I thought Web3 would revolutionize online writing, but publishing this article has changed my mind. The process was easy: I just pasted the words into the text field, hit publish, paid a few crypto cents, and that was it – no accounts, emails, or moderators involved. But now that I’ve done it, I don’t believe I own my work anymore.
Technically, there are two ways to publish in Web3. You can either add your content to a blockchain like Bitcoin, Ethereum, and ArWeave, or to a file-sharing network like IPFS and Swarm. Either way, your work becomes public and copied to thousands of computers worldwide. Oh, and they are all outside of your control.
I published this article in ArWeave. It’s going to stay there unchanged for the rest of my life, and that’s by design. The idea is that if you can censor anyone, you can censor everyone, so there is no censorship mechanism at all. What happens in Blockchain stays in Blockchain, only forever and in public. It’s like a bad Vegas trip that you can’t forget about. Some say it is the ultimate freedom of speech, but I fear it is the ultimate tragedy of the commons.
Imagine I wanted to charge for my writing. How would posting it in a public space with no paywalls help me exactly?
Then, knowing my work will stay around forever made me so anxious, I self-censored this article. I can’t comply with a potential cease and desist letter, so I deleted most company names. I don’t know what will get people canceled 30 years from now, so I removed a few controversial opinions. It’s safer now, but what if I need to adhere to some new law, want to accept a restrictive policy of some future employer, or simply change my opinion about the topic? This piece isn’t going anywhere.
Today, it’s the IT giants who govern our data. The downside is that they use it as capital and a competitive advantage. The upside is they are regulated and accountable. If I need to remove my records, they must do it or face legal consequences. But who governs the Blockchain data, and how do I sue them? It looks like a common ownership commune where no specific comrade is accountable. They reign over my data, and I have no say in it.
This lack of accountability turned Blockchain into a publishing venue full of spam, leaked documents, personal data, and even illegal porn. I bet pirated movies, books, and songs are in there, too. Is it even legal to download it as a network participant? Because that’s what cryptocurrency miners have to do. There seems to be no legal precedence yet, but I worry it will jeopardize the entire decentralization idea in the long run.
I think Web3 has some great applications, like timestamping content to prove its legitimacy, but I don’t think publishing is one of them. At least not yet. I’ll stay away from it and stick to my inexpensive WordPress blog. It does the job just fine and doesn’t take away my control over data.