Hacker News Re-Imagined

My First Impressions of Web3

  • 3393 points
  • 19 days ago

  • @natdempk
  • Created a post

My First Impressions of Web3


@tompccs 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

"With the shift to mobile, we now live firmly in a world of clients and servers – with the former completely unable to act as the latter – and those questions seem more important to me than ever. Meanwhile, ethereum actually refers to servers as “clients,” so there’s not even a word for an actual untrusted client/server interface that will have to exist somewhere, and no acknowledgement that if successful there will ultimately be billions (!) more clients than servers."

Finally someone articulates the problem with crypto. People don't want to run their own servers, and they sure as shit don't want to run their own banks. So in theory you have a decentralised trustless web or financial system, but in practice, everyone is trusting someone to run a node for them. Which is exactly how the web and finance work now.

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@zaroth 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

I love so much of what moxie is saying here. I also feel differently on some important points.

I believe all the issues discussed here are real. Some are even mildly terrifying to the point of being hysterical.

Interestingly, I think all these issues are solvable and it’s made me immensely more interested in doing some research.

I find it oddly inspiration so thanks for that as well! Really great read, just the kind of content I want to see!

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@mrkramer 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

>A protocol moves much more slowly than a platform. After 30+ years, email is still unencrypted

Traffic between email clients and servers is encrypted so can be emails themselves; PGP can be used for encryption of emails and authentication between email senders. But another story is majority of people do not use PGP because of its bad UX.

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@fgnfngfdfgd 17 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

I completely agree with the analysis. However, I don't think the transition from Web2 to Web3 can happen overnight. The problems described are being solved. It takes time to do this in a truly decentralized manner.

Take a look at this: https://theblocknetchannel.medium.com/the-blocknet-protocol-...

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@arendtio 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

> We should accept the premise that people will not run their own servers by designing systems that can distribute trust without having to distribute infrastructure.

My biggest issue with that concept is that cryptography isn't timeless. Most cryptography system just work, because they delay information retrieval to a point were its value has degraded. However, if I want to store information securely for the long term, I prefer having it protected by more than just encryption (e.g. locality).

So even though I understand the argument, that most people don't want to run their own servers, I think the proposed alternative is even worse than the status quo :-/

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@debt 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

Just quickly from a technical perspective: web3 is like a useful wrapper around json-rpc which etherereum nodes use as a comms protocol.

You can just use whatever off the shell cli thing that supports json-rpc and talk directly to the mainnet.

Web3 is more of a concept that involves wrapping those complicated and cumbersome raw json-rpc calls(deploy a contract, compile a contract etc) into simple libraries. There’s literally a bazillion web3 libraries in many different programming languages. It simplifies talking to the ethereum mainnet.

I think they tackled it a little too high level in their post; missing the fact it’s really just a costly distributed state store you interact with via json-rpc with a shitty wrapper everyone basically calls web3.

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@fgnfngfdfgd 17 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

I completely agree with the analysis. However, I don't think the transition from Web2 to Web3 can happen overnight. The problems described are being solved. It takes time to do this in a truly decentralized manner.

Take a look at this:

https://theblocknetchannel.medium.com/the-blocknet-protocol-...

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@endorphine 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

Disclaimer: I don't have much knowledge around web3. I would probably consider my self a skeptic, if I had to.

> People don’t want to run their own servers, and never will.

Just wanted to point out that the last part of this sentence is merely a prediction.

> If something is truly decentralized, it becomes very difficult to change, and often remains stuck in time. That is a problem for technology, because the rest of the ecosystem is moving very quickly, and if you don’t keep up you will fail.

By that logic, has email failed? I wouldn't say so.

> Eventually, all the web3 parts are gone, and you have a website for buying and selling JPEGS with your debit card. The project can’t start as a web2 platform because of the market dynamics, but the same market dynamics and the fundamental forces of centralization will likely drive it to end up there.

I find it hard to imagine that NFTs will eventually not be backed by a blockchain, since this is what provides all the hype.

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@simonebrunozzi 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

> What I found most interesting, though, is that after OpenSea removed my NFT, it also no longer appeared in any crypto wallet on my device. This is web3, though, how is that possible?

Key takeaway here.

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@tshaddox 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

> For example, whether it’s running on mobile or the web, a dApp like Autonomous Art or First Derivative needs to interact with the blockchain somehow – in order to modify or render state (the collectively produced work of art, the edit history for it, the NFT derivatives, etc). That’s not really possible to do from the client, though, since the blockchain can’t live on your mobile device (or in your desktop browser realistically). So the only alternative is to interact with the blockchain via a node that’s running remotely on a server somewhere.

> As it happens, companies have emerged that sell API access to an ethereum node they run as a service, along with providing analytics, enhanced APIs they’ve built on top of the default ethereum APIs, and access to historical transactions.

> Almost all dApps use either Infura or Alchemy in order to interact with the blockchain. In fact, even when you connect a wallet like MetaMask to a dApp, and the dApp interacts with the blockchain via your wallet, MetaMask is just making calls to Infura!

> Imagine if every time you interacted with a website in Chrome, your request first went to Google before being routed to the destination and back. That’s the situation with ethereum today.

This is a very common complaint about anything that claims to be decentralized. It was also surprising to me years ago when I first read about Bitcoin and realized that it's not practical to maintain the whole blockchain on most clients. However, how do ISPs fit into this analogy with "web 1"? Since we're assuming that the original world wide web was worthy of being called "decentralized," doesn't this same criticism apply to ISPs? Even if you ran your own web server from your own facility, presumably the ISP was a third party that you had to (in some sense) trust.

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@dthul 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

The views on centralized services such as Infura really resonate with me. A few months ago I looked into how Ethereum and smart contracts work and got excited that there is basically this shared "virtual machine" with persistent, public state that can only be altered by interacting with those smart contracts.

But soon after it became clear that it is not really possible for me (or any regular "client" as the article calls it) to look at the state of the virtual machine and evaluate view functions myself. The block chain is so large already that we need to rely on big servers which are operated by other people to do this.

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@msgilligan 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

He's focused on Ethereum and NFTs, which is certainly the most popular/obvious place to research. I think his analysis is excellent and the article is worth reading.

But he does say:

> I have only dipped my toe in the waters of web3

Notably he doesn't even mention IPFS (which uses the pre-image of an JPG to form the URL.) Nor does he mention Bitcoin (which provides a shared state layer as well as a currency and makes it much easier to run a full node than Ethereum, which by most measures makes the network more decentralized.)

I prefer to use the term "Decentralized Web" or "Decentralized Internet" and I agree with Moxie that it will take a long time.

I think Ethereum is fascinating and an amazing innovation and (who knows) maybe eventually the off-chain pieces of its ecosystem will become more decentralized.

Keep building, folks!

(Slightly edited to fix/improve punctuation)

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@spenczar5 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

This is the first enlightening article I have read about Web3. Maybe that says more about how little I have read than about how good the article is.

Anyway, Moxie seems very focused on the decentralization aspect - that Web3 doesn’t decentralize as much as we would like.

An alternative aspect is the “global ledger of ownership and transferrence” though. Yes, interacting with blockchains is hard so it is some through APIs… but there does still seem to be something important about the idea that my ownership of something on a blockchain is permanent, and exists outside of any corporate notion of ownership, in a deep mathematical way. That’s fundamentally appealing!

But is it appealing enough to overcome market forces? I think Moxie is right to spend a lot of time on the “nobody wants to run servers” thing because it shows that most users are powerfully motivated by convenience; if the mathematically-beautiful blockchain ownership records remain inconvenient then they are likely to be a niche attraction (like running your own mail server).

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@eyelidlessness 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

> Please don't post generic, shallow, obvious, indignant, and/or dismissive comments—those are repetitive and predictable, we've had more than enough of them, they're tedious, not what this site is for, and we don't need more.

So the only “curious” comments are those which accept the premises of the post. Oh okay, little could make me less interested in finding out whether there’s actually something of value here than proscribing I give its contents merits before I even form my own opinion. I’ll see myself out again.

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@golf1052 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

This is a really interesting breakdown of web3 (or as he calls it later on web2x2). I haven't dove into the world of web3 yet but it does seem incredibly ironic that there's already seemingly a large amount of consolidation around platforms to make web3 more accessible to people. This is good for early adopters and artists who are generating wealth during the gold rush but I don't think it's good for "web3 the idea" as a distributed protocol.

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@arcticbull 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

I'll be honest I had no idea that access to Ethereum is effectively gate-kept by two centralized entities (Infura, Alchemy). I knew there were only one or two true Ethereum full-nodes, but the impact of that never quite clicked.

[edit] By "full node" I meant "archival node."

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@michaelsbradley 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

From the post:

> People don’t want to run their own servers, and never will...

Fair enough, but there are active efforts to develop ultra-light clients for Ethereum together with the concept of "portal network":

https://github.com/ethereum/portal-network-specs/

https://our.status.im/nimbus-fluffly/

> there’s not even a word for an actual untrusted client/server interface that will have to exist somewhere, and no acknowledgement that if successful there will ultimately be billions (!) more clients than servers.

I would not say there's "no acknowledgement" of this; depending on how deep you are in the space, it's pretty obvious that the goal is to have layered networks and mission specific networks (storage vs. messaging vs. consensus), all economically incentivized, that are p2p through and through, from the resource constrained devices of end consumers to the staking nodes that secure the networks. That's the hope, the goal, and the focus of ongoing efforts.

The opposite of the missing word is "a node in a p2p network".

The points made about the difficulty in evolving protocols quickly are not lost on me, but I guess I'm more optimistic than the author that it will happen relatively quickly in coming years, including this one. In the process, there will be opportunities seized where the protocols fall short and half-measures or worse (with respect to decentralization) will generate excitement for a time. That seems like "growing pains" to me.

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@Thorentis 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

> I have not found myself particularly drawn to “crypto.”

Says the person that tried (and is trying) to shove a new crypto currency down our throats in Signal? This is incredible.

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@bsldld 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

> Blockchains are designed to be a network of peers, but not designed such that it’s really possible for your mobile device...

If I am not mistaken Hyperledger Iroha[0] has(had?) that as one of its goals.

[0] https://github.com/hyperledger/iroha

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@newfonewhodis 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

This

> After a few days, without warning or explanation, the NFT I made was removed from OpenSea (an NFT marketplace)

Then

> What I found most interesting, though, is that after OpenSea removed my NFT, it also no longer appeared in any crypto wallet on my device. This is web3, though, how is that possible?

How indeed:

> You don’t own “web3.”

> The VCs and their LPs do. It will never escape their incentives. It’s ultimately a centralized entity with a different label.

> Know what you’re getting into…

> https://twitter.com/jack/status/1473139010197508098

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@PaulDavisThe1st 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

> People don’t want to run their own servers, and never will

That's one believably accurate summary. But here's another: rather than focus on trying to make it easy, cheap and simple for everyone to run their own servers, the tech world spent 1996-today instead focused on offering to take care of this for everybody else, for a price.

Everybody concluded in the late 90s that the "nobody wants to run their own servers" claim was self-evidently true, and so all the tech development went into extending server capabilities, extending browser capabilities, building hosting services and infrastructure, and almost no effort went into making running a web server as easy as, oh, I don't know, running Excel.

Imagine a version of things where the server was almost a toy-like appliance. Hard to do? Yeah, I know, it's hard. But then again, in 1996 browsers with Web USB, Web Workers, Web Assembly and the like would have seemed impossibly hard and yet here we are.

We don't have it because we chose not to build it.

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@kkjjkgjjgg 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

It may be worth noting that all the crypto projects compete with each other and consider the others flawed, so it may be unfair to judge the whole sphere by some examples.

There are people who would say everything besides Bitcoin is a shitcoin atm. I personally am leaning towards that stance, although I wish the energy issue could be resolved.

I don't see why NFTs could not simply be "colored coins" on the Bitcoin blockchain?

As for people running servers, I think what matters is the option to run a server if you want to. In EMail most use servers by the big players, but people can also run their own servers.

It reminds me a bit of the counterargument to open source, that "nobody reads the code" - no, but some people can read the code, and if they would find something fishy, they would announce it to the world and hopefully even the nocoder users would be informed. It is still about trust, but people have a choice whom to trust.

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@chachra 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

Great read and explains the concepts and some of the web3 craziness so elegantly. Well done!

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@tfang17 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

Fails to address that users on centralized Web3 platforms have ability to exit platform, which isn’t an option in Web2.

I can transfer out an NFT from OpenSea ecosystem. I can transfer BTC out of Coinbase.

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@walterbell 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

> These client APIs are not using anything to verify blockchain state or the authenticity of responses. The results aren’t even signed. An app like Autonomous Art says “hey what’s the output of this view function on this smart contract,” Alchemy or Infura responds with a JSON blob that says “this is the output,” and the app renders it.

Is there a technical debt story behind these practices?

Have there been attacks which took advantage of this gap?

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@pcmaffey 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

Nerds seek out constraints in order to unlock their private creativity is a really apropos observation.

