Web3, I hardly knew ye. Jack Dorsey’s new company, TBD, recently announced its intent to create “web5”. It explained it as “a new evolution of the Web that enables decentralized apps and protocols.”
Fear not, you didn’t miss Web4 passing us by. TBD’s idea is to sum the best of both web2 and web3 to create a new digital paradigm, getting us to a total of 5.
The name is a reminder that tech guys are not an imaginative bunch, which might also explain why they presented their world-changing idea via Google Docs… but I digress.
As is tradition with such announcements, the presentation is overly technical. This is the usual method used by technologist to obscure the fact that their cool tech has no real use cases. Here are the key takeaways.
The central idea behind web5 is the creation of a platform to facilitate the creation of apps that would allow users to store and control their data themselves (something I wrote about a year ago).
This platform would rely on 3 pillars : Decentralised identifiers (NFTs… but different, I guess?), Verifiable credentials (NFTs… but different, I guess?), Decentralized Web nodes (Blockchain… but different, I guess?).
The aspect that is highlighted in the presentation is portability : being able to identify oneself on numerous applications without relying on multiple logins, and these applications having access to your data across the ecosystem.
The core principles are not inherently wrong: Web3 is far from decentralised. Today, points of access revolve around platforms like Coinbase, Rarible or Opensea. Meanwhile, the concepts of Proof of work and Proof of stake largely benefit early adopters, and give them immense power over the infrastructure.
But I can’t help but shake the image of TBD working to rid us of platforms… by creating another platform
Not only that, but the core principle behind web5 is optimistic: why would companies or individuals work hard on an app, just to have users be able to go to another one, taking all you’ve built together with them.
Jack seems to want to keep the taste of web3 without the calories. It’s like a high school student saying “yeah, but communism has never been REALLY tried as it’s meant to be”. It’s naive.
Finally, the presentation doesn’t mention any of the following : business cases, the potential for long-term ownership as technologies evolve, how TBD would make a profit, the energy output of their creation… the list goes on.
At best, TBD is trying to create Web3.1. At worst, it’s (re)discovered APIs.
Good luck out there.