Dixon is also a prominent voice through the series, providing his expertise as a technology entrepreneur, prominent cryptocurrency and Web3 evangelist. His introductory thoughts in the series set the tone for the overarching theme of Web3’s impact on the ever-evolving Internet: “The big question now is how these new networks will be created in the next year of the Internet, who will own them, who will control them and who will make money.”
Crypto History – Rooted in Bitcoin
Zhao takes a central role as the Masterclass covers the history of cryptocurrency. Rooted in cryptography and the need to solve the problem of a Byzantine general, Zha deconstructs these notions before delving into the mystery that is Bitcoin.
The creator is pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto.
With the 2008 financial crisis as a starting point, the CEO points to the publication of the Bitcoin white paper as a seminal moment for cryptocurrencies and the Web3 we know and use today. The famous Bitcoin Pizza is also on display, due to its significance as the first commercial transaction using Bitcoin.
The development of Ethereum is another focal point as a way for entrepreneurs to enter the cryptocurrency ecosystem thanks to smart contract functionality and the ability to issue ERC-20 tokens.
The concept and appeal of “liberty” is touched upon by both Zhao and Dixon, the former noting that this aspect is desirable for both libertarians and “militant anarchists”. Dixon concludes the chapter with a quote from author William Gibson:
“The future is already here, it’s not evenly distributed.”
He believes that cryptography is still an Internet movement and a grassroots technology. But tech companies and financial institutions don’t like it, which prompts the above quote.
Web3: Read, Write and Own
Web3 is becoming a ubiquitous concept, but the impact of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology may be lost on some. The masterclass does a good job of putting the pieces back together as Choi highlights the key differences between Web1, Web2, and Web3.
Web1 represents the early internet, where websites were read-only landing pages governed by open protocols and users simply consumed information. The emergence of Web2 in the early 2000s led to the introduction of read and write functionality, which Choi described as a paradigm shift:
“Users are the product, and central companies dictate the rules and control the data and user-generated content.”
Dixon breaks down at this point, highlighting the rise of Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple to unleash the power of technology and do things you can’t do with TV, magazines, and other media. The result was a consolidation of economic power and control among a handful of large corporations:
“What that meant for creators, developers, and entrepreneurs is that instead of building on open systems, you were relying on those companies to gain and keep audiences to sell things.”
This is where Web3 enters the fray, not just information but publishing and ownership. It is community owned and operated in nature, with token implementations of new Web3 applications and concepts proliferating.
Choi sums it up succinctly, as cryptocurrency forms the back-end infrastructure that powers Web3. And she asserts that Web3 is more about front-end applications becoming more powerful in a cryptocurrency-powered world:
“If you look at the Metaverse as a Web3 experience, cryptography is the central plumbing of tokens and wallets.”
Perhaps most importantly, Dixon considers why Web3 matters by looking at three simple questions. Who makes money? Who controls the content? Who controls the network? The value of Web3 is the transfer of true ownership from the few to the many:
“Is it corporations or communities of people? The Internet is clearly the most important technological innovation still developing today. It affects culture, politics, economics and our daily lives.”
A separate episode on Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) sees Dixon dive head first into the popularity of digital collectibles and tokenized assets. Sports-focused digital collectibles, digital artwork that changes the way artists own, share, and monetize their creations and musicians using NFTs to interact with fans are all notable use cases highlighted by the series.
For the first time for the Masterclass, economist Paul Krugman hosts a thought-provoking discussion with Zhao, posing a set of pertinent questions that tackle perceived problems with cryptocurrencies from a mainstream perspective.
Krugman’s role is measured as a skeptical but assertive economist, with questions ranging from what problems cryptocurrencies solve, to why financial institutions and mainstream banks should adopt blockchain and how these systems can power fast and cheap transactions.
In general, the series offers introductory lecture-style classes that address the basic principles of industry. Without getting technical concepts, the basic concepts that influenced the development of cryptocurrencies, blockchain innovations, and Web3 use