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@ericjang 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

I have immense respect for Moxie, who has spent time building experiments and tinkering with a new technology, and as a result has a take on it that highlights very different issues than what most of the predictable web3 flamewar centers around. It makes you really think about who is really qualified to discuss said technology.

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@bambax 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

This is a fascinating and absolutely brilliant article that explains so many things in very clever and intelligible ways.

Here are two things I'd like further clarification on:

1/ The article explains that NFTs are just pointers to some url and that what resides at the url can change at any time, with no control from the NFT as the standard doesn't involve a hash which would at least help verify that the content hasn't been changed. (A hash would not prevent the content to be changed but it would show it has been).

The article says "NFTs generally do not store that data on-chain. For most NFTs of most images, that would be much too expensive". Can someone elaborate on this? Why would it be too expensive to store the art on the blockchain instead of a pointer? What amounts are we talking about, and how do they correlate to the number of bytes stored?

In the case of generative art that consists of a few lines of JavaScript for example, is it different? Could it then be stored directly on the blockchain?

2/ A very surprising fact is that centralized intermediaries can indeed decide and change what's on the blockchain, with no challenge from the users. Here's the key paragraph:

> All this means that if your NFT is removed from OpenSea, it also disappears from your wallet. It doesn’t functionally matter that my NFT is indelibly on the blockchain somewhere, because the wallet (and increasingly everything else in the ecosystem) is just using the OpenSea API to display NFTs, which began returning 304 No Content for the query of NFTs owned by my address!

But why is that? Why can't we have independent servers that actually read the blockchain directly without using OpenSea's APIs? Is it just a matter of convenience? Is it because it would be too complex and expensive and therefore it's simpler to just use the APIs? Or is it technically infeasible, for some reason?*

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@jwlake 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

Some of his points are out of date (given state of the art is old), like royalties and immutable data. See ipfs, eip-2981, etc.

Other parts are very on point, specifically everyone using opensea as authoritative for NFTs, which is crazy town. Opensea has a dog in the fight, and they are very opinionated about what's allowed in the tent and not. Things like etherscan and infura are less scary. I can't imagine building a wallet and depending on opensea for anything though, because your users are not going to appreciate that choice.

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@davidgerard 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

> Despite considering myself a cryptographer, I have not found myself particularly drawn to “crypto.”

I would give this intro more credence if it hadn't been posted literally a day after he put his MobileCoin shitcoin into Signal.

It's annoying, because the rest of the article is good and apposite - but then he did that.

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@codeptualize 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

Really great article, it's so nice to read a nuanced article on such a flame war topic.

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@bern4444 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

I'm a large doubter of Web3 and crypto in general though there is one problem space I can it can do well in:

Ownership and transfer of digital assets (though I would imagine this is better and more easily solved by web2 technologies as well by cooperation among platforms).

This could take the form of lending a friend a purchased copy of a video game, Ebook, etc.

The transfer would take place on the blockchain and could be performed regardless of platform - xbox vs playstation vs steam - Apple Books vs Kindle vs Android books etc.

Though this would require agreement by these platforms who operate these services.

But again, I don't see this really happening because these platforms have no incentive to enable sharing of digital assets over selling new copies.

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@lngnmn2 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

This is cancer, right?

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@Uptrenda 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

Thin clients that verify transactions are possible though. For something like Bitcoin you have SPV-proofs that prove chains of headers. You can prove that a transaction was included in the longest chain without having to run a node yourself just by checking proof-of-work merkle trees; Even if the vast majority of users end up running clients that don't verify the whole chain -- cryptographic trust would still be ensured by checking headers. This requires no centralization.

Satoshi wrote about this architecture early on in scaling the blockchain. Ethereum also allows light clients and I think it even has checkpoints that make downloading headers faster. Cryptographic protocols that verify smart contract results could be included in Metamask. I feel like not mentioning this in the essay shows a lack of familiarity with the literature even if he was extremely opened minded (enough to create dapps himself.)

He did make valid observations about third-party trust: OpenSeas and Infura. But in both cases: these protocols can be implemented without centralized architecture. A decentralized alternative to Infura (that provides reliable results to users and easy-to-check attestations) is possible to build. One should also note that in blockchain land the lack of incentives to run a full node is a problem people are working to address. It's actually a perfect illustration of how the blockchain can lead to emergent systems. Some ledgers already have rewards for running full nodes. So yes -- people do want to run full nodes -- they just want to be paid for it.

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@hda2 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

Moxie is missing a very important point:

0. People want control.

People run servers because they don't want their operations to be affected by the arbitrary whims of some third party. When issues inevitably occur, they want to have as much control over the situation as possible so that they can remedy the issue as optimally as possible.

This issue was wonderfully illustrated to you by OpenSea when they unilaterally removed your poop NFT and offered the generic "You violated our ToS, we wont tell you how, and no there is no appeal". This is the fundamental reason why cryptocurrencies took off. No more arbitrary rules from whimsical payment processors.

I agree that Web3, as currently implemented, is a regression. Hopefully they manage to fix their flaws before the whole thing falls apart.

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@contravariant 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

If people want a blockchain based decentralized web couldn't we cut out the middleman and just make hosting data the proof of work?

Edit: After all of ~10 minutes of uninformed thought I'm leaning towards an unholy marriage of torrents, IPFS and banking with each server acting as IPFS node, torrent tracker/seed and bank, issuing letter of credits to seeds of the data.

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@nvr219 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

Moxie Marlinspike is my technology hero.

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@atweiden 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

Apparently, 10 years and half a trillion dollars isn’t enough time or money these days for people to ship a basic SPV wallet to end users.

Even assuming the Ethereum people finally ship SPV support following moxie’s critique of their infrastructure, they still don’t have even so much as a rudimentary desktop wallet designed for air gapped spending which isn’t a literal web extension.

There has well and truly never been a more deserving poster child for the phrase “the market can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent”, than Ethereum. If there’s one societally valuable thing Ethereum can be credited for doing, it’s laying bare that cryptocurrency valuation really is just a Keynesian beauty contest with absolutely no fundamentals whatsoever. The entire cryptocurrency space consists of pure and simple confidence games, all of them claiming to be anything but.

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@des1nderlase 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

"We should accept the premise that people will not run their own servers by designing systems that can distribute trust without having to distribute infrastructure."

This resonated with me. If we want Web3 disruption to happen, perhaps we need better P2P networks. For example, with things like static IP per user, it would be trivial to standardize and build next gen chat apps.

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@kureikain 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

The server here is actually not a centralize server in a traditional world. It's a node that connect to the network and replica state.

When running transaction, you send it to that node, that node then broadcast it to network. This node here is like a replica in a traditional database.

You can run that node, and talk to it through http, websocket.

The point about trusting server signature the author bring up is bad IMHO. Even with a database, if you install some malicious Postgres package that return fake data for example, it doesn't help you at all if you enable TLS or not.

The point about verification is that read-only data isn't important because write always get verified. If you connect to a malicious node, that change the data it returns to you on purpose, then it's fine. But when you write data to the system, it always get verify so it isn't a problem at all.

The point here is that you are the one that run that node, and you are responsible for it. Entire point of Ethereum is that anyone can run node that connect to the network to replicate its state.

If you take out all the hype(OpenSea is a massive scam here no argue), I found web3 is really amazing.

1. It's a public dataset that anyone can read data and listen to event

anyone know something like that in current web1/2? Example, when I bough a domain name on namecheap or google domain. Can anyone know that? When I change my DNS, do anyone know that?

With Ethereum when you run a WRITE method on a smart contract, when you transfer event. Everything can be emitted. And you can listen to it.

The code is almost always open source.

2. Build-in Authentication System

Many website use wallet to sign in but didn't verified a signature. In fact, that signing is very cool in deed. That signature verifcation ensure that only you can sign that data, send it to server and server can verified it with your public key, which is part of your address

3. No one can stop you

If you search hacker news, you will found many people got blocked/suspended randomly by Stripe, Paypal then what do you do?

4. Openness

This is a system that anyone can read. Think about that for a second. Anyone can read its data. Without the need of any API. Everything follow a standard, which is smart contract.

Anyone can write, if you're willing to pay.

You're pretty much can see the code of any legitimate company. Pretty much all of them published their contract on ethscan, to make it convenience for you to run directly.

If you don't like some webui, you can just write to its directly.

Literally just a `curl`, without you to even register for an account.

I know that many people like to dismiss web3, the term is broad and bad IMHO, but think about the thing that it gives us. I can think of some example how web3 is great.

1. ACL: any changes is published, if a malicious activity happen, pretty much anyone can monitor it 2. Charity Fund: we can see what happen with the fund, transfer to where, when, who made it

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@gorgoiler 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

“Protocols move slowly. After 30 years, email is still unencrypted.”

OK, so I know what moxie means but in terms of sniffability: how much SMTP traffic is actually conducted in plaintext these days? Could someone put a ballpark value on the amount?

For starters: 50% must be big-webmail-provider to either themselves or another big-webmail-provider. Do the long tail not have their LetsEncrypt certificates configured?

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@reducesuffering 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

I do not look forward to immense backlash against "techies" when normal people have been grifted out of what they thought were their "savings" in crypto and NFT's.

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@milofeynman 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

> The project can’t start as a web2 platform because of the market dynamics, but the same market dynamics and the fundamental forces of centralization will likely drive it to end up there.

Great insight.

I didn't realize for maybe 8 months that NFTs were not actually storing the art on the Blockchain. I appreciate Moxie pointing out the problems with this in an eloquent way.

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@dbmikus 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

I would like it if Metamask connected to a distributed hash table of Ethereum node providers and sent transactions to random subsets of those nodes. Then if there was some way to track the reliability of these nodes to make some kind of ranking of quality. Perhaps the client (Metamask) and a given server could mutually sign the transaction so when it eventually makes it into the mempool it is clear who put the transaction there.

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@LaunchAway1 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

So several fundamental forces gave us the centralized internet, at least for the time being. Trusting a few players has never given resistance to these forces and so blockchain doesn't alter the equilibrium.

What are the forces pushing for blockchain? Some will say greed, and of course at an individual level greed has something to do with it, but greed has always been there. Greed is part of humanity. What is specific to blockchain? Maybe just the desire for decentralization.

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@_fizz_buzz_ 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙



@egberts1 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

FTFA: “We should try to reduce the burden of building software.”

(building, compiling, linking my own copy of a Signal-Desktop app: failed, upgrade, failed, upgrade, failed, upgrade, failed, package is too new, … FAIL!)

- And Signal-Desktop app comprises of some 130,000 components/modules/archic/EOL packages, got it.

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@intrasight 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

The first article on Web3 that I've read that drills into the details and was written by someone who's not only kicked the tires but taken the thing for a spin. And the conclusion: It's mostly the bad stuff of Web2 combined with the bad stuff of Crypto.

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@pkcsecurity 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

Moxie makes so many good critiques (some are so subtle, it might be worth a second read). I got the sense he’s trying very hard to be even handed and constructive about a situation he feels pretty badly about, but his true feelings are bleeding through in some of the side points / parentheticals.

One point that I disagree with is his almost axiomatic premise that decentralization is an inherent good and the implication that the Internet went wrong because it failed to stay decentralized. To hint at great cryptography as the solution, as he does im his conclusion, is baked deep in his bones as an amazing cryptographer, but I think he’s prescribing the wrong cure. The problems with the Internet are fundamentally not about decentralization - they’re about trust. It’s a people problem, not a technology problem. Because of this, cryptography (I do not mean crypto) simply cannot be the answer - even the best cryptography is, like a great legal system, only capable of dramatically reducing the overhead costs and risk of operating in a given environment. When it comes to what great cryptography can achieve, I think HTTPS and maybe some E2E stuff that’s happening with Signal is as good as it can get (interestingly, HTTPS is good in large part thanks to Moxie) - it cannot bring us back to some golden Internet age.

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@jarbus 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

This post taught me more about the current state of ethereum than nearly all other ethereum content online combined. Incredibly well researched and thought out.

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@tehnub 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

>Blockchains are designed to be a network of peers, but not designed such that it’s really possible for your mobile device or your browser to be one of those peers. [...] With the shift to mobile, we now live firmly in a world of clients and servers – with the former completely unable to act as the latter

I've got a dumb question: Why can't the phone or browser act as a node? Are the computational requirements too expensive?

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@gojomo 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

As a web3 skeptic, Marlinspike has still been quick to outfit Signal with a privileged 'house cryptocurrency', MobileCoin, whose value-appreciation-with-usage will accrue to favored projects. That's web3, too!

https://www.wired.com/story/signal-mobilecoin-cryptocurrency...

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@samarama 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

The author’s argument is definitely not nuanced, but a a straw man and a false dichotomy.

“Web3 is not 100% decentralised, so it’s not really legit.”

Web3 or crypto never intended to be 100% decentralised and it is impossible to be so. There will also be dapps among the 100,000 dapps that have a centralized component.

Every percent decentralisation is good, be it 1%, 5%, 50% or 90% and we are in the high double digits in very many areas.

