Jack Dorsey, Elon Musk and VCs Are Arguing About Web3—What Is It and Why Does It Matter?

Dorsey and Musk are debating whether the nascent blockchain technology is the future of the internet.

Jack Dorsey speaks on stage at the Bitcoin 2021 Convention at the Mana Convention Center in Wynwood on June 04, 2021 in Miami, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Crypto enthusiasts Jack Dorsey and Elon Musk have been talking about the so-called Web3 technology on Twitter this week, debating whether it’s the future of internet or another tech hype in the making.

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So, what is Web3 and why do they care about it so much? Web3, or Web 3.0, is an idea for a decentralized internet based on blockchain. Often contrasted with Web 1.0, the first generation of internet where people were limited to viewing content in a passive manner, and Web 2.0, a more recent iteration focusing on social media and user-generated content.

Advocates for Web3 argue that Web 2.0-era online platforms are too centralized and controlled by a handful of large internet companies, such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Facebook parent Meta. As a potential solution to the data monopoly fostered by Web 2.0, Web3’s decentralized nature has the potential to change how online data and content are owned and used.

The technology has garnered great entrepreneurial and investment interest in recent years. However, like cryptocurrencies and many other blockchain-based inventions, we have yet to see how it can be applied to our day-to-day digital life.

“Has anyone seen web3? I can’t find it,” Musk tweeted Monday.

A day before, he tweeted a snippet of a 1995 interview between Bill Gates and David Letterman about the early stage of the internet. “Given the almost unimaginable nature of the present, what will the future be?” Musk asked, suggesting that today’s Web3 could just be like the early days of Web 1.0.

“I’m not suggesting web3 is real, seems more like a marketing buzzword than reality right now,” He followed up saying. “Just wondering what the future will be like in 10, 20 or 30 years.”

Jack Dorsey mildly disagreed. “It’s somewhere between a and z,” the former Twitter CEO tweeted at Musk, hinting that Web3 is largely in the hands of venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, which is also known as a16z.

“You don’t own ‘web3.’ The VCs and their LPs do,” Dorsey tweeted Monday. “It will never escape their incentives. It’s ultimately a centralized entity with a different label. Know what you’re getting into…”

Under the post, Balaji Srinivasan, general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, argued that Web3 has the potential to be a truly decentralized digital infrastructure if managed well.

“Twitter started as a protocol, the free speech wing of the free speech party. Then corporate and political incentives led to deplatforming and censorship,” he tweeted. “Web3 offers the possibility, not guarantee, of something better.”

“All false,” Dorsey responded. “Twitter started as a corporation. It’s had corporate incentives from day 1…’web3′ has the same corporate incentives, but hides it under ‘decentralization.'”

Jack Dorsey, Elon Musk and VCs Are Arguing About Web3—What Is It and Why Does It Matter?