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Web3 doesn’t need flashy — it needs functional

The original vision of Web3 was a digital future that could be built and owned by the many, made possible by the power of blockchain protocols and their unique ability to solve age-old coordination problems. 

The early internet was born on similar ideologies to Web3: An open space for the unrestricted flow of ideas and knowledge without physical, social or political barriers. 

Today, however, a small handful of corporations dominate. They cast their net widely to harvest the data of end users and developers alike while limiting control and governance to a small, unelected few. 

This subversion of the vision of the early internet came about because ideology lost out to convenience and the lure of delightful interfaces. In a world of digital abundance, the power to curate made kings and queens of the new global internet infrastructure dynasties. 

While we can understand why people will trade their values for beautiful UX, a flashy exterior can hide an ugly, sclerotic core, similar to Dorian Gray and how “his beauty had been to him but a mask.” And building beautiful interfaces on top of data networks created powerful moats that grew stronger over time, stifling competition and innovation. 

While many entrepreneurs believe they could build even better end-user-facing experiences for Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and many of the other digital giants, today’s Davids don’t stand a chance without the ability to tap into their global data and back-ends.

But in the world of decentralized infrastructure — also known as the least flashy corner of crypto — we have the chance to “ arm the rebels ” and put the needed tools into the hands of the entrepreneurs best placed to create a healthier open internet. 

The answer is emerging within OG infra protocols. We can use blockchain as a single source of truth to coordinate and incentivize otherwise untrusting actors, making it unnecessary to have to choose between utilitarian infrastructure and flashy products.

Ideology vs convenience

Open architecture is a much richer environment for ecosystems to improve performance and extend functionality. Entrepreneurs don’t need to reinvent the infrastructure stack or pay a tax to those who currently dominate.

With open architecture, the end customers can enjoy the optimizations they are used to — as flashily as they wish — without having to give up their data.

We can all have our cake and eat it, too. As per Denis Nazarov , “Open services powered by crypto networks will present unprecedented opportunity for a new generation of developers and entrepreneurs to innovate.”

Read more from our opinion section: It’s time to take back our digital communities

This vision is just starting to be rolled out within decentralized physical infrastructure networks (DePINs), often simply described as “community-powered infrastructure networks.”

The vision was never to just build a new AWS with a token on top — it is to enable an even bigger infrastructure network than AWS could ever build on its own. And this infrastructure layer will be kept open for entrepreneurs to build 1000s of AWSs on top, for every region, language, customer type and market segment you can imagine. Fantastic UX provided by thousands, if not millions of businesses, competing to best serve their target markets rather than a handful of global behemoths will prove to be the narrative break with the past. In Joel Monegro’s words from his Fat Protocols thesis in 2016, “the end result [of value flowing to open protocols away from vertically integrated applications] is a vibrant and competitive ecosystem of applications and the bulk value distributed to a widespread pool of shareholders.’”

As the data follows through to prove out the thesis, we’ll see a growing appreciation for these functional projects powering real businesses without compromising the internet’s original ideals. Convenience and globally scalable infrastructure will no longer be synonymous with a handful of internet giants controlled by a small group of people in the northwest of the USA. 

Developing new ways to create picks and shovels for the internet that all entrepreneurs can leverage without compromise may come without the fanfare of flashier projects. However, this will be the way that crypto becomes the dominant force we all hope it will become.

Permissionless open infrastructure networks will continue to be more reliable, performant and cost-effective. As per Albert Wenger , “much like the PC was a platform for innovation that never happened on mainframes or mini computers, Web3 will be a platform for innovation that would never come from Facebook, Amazon, Google, etc.”

Dermot O’Riordan serves as a Director at the POKT Network Foundation where he helps steer product development and strategy. From Ireland to Silicon Valley, Dermot’s career ranged from advising tech companies and VC firms to leading marquee industry events. His interest in Web3 was sparked in 2016 with the rise of DAOs, leading him to dive deeper into the blockchain space, where he served as an advisor to projects like Radix and Dusk, and later, spearheading growth at Eden Block.

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