Note — Jun 26, 2022

After Crypto

For the bulk of this piece by Yancey Strickler, we are quite aligned. I think he provides a pretty even-handed and healthily sceptical overview of crypto v currencies v blockchains v Web3 and makes a good case for why he jumped in. There are intriguing use cases for this type of technology if it were being used differently (+ the energy issue, which he doesn’t mention). Here are his “three changes made possible by blockchains that I couldn’t unsee,” each followed by my own short take.

“The decline of platform lock-in,” aspirational at this point, despite the possibilities of the technology, centralisation is still here or just around the corner, so are gate keepers, just different one. The potential is there though for a blockchain to allow this. “Distributing ownership and influence outside an organization,” that one is almost closer than escaping platform lock-in, remains to be seen at which scale that can work. A few very involved people can definitely work, but can it with thousands of “owners” who mostly just use an organisation? For example, can a group à la Bandcamp scale when … 30 people run the thing but thousands have a share/say without it becoming just team vs shareholders? “Permanent agnostic archiving,” this is where I’m most dubious, because the use case Strickler presents is good, but there are soooo many other cases where you are completely in your right to want something to be taken down and this permanent version can’t. He talks about a “catalog of things creator have made” which might imply pointers instead of the actual content, but then aren’t you back to servers that can be taken offline? It’s nice to have the possibility of greater permanence for some things, but I don’t think the use cases are as numerous as some seem to think.

Overall, a useful read where I’m very aligned with his vision, but still see so many places where things can (have been) go wrong, that I’m still largely sceptical of the space. Which is why he’s starting an organisation and I’m just writing about it, I guess!

Few words are as divisive as “crypto.” Say it and half the room walks away out of principle, a smaller group hisses in disgust, and a last group leans in, some closer than feels comfortable if you’re honest. […]

[I]n all previous incarnations of the Internet, it was rare to see platforms directly reward community members and creators in any real way, at least beyond tote bags and form letters. […]

Blindly dismissing any project that touches a blockchain because it shares the same plumbing as crypto is like missing the forest for the logging industry. So long as everything that touches a public ledger is vilified as a scam and part of some dystopian future, the number of responsible people and teams who feel inspired to thoughtfully explore projects that see beyond the constraints of our Web2 systems will be limited.