An internet of Pokémon cards
Read to the end for a truly astounding Tumblr post about Evangelion
Exciting news! I’m doing a live chat on the Sidechannel Discord next Tuesday night at 6:30PM with Cates Holderness, Tumblr’s head of editorial. If you want to check that out, hit the subscribe button below to get access to the server! Only $5 a month. Wow!
Is Our Picture Of Web3 Getting Clearer?
The terms “Web 1.0” and “Web 2.0” were both coined by author and UX expert Darcy DiNucci in 1999. Web 1.0, according to DiNucci, was the internet of the late 90s, and Web 2.0 would be a web “understood not as screenfuls of text and graphics, but as a transport mechanism.” DiNucci predicted that the internet would live on TV screens, car dashboards, and “hand-held game machines.” It’s actually astounding how much she got right.
The terms Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 became tech canon and now have pretty clear definitions. Web 1.0 was an internet of static web pages built from frames and tables and databases. Web 2.0 is a fluid and living internet made from user generated content, social platforms, and feeds. Over the last decade, people have taken a whack at sketching out what Web 3.0 would be. The assumption for a while was that Web 3.0 would be a “semantic web,” where users would interface with mobile technology just as easily as they interface with other humans. Basically, the internet via Siri.
Over the last year, however, a new vision of Web 3.0 or “Web3” has emerged that is actually very different from the concept of a semantic web. Instead of an internet you can talk to like a person, proponents of Web3 are actively trying to create a decentralized version of Web 2.0 powered by blockchain technology. This is sort of hard to envision, so let me break this idea down further.
A blockchain, in its simplest terms, is a big long list of puzzles that exists on the internet. Every time a computer (or computers) solves one of these puzzles, or “blocks,” it is timestamped and added to the network, or “chain”. Most blockchains require more computing power to solve the more they’re solved. Think of it like a big receipt that lives in the cloud. And there are tons of different blockchains now. Bitcoin is a blockchain, Ethereum is another blockchain, and Dogecoin another. And there is an increasingly vocal set of creators, developers, and investors who believe tying internet services to these blockchains via dApps (decentralized apps) and “smart contracts” is the only way forward because, if the internet ran on blockchains, no one person or company would be in control.
Most NFTs run on the Ethereum blockchain. You use a bidding platform to buy, sell, and display them, but most of it is automated. An internet of no middlemen. It sounds great! The big hot thing right now in the blockchain world are DAOs, or “Decentralized Autonomous Organizations,” which are entities like internet communities, investment groups, or companies (which in the blockchain world are sometimes all the same thing) that use a blockchain to make decisions, voting with digital tokens that function likes stock shares. Some subreddits are experimenting with this.
I’ve been messing around with blockchain-based publishing, just to see what can be done with it. It’s cool, but, I’ve also found it to be wildly frustrating in practice. And I think there are some pretty major hurdles to clear before it becomes something we could envision being used by consumer-level internet users:
Most importantly, it’s confusing as hell. Even sending a crypto coin from one wallet to another is extremely clunky and imagining my parents or even non-internety friends using a wallet like Metamask is laughable.
Because blockchain-based technology has financial value assigned to it, it basically creates an internet made of Pokémon cards. Every piece of the machine can be owned and traded and speculated on. It also means wealthier users have more mobility than poorer ones. (You could argue this is true for our current internet, as well, though, just in different ways.)
Blockchain-based moderation is so much worse than the already-terrible moderation happening on corporate-owned platforms. No one is in charge of a blockchain, which means, there is no central authority that could remove something from it without breaking it entirely. Which has horrible implications for privacy and data security.
While there is still a debate about how exactly blockchain technology is accelerating climate change, it seems clear that it is. Blockchains require a lot of computing power, by design, and running the web on blockchain technology would effectively turn the internet into a massive furnace.
And, lastly, blockchain technology could remove a lot of the current middlemen that control both the internet and society, at large (see: OnlyFans vs. the banks), but it opens the door to pretty much an endless parade of new worse ones.
Now, you might think this is all just technobabble nonsense or repulsive libertarian bull shit, but, unfortunately, that won’t make it go away. This stuff is real and having an impact on how the web is designed. In fact, I recently came across two interesting examples of how blockchain-based technology is blurring the lines between social network, video game, and online auction platform, which seems to be where a lot of the Web3 innovation is going right now.
First, most recently, my fellow Sidechanneler Casey Newton, this week, published a big interesting piece about Loot a blockchain-based social network created by Vine co-founder Dom Hofmann. A few NFT enthusiasts I follow have been posting about it this week. It’s a fascinating, and, frankly, extremely dumb idea. Which is, honestly, a powerful mix for a good social network. I mean, a website with just six-second videos?
