was HUGE. You were previously unable to send a message in seconds to a party around the globe.

With e commerce you could view a dynamic catalog and place an order without a painful lengthy phone call.

Cryptos biggest innovation is not being a bank account. But DeFI. Uniswap is huge! And it solves a real pain. Crypto margin loans solve a real pain.

But crypto is not by any stretch better than a dollar for my day to day life.


Early work on the internet was in the 1960s. Much of that stuff you're talking about didn't happen until 40-50 years later. So what you're saying is I'll likely be dead before I see any tangible benefit from all this hubub?

Which is kinda cool. But also kinda depressing.


This is not a convincing argument. Just because I think something should be improved, doesn‘t mean I should applaud any and all attempts to improve it.

If my city has a hideous, impractical train station and you just take a wrecking ball to it overnight, I‘m not going to thank you, because I won‘t be able to ride a train for months.

Also consumer banking (in Europe) is great, I don‘t know what people are so mad about. If it‘s just "consumer banking sucks in the US" you have a much more straightforward improvement plan in "make it like Europe".


You can agree with most or all of that and still think the the tokenisation of everything with over expensive compute and storage and infinite middlemen isn’t the win their advocates think it is.

You can own your own data, log in using a cryptographic secure identity and do many other awesome decentralised things through that without needing a blockchain. The latter I think does have value if you want to transfer funds without the government stopping you at the time (retrospectively though they might). That’s not very useful for normal people though.

The problem is that there is little thought outside of crypto for this digital self-sovereignty when the digital world is effectively post-scarcity. Which makes me think that most care more about the money to be made than the ideals they claim to hold.


> Do they really think the current financial system is great and their online bank account is perfect and nothing radical is worth trying?

Try, absolutely! New tech is fun tech!

The problem is it's not about the tech is it? Lets be honest. It's just people trying to milk it for cash right now. Once they've all got theirs it'll evolve into something useful or just sorta be there now like Bitcoin

Web3 tech, from my perspective, is people promoting profile pictures of bored apes, pirates, robots and (new to me) snowflakes with varying accessories on Twitter. It's like a ridiculously expensive version of Pokemon except you can't even fight them against each other. It's a bit of a joke currently, I hope someone finds a decent use case

In any case whether I'm right or wrong, NFTs and web3s are something I'm too poor to understand right now. It's like watching an orgy of millionaires taking money from each other and patting themselves on the back if you're on the outside haha. It's so weird to come across an "open" tech you can't afford to learn


Despite its best intentions, crypto is now wave after wave of greedy newcomers trying to landgrab the next currency.

As a smarter commenter than I said: crypto is the total privatisation of the money system, sold as democratisation.


Yes, we're absolutely happy with the current system.

I have absolutely no problem with the banking system. Everything has worked, I can transfer money to everyone I know basically for free, and the few weird issues I've had in my life (messed up account credentials) have been easily solved by talking to an authorized person at a bank, and having them hand-edit my data in the system. My bank can be robbed, blown up, or go out of business, and all of my money is safe.

I don't want to manage my "financial infrastructure" for the same reason I don't want to host my own website. I want to pay other people with vastly better equipment, training, and around-the-clock availability to do a better job than me.

Replacing this with crypto — even a refined endgame version from half a century in the future, is a pure negative. And that's before we consider the people pushing it as a bad-faith ponzi scheme.


My skepticism comes from a belief based on observation that messy human collaboration is the name of the game, and our job is to merely move the needle in the right direction. Removing the messiness is not possible, may not even desirable, and so grand theories aimed at fixing the entire problem of politic, financial, and legal work are likely fool's errands.


> I get it, it's hard to see past the memes and bubbles and bullshit and buzzwords in the crypto industry.

I really don't think you do get it.


My theory is that the people who shitpost about blockchain on HN every day do it for the same reasons as crypto people post positive things: We all want more money at the end of the day.

Take this with a grain of salt, but I think all of this is about incentives. And so that stephendiehl.com fellow must have the same kind of stake in some technology as a crypto maximalist, but maybe directed elsewhere.

There are enough people in this world that are living a happy life without blockchains and for them, it looks like a threat so they belittle it and try to argue it away.


It‘s a nice theory, but… what would that be? I can‘t really think of much. Sure a lot of us make money as web2 developers but we could switch to web3 without much issue. It wouldn‘t have a serious financial impact.

The people who are heavily invested in these technologies, like VCs, Banks, Social Networks, they all seem to love crypto.


Web 3.0 was the Semantic Web.

The Semantic Web was coming into prominence at the peak of Bittorrent and P2P. It allowed people to publish data in schemas without centralized databases. Protocols in markup. You could declare and share schemas for things, build on top of other people's schemas, and remix endlessly. It was powerful.

You could define your contact details in FOAF and a client could ingest that and make contacts.

You could consume articles as RSS or Atom and use any client you wanted. Clients that were faster and more performant than HTML-based websites. We could have shed HTML and Javascript for many schema-aware applications.

If we'd built Reddit back then, it'd have been topics and comments that were digitally signed and exchanged p2p, with signed voting, interest graphs, and curated peer groups.

