The New Web Vs. the Old Web
Bloomberg Businessweek|January 17, 2022
Meet Web3, which could replace the Big Tech powers, or be co-opted by them
By Joshua Brustein and Mark Bergen. Illustration by Angela Stempel
If you’ve spent any time around the tech industry recently, you’ve probably heard the good news about Web3, the presumed next chapter in internet history. The so-called Web 2.0 era, which was dominated by a handful of social media platforms, is over. Web3 boosters say that instead of relying on Facebook— now rebranded Meta Platforms Inc. to avoid any of the bad vibes associated with social media—we’ll soon be communicating using decentralized services that will make the current fears of censorship by tech monopolies passé.

Web3 applications are based on cryptocurrencies or digital tokens that are tracked on blockchains. These tokens are distributed to an app’s early investors and users, and can also be bought and sold on cryptocurrency exchanges. In theory, at least, they’ll appreciate as an app takes off. Venture capitalists invested $30 billion in crypto projects last year, according to research company PitchBook. Much of that went into Web3 startups such as Sky Mavis, developer of Axie Infinity, a blockchain-based video game; BitClout, a decentralized social network whose founder is known by the pseudonym “diamond hands”; and OpenSea, a marketplace for nonfungible tokens, the digital collectors’ items known as NFTs.

To believers—like Marc Andreessen, whose venture capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz, recently raised $2.2 billion for a new crypto fund— Web3 offers the chance to participate in a vast utopian project while simultaneously getting in on a financial boom. (Bloomberg LP, which owns Bloomberg Businessweek, has invested in Andreessen Horowitz.) Detractors see the movement as a branding exercise designed by tech investors to preserve the mania for cryptocurrency tokens. They point out that many of the big Web3 investors are the same people who backed Web 2.0. “It’s ultimately a centralized entity with a different label,” tweeted Jack Dorsey, a Twitter Inc. co-founder and chief executive officer of Block Inc., which, until its recent blockchain-themed rebranding, was known as Square.

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