It’s 2022, 14 years after the invention of Bitcoin, and hacker news still doesn’t get crypto, one can only shake their head.

But hacker news be like “Muh, I want to be a boomer and my brain is not able to learn new things, so it’s a scam.”

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@amai 18 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

„Unfortunately, I think distributed systems have a tendency to exacerbate this trend by making things more complicated and more difficult, not less complicated and less difficult.“

His conclusion about distributed web3 is also true for microservices.

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@NotyoBiz 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

With regard to the last paragraph: Take a look at what Agoric is doing. Basically making programming smart contracts less difficult with JavaScript. Very interesting, worth a look.

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@tomputer 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

Fantastic article. Great read!

> Instead of storing the data on-chain, NFTs instead contain a URL that points to the data. What surprised me about the standards was that there’s no hash commitment for the data located at the URL. Looking at many of the NFTs on popular marketplaces being sold for tens, hundreds, or millions of dollars, that URL often just points to some VPS running Apache somewhere.

This is an important line. People buying NFT's who are not aware of this may assume the NFT pictures itself are stored on-chain.

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@irwt 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

As he's expressing several opinions, let's comment on each one separately:

1) His comment that "People don’t want to run their own servers, and never will" is correct, but I think it's not the right way to think about the problem. All of us have gigabytes of cached shit on our devices. Ideally that locally stored information should be part of a decentralized web. By "decentralized web" I mean smth very different from today's web3 bs.

2) "A protocol moves much more slowly than a platform" - again, he is correct, but I feel like he's not seeing the larger picture. The fact that a protocol "moves much more slowly" is actually a feature. Elaboration: He is looking only at the pace of change, not at the robustness of the system in question. Old software that was designed for use value, still works flawlessly, i.e. it doesn't break. The dependency graph of older protocols is mind blowingly small. Today's software, which most often gets designed for exchange value, breaks within a year if it doesn't get updates, because their dependency graph is enormous. It's correct that protocols rarely update, but they get forked way more. Most updates get introduced through new forks.

3) his section "Making some distributed apps" - spot on. As long as you need to have a local copy of a ledger (even if it's just the block headers) to be a validator, the majority of users will still have to trust a server. crypto fanatics will claim "yeah, but you can ask for a merklle proof of the state" miss that lying by omission is a thing (i.e. in the classic merkle tree, you can prove that smth is present, you cannot prove that smth is not present). As a result servers can still lie to you by omission. Crypto fanatics will say "yeah, but you can contact several nodes", but that assumes that there are several nodes. In reality the majority of projects will only call an Infura node. It's all insane. Nothing about today's crypto space is actually trustless & decentralized.

4) His section "Making an NFT" - Yup, the NFT space is ridiculous on several levels. His arguments against metamask are also legit, same reasoning as in the previous point.

5) Section "Recreating this world" - I think he's making the same logical mistake as in the earlier sections here. The cryptocurrency protocols did not converge to a client - server setup. They always were a client - server setup in disguise. The problems related to simplified payment verification (SPV) were never actually solved. I think it's wrong to think that things must converge to platforms. Things that are use value based often resist such dynamics, e.g. Torrents.

6) The "It’s early days" section - yup, it's not early days anymore. These problems are inherit in the architecture design of blockchain protocols.

7) "But you can’t stop a gold rush" - This whole section was spot on. It's all a gold rush. There's no use value to any of the crypto projects right now, except maybe enabling people who live under authoritarian regimes to take take their capital with them.

8) "Creativity might not be enough" - I don't agree with the first part of his conclusion, but the second part is legit.

Personally I think current web3 is going down a very bad path. The old school p2p protocol designers were still driven mainly by a socialist / anarchist zeitgeist. They were designing for use value. Today's protocols have a neoliberal zeitgeist. Use value was thrown out of the window in exchange for speculative value.

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@dabeeeenster 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

Wait I assumed that NFT marketplaces like OpenSea stored a hash of the artwork in the layer 1 blockchain. Please someone tell me this is actually happening?!

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@aestetix 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

Perhaps Moxie could think more about decentralizing Signal before thinking about how to decentralize the web ;)

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@superfrank 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

> People don’t want to run their own servers, and never will

This kind of gets at the reason why I think a lot of tech articles/blogs about what the future will be like are just terrible. The wants of someone who is driven enough read and write about the bleeding edge of technology are very, very different from the general population. Like this author says, most people don't want to run their own web server, but I'd go even farther and say, most people don't really care about decentralization or even data privacy. Getting most people to care about privacy and decentralization is like getting a kid to eat vegetables. They know they should, but the alternative has more short term benefits. I think most people care about ease of use over almost everything else.

People who write these articles need to be thinking about the middle aged woman who still calls every video game system "a Nintendo". There will always be some users for technologies like web3, but until you can clearly demonstrate to that woman that this new technology has value and is easier to use than the status quo, you're never going to get mass adoption.

Connecting this back to web3, we're clearly not there yet. Almost anything being done on web3 is slower, more expensive, and more complicated than its web2 alternative. We may or may not get there one day, but until we do, I don't see web3 being anything more than a niche product.

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@arealaccount 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

Web2 was more about ajax than centralization. It was being able to interact with websites without needing a full server rerender on every interaction. Why is everyone trying to rewrite history.

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@zrm 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

> People don’t want to run their own servers, and never will.

This depends on what you mean by servers.

Nobody wants to pay money for dedicated hardware and experience service interruption if they fail to constantly provide it with power and internet.

But a lot of the need for "servers" could be eliminated by running a Tor onion service on your phone and accepting connections from peers. You can get e.g. direct messaging from this without any "servers" of your own, but also without any Facebooks playing MITM between you and your peers.

> A protocol moves much more slowly than a platform.

I could make two criticisms of this.

One, sometimes stable is good. We all whinge about the decades-old protocols that were designed for mainframes the size of buildings with less memory than a toothbrush, but now try to think of something you want from current day Reddit that you didn't get from ten years ago Reddit. Maybe the problem is some things got frozen before they were cooked, not that stability is bad once you have something that works.

Two, a lot of this is survivorship bias. If it's easy to push changes to all the clients you're either already centralized or you're susceptible to EEE. Protocols like that got absorbed into some centralized product already, so the ones that are left are the ones with more protocol implementations than there are tech companies. Then if there is any problem with the protocol at all it's impossible to make changes, but that's the very reason it's still in use.

If the other protocols eventually get replaced by something centralized, that eventuality only comes after the defects become fatal. When they're so bad that the problems exceed the network effect. But that's also the same time when you can release a new protocol version and people will adopt it for all the same reasons. You just need the replacement to be another protocol instead of a platform.

> Recreating this world

This seems to be a problem. We know generally what we want, e.g. P2P to the extent possible and completely fungible untrusted commodity servers when it isn't.

Then the people writing the code are also the people running the servers, so they're willing to write code that makes the servers stop being fungible and untrusted and we're right back where we started.

> This might suggest that decentralization itself is not actually of immediate practical or pressing importance to the majority of people downstream, that the only amount of decentralization people want is the minimum amount required for something to exist, and that if not very consciously accounted for, these forces will push us further from rather than closer to the ideal outcome as the days become less early.

Nobody cares about decentralization until the centralized entity becomes adversarial or unreliable, but then it's too late. The time to start caring about fire safety is not when you are already on fire.

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@fcanesin 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

Great post, but IMHO it should have been called "My First Impressions of Ethereum". The web3 ideal and movement is much larger than Ethereum only, and many are focused on solving these issues. For example Mina allows for mobile clients to verify the blockchain using recurring ZK proofs.

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@nathanyz 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

Concise, well thought out analysis by a cryptographer on Web3. If you believe in Web3, then you shouldn't dismiss this out of hand as a hater. He truly tried to understand how it works by actually building dApps. And the holes seem glaringly obvious.

What you should do if you believe in Web3, is take this as constructive criticism and improve so that they holes are no longer there.

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@yawnxyz 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

My takeaway from this article: decentralization is usually bad UX (gas fees, slow to add features...), so people tend to aggregate to platforms w/ better UX that sit on top of decentralized services, which leads back to centralization

I love the Gmail analogy, that even though email is decentralized, everyone just uses Gmail (probably because it's a better UX)

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@oconnor663 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

> I think changing our relationship to technology will probably require making software easier to create, but in my lifetime I’ve seen the opposite come to pass.

I don't think I'm disagreeing with Moxie here, but I do like to emphasize that it's less that creating software has gotten harder (which is true in some ways but false in other ways), and more that our standards and expectations for what software should do have gotten higher. If I wanted to make a chat app today, for example, it would obviously need to:

1. run on iOS, Android, and probably also Windows/macOS/Linux or at least desktop browsers

2. have some notion of persistent user identity and message history, including something like passwords and something like an account recovery flow

3. support group communication among these persistent users, hopefully allowing for multiple devices per user

4. be internationalized into many languages

5. with some sort of abuse reporting/detection/response mechanisms and some posture towards law enforcement requests

It doesn't need all those things on day one, but it will need them if and when it gets popular. And of course this is without even beginning to think about discretionary features like

6. searching, sending, and displaying animated GIFs

If my goal is to build an app that me and my friends can use for fun, of course I don't need to do most of this. But if my goal is to compete for market share with apps that do these things, I 100% have to do all this and more.

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@baby 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

I completely agree with his take. What I always found interesting with greener BFT consensus protocols that a lot of modern cryptocurrencies implement is that you can actually fix the problem of untrusted services: you can provide a cryptographic proof to the light clients (the real clients) when they query the blockchain, which allows them to verify the response without synchronizing to the blockchain. This is what Celo is doing, I think Zcash had a proposal to do the same? But essentially any BFT consensus protocol should be able to do this.

You don't get the same insurance that you get by verifying all of the blockchain of course, but recursive zero-knowledge proofs that attest to the state transitions might solve this (cf Mina).

Another issue is key rotations, which increase the size of the proof (as you need to give proofs to all the key rotations before you can give a proof to the latest state of the chain), but I believe that zero-knowledge proofs can fix that as well.

Bottom line: it's actually not that grim, solutions are there, but users have to care for people to implement them, apply them, and for the solutions to receive adoption.

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@Lucadg 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

Great article.

About NFTs: we tend to think they somehow need an image to make sense, while the "own the NFT to own the image" is both wrong and just one specific use case out of many. I find it useful to think about NFTs as "internet native property titles" which do not embed "law enforcement".

See it this way: if you own a house, you own a property title which proves it. In case someone squats your house and the law enforcement does not help you get it back (e.g. due to corruption or slow legal system), it's just a useless piece of paper.

Same with NFTs. Some use cases have enforcement embedded (e.g. ENS domains) and bear no risk, some don't (OpenSea minted image NFTs) and carry some risk from centralized entities (the same risk we have in 100% of Web2 applications btw)

Enforcement often happens at the app layer, even if the NFT image can be compromised. E.g. an NFT which gives you access to a walled web page will still work even if the image is compromised.

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@karaterobot 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

I wanted to say that I appreciate his approach to stating why he isn't sold on Web3: thoughtful, succinct, diplomatic, and based on the results of an open-minded experiment. This is so much more of an article I'm ready to engage with than the the "crypto is a pyramid scheme, don't you get it you morons!?" articles.

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@cblconfederate 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

> People don’t want to run their own servers, and never will.

This is sad to hear. People do run their own servers in their homes though, they are called routers, except they only serve one thing. Pity we don't have a lightweight self-updating system that sits in a router and does the basic job of keeping the user's data.

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@mediocregopher 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

I view the final two conclusions points, that people do not want to run their own servers and that we need to make software easier to build/run, to be one and the same. Is the reason people don't want to run a server because it's just so difficult and expensive to keep a computer online in your living room (remembering that a smaller deployment doesn't need 20 nines of uptime), or is it because the UX of running server software has always been terrible? Could an OS be made which makes running a server actually a friendly process? We managed to design OSs which made running apps on a _mobile device_ a friendly process, surely the same could be done here.

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@abaga129 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

I really like how this article is written. I'm a big time crypto fan, but the point the author makes about how something being decentralized makes it more difficult to change is so true. This is the reason Ethereum 2 has been in the works for numerous years and is still several years away from being completed.

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@ypcx 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

1. When people are financially incentivized to run servers, they always will.

2. If a crypto protocol doesn't evolve at the pace of available innovation, that particular blockchain will be superseded by a new one. That said, a (truly democratic) evolutionary process is a core part of every blockchain specification.

3. You can get blockchain data via public (and federated/proxied) API, but you can always cryptographically verify its veracity, and your edge device (e.g. your smartphone) can do that. The same the other way around, you cryptographically sign the inputs you send to the networks, so that no federated API can tamper them, because the secret key stays on your device. This is referred to as the "trust-less model".

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@slackfan 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

"People don’t want to run their own servers, and never will"

I think that this is where this premise is entirely incorrect.

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@lekevicius 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

While it's refreshing to hear critique from someone who actually built something on web3, there are a couple of points where I'd dare to disagree, somewhat.

