Why Does Everyone Hate Web3?
Web3 is getting popular—and a lot of people don’t like it.
11 min read
Web3 gets a lot of criticism. And I mean a lot.
There's even a movement dedicated to curating the hardest-hitting criticisms of Web3 on the Internet.
With all the flak Web3 gets online and offline, you have to wonder:
Why does everyone hate Web3?
Understanding Web3 Criticism
Web3 is the vision of a decentralized Internet, where control users—not Silicon Valley behemoths—control their data. The concept originated in a 2014 paper by Ethereum co-founder, Gavin Woods, and has come to signify a user-owned Internet that allows everyone to communicate and exchange value without relying on trusted intermediaries.
The Web3 technology stack includes decentralized applications (dApps), blockchains, cryptocurrencies, and smart contracts.
If Web3 is so revolutionary, why does it trigger vitriolic criticism from some of the biggest names in technology?
The simple truth is Web3 is the kind of lightning-rod topic that's bound to draw reactions—whether from bullish supporters and fiery critics. As a result, everyone is trying to ride the coattails of Web3 criticism to Internet superstardom.
"Everyone" here includes The New York Times, Signal co-founder Moxie Marlinspike, socialist publication Jacobin Magazine, and leading tech publications like TechCrunch and Vox.
Of course, there's more here, here, here, and here.
Critics not only target Web3, but also attack the building blocks of the technology. Which means you'll find the Financial Times calling crypto a Ponzi scam, CNET saying NFTs don't make sense, or The Verge describing blockchains as "meaningless".
I could dig for more links, but you get the idea—Web3 is gaining steam, and many people don't like it.
Now, some of these people have good reasons for criticizing Web3. The technology is relatively new, with many kinks to work out, yet evangelists describe it as the greatest technological revolution since the arrival of the Internet.
I'd be mad, too. In fact, I recently criticized smart contracts in a recent article, highlighting their design flaws and limited real-world applications.
But here's the thing:
Technology always evolves, so I expect the introduction of smarter smart contracts, scalable blockchains, and environmentally sustainable cryptocurrencies. That's why I remain bullish on Web3 and its ability to remake the Internet into a better place for all.
However, some people are dead-set against the technology and believe it offers no solutions or creates new problems. These people are the focus of the article.
After going through a long list of anti-Web3 material online, I have a good idea of the various profiles of Web3 haters. This next section discusses the different types of people who hate Web3 and their reasons for criticizing the technology.
Let's dig in, shall we?
The Hard-Nosed Journalist
I'll start with our good friend here—the hard-nosed journalist. Trained to be straight as a ruler and report news without fear or favor, the hard-nosed journalist takes no prisoners on the job.
You can expect the hard-nosed journalist to ask the tough questions, criticize anything and everything, and provide independent, against-the-grain commentary on societal issues.
All of that is good. In fact, I wager the world would be worse off without journalists. We'd probably never know about Watergate, Guantanamo Bay, the CIA’s involvement in the drug trade, or Big Tech's desire to monopolize the Internet if journalists hadn’t risked their lives to find out the truth.
However, it's become the unspoken rule in journalism that bad news gets more coverage than good news. Good news may inspire people, but it's the bad news that drives clicks and keeps the lights on.
People love bad news, and the media ruthlessly exploits this negativity bias to attract more eyeballs. That explains why so many stories and op-eds in mainstream media concerning Web3-related concepts like cryptocurrency and blockchain technology are intensely negative.
It makes economic sense to give readers negative news about a sector if that's what they want.
Take for example this story from The Guardian about right-wing extremists raising funds with crypto. Or this one from Wired about Russian hackers using Bitcoin to fund operations.
There's nothing wrong about journalists seeking to highlight the dark side of Web3. Given the rate of criminal activity—ICO fraud, hacks, exit scams, Ponzi schemes, money laundering, et al—that happens in the industry, we need people to call out bad actors.
But when an entire industry consistently gets negative coverage, we need to question the fairness and balance of journalists.
