What Are We Going to Do With the Internet?
Online these days — that is to say, on social media — there’s an aggressive line of apocalyptic/utopian thinking about the demise of the platform internet, or Web 2.0, and the rise of a new, more perfect web. The prophesy espoused, mostly by bros, is that the next form of the internet, Web3, will create a more open and free internet. The key to it all is the power of blockchain, the “shared, immutable ledger” that tracks transactions or asset exchanges transparently and immediately.
On Web3, people will use cryptocurrency to build, or invest in, new websites — perhaps a new social platform owned in part by every one of its users rather than a tech company. In fact, Web3 has the potential to free us from the tech mega-companies and their algorithms, not to mention their handling and selling of our data — or so its boosters claim. Instead of relying on the Facebooks, Twitters, Tik Toks and Googles of the world to handle our data, we’ll instead put our faith in the original text — we’ll trust in the blockchain. It will offer us “a single view of the truth.”
A lot of people are skeptical about crypto, generally, and Web3 specifically. With good reason. The cryptocurrency market fluctuates wildly, is subject to innumerable scams, and appears at present to be basically a massive Ponzi scheme. But crypto’s centrality in the imagining of a new internet, complete with NFTs and so on, is worth considering, because while crypto and Web3 may be flawed ideas, they are together the symptoms of a deeper sickness of the current web, which is that a lot of people kinda hate it and want something new, if not better. That is to say, while the answer (crypto, Web3, etc.) might be wrong, the question is right: What are we going to do with the internet?
How do we address the fundamental flaws of the internet?
The current version of the internet that we use is neither wholly awful nor wholly terrific, but more and more it feels like a terrible mistake, even at the best of times. While the fix can’t be a massive global scheme to enrich crowd of aggressive tech bros — we have that already — something has to change. The era of global…