A sorta-kinda bombshell
Read to the end for Rico the porcupine eating snacks
Just How Bad Could Crypto Actually Get?
The world of cryptocurrency is in a very messy place right now. The prices of the two biggest coins, Bitcoin and Ethereum, are rebounding — though, not even close to where they were at their all-time highs, mind you. But the lines are slowly beginning to go up. Every other part of the sector is screaming red alert.
Last week, Business Insider published a sorta-kinda bombshell. Coinbase, easily the biggest and best known crypto trading platform in the US, will be shutting down its affiliate marketing program on Tuesday. What made the news so dramatic was that it came off the back of two other big shake ups in the crypto space this month — Celsius filing for bankruptcy and OpenSea laying off 20% of its staff.
A long-time OpenSea employee, designer Jessica Phan, was one of the 20% laid off last week and actually wrote on Mirror, a popular blockchain-enabled blogging platform, about being let go from the large NFT marketplace. I really, truly don’t want to kick someone when they’re down, so I hope that’s not what it sounds like I’m doing here. But in Phan’s post, she describes joining the company early on even though she “was really skeptical about the space and didn’t quite understand why people were buying and selling digital cats online.” Which kind of made me angry the more I thought about it.
There was this same kind of humble-brag “aw shucks” faux-quirky attitude during the peak of web 2.0, as well — “oh wow, why are people posting cat GIFs on our website??? That’s so crazy!” But I find it especially noxious among Web3 architects, considering they’re building products that hundreds of millions of people’s dollars are circulating through. There’s still an overwhelming sense of true-believerism among Web3 developers even though many of them seem more than happy to admit that they don’t understand why we need digital assets or why they should be burned onto a blockchain. I don’t really get the sense from the world of Web3 that anyone involved really knows — or cares — why it exists in the first place.
Meanwhile, MetaMask’s founders did an interview with VICE’s Motherboard this week which gave off a pretty similar vibe. MetaMask is basically the lynchpin for the world of Web3. It’s a crypto wallet built for storing Ethereum and it easily syncs with your devices and browsers. I will say, from a product perspective, it’s actually pretty solid. Though, I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was user friendly or particularly secure. MetaMask wallets get hacked all the time because dumb-dumbs don’t set them up right. MetaMask’s founders were asked by VICE about the widespread use of their app for building shady ponzi schemes and said individual users should be “the change that they want to be in the system.” So I’d say it’s not likely that things will get better on that front any time soon either.
But the Celsius, OpenSea, and now Coinbase news has led to some pretty apocalyptic thinking that’s spreading throughout the crypto world at the moment. I saw multiple tweets over the weekend from big crypto influencers advising users to get their money out of Coinbase just in case the affiliate marketing shutdown was a sign of something worse coming over the horizon. Which led to Coinbase execs taking to Twitter over the weekend to combat rumors that the company might have some kind of liquidity issue. CEO Brian Armstrong said the end of the affiliate marketing program was actually because they’re doing too well. Armstrong’s very believable tweets about a very normal problem all kinds of companies have did not stop almost $250 million worth of stablecoins from leaving Coinbase, according to CryptoQuant. What that means in normal English is that a lot of people who were storing their money on Coinbase are no longer storing their money on Coinbase.
It’s finally time to ask a question that I think crypto diehards have been terrified to ask: What happens if Coinbase falls? The app functions like Robinhood, providing people with an easy-to-use wallet service, a way to easily buy and sell crypto without having to learn how to actually buy and sell crypto, and an algorithmically-sorted list of trending altcoins for investors to monitor. It is essentially the Facebook of crypto. It’s a bright (blue and white) app that was created to quickly and easily onboard the least savvy and most enthusiastic new investors. If all of the crypto market was, say, shaped like some kind of triangle, for instance, Coinbase would be the bottom of this three-pointed economic system. Even if it’s not used by the biggest traders and institutions, the assumption is that the end of Coinbase would mean game over for mass crypto adoption — at least for a long while. So you’d think that if crypto evangelists really believed in what they were doing and really wanted this thing to catch on, they’d be focused on building, and maintaining, a better app for their most casual investors.
And that’s true for folks in the Web3 world too, apps like MetaMask and OpenSea. If you really wanted to prove that your whole financial movement wasn’t a massive con job to prey on average people, maybe the folks working at the biggest and most entry-level apps in the ecosystem shouldn’t be so flippant and condescending when talking about why their products exist in the first place.
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A TikTok With Big Vine Energy
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Why Aren’t We Talking More About The Twitter Trump Stuff?
Look, I hate the “why aren’t we talking more about…” rhetorical device, but it really feels like we should be talking more about the Twitter employee that testified in front of the Jan. 6 committee that Twitter went easy on moderating Trump because “Twitter relished in the knowledge that they were also the favorite and most used service of the former president and enjoyed having that sort of power within the social media ecosystem.” I just think there should be more questions about how that worked!! We had the Facebook Papers. It would be great to get the Twitter Papers so we could learn more about that. In fact, hypothetically, if you were to have those papers, which maybe contained more information about Twitter’s moderation policies pertaining to Trump, I’d love to see them! I have numerous secure ways of communicating and sharing information and I’d be happy to keep your identity anonymous.
