Is Web3 a solution seeking a problem?

Published on
April 27th, 2022
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I recently wrote about how we can build web3 onramps for the next 1 billion people. But I didn’t cover why people should care about web3 in the first place.
Peter Yang is passionate about helping people make a living doing what they love online. He's worked on creator growth at Twitch, Facebook, and Twitter and wrote a best-selling book on product management. He also creates web3 education at Odyssey DAO and is a PM at Reddit. Find him on Twitter.
From Vitalik:
Ultimately, the goal of crypto is not to play games with million-dollar pictures of monkeys, it’s to do things that accomplish meaningful effects in the real world.
So is web3 a solution seeking a problem or can it meaningfully improve the world?
I think web3 can meaningfully democratize access to:
  1. Work
  2. Finance
  3. Asset ownership
Let me explain how this might work and what problems stand in the way.

Democratize access to work (DAOs)

Today, people often spend more time chasing credentials than on work that they actually care about. An Ivy League degree, 5+ years of experience, and months cramming leetcode are all artificial steps to get the most coveted jobs.
Tomorrow, DAOs could let people prove their worth through actual work. A girl from Indonesia could join a DAO, design a website, and earn crypto while building an on-chain resume for her next opportunity.
That’s the promise at least. DAOs are still incredibly messy and few have built good products. We need to solve:
  1. DAO discovery: “How can I find DAOs that interest me?” We need tools that help people find and join DAOs that interest them.
  2. DAO onboarding: “How can I contribute to this DAO?” We need tools that match people to DAO tasks based on their skills and interests.
  3. DAO compensation: “How can I get recognized for my contributions?” We need tools that help people earn crypto rewards and on-chain credentials for doing great work.

Democratize access to finance (DeFi)

Today, the traditional financial system is opaque, run by middlemen, and inaccessible to 1.7B people in the world.
Tomorrow, DeFi could create a more accessible and transparent financial system that puts control back in the hands of regular people. A father could put his hard-earned into a protocol that offers 10x the yield of his local bank. He can then use these funds to pay for his son’s education or invest in his friend’s new venture.
That’s the promise at least. DeFi today is a playground for traders and crazy yield farming strategies:
We need to solve:
  1. Payments: “How can I send money to someone instantly without fees?” Bitcoin whitepaper’s promise remains unfulfilled. We need broad consumer and merchant adoption for stablecoins and simple fiat on and off-ramps.
  2. Saving: “How can I save money?” Rather than promise 10,000% APYs through some degen strategy, we need simple platforms that offer good stablecoin yields that people can access with just a mobile phone.
  3. Crowdfund: “How can I get funding for my project?” We need platforms that make it easy for anyone in the world to find and fund a project that they believe in.

Democratize access to assets (NFTs)