Particularly, regarding "early days". It really is, still, early days, because there is a lot of complexity in getting all the pieces built. It took years to get overall blockchain going. Then, to understand the need of programmability (smart contracts). Other pieces too: more efficient consensus mechanisms and clever ways to express commitments, decentralized storage, etc. And the space is so far from being done.

Particulary, about servers being clients. This is true today, but it would be wrong to say that nobody cares about it. Ethereum developers spend considerable effort on pushing the idea of light clients, going as far as re-architecturing the way whole blockchain state is stored, so that browsers could actually become fully valid clients, and services such as Infura would become a lot less necessary. This requires cryptographic innovations (verkle trees), client implementations, consensus between participants, etc. It is likely to require 2+ years to get there. Early days.

Another moment I would critique is the clever NFT, that displays different things. Yes, ERC-721 allows any URL as metadata file, so you can put traditional DNS-resolved URL there. But I would struggle to find any "respected" NFT collection that actually does that. Almost every high quality NFT project (Art Blocks, BAYC, so on) has IPFS as metadata URL, and goes as far as to freeze metadata, so it couldn't ever be changed.

Lastly, his discussion about value of decentralization is very valid. Yes, Ethereum developers spend a lot of effort on light clients. Will anyone care to use them? Yes, best NFT collections freeze metadata pointed to IPFT... does anyone care? Success of OpenSea and Binance Smart Chain shows that for many, idealistic goals are irrelevant, as long as money can be made. That's fine. But there are some of us who actually care. Majority has uninteresting goals (money). There are still amazing gems to be found.

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@devadvance 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

This is a really well-thought-out, nuanced take. I really appreciate mixture of "but there are still servers", not being able to stop a gold rush, and (refreshingly) the technical take on the implementation details.

It stands in such stark contrast to other content. For example, a web3 chat app announcement I saw yesterday [1]. I even joined the Discord to learn more and just found...hype.

I found this parenthetical to be amusing:

> (visualizing this financial structure would resemble something similar to a pyramid shape)

Pyramid-shaped financial setups indeed :).

[1] https://twitter.com/MessagePartyApp/status/14791510011813765...

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@baash05 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

I found it interesting that the content of the NFT is held by a company that can remove it at will. To me this flies in the face of freedom and will land us in the Youtube paradigm. Where walking past a restaurant playing music gets your video ownership ripped from you.

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@barmstrong 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

Really liked this post - brings up some great points, and I consider Moxie a friend.

Here are a few notes that came to mind though...

1. For NFTs, some keep their data in IPFS (decentralized file storage) or in the smart contract itself for procedurally generated images. We (as a community) should probably move more to solutions like this over time, since it is indeed more decentralized to build them that way.

2. I agree with the overall point that clients don't behave like full nodes. However, there has been quite a bit of discussion about "light clients" in the crypto community even going back to the early days of Bitcoin/Ethereum, so i wouldn't say it hasn't been an area of focus.

3. I agree there is an overall move toward using platforms. But there is a big difference between using a platform that also owns all the data also (web2) and a platform that is merely a proxy to decentralized data (web3). In the latter, if a platform ever turns evil, people will switch. Not owning the data counts for a lot.

4. There are more options than Infura and Alchemy. Access to simple blockchain data will be relatively commoditized. Which is good for decentralization.

As Moxie points out, it's still difficult to build things in a decentralized way (nascent tools), so you are seeing various apps/companies revert to using more centralized web2 techniques when they run into a hairy technical problem. As a result, there are a lot of "hybrid" web2/web3 apps during this phase of web3 development. That doesn't mean the overall trend is bad though. I think it's great that more and more web3/decentralized technologies are being developed.

I do agree that all networks tend toward centralization over time. Great book on this https://www.amazon.com/Master-Switch-Rise-Information-Empire...

I don't think crypto is anywhere near this end stage though. We are still seeing a lot of new technology and players enter the space. It's not "already centralized" as much as it is "still using some web2 components".

These points aside, the post is great and I basically agree with the overall premise.

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@elliotbnvl 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

This article seems like it neatly encapsulates and explains why I've subconsciously held off from jumping into the Web3 space.

It might be confirmation bias speaking, but I don't think I've seen anyone lampoon Web3 so thoroughly, and it's nice to have some well-reasoned explanations for why I feel the way I do.

EDIT: A further thought: this article is the first I've read on Web3 that feels like it's actually important and I'm looking forward to the discussion. Are there any real counterpoints to be made against his reasoning?

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@hooande 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

So the idea of web3 is that the only thing stopping me from making my own twitter is that I don't have their past and future data. If I had real time READ access on their database of public tweets, I could make hooande-tweeter.com and it would be a viable competitor. This would mean that social media companies have less control over what we see and say due to market competition.

This obviously isn't working in the real world. OpenSea can still delete moxie's NFT. Starting a competitor to them will be difficult even though their core data is completely public. Just like twitter, OpenSea's position is based on brand awareness and first mover advantage. At this point competing would require differentiating features that solve real problems. That's a lot of work just because they deleted an NFT.

A better example might be twitter banning trump. If someone had access to all of twitter's data in real time and used it to start "twitter + trump", I could see a significant number of people using that. But then you'd kind of have half of people on regular twitter and the other half on trump twitter and it wouldn't be the same thing. In fact, it's fragmentation all the way down. I don't know if having a dozen different social media interfaces with slightly different rules and guidelines would solve anything.

The general idea seems to be that data is more powerful than branding. I don't know if that's true. Google and Facebook have a place in the zeitgeist that is more valuable than a search index or a social graph. We'll see if blockchain based open data is the answer. I think it might be way more complicated and less technical than that.

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@beckman466 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

> the funds a contributor pays to mint are distributed to all previous artists (visualizing this financial structure would resemble something similar to a pyramid shape)

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@insaider 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

I think the best thing that can come out of this whole crypto/web3 space is a new sort of stock market. I've a startup that I want to open up for micro investors and the best way I can think of doing so is through NFTs/crypto that represent shares in the company.

The barrier to entry to the traditional stock markets (turn over requirements etc) is far too high. Does anyone know of something like this?

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@brentis 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

Loved the perspective. It does feel like those technologies which get "wrapped" open sourced or otherwise by first movers feel this way.

A few points which hope to not conflict with pinned rules:

- Ethereum has outlived it's usefulness. Cost me several thousand dollars closing token positions last month. Swore off anything on this chain. People literally cannot move their $100 worth of alts because of the fees. (my kids, test coins, etc).

- Your statement about centralization is what made me move most of my interest to mobile crypto. One coin does mining on phones and sends their to/from via mobile. See this as the way for true-er decentralization. Still have app issues associated from Apple & Google. Further think new $600 reporting reg for Cashapp/PayPal will increase mobile p2p interest - for some reason

- I'm not a dev, but OP's points made me wonder about The Graph (GRT) and perhaps ATOM as ways to ensure data has an outlet in the case where something like Openseas gains too much power?

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@titzer 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

> We’d all have our own web server with our own web site, our own mail server for our own email, our own finger sever for our own status messages, our own chargen server for our own character generation. However – and I don’t think this can be emphasized enough – that is not what people want. People do not want to run their own servers.

I must be stuck in the past.

It's true. No one wants to run an arcane, buggy, insecure, wonky POS that needs constant patching. This is really a failure of software and shoving all that up a level into the cloud is not fixing anything. At least with your own hardware you can nuke it and start over from scratch. With your own hardware (and disks), you at least know where your data resides.

We live in a time where you can get a 4 TB NAS for essentially nothing. You can drop a 8 core, 32GB RAM server on top of that for less than $1k. I don't know what other people's scaling needs are--who knows, maybe they need to serve 100 PB?--but it's a mind blowing amount of computation. Most people can probably serve their silly websites off that. If you can't handle your own email load on a server like that, I honestly have no idea what you're up to.

I kind of do want to run my own ones of those things...but I know (with today's software) I'd hate it. Because even after all these years, it kind of terrifies me, the metric shitton of stuff I have had no clue how to do, and I know is way over complicated...because everything is way overcomplicated.

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@fumplethumb 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

> Instead of storing the data on-chain, NFTs instead contain a URL that points to the data. What surprised me about the standards was that there’s no hash commitment for the data located at the URL.

I've been recently exploring the Solana[0] NFT ecosystem. The situation is similar there and I admit it took me by surprise at first. However upon further inspection, there's more to the story.

As others here have mentioned, most serious ETH collections address this problem using IPFS. But on Solana, Arweave[1] is a popular solution. I had never heard of Arweave before and it's a seriously cool concept. In a nutshell, it's a system that allows you to pay for 200+ (potentially much more) years of storage _up front_. I won't pretend to understand it all, but it effectively pays the network of miners to host your assets indefinitely. The up front payment - which is steep when compared to traditional hosting - provides a "sustainable endowment" for these mining rewards. This allows you to guarantee that the asset will be available without counting on some random hosted storage system.

It seems that NFTs are the main use case for such a system at the moment. However I can imagine other use cases could emerge for an answer to this question I never really thought to ask: "How can I ensure that an asset is hosted "forever?" Interesting problem and an interesting solution that a network like this - with its marriage of decentralized technology and economic incentives - is uniquely poised to address.

[0] https://solana.com/

[1] https://www.arweave.org/

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@ManishR 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

> The people at the end of the line who are flipping NFTs do not fundamentally care about distributed trust models or payment mechanics, but they care about where the money is. So the money draws people into OpenSea, they improve the experience by building a platform that iterates on the underlying web3 protocols in web2 space, they eventually offer the ability to “mint” NFTs through OpenSea itself instead of through your own smart contract, and eventually this all opens the door for Coinbase to offer access to the validated NFT market with their own platform via your debit card.

This raises an interesting question - can a new technology ride the hype-train sufficiently long enough to become mainstream and benefit from network effects and ecosystem dynamics kicking in, even if in its best case scenario - it's only a replacement of status quo and not necessarily an improvement? Historically, any widely adopted technological innovation has had the burden to offer and prove incremental value to society to justify paying the transition costs. But here, the incremental value is being pitched as literal "money" to be made by getting in early - which can be hard to resist for your average joe - notwithstanding their passion or stance on the underlying technology. Believe this will be an interesting race condition between dying out of the hype on one side, and technology reaching critical mass to be self sustaining on the other side. In either case however, don't see anything fundamentally changing or improving for society, except perhaps some new players displacing (or getting bought out by) old ones.

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@jwblackwell 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

> People don’t want to run their own servers, and never will

If only 0.01% of the population ever run a node / mine, isn't that still infinitely better than what we have now? Especially so when money is involved.

The current alternative is 100% centralized. In other words, it's 1 DB vs ~700,000 or 1 company vs 700k individuals etc.

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@alfiedotwtf 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

> Instead of storing the data on-chain, NFTs instead contain a URL that points to the data. What surprised me about the standards was that there’s no hash commitment for the data located at the URL. Looking at many of the NFTs on popular marketplaces being sold for tens, hundreds, or millions of dollars, that URL often just points to some VPS running Apache somewhere.

This is all everyone needs to know about the current wave of NFTs

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@chx 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

https://www.stephendiehl.com/blog/nothing-burger.html

> Any application that could be done on a blockchain could be better done on a centralized database. Except crime.

compare to

> virtually all clients that wish to access it do so by simply trusting the outputs from these two companies without any further verification.

So why not just use, say, Firebase?

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@dang 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

All: this is quite an interesting article. It deserves much better than the tedious flamewar that this topic has routinely been converging to, so let's give it a go.

If you're going to comment, please focus on specific, interesting things in the article that you're curious about.

Please don't post generic, shallow, obvious, indignant, and/or dismissive comments—those are repetitive and predictable, we've had more than enough of them, they're tedious, not what this site is for, and we don't need more.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

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@newobj 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

Probably the best web3 article I’ve read. Brava

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@hakcermani 18 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

I don't this part. Oh the NFT is just the URL and the image served by the server can be changed .. can't the URL include the hash like ?h=HASH_OF_IMAGE .. a compromised server can send any image, but the end user can verify its fake as they have the hash ???

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@lowbloodsugar 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

So if the chain doesn't store the binary data of the file, does it at least store the hash??? How can it prove anything otherwise?

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@murat124 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

I don't like that when an actually good successor to web2 comes along it won't be called web3 because of this bullshit that they call web3.

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@pseudosavant 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

If you only read one thing on "crypto", this should be it.

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@losvedir 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

I am (or was?) a huge Moxie Marlinspike fan, and highly recommend this video[0] of his from Defcon several years ago. It was formative in my understanding of privacy and security.

That said, something here really doesn't add up. Being a huge fan, I took note several years ago of MobileCoin, a cryptocurrency, which listed him on the home page as one of the team.[1] Or, see this Wired article about it[2]. The big selling point, as I remember it, of MobileCoin (per the name) was that it was actually feasible for small clients (i.e. phones) to meaningfully take part in the network. But he's since been scrubbed from the site, as far as I can tell.

MobileCoin was added to Signal, much to the chagrin of HN. And Signal is intimately related to Moxie's work. I had thought that if MobileCoin becomes a thing, then the holders of the originally mined coin would become pretty rich, and I assume that would include Moxie.

