Leon Mika

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On the Moxie Marlinspike Post About web3

Today, I took a look at the Moxie Marlinspike post about web31. I found this post interesting for a variety of reasons, not least because unlike many other posts on the subject, it was a post that was level-headed and was coming from a position of want to learn more rather than persuade (or hustle). Well worth the read, especially for those that are turned off by the whole web3 crap like I am.

Anyway, there were a few things from the post that I found amusing. The first, and by far the most shocking, was that the “object” of a NFT is not derived from the actual item in question, like the artwork image, or the music audio, etc. It’s essentially just a URL. And not even a URL with an associated hash. Just a plain old URL, as in “example.com”, which points to a resources on the internet that can be change or removed at any time. Not really conducive to the idea of digital ownership if the thing that you “own” is just something that points to something else that you don’t actually control.

Also amusing was the revelation that for a majority of these so-called “distributed apps”, the “distribution” part is a bit of a misnomer. They might be using a blockchain to handle state, but many of the apps themselves are doing so by calling regular API services. They don’t build their own blockchain or even run a node on an existing blockchain, which is what I assumed they were doing. I can achieve the same thing without a blockchain if I make the database I use for my apps public and publish the API keys (yes, I’m being facetious).

The final thing I found amusing was that many of these platforms are actually building features into the platform that are not even using the blockchain at all. Moxie made the excellent point that the speed to which a protocol evolves, especially ones that are distributed by design, is usually very slow. Likely too slow if you’re trying to add features to a platform in an attempt to make it attractive to users. So services like OpenSeas are sometimes bypassing the blockchain altogether, and just adding propriety features which are backed by regular data stores like Firebase. Seems to me this is undermining the very idea of web3 itself.

So given these three revelations, what can we conclude from all the rhetoric of web3 that’s currently out there? That, I’ll leave up to you. I have my own opinions which I hope comes through from the tone of this post.

I’ll close by saying that I think the most insightful thing I learnt from the post had nothing to do with web3 at all. It was the point that the reason why Web 2 came about was that people didn’t want to run their own servers, and never will. This is actually quite obvious now when I think about it.


  1. Ben Thompson wrote a teriffic post about it as well. [return]