Unfortunately, this was just as the VC and ad-money fueled Google and Facebook were coming into prominence. They built centralized systems that were easy to use faster than the Semantic Web community could move. (Semantic Web was much broader - some were interested in predicate logic distributed databases, which were a bit much.)

Web 3.0 was the Semantic Web. Do not forget. We can still use the lessons today. This is what the web could have become if the advertising gravity well hadn't sucked it in.


Exactly. In my view the crypto community have hijacked the name coined by timbl because calling it web4 would have highlighted that web3.0 (the semantic web) failed, at least outside academia.

Wikipedia has two articles, it’s all about the “.0” apparently, see the page on Web3.0 [0] vs the page on Web3 [1]

I’ve seen plenty of crypto community content [2] claiming that blockchain is a key part of the original timbl vision [3], perhaps the missing piece of the puzzle.

I think it’s clear timbl’s “decentralisation” point meant “not Google”. It definitely didn’t mean “not http, use blockchain”.

You’re right that there was an opportunity where we could have delivered on the original vision of the semantic web but that time has long passed and Google have stepped into that void, to become the gatekeeper of the web.

The vision of the semantic web was supposed to make every organisation, person, place and thing machine readable. Twenty years later and we basically just use it to share pretty links on Facebook.

Plug: I’m working on a DNS-based protocol to fix this, making it easy for organisations to provide machine-readable data direct to users. We launched it in the UK last month and have machine readable data for 5m businesses. US roll out next year. I wrote up the launch in a blog post [3].

0. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web3.0

1. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web3

2. https://www.coincarp.com/learn/what-is-web30-crypto/

3. https://www.num.uk/blog/we-crawled-5m-uk-websites-and-publis...


> You could consume articles as RSS or Atom and use any client you wanted. Clients that were faster and more performant than HTML-based websites. We could have shed HTML and Javascript for many schema-aware applications.

I still can do that today, granted on the sites that keep publishing feeds.


I feel like web3 continues the trend (in a good way) of the financialization of everything.

The primitives of web3 effectively enable the fine grained economic measurement and distribution of every element of value-exchange, and gives folks the ability to participate in these cashflows where they were previously not able to.

Now that there's standards for representations of value / governance / etc (ERC-20) now any protocol that supports ERC-20 tokens can be applied to any ERC-20 token. Ditto for NFTs.

As an example, if you want to split cashflows from any source based on some pro-rata ownership of tokens: there's a off-the-shelf battle tested contract for that. This composability and remixability of economic value flows has never existed before. Mix that with governance concepts in DAOs and you effectively have a parallel system of capital allocation and investment decision making.

p.s. Charles Stross was amazingly prophetic in Accelerando where the Superintelligent AIs create a system of economics called Economics 2.0, which is indecipherable to humans. Reminds me of smart contracts interacting :)


Like a company can literally spin off a division and make it public in a similar way. Or you can securitize cash flows into an ABS. The investment bank's fees will be a lot lower than the gas fees.


Btw, for anyone who wants to read this book (its an interesting one) - https://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/fiction/acceler...

Economics 2.0 starts at "Welcome to decade eight, third millennium"

A bit further down:

> Collapse of the trans-Lunar economy: Deep in the hot thinking depths of the solar system, vast new intellects come up with a new theory of wealth that optimizes resource allocation better than the previously pervasive Free Market 1.0. With no local minima to hamper them, and no need to spawn and reap start-ups Darwin-style, the companies, group minds, and organizations that adopt the so-called Accelerated Salesman Infrastructure of Economics 2.0 trade optimally with each other. The phase change accelerates as more and more entities join in, leveraging network externalities to overtake the traditional ecosystem. Amber and Sadeq are late on the train, Sadeq obsessing about how to reconcile ASI with murabaha and mudaraba while the postmodern economy of the mid-twenty-first century disintegrates around them. Being late has punitive consequences – the Ring Imperium has always been a net importer of brainpower and a net exporter of gravitational potential energy. Now it's a tired backwater, the bit rate from the red-shifted relativisitic probe insufficiently delightful to obsess the daemons of industrial routing. In other words, they're poor.


Economics 2.0 in Accelerando was considered a failure state for civilizations.


The examples he gives don't work very well in practice:

>How do you prove you own a house?

The crypto idea of having a private key to a token goes wrong when you lose the key or get hacked, and then say to the court the house is still yours which it is in law

>you want to fix up your local neighborhood’s park. You have the time, but doing so will take a few thousand dollars in supplies. You could go to your neighbors ...

You might just get your neighbours to go on some fixmypark.com site and contribute normal dollars. Getting them all to buy crypto and transfer to smart contracts is not going to happen in the near future.

The whole interaction between crypto and the physical world is very clunky. It seems to work better for flipping virtual assets like jpegs and imaginary coins.

If web3 is a thing it'll probably be more stuff like funding websites by selling NFTs to have ape avatars by your account rather than interacting with parks and houses. But selling imaginary stuff and images and the like can be powerful. I mean US$ are largely imaginary things represented by 0s and 1s in some databases and they do a lot of stuff.


End users don't care about government trust or privacy as much as we would want them too. Had it been the case Signal would have already replaced Whatsapp. Unless Blockchain based product solves a real problem it would be hard to see larger adoption.

