Many technologists, venture capitalists, and entrepreneurs have gone all-in on cryptocurrencies, NFTs, and blockchain technologies. And in 2021, the all-encompassing term, Web3, became mainstream, and its proponents claim it’s a panacea to a broken internet.
There are signs everywhere that crypto enthusiasm has permeated into all facets of life. Crypto.com recently bought the rights to a major sports arena and they’ve been airing an ad with Matt Damon comparing cryptocurrency to major human discoveries and endeavors. Several news media outlets have also fully embraced crypto. CNBC lists token prices the same way they list stock prices, Bloomberg regularly reports on crypto, and news startups like The Information have dedicated crypto writers.
The popularity of crypto has been primarily fueled by skyrocketing token values and shockingly high prices paid for NFTs. Empowered with astronomical profits, Web3 has become an unquestionable idealist crusade for how blockchain technologies will fix a centralized web. As a result, it has created a nearly religious fervor from its followers. Irrefutable criticism of crypto and Web3 is often ignored or explained away with redirection, and some followers foment verbal attacks and threats to those that openly oppose it. The latter has muffled most criticism of crypto and Web3 until now.
In 2022, there has been a noticeable shift in sentiment towards the enthusiasm and grandiose claims of Web3 and crypto. Software engineers, web developers, economists, technologists, and makers that have expressed skepticism are finally having their concerns amplified within the zeitgeist of social media and blogging. Additionally, deeply researched and highly detailed videos, like the recently released documentary, The Problem With NFTs by Dan Olson, are also gaining in popularity.
Crypto and Web3 skepticism
Stephen Diehl, a London-based software engineer in the financial sector, has written extensively on crypto and Web3 and thinks blockchains are a solution in search of a problem. Diehl says cryptocurrencies aren’t currencies and that they’re more like unregulated securities connected to shell companies.
Diehl, like many critics, views cryptocurrencies as Ponzi schemes and considers them a form of gambling. Nobel Prize Economist Joseph Stiglitz has also urged global regulators to completely ban cryptocurrencies because Stiglitz believes they will mar the growth of a functional society.
Web3, which is supposed to decentralize the web, has been criticized for fixing something that’s not broken and is already considered centralized by skeptics. Soatok Dhole, a security engineer and cryptographer, claims that Web3 is fake decentralization. And Nicholas Weaver, an astrophysicist, computer scientist, and lecturer at the University of California in Berkley, says Web3 is a con job.
A shift in public sentiment, coupled with numerous well-researched articles providing technical, historical, and logical reasons for people to reconsider crypto and Web3, are helping skeptics finally get the word.
Rufus Pollock, a systems researcher, cultural activist, and social entrepreneur, maintains a GitHub page of critiques of crypto and Web3. The resource is an excellent place to start for anyone wanting to learn more about why crypto and Web3 may not benefit the web or society.
Even with the increased amplification of skepticism, the crypto and Web3 space continue to grow rapidly. Only time will tell if we will have a new decentralized blockchain-based utopia or if the skeptics were correct all along.