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After Flow Partners with Instagram Is It Time to Accept that Web3 Isn’t a Fad?

Web3 is possibly one of the most controversial sub-sectors of crypto at the moment. While it generates plenty of hype and media interest, it also attracts more than its fair share of criticism, having become one of the favored targets of cryptocurrency skeptics far and wide.

These skeptics argue that it’s pretty much a buzzword used to “repackage” now-familiar elements of the cryptocurrency industry, such as non-fungible tokens and decentralized finance (DeFi). But while their claims of superficiality may have had more truth in the not-so distant past, it seems that a wave of recent news and announcements in Web3 have given some substance to the claim that the new sub-sector really could be the future of the Internet.

Most notably, layer-one NFT and Web3 blockchain Flow announced an exclusive partnership with Instagram, through which Instagram users with Flow wallets can now share their NFTs on the Meta-owned social network. It’s obviously not a massive feature in itself, but the sheer fact that Instagram — as well as some other big names — now wants to involve itself with Web3 suggests that the latter may gain the support and traction it needs to really grow.

Instagram is getting some love from Web3 blockchain Flow

Flow Partners With Instagram, and the Definition of Web3

One of the issues with Web3 is that it’s admittedly a very nebulous term, meaning different things in different mouths. Fortunately, most interpretations can be divided into two chief camps.

Flow’s Instagram announcement touches on the first, broader definition of Web3. Basically, the partnership introduces blockchain-based NFTs to a widely used social network. In other words, Web3 is simply the Internet — including social media sites and other platforms and websites — with some kind of cryptocurrency element added. In Instagram’s case, this element equates to NFTs.

Source: Twitter

Under this broader definition of Web3, it’s very likely that the latter will become more widespread in the coming months and years. In fact, a healthy number of brands and sites are already turning to Web3 in this sense, and you could even argue that any website or ecommerce portal that adds a cryptocurrency payment option is already to some degree involved in Web3.

Aside from Instagram, major fashion house Gucci has also been delving into Web3 in recent months. In February, it launched 500 NFTs as part of a collaboration with Superplastic, while in March it released an additional series of NFTs in partnership with 10KTF. More recently, it began accepting Web3-focused cryptocurrency ApeCoin as payment, along with Swiss watchmaker Tag Heuer.

Source: Twitter

It’s not only in fashion that we see evidence of major companies and names entering the Web3 sphere. This is also becoming more common in sport, with soccer teams such as Barcelona, Manchester United and Manchester City all experimenting with Web3 in one way or another, with (which operates the Chiliz cryptocurrency) deepening its partnership with Barcelona this month to expand the team’s “blockchain, NFT and digital assets, and Web3 strategies.”

Of course, one simple riposte to all of this name-dropping is that such announcements represent experiments and trials more than substantial, meaningful changes to how businesses and the Internet in general operate. This may be true, but there really is no shortage of organizations from outside of crypto entering the sector under the umbrella of ‘Web3.’

This is particularly true in gaming, where a variety of developers and publishers are getting in on the act. This includes Final Fantasy developer Square Enix, which in July launched its first ever NFT-based project in partnership with Enjin, enabling fans to purchase physical action figures and receive NFT-based digital cards as well. It also includes Apex Game Studios, a house founded by Dead or Alive developer Tomonobu Itagaki that is working on Web3 game Warrior. There’s also the fact that tech giants such as Google and Microsoft have been financially supporting Web3 developers recently.

So yes, ‘Web3’ may be a very broad term when used to cover anything online that incorporates crypto, but it’s nonetheless clear that a growing number of companies are dipping their toes in this space. And all it takes is for a handful of them to gain real traction before their peers and rivals feel compelled to (bored) ape them.

Decentralized Web?

None of this, however, touches on the second interpretation of Web3. The latter relates to building a decentralized alternative to so-called Web2, which is defined by centralized, monopolistic social networks such as Facebook and Twitter and platforms such as Google.

Under this definition of the term, Web3 is anything that uses blockchain and cryptocurrency to enable a more distributed form of ownership and governance over online platforms and websites.

If we accept this interpretation of Web3, then pretty much all of the above examples do not qualify as Web3. Sharing an NFT on Instagram, for example, does not confer holders any power over how the social network operates.

However, there are a number of crypto-native platforms that have been established in order to maintain and develop a specifically decentralized structure. Notable examples include Friends With Benefits, a social network of creatives that uses a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) and its own native token (FWB) to govern its evolution and how it spends its funds. There’s also PleasrDAO, another DAO whose members pool resources in order to acquire “culturally significant” artifacts and objects, as well as, a platform for Web3 publishing where community members vote for new members.

As these examples show, Web3 is basically anything online where governance is enabled via DAOs and native tokens. Given that this is the essence of Web3 under this second interpretation, you can end up with some novel concepts. For instance, Mad Realities is an interactive dating show and “decentralized media platform” where holders can vote on what happens during each program.

This may seem like an almost kooky idea, but it underlines how far crypto-enabled governance could be taken. And while the narrower definition of Web3 is even smaller than its broader counterpart, it potentially has bigger ramifications for the future.

Of course, there’s no telling whether enough people will go for token-enabled governance in a big enough way in the future, so it can’t be ruled out for certain that Web3 is a passing fad. Still, it certainly represents one of the more interesting spaces in crypto.

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CryptoVantage Author Simon Chandler

About the Author

Simon Chandler

Simon Chandler is a journalist based in London. He writes about technology, markets and politics, and has bylines for Forbes, Digital Trends, CCN, Wired, TechCrunch, the Verge, the Sun, the New Internationalist, and TruthOut, among many others. His Twitter handle is @_simonchandler_

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