Let’s take a moment and think what trust really means for us. What comes to our mind when we think of trust?
In general, trust is a nice word. Trust means something positive about a connection and bonding with someone. In some sense, trust is also a risk that we take in people and organizations.
When we trust a friend, we take a risk whether they would act/advice in our interest or not.
When we trust a bank, we take a risk with our money.
When we trust an organization like Facebook, we take a risk with our personal data.
When an artist trusts platforms like Spotify or YouTube, they take a risk about credit and royalties for their creations.
In almost all our interactions with systems and organizations, there is some trust, and hence a risk involved. Most of the times, organizations take advantage of our trust. Things like the subprime crisis, Cambridge Analytica issue, everyday data breaches, etc. are all examples of this.
Is there a way to reduce trust in systems? When we don’t put the money in the bank, we are not trusting the bank. But is that the solution? Should we just stop using the systems and go back to pre information age? Maybe not.
Trust could be reduced when we have more control on things. When we use systems and organizations that allow more control to users, we need to trust them less. The overall risk is reduced.
Web3 is about building such systems and organizations. Let’s explore.
When we use a blockchain to do a peer to peer money transfer, the risk to lose that money reduces.
When we use self-sovereign identity and verifiable credentials for online applications, the risk with breach of our privacy and personal data reduces.
When we use decentralized systems and NFTs to publish our creations (art, music, etc.), the risk to lose credit and royalties reduces.
It is really as simple as that.
Instead of trust, Web3 is about truth. Truth about users' rights to privacy, transparency, and freedom. Truth that could be verified using mathematics and cryptography.
That was the good part. Let’s also take a look at the realistic part of Web3 - the concerns and state of affairs.
While the decentralized applications space is more than 6 years old (2016 to 2022), we still have some concerns with scalability and user experience in Web3. It is important to acknowledge them. But there is a good amount of research and development happening to find solutions for these issues.
I believe, these solutions are mostly about trade-offs. The goal is to reduce enough risk for the users while making the systems sufficiently decentralized and keeping them scalable. It is a hard problem to solve, and it could take time. There are no absolutes.
The one major side effect of Web3 is that it would either put a lot of centralized organizations out of business, or could change them for good. That’s a lot of change and it brings resistance. Resistance brings criticism. There is some really good and reasonable critique about Web3 and it would help us course correct. However, there is also a ton of irrational bashing and unreasonable commentary.
While one reason for this not-so-constructive criticism is resistance to change, another reason could be the bullish claims made by the blockchain maximalists. Several people in the Web3 and blockchain space shill coins and tokens, with the intent to increase economic gains, while making unrealistic claims. This ends up creating more confusion, hence more resistance and more bashing. Unrealistic promises attract irrational criticism. Seems even, I guess?
Many people in the Web3 space explain things to non-Web3 people with too much of “change the world” messaging without helping them understand the basics. This creates a gap in the listener’s mind. They can’t imagine the world changing without understanding the how and when aspects of things. Ultimately they come out hating and criticizing Web3 because of this. I believe, we must be realistic and honest about our messaging of Web3, no matter how far away we could be from the end goal.
Long story short, my fellow Web3 folks, we need to shill less and build more.
The Goals and Alternatives
Another topic that keeps coming up - is blockchain the only way or solution to reducing risk. Maybe not? Blockchain is only an alternative which is more researched and advanced than the other ones, at the moment. In the future, there could be other viable alternatives to blockchain, which could help us achieve enough decentralization. The end goal is to reduce risk for the user, blockchain or no blockchain.
And one more thing that recently came up - the Web5 thing from Jack Dorsey. I think the goal is the same there as well - reducing trust and risk. But they want to use a different terminology to make it look different. Well, as far as the objective is good and clear, we should not worry about what we call the whole thing. Web3, Web5, Web35, WebWhatever.
I strongly believe, we are just getting started with Web3 and decentralization. By no means we have found the answers to all use-cases, or concerns, or questions. We are yet to explore a lot more before we could say we have found some balance of user experience, decentralization, and scalability for enough use-cases.
It is a long road ahead. At least we got started.