So I'm a little confused by how this post fits in. I infer from it that he's new to web3 and crypto in general, but it feels like this isn't the case. (Though "web3" is ambiguous, and I suppose he's referring generally to Ethereum and dApps.) But his main point seems to be that the dominant cryptocurrency isn't suitable for involving light clients, which was the main selling point of MobileCoin.

I just wish it were clear his involvement with MobileCoin, since it feels to me like that could be a pretty significant conflict of interest with regard to Ethereum investigated here and could influence his perspective. For all I know, he answered some questions to the MobileCoin folks and they inflated his involvement. But then that wouldn't really explain how or why it was integrated into Signal.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DoeNbZlxfUM [1] https://web.archive.org/web/20171216012822/https://www.mobil... [2] https://www.wired.com/story/mobilecoin-cryptocurrency/

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@tomxor 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

Can we stop calling it Web3 and just call it NFTs...

Just call it what it is. If we are talking about NFTs say NFT, if we are talking about the general applicability of blockchains, say Blockchain. Every time someone attempts to describe Web3 they just end up trying to describe NFTs without actually talking about what NFTs tangibly do and are, which is why it sounds so ridiculously nebulous.

This response and the original article are both 99% literally discussing NFTs.

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@guelo 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

The biggest LOL in this article is how his "censorship resistant" NFT got censored.

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@boramalper 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

I love the idea(ls) of cryptocurrencies and yet I hate "web3" because it's a misnomer that led to a series of misconstructions:

Web3 is futile because it attempts to rebuild the Web (1) on an abysmally resource-constrained global computer which (2) uses a bunch of protocols that makes it impossible interact with using web browsers thus requiring a series of intermediary parties whom participants have to rely on. It is not even the fact that I need to trust those intermediaries, I trust a bunch of Web 2 corporations for some of the most critical services anyway, but the fact that we end up where we have started except it is now more expensive and much slower.

It is easy to dismiss Web3 as such, but that would not be fruitful. Besides all financial incentives, I (would like to) believe that there is a group of people who are sincerely interested in a more decentralized web, or rather, a web that is decentralized in a fundamentally different way than Web 2 and Web 1 are and were. To make it more concrete, there is an interest in decoupling authoring and hosting of web services; Linux distributions have had mirrors all over the world for the efficient distribution of data years before BitTorrent, so the magic of BitTorrent was not just about its efficiency promises, but in bringing content-addressed data to masses and thus decoupling the authoring (torrent creating) and the hosting (seeding) of content. Instead of having to ask Debian's permission to set up a mirror, I could now simply seed its torrent. It thus mattered that this decoupling has been implemented not at a social level (mirrors) but at a protocol level (peers).

You may be familiar with the concept of cardinality in databases: one-to-one, one-to-many, many-to-many. Indeed, it can be just as useful to describe the access patterns to databases:

(A) A one-for-one database is where a single writer is storing data for themselves. In the world of decentralized apps (not necessarily crypto-ridden web3), a good example is draw.io (and Zero Data Apps[0] in general) which allows you to "bring your own storage". On desktop, you have Joplin[1] for note-keeping that can synchronize to various cloud services.

(B) A one-for-many database is where a single writer is distributing content to many. BitTorrent and IPFS are prime examples of this.

(C) On the other hand, a many-for-many database is one that multiple writers store data for multiple readers. A centralized example of this is Hacker News, Twitter, reddit, and so on... This is what web3 attempts to be. There are a couple application-level attempts[2] at this, but not as much at a lower level that can enable arbitrary many-for-many use cases except blockchains.

Sadly the critics of web3 do not acknowledge that there are legitimate use cases for decentralized many-to-many databases that would, for instance, allow members of Hacker News to be able to host it in the same way that they are able to seed an existing torrent, and there are currently no other application-agnostic solutions than blockchains. Sadly, again, the proponents of web3 do not realize that the consistency guarantees of a financial ledger are too unnecessarily strict for many use cases.

I am working on a many-for-many database with much lesser consistency guarantees using SQLite and based on CRDTs designed to be used in browsers from day one (hence, as an example, using P-256[3] for public key cryptography rather than Bitcoin's and Ethereum's secp256k1 as the former is readily available in WebCrypto). This is something I do in my spare time and 100% for experimentation and fun without any financial motives or elements; let me know if you are interested in collaborating or following, email in the bio.

----

[0] https://0data.app/

[1] https://joplinapp.org/

[2] https://getaether.net/

[3] https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Web/API/EcKeyGenPar...

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@dsagal 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

For someone who has only ever dipped one toe into "crypto", this is super informative. Especially good to read the constructive advice at the end (all the way until the bit about software-building burden, which felt rather random).

Thank you!

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@marcusbrown 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

I recently became a web3 developer and created Flovatar (flovatar.com) and I totally agree with all the issues outlined in this article, but I think they are mostly limited to the Ethereum ecosystem and because most projects are not thinking outside the box and using IPFS to store the images.

In my case I decided to build it on the Flow blockchain (flow.com) and to use SVG illustrations and I couldn’t be happier about both choices.

Flow provides a JS library to interact with the blockchain without the need to use browser plugins like Metamask and also allows to store data on-chain with really affordable costs.

Having the SVG stored in the NFT guarantees that all the issues outlined in the article won’t apply in my case and will be guaranteed to exist as long as the blockchain will live (unlike IPFS where someone actually has to keep paying for the servers to store the images).

I could go on by saying that I managed to build a Marketplace that handles 500k$/month transactions with a single and relatively simple smart contract. Doing that in a web2 way would have been much much harder to both implement and maintain.

So from my perspective all the problems outlined in the article are super valid, but if you look a bit outside the current “standards” of the Ethereum world there is definitely hope and lots of solutions available.

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@Extigy 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

> What surprised me about the standards was that there’s no hash commitment for the data located at the URL. Looking at many of the NFTs on popular marketplaces being sold for tens, hundreds, or millions of dollars, that URL often just points to some VPS running Apache somewhere.

Wait, really?! Indeed, that seems insane to me — links change or die all the time!

I had thought the whole point was to prove a kind of ownership of some specific piece of art/data and just assumed that a hash of that data would be involved in a significant way.

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@momentoftop 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

To disagree with the post: I have always wanted to run my own servers. But for most of my time on the internet, my upload speeds have been garbage, my IP addresses have been dynamic, and my computers have been behind NATs.

The basic networking architecture during Web 1 wasn't suited to Web 1. Had it been, there might have been more people experimenting with running home servers, more work going into developing home server solutions, and thus more momentum to building that version of the web.

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@w_TF 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

It's refreshing to see someone actually roll up their sleeves and not immediately descend into reactionary takes.

The criticism here is excellent; I think something people outside of this space never see is that despite all the boosterism there are web3/crypto proponents who have been airing these same exact grievances for some time now, particularly regarding metamask, infura, ipfs, & opensea, but there's alternatives to all of these.

Decentralization is a spectrum, and while I think Moxie's probably right in that this all trends towards consolidation, at the same time there's founders trying to to change course and move in the opposite direction, Joe Lubin being among them.

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@synergy20 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

So basically web3.0 is just json-rpc calls to a cluster of peer servers that host distributed databases(e.g. blockchain that records your write-operations in stone) via a few portal servers, the portals are the gateway to the pool of blockchain-peer-servers and themselves are also part of the blockchain pool.

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@ineptech 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

> People don’t want to run their own servers, and never will.

Not really much related to web3/crypto topics, but I think this is an indictment of servers, not people. If managing a server were easy and secure, lots of people would do it - for blogs, a minecraft server for the kids, to back up their pictures, and yes, to store their bitcoins or other digital secrets - they just don't want to manage a unix or windows server.

It used to be hard to install a webcam, now it isn't. No reason server software can't do the same thing - all we need is for some gigantic corporation to sink 100k developer-hours into it (which sounds like a joke, until you remember that there are several gigantic corporations who have very profitable side-hustles hosting servers, and who would be creating a whole new class of customer if they did this).

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@hatchoo 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

This was a very interesting article.

I started learning Solana recently to try and see what the fuss was all about. After getting beyond the basics I took a look at the technical concepts behind NFTs and my first reaction was literally - "this is creating something out of nothing". It was the equivalent of just inserting some rows into a database except that the operations were all logged in an immutable audit trail.

While I appreciate the value that a decentralized system of record with immutable log entries that the blockchain offers, I struggle to see how NFTs have value. But who am I to argue when buyers put their money into it.

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@0xluminous 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

> People don’t want to run their own servers, and never will.

I just wrote an article about this — what's really new about web3 is the incentives not the tech.

> People don’t want to run servers. It’s okay for markets to specialize and service providers to receive economies of scale.

> Email is a decentralized protocol, and customer behavior shows people just want to click and have things work, like Gmail.

> What’s important is ensuring protocols stay competitive.

> Federated servers following a decentralized blockchain with layers of competitive protocols for storing data, with semi-interoperable apps built on top, seem like a pretty workable solution.

> Forcing everything P2P will be painful; there’s a reason the Cloud exists. Offline apps are great, and P2P app architecture is great, but expecting users to run P2P nodes is a losing battle. Some power users and volunteers will run nodes, but most will use a 3rd party. It’s better to accept this reality, minimize trust and make it competitive as possible.

It's the best thing I've ever written, if you're into this kind of thing I hope you check it out.

Disintermediating Network Effects for Fun and Profit, How to prevent Web3 from ending up like Web2

https://medium.com/@0xluminous/disintermediating-network-eff...

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@smm11 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

As long as I can stream stuff moving forward, I don't care what Web version we're "on."

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@dddw 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

I enjoyed reading this article. The closer you look towards cryptocurrencies and smart contract projects like nfts, the less likely without a significant (state) player supporting these experiments I doubt we'll talk let alone use these speculative industries in a quarter century. Anyone can make an currency, only a strong arm can force you to pay.

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@ggm 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

Off topic: site steerage did not work for me on chrome/tablet

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@justinator 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

Does it look like I know what an NFT is? All I want is a JPG of a gawd dang hot dog.

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@anderspitman 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

Literally while reading this I heard in the background an NBA commercial with Matt Damon telling people that "fortune favors the brave" when it comes to crypto. Whatever else is true, this thing probably isn't going to just quietly settle down.

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@jiggawatts 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

The author mentions that currently all NFTs are just URLs, but it is possible to store data directly in the blockchain, even if it would be prohibitively expensive.

An issue with general-purpose immutable storage is that it can be permanently polluted with illegal data. Everything from child pornography, instructions for making drugs or explosives, doxing/attack information, private keys for copy protection systems, etc...

It would be possible to make Ethereum or any similar blockchain illegal to the level of "penalty of death" in many countries by simply adding some horrendously blasphemous text content to it.

Even if bulk image or video data is too expensive to store, an option would be to simply use torrent "magnet:" links.

Bitcoin is just for financial transactions, so I doubt it would be vulnerable to this, but the more generic chains don't seem to have any way to protect themselves from this kind of attack.

Seriously, what would happen if a bunch of paedophiles started minting NFTs of their favourite child pornography and trading it? They would be "protected" by the inertia of the block chain. Governments eventually would have to step in and make it totally illegal, and then.. that's it. The value would instantly go to zero!

Alternatively, NFTs would have to be made revocable or erasable in some way, but that then totally defeats the purpose. That's the author's point -- his dynamically changing NFT was revoked in this manner.

I just don't see a way around this. Either you allow indelible illegal content, or allow forced revocation. Either way, the value of NFTs must go to zero.

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@leifg 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

> What surprised me about the standards was that there’s no hash commitment for the data located at the URL.

I hear a lot that some of the smartest people work on web3/blockchain/crypto.

It blows my mind that the NFT standard doesn’t enforce a content hash. I genuinely thought that was part of the standard.

How did no one foresee that content at a URL can change?

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@y04nn 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

I can see why everything is centralized: moderation. How would you ban NFTs that would be considered illegal?

Sure a solution would be to put the NFTs on a decentralized file system (IPFS?) or a P2P sharing network. And have kind of P2P/decentralized API that can easily be validated. But then, how would you ban illegal content?

I'm sure Opensea would prefer to keep everything centralized and under control. But clearly, there is room for improvement.

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@Xavdidtheshadow 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

I really love their example of an NFT that changes based on where you see it.

I've been kicking around an idea of selling a bushel of NFT's and then later changing all the images to the text "I spent money on a monkey but all I got was this stupid text" and then abandoning the project.

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@mikewarot 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

>People don’t want to run their own servers, and never will

People don't trust their computers on the open internet enough to run them as servers. No computer running Linux, Windows, or MacOS exposed to raw internet is safe.

This is subject to disruption, should sufficiently well designed microkernel based OSs arrive on the scene before the war for general purpose computing is lost.

Personally, once I get a capability based OS as a daily driver, the first thing I'm going to try out is running a few servers on it, and persistently checking for trouble.

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@da39a3ee 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

Can anyone explain clearly and objectively and succinctly what an NFT is, for an audience who knows how the internet works, what a hash function is and what properties they have, and how bitcoin works.