What makes it worse is most of the web3 products are always centered around coins, why do I need a coin to use a decentralized social network? It makes users feel like it's a financial scheme and early adopters have incentives to sell it.


Yes this point about needing to "pay" for what so far has been free will be a blocker for 99% of people I expect.

It will be a hard enough ask to ask the average non-tech user to dump whatsapp or tiktok for something else because of the network effect, then if you tell them "oh and you need to pay with this weird thing you've never heard of too" it will be impossible IMO.

People can go on about paying vs "users are the product" etc, but the truth of the matter is the average person doesn't seem to care that Google et al sells ads.


This is a system dreamed up by those who have been on the right side of hard power for long enough to forget it exists.


Authors point about trustless commitments, ignoring the semantic arguments posed in the comments, is important.

Not mentioned but I would argue as equally or of greater importance is interoperability. If you lose trust in the commitment you've made, you can move your capital/identity/etc. To the new thing relatively seamlessly. This is the DeFi experience already built that's so amazing to interact with relative to traditional banking and capital markets. If you apply that same functionality to other markets, such as social media or healthcare (using zero knowledge rollups to protect private data), I think that's inevitably an a-ha moment.

It's like the Amazon API mandate - https://nordicapis.com/the-bezos-api-mandate-amazons-manifes... - if you build with interoperability at the core, the knock-on effects can be exponential. It's a game changer. The consumer is no longer captive to walled gardens.

Drop play money into a low fee blockchain, stick to a stablecoin, and mess around with some of the DeFi apps. I think it's easy to become a believer if you do that and compare to your normal banking experience.


The important part is the network itself. Bank of America is free to build on top of the network but by doing so it enters into competition with the rest of the network.

You don't need them for a bank account so if you don't like their services then you can take your funds elsewhere. In my opinion this is a critical piece of what is missing in our current society. These corporations and government agencies have become too entrenched and too big to fail. We need to inject competition back into the system.


Escrow services do exist, and usually one of the parties has more power over the transaction than the other. Either the buyer or the seller can cheat the other one out of their money or goods. How do you prove that the package didn’t just contain a heavy brick instead of the promised tablet? I‘m not convinced this can be solved by any kind of contract.


That's a big problem with "smart contract" systems. The "trustless" part only works if you stay within the smart contract system. About all you can do with that is speculate in various crypto items. The ties to the real world are weak. Yes, there are "oracles" for widely available non-controversial info, such as the DJIA. But how do you get an oracle for "house is complete as specified and is ready for occupancy"? Or "package was delivered and contained contents as ordered"?

In systems where transactions are reversable, such as credit cards, problems can be fixed up later. But with instant irreversible transactions, you don't have that feature.


This. The requirement for trust is not eliminated just shifted. That’s the elephant in the room.


Is Web3 even a thing? Outside HackerNews, I only see it mentioned in crypto-circles, but on HN there’s another article at the top every day.


Only in the sense that it's a buzzword used to inflate crypto-things, really. If you mean "is it a thing that people use, in any significant numbers", then, no, of course not.

Crypto people will, of course, attempt to excuse this with "it's like the Internet in the 90s", but it is important to bear in mind here that (a) hundreds of millions of people used the internet in the 90s and (b) they have been saying this about _Bitcoin_, and other assorted blockchain-y things, for at least a decade, and no-one really uses those for anything as yet.

This is, essentially, the latest rebranding.


Kinda? It’s under ridicule here because it’s quite contrived of a name and it adopts an ethos that is not put into practice by its developers and proponents.

There is a popular library called web3.js as well, which is used to find and communicate with nearby nodes of distributed ledgers. It’s pretty clever and convenient.

Since those kind of nodes store variables forever for free, developers dont need any other server side infrastructure and are able to make services extremely quickly, cheaply, and have a quick goto market strategy and it is extremely lucrative, and the users absorb all the costs of writing data. This is where things are 10x better than existing alternatives: revenue paths, overhead costs, speed.

not the user experience or the performance of the underlying technology.


HN is one of the last places where people are skeptical and reasonable about this whole charade, and now it feels like some people are trying to bruteforce "crypto is good" on us, just for the lulz.


Interesting. For me it's all around pretty much everywhere, from TV ads to billboards.

To be fair: Not necessarily web3 but generally crypto, but still.


I neither see tv ads nor billboards, but I also don’t mean crypto in general. Specifically, all the Web3 posts feel like people arguing against something that’s actually just a minor blip no-one (outside of crypto) cares about at all. Essentially all the outrage being the only thing giving it publicity.


I think it's one of those things that many don't realize that they need until they have it.

We're so used to financially being controlled by authorities so it's deemed normal. Governments can tax you however they want and that is "normal".

Coming from an extremely corrupted country/government I know how taking control of your assets is important, which web3 aims. To which extent it can succeed is another question though.


This whole 'smart contracts' thing is stupid.

The issue is trust. Smart contracts as a solution are a sad attempt at solving that issue. There's always edge cases you can't code in.

E.g. in the example of the neighbour buying goods; What if the other neighbours don't really like this guy, and conspire against him?

The solution to trust, isn't codifying every possible variable and putting in on some silly unmodifiable chain. That solution just shifts the trust. Instead of trusting humans, we're now trusting some poorly written code...

