A few months back I linked to Robin Sloan’s take on web3. As a thoughtful person and a seasoned technologist, his view was nuanced and interesting.

Well, the same is predictably true for Moxie Marlinspike, the legendary cryptographer and technologist who, among many other things, invented the Signal secure messaging app. As someone who shares many of the same aims that the crypto world ostensibly has, and who’s been around for several attempts to revolutionise the world through technology, he’s well worth listening to. He also put his effort where his mouth is, getting more involved than most people in the underlying technology:

“To get a feeling for the web3 world, I made a dApp called Autonomous Art that lets anyone mint a token for an NFT by making a visual contribution to it… I also made a dApp called First Derivative that allows you to create, discover, and exchange NFT derivatives which track an underlying NFT, similar to financial derivatives which track an underlying asset.”

His crucial observation is that web3 doesn’t actually decentralise what it promises to, and for reasons that are structural and inescapable:

“it seems like we should take notice that from the very beginning, these technologies immediately tended towards centralization through platforms in order for them to be realized, that this has ~zero negatively felt effect on the velocity of the ecosystem, and that most participants don’t even know or care it’s happening. This might suggest that decentralization itself is not actually of immediate practical or pressing importance to the majority of people downstream, that the only amount of decentralization people want is the minimum amount required for something to exist, and that if not very consciously accounted for, these forces will push us further from rather than closer to the ideal outcome as the days become less early.”