It’s too early to predict all the implications of the recent Ethereum blockchain Merge, but it definitely addresses the most frequent (and valid) criticism of web3 regarding excessive energy consumption. Critics may still find a new reason to oppose ETH, but my hope is this Merge will lead to something else: A chance for us to also merge what’s best about Web 2.0 with what’s most exciting about web3.
There’s seemingly a growing rift in Silicon Valley, with the traditional Web 2.0 industry and the burgeoning web3 ecosystem depicted as being in opposition to each other. And trapped somewhere in the middle are emerging startups.
I’m active in all three groups, and I believe most of this controversy is based on wild pronouncements and hype by VCs and other evangelists who are not developers. Incessant celebrity promotions of NFT drops, for instance, have contributed to the impression that web3 as a whole is a Ponzi scheme. In fact, NFTs are only a small part of the web3 ecosystem, and, in my view, not even the most interesting or potentially transformative.
While Web 2.0 and web3 may seem incompatible, I believe it’s better to see technologies like blockchain and ETH as potential back-end solutions for scalability challenges that all companies face. In a similar way, web3 advocates should recognize that Web 2.0’s maturity makes it indispensable for many core use cases.
Despite web3’s great potential, it’s still much easier to develop a Web 2.0 app simply because the ecosystem is mature and enjoys a large and thriving developer community.
Let’s consider a couple examples where each side has something to contribute:
From web3: An emerging revolution in open source
To capture what’s happening in web3 development now, we have to go back to before the Web 2.0 era.
During the dot-com boom, there was quite a lot of buzz over open source, Linux and hot companies like Red Hat. While very few consumers would go on to install Linux as their operating system, this buzz helped contribute to something equally important. In the background, with few people noticing, Linux quickly became the go-to operating system for running the back-end servers of 96.5% of the top million web domains — not to mention the massive Android market.