The e book traces the next thesis: At first, the web was open, however restricted. Personal firms introduced interactivity to the online and grew fats on the proceeds, however that made it tough for customers to go away their networks and for rivals to enter the market. The focus of energy within the palms of Massive Tech led to a technique of enshittification, whereby firms deprioritize the pursuits of customers and clip the income shared with content material creators in favor of juicing income.
Constructing web platforms on high of blockchain, which enforces pre-coded guidelines changeable solely by fashionable vote, Dixon writes, may “reverse the development towards web consolidation and restore communities to their rightful place as stewards of the longer term.” Which may sound summary, he concedes, however as a result of the web is “more and more the place we stay our lives,” it issues who will get to set the foundations. If everybody had a say, much less private information is perhaps harvested, fewer creators is perhaps shadow-banned, content material feeds is perhaps filled with fewer advertisements, product searches may yield the best-matching outcomes as an alternative of essentially the most worthwhile ones, and so forth.
For a VC agency like a16z, after all, the likelihood that blockchain may loosen the stranglehold of incumbent know-how corporations additionally represents a contemporary chunk on the web cherry. With a route cleared for brand new rivals, there’s a better prospect of turning the subsequent web startup into one thing large. “Protecting the web open,” as Dixon describes it, quantities to “good capitalism” that advantages everybody by incentivizing experimentation that creates helpful new know-how.
In observe, although, makes an attempt to ship a blockchain model of the web have run into their very own challenges. Take decentralized autonomous organizations—the token-based voting buildings that Dixon proposes will let customers “share in management” over web platforms by giving them veto rights on any adjustments. Because the thought was first examined in 2016, DAOs have confirmed inefficient and overly bureaucratic and function as democracies only in theory. In observe, individuals battle to agree on which adjustments to suggest, don’t prove to vote, or blindly comply with another person’s lead, defeating the aim of the decentralized mannequin. Democracy can flip into plutocracy if a single get together accrues sufficient voting credit, which will get simpler when voter turnout is low. a16z itself holds large amounts of voting tokens in quite a few blockchain initiatives.
The poor usability of blockchain-based software program additionally weakens one other pillar of Dixon’s case. He writes that the know-how may permit income to be shared extra equitably between social platforms and the content material creators that populate them, by giving creators the facility to watch and reject unfavorable adjustments to the phrases of the connection. Nevertheless, as figures like Moxie Marlinspike, creator of safe messaging app Sign, have argued, the clunkiness of blockchain may merely drive individuals towards new intermediaries that may make issues less complicated, changing previous rent-seeking gatekeepers with new ones.
Dixon acknowledges these shortcomings and extra in his e book. However he insists that the emergence of even an unpolished various for governing web platforms is a step ahead. Blockchain is “messy and imperfect,” he says, however the various is worse. “We’re going to have an web that’s siloed off. That could be a miserable, dystopian consequence, and we’re heading to it rapidly,” he says. “I feel individuals ought to care.”
In selecting to sofa his case for blockchain within the perils of the established order, somewhat than solely within the know-how’s deserves, Dixon takes a unique strategy than a16z founder Marc Andreessen. In an essay printed in October, “The Techno-Optimist Manifesto,” Andreessen asserted that “know-how is the glory of human ambition,” and that those that stand in the way in which of its growth are complicit in a “mass demoralization marketing campaign” premised on outmoded socialist concepts. The manifesto was applauded by some technologists as a “breath of fresh air,” however critiqued elsewhere—together with by The New York Instances, Monetary Instances, and WIRED—as overwrought, blinkered and even dangerous.
Dixon claims that he and Andreessen are largely aligned, believing that “quite a lot of our issues may be solved by constructing, versus being afraid of know-how.” Within the e book, he reserves a number of barbs for the “institution” and its “myopic” dismissal of blockchain, and likewise jabs on the press, which by “cherry-picking the worst examples of an rising know-how” engages in a “disingenuous type of criticism.” But the place Andreessen is unyielding, Dixon leaves room for doubt: The web has been “hijacked,” he says, and blockchain simply may characterize the easiest way to “construct our means out of it.”