The solution to the trust issue is good ethics, mindfulness and good upbringing. If someone violates your trust, it's probably due to some stress factor in that person's life. We need to create a better world for everyone and actually help the people that our violating our trust, and show them the way.


I have yet to see a good example of what “web3” is useful for… honestly this just smells like it’s going to be the next major hype train of 2022.

Just like VR/AR and ML/AI of yesteryear. Note that both of these examples are wonderful pieces of tech but they were blown wildly out of proportion by everyone.


Agreed. It's like when people starting throwing around "blockchain" as the solution for every problem. The same lot has adopted web3 as the thing they are shouting from their soap-boxes, without really understanding the difference between concept, technology and implementation.


"Just like VR/AR and ML/AI of yesteryear."

More like the same silly blockchain ideas that didnt work X years ago, getting recycled with a new buzzwords.


Yes, feel people have forgotten about the Blockchain-for-x period but I suspect it will now make a comeback for the wrong reasons.


We'll need to crowdsource some Big Data for some push content. Luckily it's all Object Oriented so we can run some AR social media code on it. I'll get an IM when it's finished on my 5G.


I do think that the best critique of "web3" is that it's shifting the trust into a different and less well understood space. There are advantages and disadvantages to using computers instead of analog processes to resolve conflicts, but biology is kind of unavoidably analog. In the long term I'm bull(ish) on blockchains - I think they have some uses, but most of the excitement I'm seeing now feels like it's scammy or mistaken.

I'm very skeptical about any claims about the correctness or the health of the blockchain ecosystem because, if you're interested in using flaws to take money, it's obviously much easier to scam people than to go after the fundamentals. Imagine you're a Superhacker who Only Cares About Money and you have found a flaw in crypto. You could make some money breaking the whole system, but you can probably make a lot more money taking crypto from poorly setup exchanges or individuals and maintaining the value of the things you took.

We are well aware of the problems of using legal and social systems to adjudicate disagreements. People feel excited because we have found math that helps us adjudicate disagreements in a new way and I also think it's exciting - but it all feels too early.


More than "disparate ideas", web3 seems a bunch of "desperate ideas" to make blockchains useful.


I like crypto, it’s interesting, from a technical perspective.

And if you e ever had to send money to a foreign currency and pay exchange rates then sending a bit of crypto is like “huh, so that’s how that should feel”.

However, the argument that you need it to be free from government and society troubles me because it all runs on electricity and other infrastructure. Maybe solar panels and satellites will help in the short term, but we’d need a bit more of a robust internet solution.

I really like cardano’s approach. Trial in places that aren’t developed countries. That will teach you a lot.

Everyday on hacker news there is a new shit-on-web3 post on the fp. To me this would be a strong signal to buy some.


Implicit assumptions always seem to be that trust authorities are a bad thing, something that exists for the lack of a better alternative. It is kept implicit that if we can go around trust authorities, we definitely should. But should we? I truly wonder if that is actually the case. I can imagine there to be also quite some benefits to trust authorities. This whole web3 thing seems very similar to centralized/decentralized movements that always end up being a sine curve. For me any analysis like this always ends up with the same question in my mind: what problem are we trying to solve here?


To me its just the open deployment and one time payment. Other development and cloud environments do not compete, from a founder or developer perspective. Users pay to use with no convincing necessary.


I think Web3 is interesting for authorities and notaries. Authorities can still perform identity checks and detect money laundering schemes. But still use web3 underneath, which still has benefits for interoperability with other countries and other companies as well. For example you could potentially have a decentralized global real estate ETFs, where the cost of joining many markets would be (potentially) lower. I do personally believe for consumers it is better to have services helping with security and advice.


An interesting angle to look at Web3 is the media angle. How it is talked about in the media.

It seems it is:

1: A very popular topic

For example, it comes up very often here at Hacker News.

2: A very controversial topic

On one side, there are many people who expect it to change the world in a fundamental way. Investors are investing billions of dollars into it.

On the other side, there are many people who call it useless, a fraud and outright evil.

3: This has been going on for years now.

Has there ever been any other technology for which 1,2 and 3 held true?


Bitcoin?


I would say Bitcoin is a part of Web3.


Whats the rest of Web3?


> The government issues you a deed declaring that some parcel of land and whatever is on it is yours.

Small nitpick but this is not how deeds work, at least not in the US. In the US the seller provides you with a deed. The government simply records it, and the title company insures it based on their research of the chain of title. The government doesn't issue deeds unless they are the seller or grantor of the land.


> But I think it’s a mistake to see the current mechanisms and lose sight of the actual capability they’re attempting to provide.

This is magnitudes wiser than the typical sentiment of crypto here or in other skeptical communities. When the potential is first recognized, the criticisms then build toward that potential rather than simply having the purpose of tearing something down. Thanks for the piece, Chris.


It's not supposed to mean something.

It's supposed to mean anything, so your imagination, excitement and greed can inpaint the rest.

"Then they go up one more level: people send files, but web browsers also “send” requests for web pages. And when you think about it, calling a method on an object is like sending a message to an object! It’s the same thing again! Those are all sending operations, so our clever thinker invents a new, higher, broader abstraction called messaging, but now it’s getting really vague and nobody really knows what they’re talking about any more. Blah.

