The Web 3.0 Universe Is Expanding

Exploring the Cartography of Crypto-Market Space-Time

It’s always been peculiar to me that, to the average consumer, Ethereum is synonymous with ICOs. I imagine that when Windows 95 was released, most people thought desktop computers were synonymous with the minesweeper game that shipped with that operating system.

Minesweeper: The killer app of Windows 95

Since the 90s, the universe of use cases for computers has boomed to include games, telecommunication, entertainment, word processing, and many more applications. The ease of use to transfer information over a computer network without an intermediary (what we call the modern Internet) was a fundamental change in the way society self-organizes. As a result, we saw seismic shifts in entertainment, media, politics, and other important information flows within human civilization.

When I think about how the explosion of use cases for the internet mirrors the possibilities blockchain represents, I like to think about the abstractions that both eras of computing rely upon.

In computing, an abstraction is the representation of essential features without including any background details or explanations. Abstractions are

  1. used to reduce complexity, by allowing one to remove attributes of an object, by allowing one to more closely attend to other details of interest.
  2. used like building blocks. They can be assembled together to create a bigger, more complex system with tremendous functionality.

For example, the following are all assets in the modern internet that can be represented via abstraction as Information:

  1. Mp3s,
  2. a blog post,
  3. a movie,
  4. code.

The following are all assets in the modern economy that can be represented via abstraction as Financial Value:

  1. currency,
  2. a deed to a house,
  3. a stake in a company,
  4. a gift card,
  5. precious metals,
  6. a p2p promise between two individuals.

Like information, financial value is an important abstraction, which is used every day in society. The internet fundamentally changed society because it allowed us to move information around a worldwide network of computers. What will the innovation of blockchain, which allows computers to easily transfer financial value over a network, fundamentally change in our civilization?

Just as minesweeper was an early use case for computers, I believe that utility tokens are simply the first application of the blockchain-ized internet to hit the mainstream.

Just last week, I sent someone an email asking if they wanted to get lunch. Would you ever send someone a physical postcard to ask if they want to get lunch? No, because it’s too slow and too expensive. When the movement of information became cheap + easy, people onboarded to the new platforms en masse in order to take advantage of these attributes. Email is used at 1000x more volume than the old, physical mail system.

Just as email (a killer app of the internet) changed the way we communicate, I’m confident that in the future, there will be a 1000x use case for blockchain technology. There will be many new and better configurations of organizational governance, business models, and society writ large enabled by the management of financial value via blockchain technology.

When you think of the internet, you don’t think of TCP/IP, UDP, or CAT-5 cables. You think of Facebook, Google, Snapchat, and of Facetime calls with friends and family. It wasn’t always this way. I remember back in the mid 90s when using the internet was expensive and complicated.

Similarly today, when you think of the blockchain internet, you hear about hash functions, public key cryptography, curved bonding schemes, payment channels, and other complex technology. Just like the internet got easier to use by abstracting the nitty gritty technical details away from the user, I expect the blockchain internet will too.

As a member of the ETHMagicians Business Models Ring, I am privileged to have a front row seat to conversations about startups that are building an open source financial system. When we formed in 2018, we knew that utility tokens were over-hyped, and we have been exploring the problem space of Web 3.0 business models, sowing the seeds of crypto spring long before crypto winter was a meme. We aim to be the cartographers of this new n-dimensional market spacetime that we call Web 3.0 economics.

Real Gitcoin Crypto-Spacetime Data: Each node is a user, each edge is a transaction.

As we explore this new crypto-market spacetime together, I feel compelled to tell you about some of the trends I am excited about:

  • Security Tokens. These could change the way society allocates investment capital, and (if we’re lucky), cut Wall Street out of the equation.
  • Personal Time Tokens. An Ethereum token backed by a human individual’s time. For example, 1 token = 1 hour of work with that individual.
  • Non-Fungible Tokens. NFTs have applications in not only games, collectibles, and attestations, but also in serious applications like deeds for real estate.
  • Streaming money. It is such an obvious application of a new, open financial system to stream money from A to B — I cannot believe that only SpankChain is doing it thus far! We will see dozens of dApps use this business model in the coming months and years.
  • Decentralized Finance (DeFi). MakerDAO has proven that stablecoins and collateralized debt positions can work on Ethereum. What other parts of the closed financial system can we port over to the new, open one?
  • Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs). DAOs have been around for a while, but we are finally beginning to see hundreds of experiments blossom with the launch of Aragon on the blockchain.
  • Subscriptions. Software-as-a-Service powers the legacy web. I have no doubt that subscription models built on Ethereum will be a fundamental force in creating investable crypto-native companies.
  • Bounties. The exchange of money for labor is as old as civilization itself. I look forward to a new generation of freelancer economy built around this exchange, and built on transparent, open, blockchain technology.

It is too early in crypto spring to say which of these trends will blossom in the coming months, and which will remain nestled underground, waiting for their day in the sun. I, for one, am sure that some of them will bloom, and that when they do, it will herald the coming of #cryptospring.

Just like we chuckle when we remember the narrow view that people had of computers in 1995, when we look back at the blockchain revolution, we will smirk to think that “People back in 2018 thought Ethereum was just ICOs”.

If you, like me, believe in the vast potential of an open source financial system, I invite you to join the ETHMagicians Business Models Ring. Join me in the wonderful, expansive, creation of a cartography of this n-dimensional market spacetime that we call Web 3.0 economics. Send me a tweet (@owocki) and I’ll get you plugged in.

–Kevin Owocki, Founder of Gitcoin

EDIT 2019/03/04 — This essay originally appeared in the #cryptospring report, which is now available for download!