We’ve had a blast attending this year’s 1st edition of Web3 Summit organized in Berlin. Researchers, developers, organizations and companies with hands-on experience in the Blockchain space gathered at Funkhaus to share their take on “how to create a fully-functional and user-friendly decentralized web”.
Day 1 at Web3 Summit in Berlin was all about … Web3; what it is, how it works, and why it matters. The day kicked off with an early introductory presentation on “Decentralization in the Information Age” with Aeron Buchanan from Web3 Foundation, following which Vlad Zamfir from the Ethereum Foundation gave a talk on “Governance in Web2 vs. Governance in Web3”. According to Vlad, “Governance is the process of establishing and maintaining the legitimacy of decision-making processes. It’s all about decisions and how we make decisions”. As opposed to Web2, where data silos and centralized servers are in control, Web3 is completely decentralized, catering to the next generation of the web.
An ideological warfare happening between cryptocurrencies
Research scientist Harry Halpin from Inria talked about Blockchains at Web3 Summit in Berlin, and whether or not they can solve 10 years of standardization failure of the social web. We loved Halpin’s insightful explanation on the ideological warfare happening between cryptocurrencies. Blockchains may or may not save us all and get us on the path to a fully decentralized web. What we should all learn from the failures of Web2:
“You (the Web3 community) must build a decentralized system of trust without a dictator that evolves over time.” – Harry Halpin.
The ins and outs of the real Web3
“What exactly is Web3?” Founder and CEO of Protocol Labs, Juan Benet, gave a deep-dive talk on the matter. He mentioned that the most amazing thing about the smart contract system is that it’s the basis of a jurisdiction. “It’s a proto-jurisdiction; it’s computable law, and it’s native to the internet.” We’ve learned some pretty interesting things, but the one thing that got stuck with us was the idea that if you want to lock the web open as the decentralised web movement wants to do, you have to think about how to encode it into a jurisdiction of the internet; because in a way, the internet is becoming a jurisdiction.
Web3 is an inclusive set of protocols that provides building blocks for application makers that feature a whole new way for creating applications. Web3-based technologies give users strong and verifiable guarantees about the information they receive, what information they give away, and what they pay and receive in return.
“Consider Web3 to be an executable Magna Carta; a foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot.”
At the end of the day, the Web3 “cloud of buzzwords provides decentralized computational storage – which is all you need for computing” added Benet. “It enables fully autonomous applications; things that will run whether or not you’re there to run them in the future.” Bitcoin, Ethereum, Polkadot are all about verifiability. The ecosystem is huge, meaning that it’s powerful movement with a lot of momentum.
“Web3 is all about removing intermediaries from the systems and decentralizing control of the information. I think that the decentralized web movement, the blockchain movement, and the link data movement are part of Web3. And Web3 ought to support these 3 movements. At the end of the day, what is more linked than a Blockchain?
Isn’t Blockchain already fulfilling the vision of the link data world better than a lot of link data systems out there? I hope that in the future we have a digital system that takes into account our rights, that takes into account how people use those systems, and how potential problems might be created. I hope that we have a trustless decentralized infrastructure that we can just use without worrying that it’s manipulating us or own us in the future; or might stop existing.”
Following the most interesting panel discussion moderated by Jutta Steiner from Parity Technologies on “The Value of Institutional Investors in the Age of Crypto”, with Olaf Carlson-Wee from Polychain Capital, Richard Muirhead from Fabric Ventures, Vincent Zhou from FBG Capital, Day I at Web3 Summit in Berlin came to an end.
We cannot wait to see what the future holds for Web3. Now let’s have a look at what happened at the summit on Day II.
The truth behind privacy on Blockchain
Day II at Web3 Summit in Berlin started out with an interesting talk on “Privacy on Blockchain”. Lead scientist and founding partner at Berlin Innovation Ventures, Elad Verbin, shed some light on the true level of privacy behind Blockchain technology; privacy that is truly secure and cryptographically movable.
We were quite intrigued to find out why the Bitcoin Blockchain was not as secure as one might think.
“I’m gonna tell you why you should care about privacy on the Blockchain. Blockchain privacy is inheritable. If you use a wallet to pay for pizza, and a wallet to pay for a bag of weed, the cops can come and ask the pizza guy where they delivered the pizza, and arrest you. That’s the way Bitcoin works if you use the same public key twice.” – Good to know!
According to Elad, the real problem was not that you got arrested, but that you were promised privacy. Isn’t Bitcoin a “private way to send money”? When it comes to transactions, there are solutions such as ZCash or Monero. But what about Web3 applications? What are the solutions?
Private computation is really important for Web3 applications. Assuming you’re a developer and you plan to decentralize Uber. How will you do that? Uber has a really complicated business logic. You need to preserve reputation, you need to calculate how much someone pays for the drive, and so on. Because of that, the way you’d naturally implement Uber on the Blockchain is to post all private info on the chain, in the blocks.
Following Elad Verbin’s talk on privacy on the blockchain, we were really excited to witness the launch of the first Blockchain-powered smartphone from HTC. Decentralized Chief Officer for HTC, Phil Chen, introduced us into “The Journey from the First Android Phone to the First Crypto Phone”. According to Chen, in today’s highly-developed and highly-connected world the thing people care about the most is personal data. The promise of the internet was that we would live in a world without borders. It turned out to be a lie.