When you go too far up, abstraction-wise, you run out of oxygen. Sometimes smart thinkers just don’t know when to stop, and they create these absurd, all-encompassing, high-level pictures of the universe that are all good and fine, but don’t actually mean anything at all."

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=28353157 — Don’t Let Architecture Astronauts Scare You (2001) (joelonsoftware.com)


> Most of the descriptions I’ve seen focus on mechanisms - block chains, smart contracts, tokens, etc - but I would argue those are implementation details ... The real question is what fundamental capability are people pointing to when they talk about web3?

That's exactly the change in focus needed in order for discussions of this topic to be more rational/sober/productive, imo.


Then it just becomes a solution in search of a problem. Utterly useless.


The way I see it:

1. many of the people doing originating work with the tech had deep understanding of the domain it applies to (and most software engineers to do not)

2. that gets diluted by people incentivized to shill for various reasons

3. so now we're not "in search of a problem" it's just been lost amid diverse noisy communication—and it's also defined in a domain unfamiliar to most programmers, so describing it is non-trivial

4. a good starting point for communicating this to programmers might be in terms of technical capability, then working toward more specific social/economic applications from there


If you can’t communicate this to programmers then good luck communicating the idea to a general audience.


That's only the most negative way to frame it, and it assumes from your own opinions facts about what people in general want.


I appreciate Chris’s Clojure work.

I wish what people call web 3 would be called web 4.

For me, Web 3 was the (mostly failed) semantic web. That said, ideas and tech behind the semantic web are alive and well in knowledge graphs. Life is good.

I would welcome more opportunities for decentralization and privacy in Web 4, I hope it works out!


This sentence is key:

> This is ostensibly what the legal system provides, but anyone who’s actually tried to go through small claims court knows that the reality of that route is… painful. And it often ends unsatisfactorily

And it is in fact a key feature of the contemporary modern world: the people don't have a realistic access to court anymore, and this deeply undermines the legitimacy of the State.

This immediately reminded this article[1] which explained how the Taliban have rebuilt their power in Afghanistan in recent years, especially outside of their original ethnic group (Pashtuns): by appointing judges in every provinces, available for free, with no delay and hassle.

A quick DeepL translation of the most relevant part of the article:

> From a material point of view, these courts are rudimentary. The judges, dressed without distinctive signs, sit in village mosques, in private houses or under the cover of trees. “The Taliban courts operate in a very simple way, said one of them. The Taliban judge sits with a cup of green tea in front of him, he receives the requests in person. Then he calls a member of the movement and tells him to go and ask the people against whom a complaint has been filed to come the next day” The judges interview witnesses, examine the documents brought by the disputing parties, and render their verdict, often after a few days - at most a few months for the most sensitive cases. Most disputes concerned land or matrimonial matters, but judges also punished theft, murder and adultery, sometimes with very severe penalties (executions, amputations, stoning). […]

> The same motivation was found in a relative of Mr. Faizal Akbar, governor of Kounar province between 2002 and 2005. Despite his political opposition to the Taliban, he was forced to turn to them for a theft of cattle because, since the regime's judges were "corrupt," the costs of filing a complaint with the police and of an official trial would have far exceeded the value of the stolen cattle.

[1] https://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/2021/09/BACZKO/63487 (in French)


The term "Web3" was hijacked by ethereum.

web 3.11 (crypto optional edition) as I see it is about decentralised services over p2p networks (which may include crypto/blockchain).


> web 3.11

I hear there's something called "Web NT" (new technology) that'll be big in 5 years.


glad someone got the reference :D


> this isn’t about removing trust, it’s about increasing what you can do at a given level of it

I think this is at the center of a lot of arguments. The proponents come from circles where trust is a dirty word, so they don't want to say too loudly that they need it. The critics see this as an unnecessarily extreme position, which isn't the kind of thing you back down from, so they end up arguing that new tech is unnecessary/incapable when applied to this task.


Blockchain solves the "how do we keep track of everything?" problem.

We already had databases for that, but OK, blockchain is decentralized.

The much harder problem of "how do we bridge data & reality?" is mostly unsolved, and sometimes especially unsolved when blockchain is involved. (eg. paying via Apple/Google Pay will generally go OK in many stores, but paying via a blockchain-based cryptocurrency not so much...)


With the neighbors example, don’t you need to trust your neighbors to actually confirm you did the work?

What happens if you put in begonias and they wanted daisies? Or they just don’t want to pay you $200 and see they can back out and have you holding the bag.

More generally, I still don’t understand how the “third party oracle” issue (ie how do you make real world add to blockchain) doesn’t undermine the trust less idea.


I don’t know anything about blockchain, but setting up beforehand some kind of auto trigger to buy daisies with the funds would seem to solve that problem.

Whether the work actually happens after that point, yes I agree, I don’t see a way for that to happen without human trust.


A much more interesting news in the space, not being discussed on HN: polygon just acquired Mir for 400 million $. They are slowly acquiring every zero-knolwedge teams in the space.

https://blockworks.co/polygon-acquires-mir-in-400m-deal-to-s...


