The American magazine Fortune named her one of the 40 most influential people under 40 in fintech. Trained lawyer, artist, activist for years for an “open” Internet and a new democratic governance based on the blockchain, Primavera De Filippi will be one of the guest protagonists of the USI conference, which will be held on 27 and 28 June. at the Palais Brongniart in Paris (usievents.com), of which L’Express is a partner. He explains why the technological innovations generated by the Web3 constitute a “revolution of power”.
The Express: Blockchain, NFT, DeFi, DAO, metaverse … The “Web3” raises a myriad of terms that are still obscure for most of the population. So let’s start by doing some pedagogy: for you, what exactly does this expression cover?
Spring De Filippi: We have reached a stage where everything fits together, everything intersects and it becomes difficult to define the precise contours of what is called “Web3”. To me, the term encompasses any web interface that communicates with some form of blockchain infrastructure. But we can say it more simply: the Web1 was the web limited to reading; Web2 has been enriched by writing, with the introduction of interactive platforms, which encourage users to create content. Web3 is the new stage, the decentralized web. Users are not only readers and contributors, but they can also claim ownership of the resources they interact with … They are given the opportunity, through the blockchain, to retrieve the value they have provided so far for free on the Web. It is a potential revolution.
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The metaverse, this booming virtual world, will be an essential part of it. How do you see it developing, structuring itself in the years to come?
We must first distinguish between Web3 and metaverse. Is not the same thing. What characterizes the metaverse are the notions of territories, displacements, movements. A spatiality outside the physical world, through virtual or augmented reality, which the Internet is absolutely unable to offer. It remains to be seen what we will do with it … For the moment we are in a somewhat embryonic phase, which takes us back to the era of the BBS (Bulletin Board Systems), before the Internet, when we connected to the servers premises that formed their little digital universe and that did not interact with each other.
The metaverse – or rather the metaverse – today is a bit like this: when you enter it you enter a world completely disconnected from the rest, and you do not have the possibility to exchange messages, to transfer resources to another virtual system. We are still really in a precarious, limited model, which makes us lose all the advantage of the Internet, namely interoperability, the ability to move without obstacles from one universe to another. This is why I think we will not be able to resist the urge to open up and create increasingly interconnected and compatible systems. That, I would say, is the natural slope. But we cannot rule out that a great dominant actor imposes his vision and model of him, deploying such a powerful and dominant platform that he would no longer need to interconnect with others. The equivalent of Facebook in the days of Web2.
But by nature, blockchain technology and philosophy tend towards a very decentralized model. It is tempting to say that the new ecosystem will necessarily reject such attempts …
It’s not sure, and we’re having an interesting time from that point of view; sooner or later there will be this bifurcation, the inevitable contrast between a very decentralized model, interconnected as the Internet had promised, and a dominant model with two or three major major platforms, alongside niche platforms that will not play on the same field and will not be able to to compete. Once in place, will the giant platforms accept other people’s items, their resources? This is the whole question. And contrary to what one might think, the fact of using a blockchain is not, in itself, a guarantee of an open and decentralized approach. See what’s happening on Sandbox and Decentraland – these decentralized platforms don’t recognize objects among themselves … As a player, if you acquire such an object in their metaverses, you will be able to see it in one but not the other. This shows that the battle for interoperability is not won.
Today we see a succession of announcements from major brands, ready to spend a fortune to buy virtual land. Beyond the market hit, what does it mean?
Above all, we can see the communication operations. But these brands simply do nothing – there is already a huge market in the metaverse. People spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars to dress up their avatar. When he hosted a concert on Roblox, American rapper Lil Nas X generated more revenue from merchandising. for the avatars of the spectators who selling tickets. Gucci, a pioneer in this field, launched a digital bag on Roblox that was bought at a higher price than the physical bag sold in stores!
Fashion is a question of status. If we start spending time in the metaverse, selling avatar accessories will become a great deal. The other option, for brands, is to sell shopping vouchers in the virtual universe. Boson, for example, is building the Metaverse Mall. What’s the idea? Instead of browsing an e-commerce site and ordering your clothes in a few clicks, you are offered a completely different experience: you walk into a virtual store, find the clothes you are looking for, try them on your avatar, buy them and you get them they sent them to you. The metaverse is the new website. It seems a bit ridiculous right now, but a few years ago no one would have imagined buying a pair of shoes on the Internet. Now everyone does.
Beyond the metaverse, which initiatives and innovations seem most promising to you today in Web3?
Anything in decentralized finance is absolutely fascinating. DeFi is replicating all the functionalities of financial applications, all trading and financing methods, without the need to rely on centralized institutions. At all links in the chain, everything you can imagine in traditional financial markets is recreated in a decentralized way thanks to the blockchain. Very interesting projects are also emerging with NFTs (ed, non-fungible tokens). In both cases we can already speak of a fairly massive adoption. The rest, everything that revolves around the DAOs, these decentralized autonomous organizations governed by “smart contracts”, is extremely promising and innovative. But this is still reserved for geek communities.
In general, should companies expect to see their business models totally disrupted by Web3?
The promise of Web3 is the disappearance of intermediaries, the idea that in the future everything can be done peer to peer, but that’s not true … Total disintermediation does not exist. What will change, however, is the distribution of value. Today, “crowdsourcing” is the dominant model: large platforms on the Internet do not produce value by themselves, they coordinate and aggregate what users provide them; is the heart of business for all Airbnb, Uber, Facebook and Twitter on the planet …
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The intermediary, in these specific cases, monopolizes all the value; not only does the user provide him with resources, but he also has to pay to benefit from his services! Can we, tomorrow, imagine systems that guarantee a more equitable form of redistribution? With Web3, I believe so, through tokens, dividends or governance rights. This is the point. This is not a complete upheaval, but a profound evolution: we will no longer accept to see everything confiscated by a centralized operator.
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