It gets worse when journalists try to undermine the entire Web3 industry on the basis of some malicious actors. They literally act like criminals aren't early adopters of new technology. Whether it's cars, pagers, or cell phones, criminals are always one of the first groups to recognize the potential of new innovations.
I suspect journalists know the danger of biased reporting, but the need to attract readers overrules the desire to comply with journalist ethics.
So, next time you see an anti-Web3 article from one of 'em hard-nosed journalists, my advice is to take it with a pinch of salt (I prefer ice-cream). Do not listen to the media on blockchain or Bitcoin or anything remotely related to Web3.
The Cambridge Dictionary defines a contrarian as "someone such as a writer or politician who likes to disagree with other people and express opinions that are unpopular."
Put simply, a contrarian is someone who likes going against prevalent thinking. This doesn't mean the contrarian's take on issues is particularly correct. If anything, public rejection of the contrarian's ideas is proof that those ideas lack merit.
But contrarians don't need to be correct about anything. So long as they can produce unpopular opinions, their share of public attention is guaranteed. Again, people love the negative stuff—and contrarians give them loads of it.
Contrarians are always against popular things or ideas. The contrarian is the type of person who said the Internet was overhyped in 2000, predicted the death of hybrid cars, and dismissed the idea of exploring Mars.
Web3 has been riding the hype curve since last year, so I can understand the intense reactions the topic triggers in contrarians.
There's no shortage of contrarians trying to break the Internet by criticizing Web3 in articles and blog posts. Some of it, like this one from Moxie Marlinspike, try to address real issues in Web3 constructively.
The rest are simply ego-boosting, click-baity articles poorly disguised as informed commentary. Once an article starts with something like "Web3 Is Bullshit" or "Nobody Cares About Decentralization," you can bet the author is desperately trying to be contrarian.
I have no problems with contrarians. After all, our capitalist thrives because people can contribute to a diverse marketplace of ideas.
That doesn't mean I regard them highly, either.
People seem to forget how easy it is to criticize. As Dale Carnegie said: "Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn—and most fools do." It's much harder to fix things and build products that offer consumers a better experience, something many in Web3 are trying to do.
No one would care about Web3 if the current Internet was oh-so-good. Are there problems with Web3? Yes. But there are people—smart people, I must add—working to solve these problems.
Contrarians offer no value beyond showing us what the problems are. It’s an intellectually lazy act that’s no different from idealistic teenagers scrawling “Society is fucked” on crappy t-shirts.
The Doomsday Prophet
Merriam-Webster defines doomsday prophets as "people who predict that bad things will happen." What it fails to add is that some doomsday prophets are people paid to predict bad things will happen.
Doomsday prophets, or pessimists, have always exploited negativity bias to their advantage. People like Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman built an entire career on issuing alarming predictions that never materialized.
Now, the same doomsday prophets have turned their attention to cryptocurrencies, blockchains, and everything related to Web3.
Guess who's leading the pack? Paul Krugman. The same man who said "the Internet would fizzle out" in 2005, and predicted that "the Internet's effect on the economy would be no greater than fax machines."
The doomsday prophet is the kind of person who says Bitcoin will cause the Earth's temperature to rise by two degrees celsius based on calculations done with questionable data. Thankfully, we still have rational people who can debunk these wild theories and show that, yes, things are not all doom-and-gloom.
Doomsday prophets predicted "the fall of Bitcoin'' in 2011 and declared Bitcoin ''a bubble ready to pop'' in 2013. In 2022, yet another prophet of doom says Web3 will fail because "you can't solve politics with technology."
You'd think doomsday prophets would have learned a thing or two about predictions, but what do you know?
As the popularity of Web3 increases, you can expect more, more, more, and more doomsday predictions about crypto, blockchains, NFTs, and Web3 to circulate online. But no one is fooled about the motive behind these predictions: to gain attention and drive buzz.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, a Luddite is "someone who dislikes new technology." The Luddite is a different flavor of Web3 critic, one who hates the tech because he is a) resistant to new technology b) unwilling to learn anything.