Yeah they’re gonna own all eth later 2


> trust-less commitments seem to be at the heart of what web3 really is and that feels much harder to dismiss than owning JPEGs or speculating on currencies

This is indeed the core feature of this whole genre but arguably makes it easier to dismiss in its entirety as concept and philosophy.

Technology should enable building trust. Simply enabling a trust-less society to limb along in a transactional way reveals the libertarian bitcoin roots of web3 that actually believes "there is no such a thing as society".

Designing institutions that are authoritative while democratically accountable is a continuous struggle against power grabbing insiders but it is not impossible.


How about we pause for reflection before the next iteration. It seems like the web is dying. I'd happily return to web 1.x


All of these systems are pay-to-play systems, and just like pay-to-play games favor whales and their large wallets. Proof-of-work just means more bots hard at work. Voting systems will botted. Swarm investments will seem like democracy to the average user, but all orchestrated from a single source.


What’s missing from this discussion is that you are trusting a blockchain. So if someone goes around and raises money from a bunch of people they are exchanging currency for some crypto asset. How do they know that crypto asset is actually genuine Etherium and not Etheriumm?


It's Ethereum, and this is really not an issue, AMM's that allow swapping between permissionless pools have token lists you can use. The person raising the money can also provide an ID used to identify the pool where the users can do the swap.

Of all the scams in Web3 (and there's quit a few) this is not one.


…. Easily? The signature and state.

It’s the same technology as PGP signers use in their email for proving which relies on the impossibility of collisions.


Oh cool, how many people in your community do you know who are comfortable using PGP in their email?


Thats kinda the point, PGP had 25 years to get any use and failed, this form of crypto reached accelerated saturation very quickly

You thought you had a rebuttal and walked right into why its working

Those users can learn not to get taken advantage of


> Those users can learn not to get taken advantage of

Spoken like a true scammer. It is pretty obvious to anyone who is even vaguely aware of phone scams that this will never be enough.


Debit cards, credit cards and ATMs came with new best practices to be aware of. And no, not all gaffs result in reimbursals from the bank.

Here, we are acknowledging thats there are humans that commit malicious actions and they shouldn’t do that, and also acknowledge that there are programs that exist in perpetuity to do this which means there is no malicious human to educate, and requires (not just advises) the potential and actual victims to have agency themselves and their victim status is prevented by actually following the best practices that all predate the malicious actors to begin with.


But where do all those best practises and recourses and advice and learning come from? It's trust and laws and government and society. Crypto enthusiasts claim that these can be solved independently of any governing framework, but my point is that you can only solve it for a given blockchain, and anyone can create a blockchain, so what's the process by which any blockchain becomes the de-facto standard? And if your answer is "Everyone just settles on that one" then what you have just described is government.


Unlike many crypto enthusiasts, I’ve never been allergic to the word governance or governing framework and have aimed to inspire on the forms it can take, even within national representative democracies.

Blockchains, distributed ledgers, allow for us to reevaluate what governance is and entails. It is expected that some processes of existing governments because redundant, and that there is some kind of governance occurring to coordinate behavior.

So here we are actually agreeing, except on where the best practices come from, which would be cypherpunk mailing lists, old bitcoin wikis, and protocol specification drafts and ratifications.


Accelerated saturation!?!

What's happened is that a bunch of people who have zero understanding about what crypto is or how it works have been able to buy an asset because a bunch of people using pre-existing technological and legal frameworks created platforms for them to do so.

The "accelerated saturation" you are referring to relies on the very types of trust and authority that the article claims to obviate the need for.


my only point is that PGP had the same opportunity and failed for nearly three decades, in comparison

in both there are opportunities for people with zero understanding to use a platform created by someone else. crypto asset sector has been more successful.


Ultimately you do have an issue with who controls the browser. You would think that web3 people would invest in Firefox so that you do not have a duopoly owning the browser space between apple and google.


There is certainly some hope: for example Decentraland joining Blender as a sponsor equal to Aws, Facebook, or Nvidia. It's all about who controls the money


Every disastrous technology/standard has been when people have shoehorned different agendas into one thing. The shorter the keyword and catchier the better.

Web 3 is shaping up to be excellent for this! Prepare your resume. Start early, add Web 3 in there.

To marketers, it means better targeted advertising (more is just a side effect they love). To hackers, it means decentralization and going back to 1.0... IRC, but better, Usenet, but better, Blogs, but better... To Megacorps, it means more control, more moneeeeey. To governments, more control, more transparency. To humanists, absolutely nothing. This is shaping to advance humanity in absolutely no way better than 1.0 did.

So get the popcorn ready, update your resumes and join the penthouse of the jaded.


> Unfortunately with trust in low supply these days...

This is at the core of the issue: no technology, but especially not web3, is just a tool. Tech is inherently political because of both these kinds of underlying assumptions about the world, and how it shapes habits and beliefs of people using it.

Creating tech which accepts "trust is in low demand" and proceeds to fix it by making trusting people unnecessary, is a very effective way to promote right-libertarian policies.

So I understand why right-libertarian people support "web3". What I don't understand is why so many people with very different political values do.

IMO we need tech that promotes trusting each other, not tech where we can make do with a war of all against all.


