According to its evangelists, Web3 is supposed to revolutionize by decentralizing it with the help of blockchain technology.
But there's one big problem: nobody seems to know what tangible benefits that would have — especially in concrete terms that apply to the real world as it exists today.
During a recent chat with author, podcast host, and Bloomberg columnist Tyler Cowen, billionaire investor and Web3 advocate Marc Andreessen struggled to explain a practical, real-world use for the technology.
When Cowen pushed Andreessen to explain in a concrete way how a podcast network would benefit from Web3, Andreessen spoke in vague terms about new "monetization methods" including the creation of "unique digital property," like NFTs.
"It's injecting at a very fundamental level, internet-native money and… economic incentives to a system that simply hasn't had that," Andreessen said, a rather evasive answer that clearly didn't satisfy Cowen.
"But is the key difference easier micro payments, being able to sell collectives more readily, say, with the NFT model, rather than signed T-shirts?" he asked. "They don't sound very big to me."
Instead of addressing the question head-on, Andreessen dove into a seemingly unrelated tangent on the size of the media market as a whole.
Proponents of Web3 have often argued that the average netizen will be able to benefit from a decentralized system that won't depend on corporations enable transactions.
But the reality already looks quite different. Considering where the cryptocurrency and NFT market is headed, for instance, that kind of argument falls rather flat.
Just like web 2.0, new institutions have gained power, becoming key decision makers with the power of determining who benefits from the system and who doesn't.
In the case of cryptocurrency exchanges, companies like Binance and Coinbase have already greatly benefited from scale and marketing budgets.
In short, increasingly centralized corporate actors are moving us away from the kind of idealistic, decentralized landscape of self-acting communities Web3 promises to harbor.
And then there's the fact that all of this is operating in a regulatory black hole, with scams and grifts taking place constantly.
Will any of it actually give creators and innovators, particularly in the media, any tools to make a living that web 2.0 doesn't?
Given the fact that we have yet to hear about a tangible example of that happening, it's not looking too likely.
Critics, meanwhile, argue that we should never take promises from the likes of Andreessen at face value.
"Never let people tell you that you simply don't get Web3," Vice journalist Edward Ongweso Jr tweeted in response to a video of Cowen and Andreesen's chat.
"It's self-referential and non-existent which is why Web3 advocates talk in abstract circles like this and struggle to define, explain, or distinguish it," he added.
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