Compared to their 19th century counterparts, modern-day Luddites are found in the highest echelons of society. A person could be the CEO of a hedge fund and be a Luddite without anyone knowing.
However, you can smell a Luddite by their marked criticism of new technology. These are the people who ask generic questions like, "What problems does this technology solve?" even if the topic has been discussed repeatedly.
Of course, a week or two of research should solve this problem. But, alas, the Luddite's hatred of new technology is too deeply ingrained for him to consider the possibility that this technology might have some benefits.
Luddites are resistant to technology for many reasons. But the most enduring is the threat new technology poses to their jobs, and by extension, their lives.
The original Luddites destroyed machinery during the Industrial Revolution to protect their manual jobs. Modern-day Luddites want to destroy Web3 because it threatens to overturn the broken economic structure that enriches them.
You can see it in the way legacy institutions routinely describe cryptocurrencies as Ponzi schemes, dismiss decentralized finance (DeFi), or deride blockchain technology.
I totally get it. If something like AI writing software threatened my job, downplaying its importance would be my Life Mission.
However, acting this way is rarely ideal. A better strategy would be to look into strategies for adapting to new technological trends and positioning for future survival.
In a capitalist society, change is inevitable; new ideas always replace old ideas. Television killed cinemas, news websites killed newspapers, and iPods killed mp3 players. On and on it goes.
This process of "creative destruction" is what fuels innovation in the 21st century and moves society forward. Legacy institutions trying to protect their businesses by spreading FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) concerning Web3 is like trying to stop a moving train instead of getting on it.
Some blue-chip companies like JP Morgan have made a U-turn on blockchain technology, crypto, and the wider Web3 revolution. Still, you can expect more Wall Street types to resist Web3 and throw everything they have at it.
The catch? Web3 isn't going anywhere soon. And like those Luddites of yore, modern-day Luddites will have no choice to adapt or lose out.
The Soapbox Speaker
Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, public speakers would stand on soapboxes (discarded crates) at street corners and attempt to garner support for a specific cause. Some of history's greatest thought leaders and revolutionaries got their start in soapboxing.
Soapboxing has carried over into the 21st century, but the mechanics have changed. For example, Donald Trump proved the power of rallying supporters around particular issues by riding the waves of American anti-immigrant phobia and white nationalism to the White House.
From failing politicians to environmental do-gooders, there's no shortage of people using Web3 as leverage to garner supporters.
Politicians like Elizabeth Warren would have you believe that cryptos are threatening the financial system and should be regulated to death. A simple history lesson, however, shows crypto was designed to solve our broken financial system and ensure things like the 2008 financial crisis never happen again.
In similar fashion, so-called environmental activists score relevancy points by painting blockchains and cryptocurrencies as the world's no. 1 environmental problem. That's when you see articles like this saying Bitcoin mining will destroy the Earth and accelerate the climate change apocalypse.
Perhaps some due diligence will show Bitcoin miners have resorted to using renewable sources of energy, like wind farms and hydroelectric plants. Moreover, are we going to pretend like the banking system doesn't consume similar amounts of energy?
I suspect our friendly soapboxers here know the truth, but then that's not enough to gain new supporters. They must show relevancy, and Web3 is the newest bull to sacrifice for the goal.
The Final Word
I don't doubt that Web3 has many problems. But the constant barrage of extreme criticisms I see on the Internet everyday are baffling and show the human tendency to resist innovation for often selfish reasons.
Perhaps in the future, people will learn not to fear what they don't understand. For now, you can expect people to keep hating on Web3 and reaping the rewards.
Not that it should bother true believers in Web3 technology. I mean, there's a long list of people who predicted that the Internet would never take off.
It takes years, decades even, for people to see the potential in technology. Some are lucky to discover it early, while others fail to see until it's here.
Will Web3 fail or succeed? Only time will tell.
In the meantime, you can wait for the next anti-Web3 article and laugh at those desperately trying to stop a change whose time has come.