Transmutable News

Why Do Smart People Choose Web3 Instead of the Open Web?

Jan 27, 2022

If we want an open web then we must examine why so many smart people are attracted to web3 and repulsed by web standards work.

One obvious aspect is that web3 promises fast money while almost all web standards work is unpaid, at least directly. Almost everyone I’ve met working on web standards receives a salary from one of a handful of multinational corporations. Especially because it often requires intercontinental travel, web standards work is a luxury.

Web3 promises to be decentralized across states and impervious to control by any person or organization. A small number of people at Google and Apple effectively decide what is and isn’t a part of the open web by controlling the browser engines used by the overwhelming majority of people. The open web is burdened by a stable duopoly.

Web standards work requires contributors to reveal their legal identities and their employers. It’s entirely possible to work on web3 under multiple and changing pseudonyms without association with any organization.

Standards bodies enforce, to some extent, policies about how workers treat each other. Web3 communities are… less moderated. Our growing wave of anti-social and anti-political energy often clashes with even mild and toothless rules of engagement.

For decades the open web has aggregated a deep literature, a historical narrative, and an opaque lingo. It takes effort to understand how and why decisions are made. It is attractive to join at the beginning of web3 instead of contributing to an old open web made by others.

People in the open web’s most powerful roles (like the TAG) are generally at least 30 years old and are often in their 40s or 50s. Many public figures in web3 are in their 20s and with pseudonyms it is often unclear whether they’re even that old.

The open web is a stable community of people with working code. In comparison, today’s web3 consists of a mutable set of vague goals, technology that doesn’t quite work, and a churning community of enthusiasts. It is harder to project our identities onto a deliverable instead of a promise.

If you break the open web then you quickly break civilization. If you break today’s web3 then relatively little happens. The short term stakes are radically different and changing the open web is scary and dangerous.

If I listen carefully then I can hear your keyboards clacking with lists of the nuances that I’ve failed to mention and the excellent reasons that these differences exist. You are correct about the wrong point. These problems are real and if we want an open web then we must change.

As always, I am and @TransmutableNew.

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