HTC is rebuilding the internet one phone at the time
It’s been 10 years since HTC launched its first Android phone. Back in 2008, the company really believed they’ll develop an open-source phone. But their plans got hijacked by “the convergence of three very powerful forces: big data, artificial intelligence, and the cloud. Big cloud data and AI companies altogether hijacked the open-source movement into owning everybody’s identities, digital assets, and data.”
Chen talked about a world ruled by powerful, centralized data companies that own most of people’s personal data; 7 big companies to be more exact that own most of our data – Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Alibaba, Tencent, and Baidu.
Interestingly enough, right after HTC launched their first Android phone in 2008, a few months later in January 2009 the first Bitcoin (the Genesis block) was launched: the first protocol to transcend internet borders of big data and centralized clouds.
“While we were building an open-source phone in 2008 and thought we were going to connecting the world through collaboration and knowledge, Bitcoin happened.”
According to Chen, the Exodus phone can only be purchased with BTC or ETH. In terms of pioneering features mentioned, it seems that you can hold your own keys on Exodus. It also comes with a built-in hardware wallet called Zion that puts you in charge of your identity, data and crypto assets. Our favorite quote from the talk – “rebuilding the internet (crypto-internet) one phone at the time.”
After an interesting presentation of “Substrate: A Rustic Vision of Polkadot” with Gavin Wood from Parity Technologies, several technical talks followed up, including: “Product Driven R&D Strategy and Report” with Arthur Falls from Dfinity, “The Duality of Smart Contracts and Electronic Rights” with Dean Tribble from Agoric, “Blink – Scalability with Sub-second Latency” with Mihai Ciucu from Blink, and “5 Reasons Why Tezos Rocks, Number 4 Will Shock You” with Arthur Breitman from Tezos.
Day II at Web3 Summit in Berlin was technical, unexpectedly fun, and truly inspiring. We’ve met some amazing people that seemed to know their shit, and we cannot wait to see how things unfold for their companies down the road. We’ll be watching you, HTC!
Politics & Bitcoin from a hacker’s perspective
The last day of Web3 summit unfolded with a talk on politics in the age of Blockchain with hacker and computer security expert, Berd Fix. We really enjoyed his point of view on the state of the hacker in today’s tech world. He mentioned that “our biggest mistake as hackers is the belief that technology will change the world by itself. It is not technology itself that changes societies, it is the intentional use of the self-interest of societal actors that does. While we, as hackers, enjoyed ourselves believing that computers and networks are technologies of liberation, they actually become tools of slavery in the hands of our adversaries.”
Our favorite quote from the talk:
“Facebook is not a communication platform, Google is not a search engine, and Amazon is not a marketplace. These things are only means for the actual purpose – the financial and the informational exploitation of its users. It is time to call these companies what they really are: traffickers.” It does make you wonder whether this will happen to the Blockchain community.
Bitcoin was born at a very interesting time from a political perspective. It was the aftermath of the banking crisis of 2008, which people interpreted somewhat naively and prematurely. It was the time of Wikileaks and Anonymous; a time many people had hoped it would change society to something better. Although there’s no mentioning of anything political in the Bitcoin whitepaper, it’s safe to assume it was also a political act.
Hackers worldwide embraced the new technology and its ideology, and started to play around with it. But even during this grace period of Bitcoin – which lasted no longer than 2012 in the view of Berd – fewer and fewer people were interested in the political aspects. Purely technological questions dominated discussions and drove the development. The moment outside actors got involved, the discussion quickly shifted to one question: “How to make money from Bitcoin?”
Do we have killer apps or are we just kidding ourselves?
CEO at Orchid Labs, Steven Waterhouse held an interesting talk on “Searching for the killer app”. During the talk Steven made some good points, emphasizing that in spite of the potential of the Blockchain, we don’t have killer apps.
“If we really had highly-scalable smart contracts, would anybody in the world start using them tomorrow?”
He made it pretty clear that we just don’t have good usability. When building apps, one of the main problems of all tech companies is that they don’t care about design. “I love CryptoKitties but you I can’t use it on my phone. Really? So I have to go to a computer.” Well that sucks. It seems that everybody’s on a rush to get their network out there. Many ignore the fact that you actually need to build something. In terms of disruption – an overused term these days – what we’re really trying to do is disrupt control structures, and do what Bitcoin did to banks and Ethereum to funding.
When we think about killer apps, it’s important not to think about what we built before and bring it into this new world. There’s a tendency to reengineer what we have had in the past and bring it into the present. Why would we do that when there are platforms that give developers new capabilities, new ways to do things?
Wrap up – the salt and pepper of the Blockchain community
We’ve enjoyed 3 days of pure madness at Web3 Summit in Berlin; the sort of madness that raises even more questions marks. One in particular got stuck with us: If Blockchain is the answer to everything, what’s the real question? What are we trying to solve using Blockchain? Aeron Buchanan, vice president of Web3 Foundation, concluded that “we can’t escape politics when building the future.”
For more information on crypto & Blockchain-related events happening in Berlin, join our Facebook group Who’s who in Berlin- Blockchain and Crypto.
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