I hope Web3 doesn't become Web 2.1

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Josh Simmons
Josh Simmons

One of the promises inherent in Web3 is the rejection of the winner-takes-all game established by the system of ecommerce established in Web 2.0. Web3 has the potential to offer a paradigm-shift that invokes features of Web 1.0.

I am new to the Web3 space. Everyone is "new" to it but I am newer than some. I'm working on my first DAPP but have thought broadly about how creators develop a following and thus a livelihood due to my past careers as a musician and an academic.

Web 1.0 (formerly known as the internet)

Websites are largely hosted by corporations and tech-savvy individuals. Creators wishing to share their creations with the world typically have their own domain name and site. There is a high-ish barrier to entry for creating a website. Blogs are popular but to read one you typically go to the blog's URL, not the blog host directly. Blog rings exist but seem pretty egalitarian in terms of equal representation of members. Ultimately the creator has a high level of control over their website.

A middle class of creators is able to exist and thrive during the time period of Web 1.0's dominance. For example, a mostly-unknown musician has a small but loyal following. They make the modern day equivalent of something like $100,000 - a good living but not rich or famous. Kevin Kelly defines this phenomenon in his blog post 1000 True Fans[1] which was unsurprisingly written very shortly after the demise of Web 1.0 (when this was still possible). Creators during this time would have largely subsisted off of profits from sales of physical media such as CDs, prints, etc.

Web 2.0

Websites are still largely hosted by corporations but these new websites offer a platform for individuals to host their content. These new platform websites become increasingly parasitic over the years. It is extremely difficult for websites hosted by individuals to compete with the SEO magic invoked by sites like Reddit and Quora. These platforms have Terms of Service that are changed at the whim of the company stakeholders with little regard to the creators dependent on the platform. In some cases, this is useful - to prevent unwanted pornography, illegal materials, etc. In many cases, the terms are motivated by some kind of dubious "morality". At best, these more "subjective" ToS changes and enforcement make content duller ("I don't want to get banned for posting xyz idea"), at worst they are unevenly applied based on the likes and dislikes of the stakeholders.

The environment is even more grim for creators during this era. Art-distribution platforms such as Spotify wipe out most of the middle class of artists and promote not only a winner-takes-all model but also a preference for bland art.

As of 2020, an artist would have to have 10,400,000 streams of their music just to make a minimum wage income[2]. They would need 33,333,333 streams to earn the $100,000 figure mentioned earlier. How is a middle class artist supposed to get to this level when only the top-ranked artists in various genres are most prominently featured on Spotify-curated playlists? After all - if you were a dev at Spotify, why would you risk sullying the quality of users' custom created playlists with an unknown artist? The safe choice is just that, safe, i.e. bland.

The top-grossing artists on Spotify will always be the blandest due to the fact that a high number of listeners tolerate their music. This kind of quantitative way of evaluating art completely dismisses the human experience had when experiencing art, thus the most agreeable art, as determined by its number of reproductions is featured.


Web3 offers decentralization and transparency. With a decentralized application, the creator of a decentralized application relinquishes some control over their data since it is acted upon by a smart contract (in the blockchain), and the data itself is stored in the blockchain. This is a potentially huge win for the individual creator since, if handled correctly, some degree of power should be restored to the individual.

Web3 appears to be at a crossroads at the current moment. One path leads to a more egalitarian experience that we had with Web 1.0. Perhaps the tooling around creating and discovering applications will make the technological barrier to entry lower than it was for Web 1.0.

The other path, the one I believe things are trending towards, is to rebuild Web 2.0 on new infrastructure. As long as the rich and famous are funding initiatives in this space, you'll know we are headed further down this path. The cancer that could kill Web3 might look exactly like a larger-scale extrapolation of this:

"Vaynerchuk’s NFT project, “VeeFriends” is a collection of 10,255 cocktail napkin doodles of animals that represent business virtues, such as “Empathy Elephant” or “Patient Panda.” Tokens double as tickets to his upcoming VeeCon convention, so VeeFriends also function as a Vaynerchuk fan club."[3] 🤢🤮

Every time a Gary Vaynerchuk or Melania Trump[4] develops something "revolutionary" for Web3 we risk slipping back into Web 2.0 ways of thinking. We don't yet know what the Web3 offerings of the tech giants will be but we can safely assume given their track records that you won't have any control over it, and it will produce dull, one-size-fits-all art.

If you're a dev reading this, I urge you to make a shitty DAPP. It's not that difficult - the infrastructure is new but the tech running on top of it is still so nascent that it's far simpler than traditional webapp development. Make something silly, make something useless, make something dumb, but make something unique to you - and for God's sake don't make another Twitter or Facebook.