The promise of Web 3.0 – In the end, it’s all about the money

They are simply lining up to buy the American constitution – and thus revolutionize the world. It fits so well with what the pioneers of the Internet once imagined: a democratic network, supported and shaped by the multitude of users.

And so, metaphorically, it couldn’t have been more enchanting: a group of crypto investors unite to found “ConstitutionDAO” and acquire an original copy of the US Constitution. Back to democratic origins, which should belong to the masses, not the elites.

A DAO, a decentralized autonomous organization, is all the rage in discussions about the future of the Internet. In such an organization, any number of people can come together to pursue a goal or start a business. They don’t need to be connected otherwise, everyone works remotely on a part of the project, which is registered in detail on the blockchain. If successful, the payment or reward for the effort goes to the participants according to the rules set at the beginning via smart contracts.

The old concept of the cooperative resonates a little

Simply put, a DAO is a company run in a decentralized way by its members, without ever needing a CEO. The old notion of co-op resonates a bit here, but DAOs are much more radical and tech-based. Not only do they change corporate structures, but they break with the rules of hierarchy and control as we have known them in the corporate world since industrialization. And: DAOs should also revolutionize the entire Internet.

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It now functions similarly to the global corporate world. A small number of giant tech companies determine where the journey goes. Nothing is more decentralized, non-hierarchical and grassroots democratic. “We have shown that the web has failed to serve humanity,” said Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web in 2018, “and it has failed in many ways.”

Salvation is now about to emerge via Web 3.0, and it comes from the depths of the blockchain. On today’s Internet, most requests go through the centralized server farms of big tech companies, which also store our personal information. In Web 3.0, these servers will be replaced by blockchain. All data is stored in decentralized peer-to-peer databases or on a public blockchain that does not belong to anyone.

This brings back another dream that today’s Internet has long dreamed of: saying goodbye to the mediator, who siphons off most of the profit. Many intermediaries of yesteryear are indeed history, but big companies like Amazon, Facebook or Google have taken their place. In many ways, Big Tech’s platform economy is much like the commodity economy of the past, just a little bigger and more centralized.

Blockchain is an expensive pleasure

In Web 3.0 it should be different. It’s not the big companies that come up with what people want, but they organize themselves through DAOs, all on the blockchain. Sounds good, and maybe there really is a realistic prospect for revamping at least some parts of the internet. However, until the general effect is triggered, many streams of data will continue to flow undisturbed through the servers of major tech companies. Because the blockchain, on which everything should be based, is an expensive pleasure.

First, Web 3.0 requires exactly the investments that big tech companies can probably make first. Second, for every transaction on the blockchain, a so-called “gas fee” is due for the energy needed to validate and store the transactions on the blockchain. And third, there is somehow always someone with more money, more traditional power, or both to solidify their own position in new structures and end the enthusiasm for the decentralized crypto world.

Incidentally, the copy of the US constitution did not go to the “ConstitutionDAO”. Although it raised $47 million, a man named Ken Griffin bought up the constitution for even more money. He is CEO of the Citadel hedge fund.

In this column, Miriam Meckel writes fortnightly about the ideas, innovations and interpretations that make progress and a better life possible. Because what the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the rest of the world calls it a butterfly.

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