Looking at Web3 Through a Cultural Lens

Web3, a new paradigm for the web that is fueled by crypto and decentralization, has caught the imagination of the tech community. Whether you like it or not, it’s taking off like Web 2.0 did back in 2004-05. I was at the forefront of covering Web 2.0 back then, with my blog ReadWriteWeb. For Web3, it’s a new generation of tech bloggers (actually more like YouTubers, Twitter influencers, Discord rabble-rousers, etc.) who are leading the charge. My role this time round is to be an observer as a tech journalist. I’m not “all-in” on Web3, like I essentially was with Web 2.0. A big reason for that is that Web3 is hugely divisive amongst the web developer community, which makes it different from Web 2.0. It also makes for great stories, as I can talk to experts from both sides to get at the true story of Web3.

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Richard MacManus @ricmac
It’s pretty extraordinary how divided the dev community is over crypto/Web3. I don’t think it’s ever been this fractured in my 20 years of covering the industry as a tech journo/blogger. Of course, that makes for some fascinating stories…
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Kelsey Hightower @kelseyhightower

Cryptocurrency is gaslighting the entire tech industry.

As a tech journalist for my employer The New Stack, I am digging into the technology and architecture of Web3. I run a small team of developer-focused writers for The New Stack, and we are finding a lot of interest in our Web3 stories so far this year. My own weekly columns about Web3 have been getting a lot of page views, so this is a topic of great interest to our readers. Developers are trying to figure out what Web3, its pros and cons, and how it can potentially change the way the web works. So that’s my work focus.

Here on Cybercultural, I’m taking a wider view of Web3 — focusing on how it is impacting (or will soon impact) our culture. That said, a reader emailed me last week to tell me I wasn’t pointing out the societal issues with crypto (specifically, he was concerned about its impact on climate change). I will make sure I touch on those concerns from time to time, too. But mostly I will be looking at Web3 / crypto through a culture lens on Cybercultural (to complement my developer lens on The New Stack).

Notes from the Present 📱

The Web3 Stack

My column this week is for Web 2.0 developers looking for ways to experiment with Web3, or even go all-in. I interviewed Nader Dabit, a developer relations engineer for a Web3 company called Edge & Node. This is the second time I’ve interviewed Nader — the first was back in 2020, when he worked for Amazon Web Services. Since then, he’s become probably the leading developer advocate for Web3. Check my post out if you’re curious about the mechanics of Web3.

Web 2.0 Professionals are Jumping to Web3

It’s an old adage on the internet to follow the developers…

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Alex Heath @alexeheath
conversation with an executive last night who recently left a traditional tech co for a crypto one: “I look at where the smart engineers are going as a sign of where things are trending, and right now it’s crypto”

Metaverse as the “Wider Web”

I really liked this definition of the metaverse, by Trevor Flowers from a new publication called Transmutable News:

He adds, “The Wider Web is not a replacement for the Web, it is an addition. […] Each individual Wider Web site renders and behaves with multiple display modes, control types, and an expanding array of input types.”

So Trevor defines the metaverse as an extension of the web. This is refreshingly different from how Facebook/Meta has been positioning the metaverse, as akin to the mobile internet. This has cultural implications, because the web is OPEN — i.e. it’s not owned by corporate entities and anyone can build on top of it. The mobile internet is controlled by Apple and Google. We don’t want Meta to own the metaverse.

Mixed Reality Going Out of Fashion

Ben Lang from the Road to VR website (one of my fave sources) has some observations about the term “mixed reality.” The metaverse will likely be both VR and AR, so that is the new term de jour. It makes sense for a company like Magic Leap — which has been developing AR glasses for over a decade now — to focus in on AR again. Although, that hasn’t stopped Magic Leap from jumping on the metaverse bandwagon — its website suggests that “The Metaverse is Already Here” thanks to its products.

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Ben Lang @benz145
Magic Leap has fully embraced its product as an “augmented reality” device instead of “mixed reality.” From what I can see the industry is increasingly coalescing around this framework, with Microsoft being the only major holdout. Apple is of course going to make its own name😅

Teaching Kids to Code in the Metaverse

These days, it’s great to see so many online resources and opportunities for kids to learn how to code. Back in my day, we were lucky to get a 1-hour school class per week on computers (I remember learning BASIC on a BBC computer in a weekly class, when I was about 13). My, how things have changed. My The New Stack colleague Mike Melanson — also a former ReadWriteWeb writer — interviewed the founders of Bluprint, which aims to be “a sneaky attempt to introduce real-life coding to kids who already love building 3D worlds (Minecraft) and playing online games (Roblox) with their friends.”

Bluprint is a 3D environment, which Mike describes here:

“The Bluprint metaverse comes pre-populated with objects and characters, which have code that can quickly be viewed and altered. It gives users a different way to interact with and learn code, one that can be layered from one level of difficulty to the next.”

Future of Music in a Purely Digital World

Electronic musician r beny asks, “is the future of music purely digital with a physical visual element?” Perhaps he’s thinking of something in the real world that could be activated by an AR device. Later in the thread, he adds, “I could see myself absolutely doing a VR thing in the future.”

Twitter avatar for @_rbeny

r beny @_rbeny
will there ever be a new physical format for music? even LP vinyl as it is today hasn’t been around for 100 years yet. or is the future of music purely digital with a physical visual element?pondering an upcoming release and the logistics phase is not pleasant.

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Notes from the Past ☎️

Ambient Location Apps

Ten years ago, I attended SXSW in Austin, Texas, and wrote a profile of one of several trending apps that went by the term “ambient location apps.” None of these apps stood the test of time, so it’s a reminder that some trends are temporary and never take off. Will Web3 or metaverse be in that category ten years from now? Who knows, but it’s worth keeping in mind these cautionary tales of Silicon Valley hype.

This is how I described back in early 2012 what these apps did (think Foursquare but with added social networking):

“Glancee – like competitors Highlight, Kismet, Sonar and Ban.jo – is a mobile app that lets you discover who is around you at whatever location you’re in. It does this mostly using GPS, which is also the reason for the battery drain. Through its API connection to Facebook and Twitter, Glancee can identify people around you who share interests with you.”

1987 BBC Futurism

“holograms of my family”

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BBC Archive @BBCArchive
#Onthisday1987: Tomorrow’s World speculated on what ‘Tomorrow’s Person’ would be like and the technology that would make their life easier.

One More Thing 📞

The web community fighting among itself about Web3:

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Star Trek Minus Context @NoContextTrek

See you next week! Do reach out by email (just hit reply) or on Twitter (@ricmac) if you have any content suggestions, or just want to touch base.