2022-08-07 - I Hate web3

Yeah, I know, I'm preaching to the choir here. Still, there's something uniquely cynical about web3 and the communities around it that really ticks me off.

To be clear, I don't think idealism and noble intentions have ever been the main drivers of the internet's development. The World Wide Web started out as a military project, after all, more a tool for stuffy bureaucrats than some electronic art hippy commune, and while the early days were something of a free-for-all, with Web 2.0 came the idea that users weren't just users, but creators. Content creators. Influencers. Websites weren't small, personal things any more. You found yourself a nice, comfy content delivery platform to join (Reddit, Twitter, YouTube, Twitch, take your pick) and were encouraged, either through meaningless internet points or actual monetary incentives, to keep the local content mill churning. After all, why make "content" for nothing when you could be rewarded with something more immediately gratifying? And as a user, why trawl webrings and blogs when you could have The Algorithmâ„¢ serve you up a neverending stream of content in one convenient place?

But I'm getting off track. To understand why I'm complaining about web3, I'll point to the thing that motivated me to write this garbage in the first place: IPFS. "A peer-to-peer hypermedia protocol designed to preserve and grow humanity's knowledge by making the web upgradeable, resilient, and more open," the home page boldly claims. This is serious business, I thought, a true force for social good in a world full of fuck, a project that truly cares about the world we live in, that tries to make people more free and the web more permanent and meaningful. Inspiring stuff.

Fully on board with this IPFS idea, I checked out the "Ecosystem directory", the developers' official repository of projects using IPFS. I'm not sure what I expected to find, really. Perhaps something like GNU package blurbs page, a big old listing of projects both niche and mainstream, all driven by an ideology of cooperation and openness. This post isn't titled "I Love IPFS", though, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that that's not what I saw

Crypto wallet. Crypto wallet. Crypto exchange. NFT exchange. Betting platform. Crypto exchange. Auction marketplace. Freelancer marketplace. NFT storage (?????). Cryptocurrency. And so on. There were some other things, of course. Peer-to-peer messaging apps and forums (didn't these exist before IPFS?), streaming platforms that "reward you for listening to music", marketplaces to monetise climate data, platforms to build other web3 apps... And the straw that broke the camel's back, the thing that made this rant happen, something so mind-bogglingly fucking stupid that I won't even try to summarise it myself.

Decentralized, Ethereum-based NFT marketplace and token curated registry for unique, rare memes. Built on the Ethereum blockchain, the primary goal is to enable provable ownership of memes for their creators, attaching economic and legal value to a piece of art.
This single image summarises web3 better than I ever could. Everything, every single fucking web3 thing, is about making money. Everything is an investment. Everything is an asset. Not even memes, literally named after ideas that proliferate and spread freely to form a new sort of common culture, are free from being turned into assets. The single underlying theme of web3 isn't privacy, or decentralisation, or preservation, or whatever bullshit its proponents spout; it's artificial scarcity, and not even memes are safe from being turned into barefaced money making schemes.

This, to me, is ultimately why web3 is so hopelessly cynical on a fundamental level. It's a vision for an internet where everyone, ultimately, is a shill for everything they engage with. It's not enough to just enjoy something any more, to leave your name in the guest book or favourite something or leave an upvote. Your net worth depends on you being a shameless salesman freak, plugging your portfolio of artificially scarce coins and JPEGs and virtual land at every opportunity. On web3, everyone is a paid shill, and that's exactly how it's meant to be. It doesn't matter if your NFT avatar is a soulless zero-effort pixel art portrait made from the same template as a thousand others, you paid ten grand for it and it's in your best interest to find a sucker to pay you ten times as much in turn. As far as everyone else is concerned, it's the best thing you've ever paid for, and everyone needs to know.

turn customers into fanatics, products into obsessions, employees into ambassadors, and brands into religions