You might be interested in CirclesUBI, which is pretty leftist as crypto's go. I think it's in the minority only only because bitcoin gave the right leaning folk a head start. The cryptocommunists will be along any minute now.


Crypto, in its current form, is a brainstorm of half-thought-out, half-spec'd and soon-to-be-replaced-with-something-better implementations that has stumbled upon the web in its never ending task of enticing more converts to invest in its hype train, thereby justifying the previous investors' investments. We've seem to be inundated with articles talking about web3's vacuous nature, as if crypto's blackhole has enveloped the idea of web3 and now, in its place, leaving nothing but a vacuum.


Are we getting one of these every day now? They all use the term Web3 unironically, which means in my opinion they’ve already lost.


I am starting a campaign for web4. Optionally decentralised internet with no trust. It is simple, you can browse anything anywhere anytime and you can never trust any of it. It can be static forever or dynamic so it always changes. It can use blockchain as a way to verify history or as anonymous messages as you can make them. No obligations, no commitments. Free or not. Just do it!


I just created web5, which is web4 but written in Rust.


Indeed, good luck convincing a corporation or some government to sign up. Not impossible, but very hard


Some already are.


meta comment (npi), i find it really odd that very very often on crashes <x>, you really notice an increase in criticizing articles about <x>.


I wonder if HN is missing out in the new trends.


Is Web3 GPG finally going mainstream?


These comments brought to you by the community that dismissed Bitcoin while it was still trading at sub $1k.

You could create a viable investment strategy based around doing the opposite of what HN thinks and you would do extremely well.


[flagged]


Users flagged this submission. I didn't see it until now.

Please don't post this sort of rhetoric to HN. It's boring and almost always based on false assumptions (as in this case).

Edit: and could you please stop posting unsubstantive comments to HN generally? You've been doing it repeatedly, unfortunately, and we ban that sort of account—it's not what the site is for.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


[flagged]


Ethereum has twice hard forked the blockchain to revert the results of "code is law", clearly saying that code is only law when a quorum of powerful individuals accept the outcome. Code isn't law, "code is law" is a slogan with as much veracity as slogans usually have.


This is a very good point. It was pointed out quite a while ago that talk about 'decentralised' systems can hide the technical features of those systems and the mode of governance like a 'veil'. 'Decentralisation', aside from being a technical word for certain aspects of a technology, can also hide centralised structures, whether maintained by a small number stakeholders controlling a majority of nodes, or governance driven by major organisations people depend on for that decentralisation.

"Deconstructing 'Decentralization': Exploring the Core Claim of Crypto Systems" (2019): https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3326244


Miners choose which chain to follow, not the quorum of powerful individuals.

If you believed that ETC was the correct option in that decision, you were free to mine that chain all you want.


Miners choose where it's profitable to mine, which will always be the more active blockchain. It's called voting with your feet, and clearly Ethereum miners followed the quorum of powerful individuals. What matters your massive holdings of ETC when there's no buyers?


Disclosure: I'm a very very large miner and I've been doing it across many protocols over the last 7 years.

You're right that miners choose profitability, but we also choose technology. I don't mine BTC any more, I mine with GPUs (and thus ETH). There are a dozen chains I could mine with these GPUs, but I'd like to see the success of ETH over others.

I can tell you with certainty, no quorum of powerful individuals influenced that decision.


I understand. What did influence that decision? I expect it would be your overall appraisal of the viability of a particular blockchain and future expectations of activity. Is that accurate?


ETH is where the mindshare and developer resources went. ETC became too fringe. BETA vs. VHS. It really had very little to do with some quorum of powerful people.

Many people don't understand that GPUs don't have the same hardware race war as bitcoin ASICs. Older GPUs actually have better ROI because the ethash algo is constrained by memory controller speed, not as much by nm scale or clock rate. The GPUs we use today were new old stock from many years ago. This is why we don't see a large influx of ASICs for ethash... it just isn't profitable.

We can sell (or use) the GPUs at a later date for other purposes than just mining. In fact, as we race towards "the merge" and PoS, it astounds me that someone isn't working on something all these miners can switch their compute resources to mine profitably.

It is crazy to think that ETC could actually become a viable chain again (but they have some plans to switch a more friendly ASIC algo, which I don't think will work out well for them). Note that ETC is a mess right now, exchanges have 6+ day holds on transfers because nobody trusts the chain.

I'll be transparent and admit that there are some other significant non-technical factors as well, but can't discuss them here.


Thanks for the detail. BTW, "quorum of powerful individuals" (QOPI) means the core ETH people who decided to execute the hard forks. I think you're demonstrating my point for me. It's not that QOPI led you all by the nose or that you acceded to a vote; it's that the core ETH people decided to hard fork and you made a pretty rational business decision to stick with ETH and not ETC in part because, as you put it, "nobody trusts the chain".

It's about trust because "code is law" is pretty obviously marketing rather than foundational principle.


Random question but as a large miner and supporter of ETH how will the proposed switch to PoS next year impact you?


Thanks for asking. My business model has always been larger than just mining ETH. I'm focused on building data centers for providing decentralized compute to all these web3 applications being built today. Mining (aka: being paid to validate anonymous transactions) is just one use case. You see all these articles about how a dApp went down because AWS was down? I'd like to help solve that issue. It isn't just about renting out servers or virtual machines. It is about providing compute in a way that nobody realizes where it is even hosted. True "cloud" in my eyes.


