Web3 (also called Web 3.0), a new iteration of the web that includes decentralization and blockchain technology, is a revolutionary concept with the potential to transform the tech industry as we know it. By utilizing smart contracts and peer-to-peer networks, Web3 applications allow for decentralized data ownership and facilitate transactions automatically.
But what are the potential benefits of Web3 for companies, and how can these applications improve their offerings? How will Web3 technology impact the job market? How will non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and the NFT marketplace impact the way we buy and sell?
At the 2022 G1 Global Conference, Playco president and cofounder Justin Waldron joined panelists Maika Isogawa, Joi Ito, Ken O’Friel, and Arisa Toyosaki to share insights on the benefits of Web3 for companies, industries, and individuals.
Can companies over-deliver on the benefits of Web3?
Maika Isogawa: I really like to think about how blockchain or crypto can improve some of the systems we have today.
When it comes to picking the right projects to focus on, there’s a lot that blockchain can do, which is why it’s gained so much popularity. But a lot of the big projects aren’t really focusing on that.
Think of categories like identity and proof of history. Like, if you need to prove where you went to school or your job history, that’s something that could be improved through blockchain. Think of financial markets. Think of accessibility and personal freedom of movement.
I think security is a big topic within crypto. It’s both something that is incredibly secure and something that is not.
And so if you think about ways to transfer money, ways to write rules, it can be improved in blockchain. We just have to do it a little bit better. So those are the categories I like to think about.
We’re working in security, but I really think that to over-deliver, we need to focus on the things that can truly be improved on blockchain. Not just something that’s fun to do with blockchain, but something that could actually change systems.
How can companies use blockchain technology to improve their existing offerings?
Ken O’Friel: I think that, for me in this new kind of frontier . . . I’m not very tech savvy, as I can’t really code. I’m not on that side of the business. But I like to think that I’m a good consumer of new technologies.
But I think that Web3 is still hard to use, even for someone that plays around with it every day.
And so I think a lot about over-delivering and making it easy and, you know, compatible with existing systems. Just make it easier to use. Make it so that you don’t have to fumble around and find your keys and connect to a new wallet. Or maybe it’s a different wallet and all these different things.
There are all these different chains, as well. If you make it easier to use, I think that that’s going to help with a lot of kind of excitement from people because if you think about the Japanese government, for example, I don’t know what the actual average age of someone you’re going to be speaking to is, but odds are they may still use a flip phone.
So that’s the bar that we need to be able to deliver for most people. And then once you do that, it just becomes a lot easier and more intuitive.
I think it was mentioned earlier that NFTs are easy to understand because it’s visual, and that’s something we understand. But you know, all these different things that you have to do, or maybe if you have to wait for transactions to load . . . it’s all very complicated.
One of my favorite things in Japan to like-hate on is that the banks are terrible to use. You can only go at a certain time from 10:00 to 15:00 to send money overseas. There’s a very easy solution for that I think a lot of crypto can solve. But you have to make it easy.
Do you think Web3 companies will create new jobs or lead to job losses?
Joi Ito: I was on The New York Times board when we were downsizing because of digital. And it was interesting because the competitor to The New York Times wasn’t other newspapers or CNN or anybody else providing news online. Industries can change their business model quite well if they understand technology.
Think about video games. They were originally a coin-operated real estate business. Then they became a CD physical distribution business. Then they became an online subscription business, and then a digital item business. And now they’re like an NFT business.
So I think the thing is really figuring out what business you’re in. And I think banks, for example, provide trusts. They could do custody. There are a whole bunch of things that banks can do other than take deposits and loan money, which is kind of what you think of when you think of a banking business.
I was just in Switzerland, and Signum is a bank there that is all cloud. They’re crypto native, and they white label for other banks and they’re doing all kinds of really cool offerings and products.
I’m going to go off on a bit of a tangent, but if you look at the history of the Industrial Revolution, the Industrial Revolution was about the mass production of stuff that was originally created by artisans in factories.
But if you look at the people who designed the factories, they weren’t outsiders coming in. They were artisans who connected with the capitalists who knew how to make shoes. But then they figured out how to do it in mass production.
I think that a lot of people who are in the older industries can pivot out. It’s expensive to switch, but you can switch.
I think that the real danger is the market leaving Japan. Now, there’s a lot more optionality in the jurisdiction you’re in. And if Switzerland calls you a customer and rolls out a red carpet and lets you do all the stuff, at least for certain parts of your business, it becomes less and less feasible to have it in Japan.
So I think I’m more worried about the money leaving and the people leaving Japan than I am about certain industries being totally displaced.
I think particularly old-school industries, like manufacturing and supply chains, are going to take a little longer than NFTs. But if you imagine that we could put in the blockchain every supply chain event, and we could show the provenance of everything, I mean, you could create trading markets. You can do provenance of food. There’s so much unlock.