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@unhammer 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

What are examples of actually successful decentralised software? I can think of

    - syncthing
    - git (regardless of github, I still regularly clone/fetch between and within my own machines)
    - bittorrent
None of these needed a cryptocurrency blockchains or stupid buzzwords in order to lure in users, they just solved real problems. I guess they are all fairly dependent on a stable protocol, making it hard to retrofit features, but some people do prefer that situation for at least some of their needs ;-)

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@jdnordy 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

This is the best article I've found to help me understand what Web3 is and how it actually works. Thanks op!

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@rockbruno 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

I always had trouble understanding what web3 was all about because I just couldn't figure out why anyone would be excited for it. I found this article to be excellent at explaining what the platform is but I still can't figure out why people keep bringing up this topic when it's clearly a classic example of a "Solution in Search of a Problem".

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@stavros 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

As much as I hate cryptocurrency as-it-exists, I'm very much into its potential. Untraceable (eg Monero) digital cash that settles instantly? That has the potential to disrupt societies.

The problem is that most societies don't have a particular need of being disrupted, so people are perfectly content paying with their credit cards, and why shouldn't they be? The UX is better and the banks are fine as long as they don't piss off a too-large portion of the population.

Still, I would love it if I could use, say, Nano (as it has very limited PoW) to pay for things instantly and securely. I'm hoping a miracle happens, but I don't think it will, or it would already have happened.

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@petenick 18 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

I have been looking for an objective, skeptical evaluation of web3 and this delivers. Despite all of the discussion around decentralization, market forces like network effects, switching costs, and winner-take-all will likely occur and with it some degree of centralization.

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@tarkin2 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

The "a website for buying and selling JPEGS with your debit card" part simultaneously made me realise how ridiculous NFTs are and, nevertheless, how popular they are, and how that popularity fuels the value of bitcoin. Essentially paper money gets its value because you need it to pay taxes; that is, there is a demand. Bitcoin gets it value because you can do interesting and popular things with it; that is, there is a demand. As long as there are interesting and popular things to do with bitcoin, that attracts outside money, bitcoin will keep gaining in value. Obvious, I guess, but that helped it hit home.

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@auston 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

I think he makes legit points:

1. NFT spec is flimsy at best

2. We trust output from ETH nodes inherently

3. Most of the user facing clients for Web3 are decentralized

4. Power is easily rolled up into convenience providers like QuickNode

but I think something that is (perhaps conveniently missed) is that there is A LOT of power in having decentralized / censorship-resistant state - this is the thing that makes DeFi a real threat to orgs like exchanges and banks. They can't force people to have a certain amount of capital to trade derivatives or have a certain credit profile to borrow, the system is permissionless and the API is open 24/7.

That's pretty remarkable IMO and I think that sort of permissionless is likely to be used for very compelling things in the future, NFTs aside.

Also one thing that he notes but doesn't quite provide a solution for but I'm betting will exist in the near future is a markup language to map UI components to smart contract functions/views.

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@layer8 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

> People don’t want to run their own servers, and never will

They would if it's an app on their phone. Currently that's not possible due to the constraints of battery life and, to a lesser degree, mobile coverage and data plan limits.

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@janandonly 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

On the one hand I am happy to read a, at first sight, well balanced and well thought out critique of "web3"...

On the other hand: I can not escape the idea that he picked specific examples to make specific point:

- People don't want to run a server... Do they not? Or are most APPs simply not build with server capabilities? In the early days of Spotify they had a limited server capacity and everyone who streamed a song simply downloaded it from a server and peers mix, and in the background uploaded it to others peers. People were feeling just fine about 'running a server', just because they didn't even knew they did. The app hid (or abstracted) away the whole client/server question. [1]

- decentralisation doesn't work because "the blockchain" is hard to query and you need centralised APIs to do it for you. Again, a very weird and false dichotomy. Why take Ethereum as an example for "the blockchain". If I wanted to write a pro-blockain piece I would pick the Bitcoin blockchain as an example of how this CAN work. At this moment I run several apps on my iPhone which all query this blockchain for their functionality and it words just fine (and decentralised). To clarify I don't have the whole chain on my phone, it connects to random nodes (or my own if I so choose) and queries the chain via Bloom-filters [2].

- OpenSea as a example of a decentralised market place that doesn't seem to work. Again, why this example? Why not BISQ, a marketplace that is truly decentralised and has been running flawless for years? [3]

So, one could write an article that is saying the exacte opposite only by picking different examples.

[1] https://siliconangle.com/2014/04/22/spotify-abandoning-p2p-i...

[2] https://bitcoinops.org/en/topics/transaction-bloom-filtering...

[3] https://bisq.network

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@clarle 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

As an engineer, I feel like this single post helped me better understand Web3 and how it worked under the hood better than any of the heavily hyped Discord and Twitter announcements of new projects over the past year.

It's interesting how tightly coupled Metamask is to all of the other big crypto / NFT marketplaces. Feels like the "distributed web" portion of it has just been an over-exaggeration all along.

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@awwaiid 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

I thought web2 aka web-2.0 was AJAX+Unobtrusive JavaScript aka XHR+jquery aka SPAs. I guess we rolled The Cloud (rented server time) back into that at some point?

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@justinator 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

I was under the impression that crypto currency was thought of as nothing but yet another pyramid scheme.

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@democracy 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

I appreciate the author's patience and effort not to put TLDR as "it's all BS" in the beginning of his post...

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@5- 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

similar: the conveniently centralised hosting for the 'distributed' matrix im system: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=28997898

could everyone run their own matrix server in theory? sure. do people want that? not really. so just like in tfa we get a centralised system with all the downsides of a heavily distributed one (reduced reliability, operational and transactional overhead, etc.)

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@PaulDavisThe1st 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

> Even organizations building software full time do not want to run their own servers at this point.

This is almost entirely an educational/labor force issue, combined with a slight preference for the nominal hardware flexibility of cloud setups. The tech community focus from the dawn of the web until today has been overwhelmingly on getting people and tools to be better at creating and managing website content, whereas the traditional sysadmin stuff required to run "your own servers" with contemporary server technology has been viewed with both a level of disdain and also utter intimidation. Finding someone who can do React or Angular for your project might not be trivial, but finding someone who could actually run your servers for you ... much harder.

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@jagger27 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

> [...] NFTs instead contain a URL that points to the data. What surprised me about the standards was that there’s no hash commitment for the data located at the URL. Looking at many of the NFTs on popular marketplaces being sold for tens, hundreds, or millions of dollars, that URL often just points to some VPS running Apache somewhere. Anyone with access to that machine, anyone who buys that domain name in the future, or anyone who compromises that machine can change the image, title, description, etc for the NFT to whatever they’d like at any time (regardless of whether or not they “own” the token). There’s nothing in the NFT spec that tells you what the image “should” be, or even allows you to confirm whether something is the “correct” image.

How did we go from trapdoor functions being the foundation of everything in the space to forgetting to hash a link? Is the rational that these links should only ever be IPFS links? That's fine I guess, at least those are hashed. Why does the protocol allow for this to happen?

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@porcoda 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

> People don’t want to run their own servers, and never will

It's worth distinguishing "running" a server from "having" a server. I lost interest in "running" my own services a couple decades ago - too much work, and I don't keep up on security patches, so it felt like a huge liability too. I am quite happy to "have" a server of my own though that requires minimal babysitting.

We already have this today in some forms: I have a network attached printer that once configured to get online, removes the need for me to run my own print server. Similarly I have NAS devices that remove the need for me to run my own file server. You could argue that the little box that my HomeKit devices talks to is also a little server for coordinating all of my little HomeKit devices. Each of these are pretty popular, even amongst the general population. That popularity tells me that people are quite happy to "have" purpose-built servers, but only if they don't need to "run" them.

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@justinator 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

Moxie's post reminds me that perhaps we need a

Your post advocates a [crypto] approach to decentralization of the web. Your idea will not work

adlibs akin to,

https://craphound.com/spamsolutions.txt

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@calewis 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

I come to hacker news for this kind of well written content. As a person who works in a non engineering role (although I started out there) this is brilliantly written and explained. Thank-you.

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@wb14123 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

End to end encryption and open protocol give user more control of their data and has the same decentralized feature as blockchain. It should be the future we should build.

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@dekhn 17 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

y'all look like a cult

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@stopat11 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

>People don’t want to run their own servers, and never will.

The older I get, the more I see that there is not much point in making arguments about topics. You can argue whatever you want, and it ultimately isn't about proving something is true or false, it is about feelings and what you want to happen based on your own desires.

This whole section about running servers can be argued against. I never thought I would see normal people with "gaming computers", yet here we are. "People don't want to bother with the hassle of gaming computers". etc etc. Same arguments. Things change, and the past does not dictate the future. I mean, half the reason people didn't want to run servers was because the web wasn't centralised. So now that has changed.

Other changes have occurred like the availability of the raspberry pi - a cheap, powerful, silent, relatively simple computer that can be used as a server. I remember back when Windows Home Server was a thing. It was packaged in these large noisey computers, running proprietary and expensive software. I didn't want to run a "home server" back then either.

Whether people working at businesses want to run their own servers is irrelevant. I doubt they care about any of the things that would be relevant to home servers. They are often running lots of different servers with complex security rules and various applications. The managers see the cloud as a way not to hire expensive people they don't trust. The programmers don't care because it isn't their own product, and hate IT because they make you jump through a bunch of hoops to do anything. It is all a completely different environment to one person running one server at home.

There are still impediments to running home servers that, if lifted, could make people more likely to run them. Static IP addresses are often expensive add-ons, for example. Upload speeds are sometimes too slow, and so on.

Anyway, I don't even know what web3 is.

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@jakupovic 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

The article is written great and was enjoyable to read. I do have issues with how it is focused on NFT marketplace to the detriment of explaining what the real benefit of the blockchain/crypto is. Which I am going to try and explain to the best of my ability. Here goes. The article omits to mention that whatever is stored in the blockchain is immutable. This means that there is not google or Zuckerberg behind it all with ability to actually change what's on the chain as this is not possible at all. Instead the author focuses on the ability of OpenSea to remove things from their marketplace and also how it uses centralized apis to get the info. This, while true, is orthogonal to the immutable ledger use case which is still true.

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@endisneigh 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

If you care about the environment even a little bit (like turning off lights in rooms you're not occupying) then you will reject Web3. Even the most efficient blockchains use more energy than the status quo unnecessarily.

This is also to say nothing of the fact that it's more expensive per USD/KB transferred, slower and more complicated.

I think what Web3 should be is a way to use your laptop or any commodity computer as infrastructure for your data, and there should be APIs for websites such that it uses your computer as the source as opposed to their own servers.

For example this comment could be saved on my computer, but accessible to everyone viewing even if my computer is off via caching, but ultimately I could invalidate and delete.

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@verdverm 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

This is not what I expected from Moxie. A writes very good account of his experience trying to do some dapp / NFT stuff. He eloquently draws attention to the problems that are based in human behavior.

Definitely worth the read. Both sides of the debate could elevate their arguments if they ponder what Moxie has written.

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@astoor 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

It is very refreshing to see this from a primarily technical angle.

In common with many HN-ers, I actually did a lot of cryptocurrency and blockchain dev work 5+ years ago, and was actually very exited about it at first, before realising what was behind the curtains. It is a similar story with many early Bitcoin developers, including one famously describing it as an experiment that failed[0]. I also get the distinct impression that the vast majority of pro-cryptocurrency people on HN at the moment are relatively new[1].

I stopped looking at it primarily from a technical angle because I realised that, firstly, the technology isn't anywhere nearly as useful as some people make out and might never be able to do the things which are promised, but secondly and more importantly, the technology really isn't the important part - what matters is the belief that technology might work, and sustaining that belief for long enough to make money. Moxie hints at this when he says "you can’t stop a gold rush".

There were an increasing number of people at the tech meetups etc. who knew nothing about the technology. Many were gamblers, refugees from the 2011 "Black Friday"[2], who knew full well that many of the schemes they were putting money into would never work or were even out-and-out scams, but they enjoyed the thrill of trying to get in and out and make money before the collapse.

The was also a growing sense of people being involved just to be anti-establishment. The ironic thing is that, back in 2008, you could make a reasonable case that the established banks were the bad guys and the cypherpunks were the good guys, but the situation has now definitely reversed - the banks have cleaned up their acts considerably (anyone who has worked in one for a long time will say how completely different the cultures are now vs then) with new regulations (e.g. Dodd-Frank) and most have plans to become carbon neutral, etc., and it is all the cryptocurrency scammers and fraudsters and climate-destroyers who are the bad guys now.

But there is more to it than that. There was also an increasing undercurrent of very non-technical people coming in and trying to exploit the technologists excited to work on the next new and shiny thing. I know that kind-of thing happens with everything, but this was much deeper and more malicious than in other contexts.

So while the technology isn't the important part, it is useful to be reminded of the intractable problems with the technology.

[0] https://blog.plan99.net/the-resolution-of-the-bitcoin-experi...