Thanks for the answer it’s very interesting to see how the infrastructure spin off of mining could lead to more conventionally useful hosting. So in some sense you intend to be multi-region without the eye watering data transfer costs?


You're into gaming, GALA nodes are a great example.


Thanks, I'll take a look.


> I'm focused on building data centers for providing decentralized compute to all these web3 applications being built today.

You're building data centers for decentralized compute?


That's not totally crazy, it's just the decentralization is at a different layer. Like Solid pods provide decentralized ownership over personal data but it's probably easier for people to use a provider for them than host their own server.


I will quote from an article I wrote in CoinDesk last year:

https://www.coindesk.com/tech/2020/03/12/in-defense-of-block...

  For every technology we use today, there was a time it was laughably inadequate as a replacement for what came before.
Code isn’t law, code is better than law. I wondered what I would have done 300 years agi before computers, and realized I’d probably be an architect or one of those lawmaker guys who wrote the Constitution. I mean think about it … you’re setting initial conditions, trying to think of edge cases, putting in Byzantine Consensus (checks and balances between branches of government, mutually distrusting parties checking election results etc.), but making it an Upgradeable smart contracts (process to do amendments etc.)

Now CODE can do a lot more. In our applications for instance, you can:

1) Know the average amount spent on food or clothing by a citizen of a city

2) Vote on how much of food, clothing etc to simply subsidize by issuing more currency and airdropping it to the people (universal basic income)

3) Take a dot product between 1 and 2, and issue the universal basic income or stipend etc. and redistribute the wealth in the community according to the

And best of all — it is entirely voluntary, thanks to smart contracts. No one has to accept your currency by fiat. But if they do, they’re helping to end food insecurity in your community. Just like that. No representative democracy and out of touch elites. Just the community taking care of its business and its vulnerable. Via a smart contract and decision making.

And that is just ONE of the many applications that are possible. Intercoin has produced 10-15 applications that can all work together like LEGOs. Now we will be giving them to communities. Here are some more possibilities:

https://intercoin.org/communities.pdf


All of 1/2/3 could be or gamed or hacked if not EXTREME measures are taken. As proven repeatedly by the hundreds millions in dollars in smart contract hacks and losses that have happened and continue to happen.

People can’t trust the code to do what they want, because when you read it you might mistake a 0 or a O. You trust someone else or machine to audit the code tell you the code will do what you want.

US court systems take into account the spirit of the law rather than the letter of the law. Its a feature not a bug.


You're right, you can do all that--until vested interests revert your blockchain because the current blockchain status quo isn't to their liking, at which point your belief that code is better than law is a lie, because it still comes down to powerful individuals deciding what benefits them instead of letting "deterministic" outcomes stand.

It's not that people are laughing at it now; it's that it's already been proven to be a fraud, where the promise of an immutable blockchain is a grift to part suckers from their money.


> Just the community taking care of its business and its vulnerable.

Until gas fees make it accessible only to the "out of touch elites"


"gas fees" are an abberation, the "world computer" is a glorified mainframe where you rent time.

Smart contract can be done in completely different ways, with no bottlenecks. If you notice point 2 of https://intercoin.org/presentation.pdf .. I can send you the details if you're interested. I spent years speaking with the best teams around the world working on things beyond blockchain.


Can we actually restate this as a 51% attack on Ethereum. But by the community itself, with powerful (yet not code-level enforcing) influence of Ethereum Foundation and rich people who has invested in The DAO (and lost money on the hack)?

How is this really different than a 51% attack?


Yes, but the original blockchain still exists. You can still use the original Ethereum blockchain, if you want too.


So what? Ethereum classic has two+ orders of magnitude less activity. The hard forks are where Ethereum is today. It's not just the maintainers deciding what's law, instead of code; the coin community actually wants it that way.


+1, EGreg gets it :)


> YOU CAN WRITE A PROGRAM THAT EVERYONE CAN TRUST TO DO WHAT THE CODE SAYS

Ah yes. Because everyone is an expert in verifying programs written in esoteric programming languages. Oh. It's written by you? Well, of course I can trust what you've written

> It does to financial institutions and many others, what Web1 did to publishing.

It doesn't.

Case in point: enforcement of contracts.


That's not how it works. But I'm sure you'd be defending paper ballots for voting forever as well. You're used to whatever works now, and I'd say that's like Luddites (except the Luddites were actually reacting to the economics of industrialization, meaning the machines were actually replacing the human labor).

Look around you, in the last 100 years we got the ability to print and copy our own documents, to send emails and to write on forums, to use VOIP encrypted end to end, all without the permission of the government. It's based on open protocols that route around friction. Is it so far fetched that autonomous networks technology can also help obviate the need to trust intermediaries like we trusted the Post Office, the Newspaper Printers, Ma Bell and so forth? Really?


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Saved you a search

      Betteridge's law (of headlines) is an adage that states "Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no."


This is the guy who ditched light table. Personally, I can't think of someone I despise more. I thought light table was the most innovative and slick products I'd ever seen on a computer.




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