January 21, 2022

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Calculating the Cost of Ending the Pandemic

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Twitter’s cryptocurrency community mostly presents a united front against all challenges. But Jack Dorsey, a founder of Twitter and a Bitcoin evangelist, just exposed a deep internal rift over the direction of crypto and pitted himself against some of the industry’s deepest-pocketed backers.

The fight is over Web3, the industry name for a blockchain-based internet that runs on crypto tokens. Supporters say it will democratize and decentralize commerce, finance, gaming and more. But Dorsey warned that Web3 was really owned by the venture capitalists who are pouring billions into cryptoventures: “It will never escape their incentives,” he tweeted.

Others echo Dorsey’s concerns. Charles Hoskinson, who cofounded the Ethereum platform, told DealBook that heavy venture involvement in an ostensibly decentralized ecosystem is problematic, since they have ways of potentially taking outsized control of projects. Elon Musk cheekily tweeted, “Has anyone seen web3? I can’t find it” — to which Dorsey replied, “It’s somewhere between a and z,” a seeming dig at the venture firm Andreessen Horowitz, widely known in Silicon Valley as A16Z. Andreessen has heavily promoted Web3 in recent months and invested billions in related projects like decentralized autonomous organizations, or DAOs.

Crypto-focused investors pushed back. Balaji Srinivasan, a former A16Z partner, replied to Dorsey that Web3 offered “the possibility, not guarantee, of something better,” while accusing Twitter of abandoning its own high-minded ideals and succumbing to “corporate and political incentives.” (Dorsey rejected that argument, saying Twitter had started as a corporation and acted like one from Day 1.)

At stake is the shape of the future of the crypto economy. This fight is pitting Bitcoin maximalists like Dorsey, who believe the original crypto is the only way forward, against supporters of the Ethereum blockchain network, which runs on the popular Ether token, and ventures based on other tokens. Chris Dixon, an A16Z partner, tweeted that he hoped Dorsey would abandon his hard-line stance: Bitcoin, he wrote, “is great as digital gold but there are other important applications that require other chains.”

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