Making Sense of Web3 Debate: Why Stateless Protocols & Data Portability Matter
If you want to follow the debate about crypto’s impact on society, which I believe is one of the most important topics in tech today, you better sharpen your Twitter skills — most of the interesting thinking is happening across Twitter’s decidedly chaotic platform. I’ve been using the service for nearly 15 years, and I still find it difficult to bring to heel. When following a complex topic, I find myself back where I started — in a draft blog post, trying to pull it all together.
That’s where I’ve been this past weekend as I watched the response to a thoughtful post from Signal founder Moxie Marlinspike. (And yes, the fact that the Twitter conversation was driven by a blog post is not lost on me…)
For those of you who might not use Marlinspike’s service, Signal is an encrypted messaging platform favored by pretty much everyone in the tech and media world. Marlinspike’s post laid out several shortcomings of the current web3 world, all of it based on his own extensive “tinkering” with things like minting NFTs and building distributed apps, or dapps. It’s worth reading the whole thing, but to summarize, his critique has three key points:
First, while web3 is supposed to be about a world free of centralized services, it turns out most of the well-known web3 platforms (OpenSea, Coinbase) are, in fact, centralized just like web2 (this echoes a criticism brought up earlier in the week by Ben Thompson (sub required, worth it).
Secondly, technical protocols evolve slowly — and protocols are the basis for a lot of web3’s magic. Marlinspike points out that most web1 protocols — like SMTP for mail — are stuck in time and fail to evolve. This is often because the protocols are decentralized — no one is in charge of improving them.
Thirdly, there’s a lot of room for error, mischief, or worse in how many of these services and protocols currently interact — particularly around fundamental issues of trust and privacy, two pillars of web3…