What Web3 is Not

Jeffrey Hykin
5 min readDec 22, 2021

Update: 1/18/2022

This is an update of defeat, as I believe the common definition of Web3 no longer refers to The “decentralized internet”. Through incessant social media posts, and nearly constant edits to the Wikipedia page, crypto bros and the ntf hype squad seem to have successfully distorted Web3 to mean an internet of purely financial transactions.

However, replace “web3" with “decentralized internet” below and the article below should still be accurate/useful.

Original Article

Over-hype, misunderstanding, scams, and betrayals associated with “Web3” are bad enough to ruin it’s reputation for a generation.

So let's get a few things straight before that happens.

1. The NFT *Market* is not Web3

If NFTs were equivalent to high-performance F1 engine oil, then most people would be using engine oil for home cooked meals. I'm not saying engine oil is useless, I'm saying your NFT purchase for "art" or whatever relates to Web 3 about as much as cooking with engine oil makes you a participant in F1 racing.

If you want to cook with engine oil (and you fully understand the consequences!) be my guest.

And to show that I’m not just dismissing this topic: imagine having a physical key, but the key doesn’t unlock any locks. It is a key to ✨nothing✨. Now imagine the key is made out of pape — actually paper is too valuable — imagine the key is made of compacted garbage. Ta.Da. you’ve successfully imagined almost* every NTF. Software devs can design locks to fit keys, and we can find these keys quite useful. But you, Mr./Mrs. End-User, should be about as excited for NFT’s as an Amish person.

2. Web3 is not Magical, it’s Foundational

In internet-land we (practically) cannot make roads. Instead, to see our neighbor we catch a train to Facebook/Discord/Microsoft HQ, we give them a blood sample, receive a tracker from them, and then they drive us to our neighbor.

With that hellscape in mind, imagine me at your front door, excitedly showing off a 10 ton asphalt paving machine (with WEB3 on the side).

Voila! Now you can ... just ... pave your own road to your friends house! 😃 \s

Some people (me) are legitimately excited as this tool foundationally changes the balance of power in internet-land.

For obvious reasons, people probably wouldn’t be too excited about receiving a 10 ton paver, since it takes effort, skilled labor, and years of work before anyone benefits.

3. Build it and they-- Wait who is building it?

Did I mention there’s basically no financial incentive for creating community-built roads?

Actually its even worse; self-built roads aggressively threaten mega-corp’s profit margins; corporations that both have all the power in internet-land and every reason to try to destroy, taint, vandalize, and slander community-built roads.

Oh, and I should also clarify; it can be very profitable for scam artists. Which reminds me, did I mention that cons would be totally welcome to build their own roads / labyrinths, and there’s no user-friendly way to distinguish them from legitimate roads?

Well, as I fearlessly sit on my 10 ton paver... yeah I should probably mention those things.

And speaking of funding...

4.1 Maintaining Web3 is not Free

Asphalt pavers run on gas. And if you think gasoline prices are bad, wait till you hear about Ethereum gas prices.

Well, there’s one exception; right now, making a un-changing site, that has a long ugly URL *is* totally free. But to update a web3 site, you must (as of Dec 2021) pay a hefty gas price to announce to the world “Hello everyone! My website has been updated! (And here’s proof that I’m the owner)”. This high transaction price needs to change (and it is!). The full release of Ethereum 2 should be a major step forward, and might address it entirely.

4.2 Being a user on Web3 is mostly* Free

Right now Google/Facebook/Microsoft often happily pay your storage bill. It’s not a huge bill, but if you want to do everything on Web3, just know that you’re going to need some storage space. You might already have enough space on your device, but maybe you’ll want an extra hard-drive connected to a small always-on computer.

Some costs are more than financial though, which brings me to...

5. Web3 is not Controllable

Web2 is already a public stage, but Web3 is a public stage AND most audience members are individually recording your performance. Once you post data publicly, once it’s been distributed, nobody (and I. mean. nobody.) can reliably force it to be taken down.

No company
No government
... But also often not even you can

Many times apathy will be on your side; you can ask all the individuals to delete their recording. But you will be relying on good will.

Even for the bravest of us, this can be a uneasy feeling.

However, the most important thing you need to know about Web3 is…

6. Web3 is not a Theory

Its already here! You can publish your own Web3 site today.

Web3 has two forms; I'll call them federated and mesh.

  • The mesh form could be considered the "true" Web3. The IPFS (Inter-Planetary File System) is the backbone of the Web3 mesh, and crypto (like Ethereum) are the system’s muscles that allow it to update. The Opera browser and Brave browser have supported IPFS and crypto URLs right out of the box for a while now, even on mobile. FireFox can get IPFS support through the IPFS extension, and crypto support through the Metamask extension. To get your own Web3 URL, and have a website you can update, take a look at Unstoppable Domains, or Ether domains. If you want to see an elegant UI and an impressive precursor to Web3, take a look at ZeroNet.
  • The federated form of Web3 has several major advantages and major disadvantages. It’s also not separate; it can and will work together with the Web3 mesh. The main difference is the federated system can run entirely on web 2.0 browsers. It is a self-hoster server, but it collaborates with other self-hosted servers to look and feel like a singular website. Take a look at the Fediverse, Lemmy, Mastodon, and Element (formerly Riot) to get an idea of how to join some of these systems. Self hosting servers can be hard, but they are wonderfully capable/flexible systems.

And that’s it! I hope you’re still excited because there is so much potential for a faster, safer, less intrusive internet; we’re just going to need to build it.