[1] Yes I know there may be exceptions, but just for example compare all the newbie comments on the recent https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=29635907 with the highly technical ones on the related post https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7365663 from 8 years ago (including "I'm one of the thieves mentioned").

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._Scheinberg

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@nbzso 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

Sorry. My "specific" take: Edited and self-censored due to lack of "substance" on the topic.

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@pronik 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

> web1 was decentralized, web2 centralized everything into platforms

Am I the only one who remembers Web 1.0 as "publisher-generated content" and Web 2.0 as "user-generated content"? (publisher being the one who hosts the server) The latter is dead for several years now, since we've found out content moderation is hard and even scale won't help you there.

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@TekMol 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

This is the tweet where he announced the NFT:

https://twitter.com/moxie/status/1448066579611234305

I can still see it on OpenSea:

https://opensea.io/assets/0x5c61afa47570ab2b562606fa57822130...

Maybe it was blocked and later unblocked?

Anyhow, I think he is painting too black of an image of Web3. Even if OpenSea blocks his NFT, Ethereum scanners will still show it:

https://etherscan.io/address/0x5c61afa47570ab2b562606fa57822...

It would take an Ethereum hard fork to tamper with it. That is a very big undertaking and rarely happens.

So he can prove that he minted it.

This is something we do not have on Web2. If FB deletes something, you do not have proof. And you cannot see it anymore. Neither in Chrome nor in Edge nor in Firefox.

On Web3, if OpenSea blocks an NFT and MetaMask uses the OpenSea API to display it, you can use another browser and see it again.

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@sriku 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

Very well raised points!

Having a cryptographer taking up this topic has become a rarity, and that says something. I have not delved into the NFT world much, although I am quite familiar with blockchains and smart contracts. I've argued with more knowledgeable colleagues and friends that there is not much meaning in "owning" the hash of a piece of art for various reasons - a) you don't possess the art and are the mercy of systems which you need to do anything with it, b) someone can make an imperceptible modification to the art and invalidate the hash while retaining full artistic value except perhaps as a pedantic statement ... and then some.

What baffled me is that the accepted protocol for NFTs currently just requires a URL, any URL! ... with no hash validation! How did the blockchain world get here? Well, perhaps a IPFS URL would be "best practice", but it is shocking that currently any URL with no content validation goes! It should be impossible to mint an NFT for a URL with no content validation.

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@smoyer 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

Once again I was hoping for a discussion of IPFS, DAT and Hyper. I've written post of an implementation for HyperSwarm and am impressed by the possibilities for decentralization. Does anyone know of a similar article for web3 that excludes the blockchain?

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@NilsIRL 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

This ties in nicely with this talk moxie gave in 2019 about (de)centralization:

https://media.ccc.de/v/36c3-11086-the_ecosystem_is_moving

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@bambax 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

> When you think about it, OpenSea would actually be much “better” in the immediate sense if all the web3 parts were gone. It would be faster, cheaper for everyone, and easier to use.

I really love this idea. Why doesn't a company with already established authority (say, Google) build this? An NFT-free NFT marketplace. That would be hilarious, as well as probably useful.

Or maybe someone else than an established player, but then with some mechanism to compensate for the lack of intrinsic authority. For example, a database with a hash of the whole db stored on a blockchain. To keep costs low, the hash could be stored only every x inserts (or, for a fee, one could force a hash store after a given transaction).

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@durakot 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

I've known Moxie to often be right. And I think he happens to be right about this.

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@danielovichdk 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

I want to run my own servers.

Honestly.

It has always been a somewhat easy task if you pick an OS that is secure and stable.

And today with all the Foss/oss there are plenty of reasons why I would do it.

More Decentralised Please.

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@noman-land 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

I guess my beef with the whole web3 discussion is that everyone is bashing all the centralized bandaids is indicative that web3 is fake without acknowledging that those things are bandaids "until it's really ready". These bandaids (infura and the like) are mostly only necessary for mobile users who can't run a full chain. And even then there are legit solutions like Status.im as well as lots of research into lite-clients.

The "right" way to use something like Ethereum or IPFS is to download geth and go-ipfs and run the nodes yourself. You can do it on a modern laptop or a raspberry pi easily.

Then you can point Metamask at `localhost` and be using your own pristine connection to the networks.

Or you don't even need to use Metamask and can just issue commands directly in the console or you can download a local copy of of the static files for MyEtherWallet or whatever it's called these days and just double click on an HTML file and connect to your local node.

Then once you've done that, stop wasting money on buying pointless centralized NFTs.

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@danans 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

> This might suggest that decentralization itself is not actually of immediate practical or pressing importance to the majority of people downstream

This is exactly what I've heard from lay investors in crypto (vs the techno utopians pushing crypto as the world's decentralized medium of exchange).

The lay investors welcome the centralization and the regulation of off ramps as they feel it will bring more traditional financial instruments trust and relative stability to crypto, thereby bringing in even more common investors. They see its value as a gold replacement and inflation hedge.

Their agenda is quite at odds with the original anarcho-capitalist vision of cryptocurrency, as they aren't interested undermining existing institutional structures (which they are themselves reliant on).

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@unemphysbro 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

I think moxie makes a good point about centralized services like alchemy, on-chain data from opensea, etc.

The increase in development velocity using services like alchemy and pinata is astounding (I remember spending a month writing a stupid nft app in 2017 which now only takes a weekend.) I think these services are here to stay but they ultimately undermine decentralization.

I'm optimistic for the future of web3. :)

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@czhu12 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

This post really resonates with me, I've been building https://raremints.club as a way for indie, non technical artists to create NFT's, and have really had to wrestle with all things "web3" that would've been trivial in "web2".

I tried to document some of the challenges here:

https://chriszhu12.medium.com/the-challenges-of-building-on-...

But basically: I built an app that relied on mostly stable gas fees. A single app on polygon spiked the fees over 10x in the past few days, and so large swaths of it have to be rebuilt.

The promise of web3 was software that was not controlled by any centralized company. But it seems like any new project sharing a chain can effectively DDoS what you've built.

This is effectively an anti-network effect. Inevitably, you'd have to start centralizing part of your application to avoid gas fees altogether to hedge this risk.

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@fabian2k 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

At the risk of displaying my ignorance and lack of knowledge about this area, one part I found very familiar in this article is that the action interactions in his apps didn't actually interact with the blockchain, but essentially with two centralized services.

My very limited understanding is that for blockchains essentially the way to distribute them is that every node has a full copy. This sounds awfully expensive in the long run. My intuition would be that once running a node is expensive enough, this would not be truly decentralized. If I can't get the fundamental information out of a blockchain myself on hardware I can afford, the actual properties of the blockchain don't matter anymore as I cannot access them myself.

The moment you need to rely on third parties, you lose any unique properties a blockchain might have. I don't know how this would work if blockchains inherently are inefficient enough that you always need a way around querying them directly. I find the idea of a distributed trust-less database interesting, but if it is so inefficient that I can't actually access it myself that idea doesn't seem that interesting anymore.

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@mwattsun 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

I jotted down some thoughts I want to post before this very well written and interesting article by Moxie drops off the front page. I'm sure I got things wrong, but in the spirit of blue sky thinking:

The Physical layer is centralized on the telcos, fiber providers and satellite providers. This doesn't change

The internet is decentralized at the Application layer. Is it peer to peer. BitTorrent, IPFS

The network become centralized at the services layer in Web 2.0.

A decentralized search engine or global commerce store is impractical

Centralized services like search and social are a solved problem and efficient. People expect to get them for free in their monthly internet bill

Just like no one wants to run their own server, no one wants to run their own social network

web3 says it will change decentralization at the services layer, but it probably won't

"I don’t think it’s on a trajectory to deliver us from centralized platforms" - Moxie

People want to spend money on it without really caring much about the technical details. They just want it to work.

People (mostly young) use their interest and involvement in it as a social signifier

web3, crypto and decentralization are buzz words like "the special properties of copper" or "energy balancing tea"

When everything is free, nothing has value. NFT's create a value that can be bought, sold, traded and collected

The buying and selling of digital objects has momentum and will continue.

"I think these market forces will likely continue... If the money flowing through NFTs ends up channeled back into crypto space, it could continue to accelerate forever... I think enough money has been made at this point that there are enough faucets to keep it going"

Web3 is here to stay but it won't be what the techies want it to be, it will be what the market wants

"I also understand why nerds like me are excited to build for it. It is, at the very least, something new on the nerd level – and that creates a space for creativity/exploration that is somewhat reminiscent of early internet days." - Moxie

The market has spoken and people want this. Consumers don't understand it but think it's cool and are told it's the future, so they can flex at being in the know and forward thinking by getting involved. Web3 is here to stay, without the implementation details even mattering to anyone but a small set of highly technical people. It's a fun project to get involved in, it's not boring, and gives people something to get excited about. The best thing someone like me can do is try to steer it in a direction away from harming the environment by coming up with alternative to proof of work.

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@dcposch 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

This is a good breakdown.

Too much web3 thinkpiecing (both pro and anti) comes from people who've never looked under the hood. It's refreshing to see someone try actually try crypto as a developer, not just as a user, and go deep enough to figure out how things work in practice.

Moxie's critiques are valid. All of these are well known problems to the researchers at the core of web3 and all are the subject of active R&D.

- Point 1: people fundamentally don't want to run their own servers.

Clearly true. Vitalik gave a vivid example of this in a recent interview on Bankless pod. He visited Argentina, where hyperinflation has forced many people to use crypto or physical USD. He observed people using stablecoins, but not primarily via Eth L1 or any L2. Instead many transacted via Binance. Not BSC--Binance the centralized exchange! Which provides a Paypal-like UX.

Crypto researchers are fully aware. The plan is a couple thousand validators and millions, eventually billions of end users. Of course the end users will not run command-line geth, or run their own server in any capacity.

The plan is for them to use some combination of light clients or trust-minimized hosted services. This requires bringing transaction fees way down, the core goal of L2 rollups + sharing.

Also, today's popular clients are not particularly trust-minimized, which brings us to his second point. Paraphrasing:

- Point 2: current "web3" is really mostly web2. Under the hood, Metamask, OpenSea, etc just use trusted servers.

The fix here is trust-minimized services (= like Infura, but with every response bearing a proof of correctness) or light clients (= very similar, but using full nodes as interchangeable servers).

This exists today as a proof-of-concept. It is about to become feasible in production. The reason current Infura does not provide proofs is because Merkle proofs are 10x+ the size of the data returned for a typical query. Verkle trees fix this.

If you're curious:

- https://vitalik.ca/general/2021/06/18/verkle.html

- https://dankradfeist.de/ethereum/2021/02/14/why-stateless.ht...

Zooming out. Here is the Ethereum roadmap for the next two years, summarized:

- The Merge. This removes proof-of-work. The Eth ecosystem will use >99% less energy after this point.

- The Surge. This is about data sharding. Today a transaction might cost ~$50 on a bad day on Eth L1 and ~$0.50 on a Layer 2 rollup like ZKSync. After the Surge, L2 transactions will be nearly free.

- The Verge. This is about Verkle proofs and statelessness. These allow the core user interfaces -- wallets and light clients -- to efficiently follow the blockchain without trusting central intermediaries. They enable efficient proofs of any portion of the chain or its state.

---

I think these are fundamentally powerful primitives, the implications of which we've just barely begun to explore. I actually welcome the next bear market, since it shakes out the grifters. It is day 1.

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@kbenson 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

> A sure recipe for success has been to take a 90’s protocol that was stuck in time, centralize it, and iterate quickly.

Wow. That's one of those things you kinda know, then someone puts it to words like this, and the next thing I know I'm floored by the realization that Twitter is just centralized finger.

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@nickysielicki 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

> People don’t want to run their own servers, and never will.

What if the server is their phone and the service is an app that they install?

The problem that I personally have with web3 is that nobody seems to be building the infrastructure to accommodate this sort of setup, which the article sort of touched on. But I disagree that people will never want this. I think that there’s a lot of will and understanding among the average non-technical internet user that they don’t host their own services and I think they’d like to be a part of a distributed system, if there was a platform that made it possible.

But that’s not ethereum. IPFS and wireguard are closer to realizations of this.

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@simias 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

>When you think about it, OpenSea would actually be much “better” in the immediate sense if all the web3 parts were gone. It would be faster, cheaper for everyone, and easier to use.

That sums up the situation for me. Having a marketplace for purely digital goods might be a concept with a future. Having standard ways to interoperate between different platforms and query and update these goods might make sense (although I still think it goes opposite to the general trend of walled gardens vs. decentralized web, I don't see why the IP owners would play ball and accept the loss of control).

The thing is that in most case those NFTs wouldn't be trustless. I see people putting forward that a use case would be an NFT that proves that your Rolex is real, or for Fortnite skins, or for the ownership of your house. But in all these situations, there's a very clear authority (Rolex, Epic Games and the municipal authorities, respectively). These authorities will be allowed to mint new NFTs at will (because who else?) and as such have to be trusted. That opens up interesting questions btw, like "who is Rolex exactly?" which creates a chain of custody of trusted authority involving trademark management among other things. But I digress.

