For months, Web3 was something willed into being by tech investors, excitement surrounding it was tech heavy and there was little explanation as to what it could do for us everyday folk. In recent months however, the term Web3 has given the wider sector a much-needed jolt of optimism. Talks of decentralisation and community sit at the centre of this optimistic aura.
Such optimism was on full display at events such as ETHDenver, the biggest crypto conference in the US, held in February and NFT.NYC held only a couple weeks ago. The events have an enjoyably low key aesthetic for something so niche. Most attendees turned up in hoodies and jeans or summer dresses and people who have been digital friends for months were able to meet in person for the first time.
However, the sense of optimism is often met with just as much pessimism in the form of literal crashes. When ETHDenver was held, Ethereum as a cryptocurrency had crashed in value from a high of $4,815 to less than $3,000. However the attitude of most attendees was a widely positive one that stated that the blockchain on which it is built was going to save the world!
The same goes for NFT.NYC which saw a massive slump in NFT sales and activity since the crash in April/May of this year.
At ETHDenver, money simply wasn’t mentioned. The focus was co-operation online. “I believe that this is the mechanism for a new society,” said one speaker. “This is how we create a pluralistic civilisation,” declared another. Elon Musk’s younger brother Kimbal appeared on stage to talk about philanthropy. Vitalik Buterin, the 28-year-old Russian-Canadian co-founder of ethereum, spoke of a culture focused on new ideas.
The blend of optimism and pessimism, the supporters and the speculators (both valid) make so much sense seeing as Web3 is still an amorphous catch-all used to cover cryptocurrencies, the metaverse, non-fungible tokens and the idea of a community-driven, “decentralised” internet.
We witness investors such as VC firm Andreessen Horowitz seeking to raise up to $4.5bn for new crypto funds. As users, we question whether Web3 activity (both the independent artistic NFT sellers and the investors alike) add up to a spur for radical, positive change or is it just a new way for tech investors and companies to pull in money? Maybe it’s both. In Web3, tech has finally found a new way to indulge in its love of both speculation and idealism.