This week I was at the Cog X event in London. As a cross disciplinary event it covers all areas from healthcare, education, work, ethics and a host of tech trends like AI and Blockchain. My main reason for being there, Web 3.0 and decentralisation.
Before I get into it, I want to point out that I’m not affiliated with any of the people or companies I mention in this article.
I’ve been deep in the proverbial rabbit hole for a few years now, and have watched the nomenclature evolve from crypto, to blockchain, to DLT, then back to crypto.
Today we have a confused quagmire of all of the above and no one really understands or cares about the difference. But lately we’re starting to see another term enter the vocabulary, which in my mind could stick around for a while and even propel this space to a wider audience. That’s Web 3.
The internet is at an important inflection point and the road ahead has a fork in it, the opportunity to take a new way is ahead of us. I’m talking about a new way of using the web, and a new infrastructure that could enable it.
Recently, we’ve started to see a resurgence towards decentralisation on the web. This is about bringing control to end users, removing middlemen and increasing privacy.
These are the core tenants of decentralisation and we’re starting to see a rhetoric of a new web that includes this kind of infrastructure. One which is not ‘controlled’ by data monopolies and web giants.
The usual suspects Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Apple get bashed around at conferences like Cog X as the bad guys who the start-ups want to displace from their mantel.
While it may be true that, to some degree, the incumbents will eat away at FAMGA’s market cap. The potential is more than that.
Apple didn’t get a trillion-dollar market cap by eating away at IBMs market. It created a new one, personal computers, and grew it. Now we have a personal computer in all of our pockets and the world is a different place.
The evolution of the web is happening organically in an uncoordinated manner.
Despite the influence the web giants have. Ultimately, it’s down to users to decide what they want to do online. If people want more privacy, more security, less ads and less noise, then that demand will be met.
Based on my experience this week, there are plenty of people building things that point towards this direction for the web, but whether that supply will be met is yet to be seen.
One thing is clear though, the true test of the innovators dilemma is not too far away for the web giants.
Richard Muirhead, one of the co founders of Fabric Ventures, a VC firm based in London that invests in Web 3.0 gave a speech titled “Capitalism is Dead, Long Live Capitalism”, you can find the full talk here.
Muirhead paints a picture of how the web could be, as a natural evolution that stems from generation defining moments. No doubt Bitcoin represents a generational step change and ‘the internet of value’ is one defining aspect of the Web 3 movement.
The important thing to remember here is that it’s about using technology to enable human progress. Technology is what makes us human and is a tremendous tool for good, what we do with it is up to us.
Another interesting talk was given by Ben Livshits, Chief Scientist at Brave Software, you can watch it here.
I’ve been using Brave as my default browser for over a month now, and can say it’s a more pleasant experience not having ads pop up all the time and it’s pretty quick. I’ve got a few BAT in my wallet now as well which isn’t too bad either!
It’s no surprise that they are getting traction. More than 7 million MAU probably makes it one of the most actively used products in the whole Web 3.0 space.
This makes sense as Browsers are the main way people interact with the internet, this is a crucial on ramp that encourages widespread adoption of Web 3.0. It’s interesting to see a privacy focussed browser get traction and I’m curious to know how many ‘no coiners’ or non-crypto people start using it.
Probably the most important aspect of Web 3.0 is not what happens at the application layer, like a browser, but what happens lower down the stack on the network layer.
Jeremy Welch, CEO and Founder of Casa, showcased the tremendous growth of the lightning network and how peer-to-peer networks represent a move away from the hierarchal nature of web services today towards a decentralised structure, owned and operated by users. Watch it here.
It’s interesting to note the role nodes play on decentralised networks and the active participation that is required from hobbyists, to institutional investors, but that’s a post for another day.
One of the main takeaways from Cog X this year is that it’s time for the pendulum to swing from extreme forms of centralised control in the hands of the few to a more decentralised structure in the hands of the many. There is momentum in favour of decentralisation at the moment in the form of intellectual and financial capital, and it’s accelerating.
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