Today, creators and fans barely make money after platforms take their cut and valuable assets such as homes and higher education are out of reach for many people.
Tomorrow, NFTs could democratize ownership of all types of assets. A student could buy an NFT to get access to a learning community’s paid courses and events. They could then see the NFT grow in value before gifting it to another student.
That’s the promise at least. NFTs today are dominated by a few traders flipping jpeg collections. Scams and rug pulls are also rampant.
We need to solve:
  1. Discovery: “How can I find an asset that I like?” There are over 250M NFTs - we need personalized discovery based on each user’s activity.
  2. Creator: “How can I make a living?” We need platforms that help creators issue, price, and use NFTs to make a living and mobilize their fans.
  3. New types: “How can I own asset X?” Beyond jpegs, NFTs can represent credentials, membership, tickets, real estate, and much more.
It’s thanks to crypto that I was able to convert a tweet to a DAO that’s providing high-quality web3 education for free.
If you’re a builder working on democratizing access to work, finance, and asset ownership through web3 - I’d love to get in touch to see how I can help.
This story was originally posted on Creator Economy by Peter Yang. Join 15,000+ others to get his thoughts about creators, communities, and web3 — in as few words as possible, once or twice a month.
Comments (9)
Paul Hart
Thx for sharing @petergyang. 👍 I’m keen on leveraging web3 to solve for the inherent issues within web2 marketplace s… namely as scale is achieved the supply side feels less supported / connected.
Daniel Engels
that's exactly my impression on web3
Rich Taylor
Thanks for sharing @petergyang. You list nine problems that need solving there. Are any of them on your list of things to build? I am yet to get up to speed on all of the topics in this article but am keen to, and look forward to building projects in this emerging domain. I am a no-code builder but would happily discuss any future projects with you.
Tim Parsa
If Web3 means anything it means using blockchain technology and cryptoassets to empower indviduals, businesses, and communities in a way that Web2 cannot. What are blockchains good for? Blockchains do two things: they reduce uncertainty via transparency of their public ledgers and they diminish risk because their P2P nature makes intermediaries unnecessary. Examples: It's easy to prove that I control a bitcoin address and you can see how much bitcoin is associated with that address. It's not easy to do the same with a bank or paypal account. I can be certain of ownership and control of cryptoassets in a way that I cannot with centralized money systems. And, despite all the scams and rugpulls and ponzis that plague these early days of BTC and the decentralized systems that were inspired by it, blockchains reduce risk. Examples: I can receive, hold, and transfer a blockchain-based asset without relying on intermediaries like banks or e-wallets. I can do it directly, peer-to-peer. Contrast this to centralized money systems where your account can be closed, your money confiscated, and your transfer blocked for no good reason, or worse for politically-motivated reasons. So whenever you hear anyone bloviating about Blockchains and their derivatives/applications (DAOs, NFTs, etc)-- if they aren't talking about reducing risk or uncertainty then it's unclear why they are using a blockchain in the first place. What are cryptoassets (the native tokens of blockchains) good for? The same thing all assets are good for-- incentives, rewards, payments, wealth preservation, etc. The difference is that because they are enabled by decentralized ledgers (public blockchains), these assets can be used by anyone, irrespective of geographic location or local laws and regulations. Examples: I can do work for a blockchain protocol (mining, validating, staking) and earn the native token of that protocol. No one can stop me from doing this work and earning this reward. And this permissionless nature means that these cryptoassets can be earned by anyone who does the work. Likewise I can do any kind of work -- not just protocol-defined contributions-- and request to be paid in a cryptoasset. I don't need a bank or Paypal account. I don't need a valid govt-issued ID or permission from any intermediary. I can get paid for work done just by providing a blockchain address. The promise of DAOs is in combining the certainty (via onchain transparency) of decentralized ledgers (blockchains) and the anyone-can-earn nature of cryptoassets. DAOs can enable transparent governance-- a certainty of how many governance tokens there are and how they were voted-- and permissionless capital formation-- anyone can fund the DAO's treasury by sending cryptoassets to the DAO's address in exchange for governance tokens. Once a DAO is funded, the governance token holders can vote to approve and reward anyone for work done and the recipients can get paid in the cryptoasset of the DAO or the treasury no matter where they reside geographically (see above on the perimissionless value of cryptoasset payments). I think of DAOs as satellites or space stations orbiting the earth or travelling through space. They exist at a remove from their planet of origin, but are controllable from it. They can impact their point of origin but cannot easily be impacted by non-participants due to their being at a remove. Whats needed is more launch platforms that make it easy for these satellites/rockests/space stations to be assembled and fueled and filled with instruments of purpose and action prior to being launched. Communities need to coalesce around products, projects, networks in a centralized way before being launched into decentralized orbit. To stretch the analogy further-- lots of junk has been launched into orbit, but that doesn't mean we can't build and launch DAOs that can have a real positive impact back on earth leveraging the power of decentralized networks and their cryptoassets. I personally believe that every digital product, every online community, and every web2 network can and should be "coinified" and then decentralized into a play-to-earn/learn/own network. I'm working toward that vision with Slyk.
Frédérick Tubiermont
Well, I kind of share @saifedean's opinion who considered that most of the things we say only crypto can achieve can already be performed with Web2 platforms. You can already build an online reputation outside of the traditional school system via a list of marketplaces. You can already trade with peers with better terms than those offered by traditional banks (granted, you usually pay a commission to a platform but that's the incentive to finance marketing & product development). As for NFTs, they're just a digital token for (theoretically) a unique work of art. Unique Works Of Art have been around for centuries. I would argue that the main advantage of NFTs is to pass a royalty to the original creator through successive sales, without the need to trust any middleman / agent. But NFTs haven't really changed the nature of community/fame-driven businesses. You can produce the coolest Monkey JPEG on earth, you won't sell it if you don't have a following. IMO (and here again I share @saifedean's position), the main innovation in crypto remains BTC, which enables you to move money (seen as Property) through space and time in a permissionless manner.