Ethereum is cryptocurrency’s second most valuable coin by market cap, Bitcoin being the most valuable. The difference however, is that the Ethereum blockchain is designed to be used for a multitude of other computing tasks, not just the delivery of a cryptocurrency.
Many of the firms that make up ‘Big Tech’, use elements of distribution and decentralization to ensure systems remain functional when servers are taken offline. However, the control ‘Big Tech’ exerts over the networks and services they host and deliver is completely centralized, what Buterin calls “political decentralization.” What’s really important to recognize is that just because a network is, or says it is, decentralized in structure doesn’t mean that it is in terms of power, ownership and control.
Decentralization as a term is often used in such close and regular proximity to words like democracy, they seem almost synonymous, but they are not.
What can we learn from Web3?
Even though Web3 doesn’t technically exist yet, there’s plenty we can learn from it and its surrounding discourse.
Proponents of Web3, and its underlying technologies like blockchains, believe that through decentralization we can achieve a level of democracy in tech that we don’t currently see with ‘Big Tech’ standing in the way. That’s the most important part: democracy. Decentralization is merely one proposed route to that goal.
As tech companies, we should be paying attention not to how Web3 can come to exist, what threat it poses, why blockchains were invented or why cryptocurrencies and NFTs have proliferated in the way that they have, but we should be engaging with the ‘why’. Why was there a need to develop cryptocurrencies? Why are people so intrigued by NFTs? Why do people think we need Web3 in the first place? Why are people dissatisfied with Web 2.0?
When we unpack those questions, we see they all have one thing in common, it boils down to ownership. Ownership of money, ownership of digital assets, ownership of data and services.