Is It Time To Take Snapchat Seriously?
I am awkward age for Snapchat. It launched my first year out of college and I suspect that’s largely the reason I never found a place for it in my digital life. I did manage to snag a fantastic user name on it though — ryan420bongking — but beyond that, I was never able to build a proper social graph on it. But the app hasn’t gone away. As of May, it was the sixth most popular app in the US, just behind TikTok. And it’s also continued to innovate, arguably better than any other app out there. In fact, this week, Snapchat announced that it would be launching a desktop version.
Snapchat was always an oddity compared to the rest of the social networking platforms in the US. It stressed ephemerality with both disappearing posts and disappearing messages. It was also one of the first American apps to integrate a QR code system. Then it caused even more head-scratching when it announced original content from media brands and big influencers that would be played inside the app. It then made things even more confusing in 2017 when the company rebranded as Snap and announced it was pivoting into becoming a camera company. It released a plastic drone in May! It sells AR sunglasses. From the outside, the company makes no sense. It paid creators $250 million from its creator fund last year. It takes big swings that don’t make total sense, but are also kind of neat.
My assumption is that Snapchat is too personalized of an experience to capture the popular imagination, unlike TikTok. Even with the original content and influencers, each person’s Snapchat is totally different. Which is why it’s almost become a punchline at this point how every three-to-six months, Snapchat will announce something utterly bewildering and then vanish from public consciousness again. I also don’t get the sense that Snapchat relies on particularly insidious network effects. From the outside, it seems less toxic than, say, WhatsApp. Though from what I’ve seen of the original content on the app, I’d say it’s pretty bottom-barrel grim. But it’s hard not to root for a company like Snap amid the current Meta-Google-Twitter status quo. If only to imagine a different, weirder way of using social media that was still constantly evolving and not just pivoting and re-pivoting towards the same four ideas over and over again.
The GIF’s Last Stand
Tumblr’s Changes blog — which is great and worth following — revealed last week that the platform is currently experimenting with converting animated GIFs into looping MP4s. “This should help Tumblr load much faster on pages with a lot of GIFs,” the post said. Which sucks!!
There’s a few reasons GIFs have fallen out of fashion over the last decade. One reason is cultural. A lot of millennials made a lot of really embarrassing GIFs ten years ago and now younger internet users associate the file format with the cringe middle managers they Slack with all day. But also Tumblr’s post is technically correct. GIFs don’t load very fast. They particularly suck on mobile. But it’s also hard to see losing animated GIFs as part of the larger Webm-ification of images across the internet. Everywhere you look it’s getting harder on the social web to share visual content. Converting GIFs to MP4s, which a lot of sites do now, is particularly annoying because a user can upload the content, but then the platform locks it behind a video format. As of right now, Tumblr is one of the last big social networks that still allows the open uploading and sharing of the file format. And users are planning to petition the company to keep it that way.
A post went viral about the change, with Tumblr user otterandterrier asking users to flood the platform’s comms channels with requests to leave GIFs alone, loading times be damned. “Creators spend hours making a GIF that will look good as a GIF, not as a video,” they wrote. “I hope I don’t need to explain to anyone why continuing to screw over creators is bad for a site like Tumblr, whose continued existence depends on creators not giving up on it, and why gif-making is important to fandom existence.”
Oh Wait, One More Crypto Thing
Back in February, Christopher Hranj, an engineer at Gyphy, noticed that there are some really shady looking issues with the official list of Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs. Hranj found that there’s possibly 31 fake NFTs that were minted by BAYC. Thought I’d signal boost this because it still looks like no one’s gotten an answers as to what’s happened here and also I love the phrase “there’s something super suspicious about some of your apes.”
DJ Cummerbund Back With Another Banger
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I’m pretty sure I’ve featured DJ Cummerbund in Garbage Day before. He did a mashup in 2018 that was basically tailor-made for my exact music taste. He’s at the front of the mashup wave that’s blowing up on TikTok right now and he’s also one of the creators responsible for the newer trend of screen recording your music production app instead of making some kind of mashed up music video or something. Anyways, this track is very weird, but works surprisingly well.
I Got This As A Promoted Tweet
This showed up in my Twitter feed as a promoted tweet. I can’t tell if Monster paid to promote it or someone else. But from what I can tell the anime guy on the car is named Osamu Dazai and he’s from the anime Bungo Stray Dogs and he’s some kind of detective.
Good Bread Investigation
I was a huge Johnny Harris back when he was doing his series Borders and his solo has been just as good. His newest video about why American bread is so bad and it really touches on some stuff I’m really interested in. Mainly, why food in America tastes bad lmao.
Just Normal Guy Stuff
Some Stray Links
P.S. here’s Rico the porcupine eating snacks.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***