But then as soon as an authority is identified, why bother with the extreme overhead (it terms of resources and costs) of blockchain tech? Couldn't Rolex issue a PGP signed CSV of all valid Rolex serial numbers once a month on IPFS and you'd get the exact same security and trust profile without having to involve any "web3" feature?

Like cryptocurrencies, the subset of problems that can only be solved using NFTs is incredibly tiny and speculators rush to make up use cases that, if you think about it for five minutes, clearly make no sense and could be better solved using good old centralized tech.

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@jfb 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

Could it be that people aren't really interested in undoing the mistakes of Web2, but rather just kicking off a new round of consolidation, where they could be the gatekeepers/platform owners?

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@scyclow 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

This is a really good and well=researched article. I think it highlights a lot of current problems with the existing web3 ecosystem. A few thoughts after reading it:

- For NFTs in particular, I agree that the ecosystem is way too centered around OpenSea. But things also seem to be generally moving in the right direction here too. I've seen a lot of new exchanges pop up recently, some of which put more of an emphasis on decentralization (such as zora [1]). There are also some new standards on the royalty front [2]. Exchanges may or may not pay attention to it, but it's at least a start.

- The ecosystem's current centralization around Infura and Alchemy is also concerning. But as with the other issues, I think there's a definite path towards improvement. In the meantime, choosing an Ethereum node service feels kind of like choosing an ISP. But at least I'm not bound to a single service by physical architecture.

- In the absence of any improvements to Ethereum's scalability, I don't think it has much of a future. Sure, you can do some interesting things on it today, but high gas prices and low tx throughput make it impractical for many applications and most internet users. That said, there seems to be a lot of resources being thrown at various scalability solutions. Whether or not we see them in the near future is one story, but there's at least a viable roadmap, which makes me optimistic. And I think a lot of the centralization issues are a direct result of the scalability issues. So as the latter improves, I'd expect the former to improve as well.

- I disagree with the analysis that OpenSea would be much better as a centralized service. Part of what makes it valuable is that it can (fairly easily, but no seamlessly) integrate with other software (contracts) deployed to a global public network. I'd imagine it would be very difficult for OpenSea to get off the ground if they had to build their own general purpose contract VM that thousands of people would be willing to build on top of. On top of that, it would be a lot harder to tell a convincing story about what happens to peoples NFTs if they go out of business. However, if scalability doesn't improve, I agree that OpenSea and Coinbase will likely move in an increasingly centralized direction until most of the web3 components are stripped out.

- I definitely agree that people (myself included) don't want to run their own servers, but I wonder if Ethereum's Proof of Stake will change things. Supposedly I can run a validator on a raspberry pi. So if there's enough of a financial incentive to keep one running, I may do so.

[1] https://zora.co/ [2] https://eips.ethereum.org/EIPS/eip-2981

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@iskander 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

This is the most thoughtful critique I've seen of the web3 space because it engaged meaningfully with the stated intent of web3 as a movement (and found it somewhat lacking on its own terms).

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@jstanley 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

> To be clear, there is nothing particularly “distributed” about the apps themselves: they’re just normal react websites. The “distributedness” refers to where the state and the logic/permissions for updating the state lives: on the blockchain instead of in a “centralized” database.

This is one way to do it, but ideally you would host the site on IPFS so that you don't have a web server involved at all.

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@mmcnl 18 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

This is the best article on web 3 I have read thus far. Probably because this guy actually bothered to create some dApps (as one of 7 in the world I think).

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@deepGem 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

" that URL often just points to some VPS running Apache somewhere. Anyone with access to that machine, anyone who buys that domain name in the future, or anyone who compromises that machine can change the image, title, description, etc for the NFT to whatever they’d like at any time (regardless of whether or not they “own” the token). "

This is how I felt when I first created a NFT. Man, the contract is so secure and all that but the raw asset - forget about it.

https://twitter.com/pbanavara/status/1457675453565599748?s=2...

What I deduced was that the chain will somehow reject any other contract referencing the duplicate asset and only preserve the original contract. Something similar happened on OpenSea with Moxie but isn't this centralisation ?

But doesn't this apply to all off chain assets ? Essentially any underlying data for a smart contract, because you know storing even a byte of data on chain costs a lot.

So the smart contract - essentially a set of instructions is distributed, decentralised but prone to security lapses ( a whole another story ) yet somehow the data for these smart contracts is centralised ?

I am so confused.

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@scotty79 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

People happily run their servers when it's valuable for them. A lot of people have torrent program running in the background.

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@JulianMorrison 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

(I deleted my previous comment, because I don't think I said what I meant. So let's try again.)

Distributed, peer to peer, is worse. Everything that uses it, as a suite of technologies ranging from torrents to Freenet to bitcoin, only does so because a simpler, cheaper, central alternative is somehow seen as bad. In general, because it would be raided by The Man.

Blockchain, is worse. You could do everything it does, cheaper and better, without it. Except the bit about lawlessness, but the whole NFT gold rush has no need for that.

For any use that doesn't actually need to evade The Man, you can always make your system work better by pulling more and more of it into centralisation and out of the blockchain. Therefore, the final "victory" of the blockchain will look exactly like its obsolescence.

Unless you want to buy contraband, of course.

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@mjfl 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

> Even nerds do not want to run their own servers at this point. Even organizations building software full time do not want to run their own servers at this point. If there’s one thing I hope we’ve learned about the world, it’s that people do not want to run their own servers.

Why is this true? At this point it's never been easier to make your own static website, deploy nginx, and get online. Maybe not everyone wants to make a website, but you would think that everyone that does want to make a website would be able to and deploying a server would not be the bottleneck.

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@magicjosh 18 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

Wow only a day later and 400+ ETH has been spent to mint additions to the art piece. The current cost to mint an addition is 1.4 ETH.

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@nunez 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

This was the best read on web3 that I’ve seen yet. I’m definitely excited to play around with it, but I agree with many of Moxie’s points, especially around the promise of decentralization diverging from the hyper-centralized reality we see today.

I’ve been stewing on a thought experiment. Diaspora was aiming to be a decentralized Facebook competitor. I can see this project (or similar ones) gaining a foothold in the web3 space. But if social events are on chain, some of which might contain PII, how would such a service securely store fragments of data like this on random computers?

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@iskander 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

Are there any chains whose clients can run successfully on a cell phone, avoiding the need for intermediaries like Infura?

Does a recursive zero-knowledge rollup like Mina create a sufficiently small state to remove the need for client/server distinction?

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@adabaed 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

Do you think Cardano can aliviate some of the clear issues we are seeing with Ethereum? I've been reading a lot for the past two weeks and I must say I'm close to start developing stuff in Cardano.

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@Uptrenda 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

What he says about NFTs is embarrassing, lmao. I've personally never bought them myself but I am enthusiastic about blockchain tech. Is there really no commitment saved for an art work? You would think this was basic shit. Maybe there is more than one NFT protocol?

He also has a good point about centralization in 'blockchain oracle' services. In major wallets I've often seen them just make calls to blockchain / TX lookup services -- no cryptographic proofs there (though in theory easy to add with 'spv proofs'?) I also like that he went as far as to make two dapps before critiquing it. This is one of the better criticisms of 'web3' out there.

I don't think what he says about OpenSea being better as a 'centralized' service is valid. Most of his critiques for the downside of blockchain-tech seem to be Ethereum-specific. For example, Solana transactions are blazingly fast, low-cost, and there are nice stable coins on there. OpenSea seems like it would be 'better' if it were an actual cryptographic protocol. Maybe link it with IPFS + Filecoin.

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@darawk 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

This is a truly excellent criticism of the state of "crypto" and "web3". As someone who thinks these technologies are interesting, i'm glad someone finally wrote a decent, sincere critique that covered a lot of the very real issues with it.

I think i'd break this piece down into two categories: The first is critiques of current implementations, and the second is critiques of the structural incentives of the technology. I think it's important to separate those things somewhat.

The privacy, security and centralization of Infura/Alchemy are real and important issues, and to a limited extent, derive from the fundamental incentives of the ecosystem. However, what I think critically differentiates "web3" from "web2" is that those platforms are commoditized. Infura and Alchemy are providers of a service that is fundamentally a commodity, they have very little market power. Contrast to comparable web2 platforms like Facebook or Google, who have tremendous market power over consumers who's data they've warehoused. I think this is a really important structural difference between the two. That in no way takes away from the seriousness of the critique of Infura/Alchemy and how they're used, but I think it does somewhat limit the importance of that failure. Anyone can build a new, better gateway platform, and users can switch to it without having to ask anyone's permission to export their data. That's a really big deal.

The more structural critique I think relates to the issue of iteration speed, and the tendency that slow, bureaucratic development processes have to push the technological frontier outside their own scope. I think that's a real, structural problem that any decentralized system has, and its fitting that Moxie should point it out, given that he's famously (and correctly, in my view) resisted exactly these sorts of things for exactly these reasons in Signal (e.g. federation) since forever. I think this critique is the most important and serious critique of the crypto space in general, and if anything is going to bring it down, this is it. This problem remains largely unsolved at this point, but whether or not it can be solved is going to hinge on the quality of the group coordination mechanisms people are able to devise. I'm personally optimistic that these things can get figured out, but they are very hard problems.

An important thing to note here though is that a lot of things actually work just fine with this kind of bureaucratic/slow iteration process. Consider core web protocols like HTTP, SMTP, or even something like x86. These things tend to be "low in the stack", but that is exactly what the underlying crypto infrastructure wants to be as well. The more general your platform, the less quick iteration you require. Whether or not crypto platform are able to deliver something like this remains to be seen, but it is a thing that does happen and works ok in many areas today.

> “It’s early days still” is the most common refrain I see from people in the web3 space when discussing matters like these. In some ways, cryptocurrency’s failure to scale beyond relatively nascent engineering is what makes it possible to consider the days “early,” since objectively it has already been a decade or more.

I'd also like to point out that most prior "generations" of the web took at least a decade to come to fruition. It's easy to forget how long things take to mature, but the fact that crypto doesn't have everything figured out after 10 years is not all that surprising:

https://www.timetoast.com/timelines/history-of-web-20

And this is only going back to the early 90s. Obviously various proto "webs" existed long before then. Very structurally different technologies can take quite a while to sort themselves out, and find their niche.

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@CameronNemo 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

I like Moxie's work and writings, and this article has some great points, but I can't get behind this:

We should accept the premise that people will not run their own servers by designing systems that can distribute trust without having to distribute infrastructure.

I'm not ready to give in. I am happy to leave "normal" (tech illiterate and politically apathetic) people behind to reach my decentralization goals.

I think instead of building centralized infrastructure that does not require trust, we can make it easier to host decentralized infrastructure. Including allowing a "server" to be offline for months at a time, come online for a minute or two, then disappear again. P2P networking is also an area we can improve on, IMO. Too much information is going across the internet instead of point to point. Bluetooth is a terrible protocol, but airdrop (and reverse engineered implementations) seems to be promising.

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@dqpb 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

I think the important part of decentralization is not that “everyone must” own their own server, but rather that “anyone can” run their own server, that indexes the globally consistent blockchain database.

But, I agree that the most troublesome parts are around the client/server relationship due to the need for indexing/caching, and the irony of having a man-in-the-middle between you and the trustless network.

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@somishere 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

Great article. Would love to read an equally solid rebuttle. Can I suggest Web2^0?

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@pelasaco 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

the good news is that it's not the first shared database that we have to manage. Take DNS as example. We know the answer: Start a new blockchain using Ethereum technology, and let institutes around the world, host the "servers". Even better if every central bank in the world could run a node.

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@boulos 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

Some of this echoes Matt Levine's take on crypto and DeFi generally: you will repeatedly see the re-learning the lessons of hundreds/thousands of years of traditional finance.

I'm not sure that the "mobile device can't act as a node" is fundamental (it's more a quirk of the current systems), but "nobody wants to run their own server" => "centralization" is a great reminder:

> I think this is very similar to the situation with email. I can run my own mail server, but it doesn’t functionally matter for privacy, censorship resistance, or control – because GMail is going to be on the other end of every email that I send or receive anyway. Once a distributed ecosystem centralizes around a platform for convenience, it becomes the worst of both worlds: centralized control, but still distributed enough to become mired in time.

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@mhitza 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

If web3 revolves around crypto how can these be his first impressions?

> In 2017, Marlinspike helped launch MobileCoin with that potential integration in mind, serving as a paid technical advisor for the cryptocurrency.

https://www.wired.com/story/signal-mobilecoin-cryptocurrency...

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@purplesnowflake 19 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

Moxie is no fan of decentralization. And he made why very clear with concise and incisive arguments.

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@willfiveash 16 days

Replying to @natdempk 🎙

When I read "People don’t want to run their own servers, and never will." I thought, what an elitist (and libertarian) idea to assume people would be able to afford and manage a server in their home but also afford/have access to the required Internet bandwidth. Yuck.

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