Web3: In full gallop in front of the wall – a commentary

A gish gallop is a way of reasoning that attempts to bury the other person in an avalanche of half-truths, contradictions, logical errors, and other nonsense. This style of debate was named after creationist Duane T. Gish, who died in 2013 and who had mastered it like no other – until today. Because whenever you deal with the big promises of the Web3 community, you realize that Mr. Gish would have found his match today.

The community aptly names various problems with today’s Internet: We are seeing a massive trend towards monopolies. We can see that the power of individual companies in the digital world no longer seems to know any limits. We see some often repressive states filtering out unwanted reviews on the internet. We see various problems, the web has not developed for the best at all.

Clear the stage for Web3 evangelists: they call for “decentralization”, “transparent smart contracts” and “blockchain resistance to censorship”. And somehow, buying certificates of ownership for images of soul-destroying ugly monkeys is supposed to bring freedom back to the internet. It is therefore a small price to pay that the Ethereum blockchain, which is at the heart of Web3 and which, as a whole, achieves about 0.02% of the performance of a Raspberry Pi 4, consumes about as much electricity than the Netherlands.

By now, some readers might feel a bit giddy. I’m sorry, what? What power for what and why? We just want to host a few websites, right? But we are in the middle of Gish’s gallop. Because no sooner has power consumption been mentioned than the next barrage of vague and often inconsistent jargon and links to some projects that may not have code but have a whitepaper claiming that power and performance issues will soon be resolved. Everything is always solved soon, next year at the latest. But even if that were true, the enabling technologies of Web3 are now destroying this planet.

From the perspective of someone who has been building websites for 20 years, the architecture, complexity, and above all the severe limitations that Web3 imposes on its developers makes no sense. Until you realized it wasn’t about solving real problems. Because the solution was already clear: the blockchain.

For years, the blockchain community has been finally trying to find use cases for their somewhat bizarre database technology, which is over 10 years old. Sadly, leaving the libertarian dream worlds and turning to the real world, it doesn’t seem so well suited to solving real problems – or as expert Peter Alexander of Australia’s Transformation Agency has written digital in a report for the Australian government: “for every use of blockchain you would consider today, there is better technology – alternative databases, secure connections, standardized API engagement.” It may also have something to do with the fact that we are very reluctant to dispense with an “undo” function in our social and economic systems.

But if you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail and therefore, according to the blockchain tool, every interaction on the net turns into the creation, exchange or rental of digital tokens. Do you want to write a comment under a blog post? Monetize the content like an NFT on a blockchain, the “first” is certainly worth the hundred euros, isn’t it?

Caught in the straightjacket of the blockchain tool, the Web3 movement is throwing utopian visions of the web overboard. Wasn’t it a question of allowing the free exchange of knowledge? Is it about giving everyone the easiest possible access to culture, knowledge and entertainment? Wasn’t the idea that we can reproduce content without great expense the cornerstone of actually existing digital wonders of the world like Wikipedia?

The Web3 community’s approach to viewing everything as digital property, as a commodity, is not just reductionist, it’s an attack on the Internet as we know it. A reactionary reaction against the essence of digital and new concrete forms of collaboration and commons.

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