Link: My first impressions of web3
Some choice quotes:
People don’t want to run their own servers, and never will.
I made a dApp called Autonomous Art that lets anyone mint a token for an NFT by making a visual contribution to it. The cost of making a visual contribution increases over time, and the funds a contributor pays to mint are distributed to all previous artists (visualizing this financial structure would resemble something similar to a pyramid shape).
I also made a dApp called First Derivative that allows you to create, discover, and exchange NFT derivatives which track an underlying NFT, similar to financial derivatives which track an underlying asset 😉.
So much work, energy, and time has gone into creating a trustless distributed consensus mechanism, but virtually all clients that wish to access it do so by simply trusting the outputs from these two companies without any further verification. It also doesn’t seem like the best privacy situation. Imagine if every time you interacted with a website in Chrome, your request first went to Google before being routed to the destination and back. That’s the situation with ethereum today. All write traffic is obviously already public on the blockchain, but these companies also have visibility into almost all read requests from almost all users in almost all dApps.
Partisans of the blockchain might say that it’s okay if these types of centralized platforms emerge, because the state itself is available on the blockchain, so if these platforms misbehave clients can simply move elsewhere. However, I would suggest that this is a very simplistic view of the dynamics that make platforms what they are.
Instead of storing the data on-chain, NFTs instead contain a URL that points to the data. What surprised me about the standards was that there’s no hash commitment for the data located at the URL. Looking at many of the NFTs on popular marketplaces being sold for tens, hundreds, or millions of dollars, that URL often just points to some VPS running Apache somewhere. Anyone with access to that machine, anyone who buys that domain name in the future, or anyone who compromises that machine can change the image, title, description, etc for the NFT to whatever they’d like at any time (regardless of whether or not they “own” the token). There’s nothing in the NFT spec that tells you what the image “should” be, or even allows you to confirm whether something is the “correct” image.
Comparisons to email
Given those dynamics, I don’t think it should be a surprise that we’re already at a place where your crypto wallet’s view of your NFTs is OpenSea’s view of your NFTs. I don’t think we should be surprised that OpenSea isn’t a pure “view” that can be replaced, since it has been busy iterating the platform beyond what is possible strictly with the impossible/difficult to change standards.
I think this is very similar to the situation with email. I can run my own mail server, but it doesn’t functionally matter for privacy, censorship resistance, or control – because GMail is going to be on the other end of every email that I send or receive anyway. Once a distributed ecosystem centralizes around a platform for convenience, it becomes the worst of both worlds: centralized control, but still distributed enough to become mired in time.