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Web3 skeptic Molly White and her mission to pop the blockchain bubble

March 31, 2022, 8:44 PM UTC

Don’t ask Molly White about Web3.

That is, if you’re bullish on the new decentralized internet being built around blockchain technology—because, odds are, you won’t like her answer. 

“All of it is pretty concerning,” White, a software engineer who runs the website Web3 is Going Great, told me. “One side of it might be more scammy. Another side of it seems very prone to hacks and irresponsible handling of other people’s money. But they’re all pretty bad in a lot of different ways.”

For years now, cryptocurrency creators, venture capitalists, and converted Big Techies and Wall Streeters alike have touted a new vision for the Internet known as Web3. Using the same blockchain technology that underpins crypto tokens like Bitcoin and Ether, Web3 purports to shift power back to the people from the technology giants and overpaid Wall Street middle men who have long ruled the internet and banking.

White doesn’t buy it. And the late 20-something wants people to know about the problems that lie ahead in a blockchain-reliant future, if it ever happens. So, over the last four months, White has amassed a large following in the growing community of cryptocurrency and Web3 skeptics that includes many journalists, academics, and, of course, actor Ben McKenzie.

Launched in December, Web3 is Going Great acts as a chronicle of all the gaffes, hacks, and scams plaguing the interlinked worlds of cryptocurrencies, decentralized finance, and the new internet. (Or at least as many as White can track.) And there’s been plenty to write about, from the roller derby community’s concerns about non-fungible tokens to the recent hack of Axie Infinity’s Ronin network to any one of the outages and bugs that have hit crypto exchanges and DeFi protocols in that time. The site to date has had about 800,000 page views, White says.

Questioning a booming market like crypto isn’t easy, though. The crypto world, after all, has long been prone to misogyny and personal attacks in the face of criticism. “It’s odd in some ways that people have become that way about crypto,” White says, adding that people don’t often tell one another online to “have fun staying poor or say all these really vile things about you” because of disagreements over database management systems. “But when there’s money to be made in it, people take it very personally. … It’s definitely unpleasant, I could do without it.”

Still, White is pressing ahead.

She says her primary concern about Web3 is the idea of everything, like social networks, being built on immutable ledger technology like a blockchain, which can’t be changed after the fact. White cites the example of someone accidentally tweeting a picture that has an envelope in the background with their home address visible on it. Sure, there’s a chance someone will grab a screenshot of it before it can be deleted. But the fact remains: You can still delete the tweet.

Now imagine a version of Twitter where each tweet was stored on a blockchain. The content is there forever, White says, which raises a host of obvious questions about issues like revenge porn, child sexual abuse material, and doxxing. “Any time you’re talking about taking user generated content and putting it into immutable storage, you’re going to have really serious problems,” White says. “People are not all well intentioned, and even people who are well intentioned sometimes make mistakes.”

White, nonetheless, doesn’t entirely dismiss the technologies behind blockchains and the Web3 movement.

She cites Merkle trees, a form of data structure used in the blockchains of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, as one example that has existed for decades and is used beyond the world of digital assets. But a public blockchain like those underlying crypto tokens? In White’s eyes, there’s not much there—other than the fact that “it’s great for ransomware.”

Meet C.Z., the CEO… For the last five years, Changpeng Zhao has been quietly building Binance into the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange. And now, C.Z., as the CEO is more commonly known, is stepping into the spotlight, trading sweatshirts for suits and wining and dining with government officials as crypto moves further into the mainstream, Fortune correspondent Vivienne Walt reports for our latest cover story.

Insert DJ-Khaled-Another-One GIF here… Just another friendly reminder to take The Ledger’s survey, which gives you, dear reader, the chance for your voice to be heard! Granted, it’ll be by me, so do with that what you will.

Declan Harty
@declanharty
Declan.harty@fortune.com

DECENTRALIZED NEWS

Credits 🚀 

Blockchain.com is now valued at $14 billion after a new funding round, more than double from its March 2021 valuation... Decentralized wireless network company Helium has raised $200 million from investors like Tiger Global and Andreessen Horowitz at a valuation of $1.2 billion... Solana is on the up and up after OpenSea announced that it will start listing NFTs minted on the blockchain... Circle has picked BNY Mellon as primary custodian for USD Coin reserves... Chainstone Labs CEO Bruce Fenton is running for Senate in New Hampshire... Visa wants to help creators understand NFTs... Soccer superstar Lionel Messi inked a more than $20 million deal to promote digital fan token company Socios.com.

Debits 🐻 

Hackers nabbed more than $600 million worth of cryptocurrency from the Ronin Network that popular play-to-earn game Axie Infinity runs on... Crypto billionaire Chris Larsen and several climate activity groups including Greenpeace are urging Bitcoin to move to a less energy intensive validation protocol than proof of work... Robinhood's top crypto executive, Christine Brown, has left the company and plans to start her own crypto venture... MicroStrategy CEO Michael Saylor says markets aren't ready for Bitcoin-backed bonds... Nearly three dozen NFTs were stolen last week as part of a phishing attack through Twitter.

FOMO NO MO

How etherBay—er, sorry, OpenSea—became a colossus. In the world of non-fungible tokens, the marketplace that was almost called etherBay, OpenSea, has become the go-to shop for digital collectibles. In January, the company had nearly 550,000 users, up from just 7,000 a year earlier. Now, OpenSea, coming off of a series of plagiarism issues, an insider-trading scandal, and a series of thefts, must figure out how to toe the line between Web2 and Web3 as it looks to bring NFTs beyond the crypto community and crypto-curious and into the mainstream, Jessica Klein reports for the upcoming issue of Fortune

From the article:

As they shore up weak spots and decide how to keep scaling, the founders face a challenge that’s both strategic and philosophical. They built OpenSea on the principles of so-called Web3—the decentralized, blockchain-based internet where no single person or entity is supposed to control the platforms they build. It’s a world with an everyone-for-themselves ethos, one that values free expression and trade, but at the expense of safety nets. (If people lose their private keys to the digital wallet that holds their NFTs, for instance, no company can step in to retrieve them.) But OpenSea’s role in the NFT boom has pressured it to make moves associated with Web2, the familiar world of giants like FacebookGoogle, and Amazon, in which users expect the customer service, accountability, and liability that traditional companies provide. 

So far, OpenSea’s embrace of both webs has left many people wanting, as the company figures out how to bridge those universes. “We have a lot of responsibility to our users,” Finzer says, “and we’re always balancing.”

BUBBLE-O-METER

$20 million

Washington, D.C. has been keeping a close eye on the crypto industry for a while now. And the industry seems to be returning the favor with the 2022 midterms just months away, already funneling financial support to candidates who have expressed an interest around crypto and courting others like Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. One crypto-linked super PAC, the GMI PAC, has even said it plans to spend $20 million on the midterms, according to a report from the Washington Post. 

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(Some of these stories require a subscription to access. Thank you for supporting our journalism.)

MEMES AND MUMBLES

Commemorate that wipe out with a nice cozy rug. Looking to remember the crypto scam you fell for? Now you can with a Rug Pull Rug that features "all your favorite crypto scams, now safely and securely under your feet." And for only $24.24.  

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