Loot is a text-based RPG, sort of, built on Ethereum. Loot will randomly generate a list of items from a fictitious fantasy video game, which you can then display as a virtual inventory. Just so we’re clear, these Loot drops are literally just that black picture of white text in the tweet embedded above. Loot now has a market cap of $180 million!!!
The other project I wanted to highlight is called Axie Infinity. Rest Of World has an excellent story about it. It’s sort of like Pokémon on the blockchain and players in countries like The Philippines are earning thousands of dollars a month unlocking digital monsters, battling them, and selling them for Ethereum. It’s not hard to imagine how a platform like Twitch or YouTube could start heading in a more gamified direction like this. (In fact, there is a blockchain-based Twitch that already does this called DLive. A lot of white nationalists use it.)
Here’s the thing about all of this. Unlike, say, buying an expensive fur coat or any other kind of tangible status symbol, digital assets cease to exist if the power goes out. This entire world is built on the assumption the internet will never die, which reflects a pretty big cultural shift in how we think about technology.
John Palmer, a writer who focuses on cryptocurrency, recently wrote about this current Web3 trend, declaring “The internet is now a place where everyone has an inventory.” Except, we already carry around digital inventories — contact lists, camera roll photos, memes we like, text messages or DMs — these things don’t physically exist and, yet, we have expensive devices to store them and share them. It’s obviously far cry from a screenshot of randomly-generated Dungeons & Dragons armor you buy for $50 million worth of fake internet money, but I think there is a real human desire to own internet content that’s being expressed here. This technology won’t usher in some kind a techno utopia. Everything always replaces old problems with new ones. But I don’t think it’s a dumb fad either. It might be pointless and idiotic, but it’s not random. People are saying the internet is real to them and they want to own pieces of it. And, now that we’ve acknowledged that, things are probably going to get very strange.
Here’s A Tweet From Lady Gaga
A Small Black Widow Streaming Update
Over the last few months, I’ve been keeping an eye on how streaming/theater hybrid releases like Black Widow and Jungle Cruise have fared against non-streaming releases like F9. Mainly because I’m curious about if, over time, something like Netflix will succumb to the same content forces that determine what does well on platforms like YouTube or TikTok? How will streaming audiences and their subscription money change blockbusters or is the idea of a “movie” here to stay?
Well, here’s an interesting little update. Last week, after being sued by Scarlet Johansson, Disney revealed in a court filing that Black Widow made $125 million in online revenue. What’s interesting is the film made $67 million in online revenue in its first weekend. That’s a crazy amount of money coming in after the opening, which I think really says some interesting things about the timeline for people deciding to pay for streaming content. Sort of makes you wonder how long we’ll be holding on to the “opening weekend” metric as the entertainment industry continues to move to streaming releases.
Here’s A Good Tweet
Whatever This Is, I Absolutely Hate It
A TikTok user named Austin Wallace posted a video in which he claims that he quit his job, where he was making $100,000 a year, and snuck on stage at a Logan Paul event to ask the influencer for a job. In the clip that Wallace shared, Paul basically says, “no thanks lol.” And then in another video, Jake Paul makes fun of Wallace for later crying about the incident.
Wallace, who says he’s 22 and from Ohio and was working as a welder, has a TikTok page full of, honestly, very grim content about trying to get a job with Logan Paul. Wallace also has another video with Barstool Sports’ Dave Portnoy. The whole thing is very weird! In one video, he says to the camera that “money is nothing compared to your dreams.” Your dreams of…working as a content slave for an influencer?
Part of me thinks this is all a stunt by Paul, but I think it’s too weird and dark tbh. As I wrote above, I’m not sure what this is, but I don’t like it at all!
“By Talos This Can’t Be Happening” Explained
So this meme started on Tumblr in 2019, but I’ve seen it spread to places like TikTok and Twitter recently, as well. Here’s the deal. “By Talos, this can’t be happening” is a line of dialogue from the video game Elder Scrolls. The line ended up in a big Tumblr post which has since racked up over 140,000 notes. According to Know Your Meme, the meme kind of died out there until Tumblr user spritespi used it in a post earlier this month.
Anyways lol that’s it. That’s the whole thing.
The Mr. Boop Follow-Up You’ve Been Waiting For
Alec Robbins, the creator of the absolutely WILD comic Mr. Boop, is back with a new project. It’s called CRIMEHOT and it looks equally genius/deranged.
More RaveDJ Mashups
A reader named Henry sent me a bunch of really good RaveDJ Mashups. Thanks Henry!
A Tweet About Parappa The Rappa
Some Stray Links
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***