1. 15

    The emerging centralization is exactly what happened on “traditional” web, and is human nature. The web IS decentralized, its just that nobody wants the burden of constant upkeep and baseline of knowledge/skills necessary to host their own stuff. Its 0% surprising to see that in the crypto world because its even more complicated and has an added feature that mistakes can live forever and be technically irreversible. Thinking about people who have gotten wallets stolen or scammed or irretrievable for other reasons - or how the adidas smart contract meant to limit purchases was not well-designed-enough and there is zero recourse BY DESIGN.

    Theres this belief in the crypto community that these are all things that can be ironed out and that there is a technical crypto-based solution to all of this, but it seems to me like they are banging their heads against a wall trying to recreate something that exists and functionally works a lot better for 99.9999% of cases with something new with tons of baggage and unsolved problems for a benefit to 0.0001% of cases. Theres a huge UX gap, and it’s going to get bridged (if at-all) by a centralized company - this whole thing feels like a play for usurpation rather than changing the game.

    Knowing that there’s major problems with crypto “to be solved” it’s frustrating to see the hype at this level. Its 100% in gold rush / prospecting mode and so many people are going to lose big even if it emerges as a longterm technology.

    My own perspective on crypto/blockchain hasn’t changed much in the last 5 years - its a solution looking for a problem. Lately it’s being touted as “the solution to everything”, and I don’t see that. Even more-problematic is that theres an emerging phenomenon where if you don’t play, you get scammed - lots of noise about people minting NFTs on Openseas for content they don’t own, and theres no recourse for creators outside the system.

    More writing along these lines:

    Is it technically neat? Yes. Time will tell if it pans out anywhere near the hype, and there is a lot of reason to believe it won’t.

    1. 10

      a solution looking for a problem

      Ain’t that the truth. I think there’s also an assumption that “decentralized” is automatically good, as if fiat currency must be bad because SVN was bad. When the central currency authority is a democracy of citizens, decentralization throws away “one person, one vote” with regard to what money is, in favor of “one node owned, one vote”. That should only be a benefit in places where people didn’t get to vote in the first place.

      1. 4

        When the central currency authority is a democracy of citizens, decentralization throws away “one person, one vote” with regard to what money is, in favor of “one node owned, one vote”.

        Can’t agree more. One of the fundamental supposed advantages of cryptocurrency is that unlike centralized banking, it’s democratic, right? You have to convince 51% of the network to adopt your change in order to make it, instead of the bank unilaterally changing the rules. But the problem with this in practice is that the ability to do this is imbalanced and heavily favors people who are able to run nodes and especially people who know how to code.

        The exact same power structures exist, except instead of banks - which are at least somewhat accountable to the government and therefore citizens - being in charge, crypto people are creating a future where they are the ones in charge, with no real accountability or oversight because the ability to code is a prerequisite for active participation in the system. I find this idea terrifying. The US Congress (feel free to mentally change this to your country’s legislature or whatever) is dysfunctional, but I would still rather they were in charge of the entire financial system than the comments section of the Orange Site.

      2. 5

        Knowing that there’s major problems with crypto “to be solved” it’s frustrating to see the hype at this level.

        personally the must frustrating/exhausting aspect of the current crypto hype cycle is the unbridled optimism and lack of foresight i see from users. these systems are supposed to be trustless and magical, except “they’re not fleshed out yet, but we’ll fix it in the future by adding trusted third parties to the system in a way that somehow doesn’t undermine its value proposition”.

        imagine if someone advertised DNS V2 today as completely trustless but glossed over the fact that root servers are still going to exist.

        1. 1

          Even more-problematic is that theres an emerging phenomenon where if you don’t play, you get scammed - lots of noise about people minting NFTs on Openseas for content they don’t own, and theres no recourse for creators outside the system.

          From the sidelines, I’ve heard this practice described as scamming or even “theft” or couple of times and I’m really not seeing it. It’s as if I looked at this submission and thought “wow this is a great post by Moxie. I wish I owned the lobste.rs submission; maybe I could buy it off faitswulff?” Suppose faitswulff agreed and for $50 I became the official submitter. Has anyone of Moxie, me or faitswulff been ripped off? Not at all. It’s totally bonkers but I’m hard pressed to see the scamming element.

          1. 7

            Except that NFTs are always advertised as real, indisputable, true, verified-on-the-blockchain, no-pesky-government-can-ever-confiscate-it ownership. If you go far enough down the rabbit hole you end up in the cliché that the only thing you “own” is a receipt that says “you own this receipt”, but that’s not how people actually talk about or advertise the amazing incredible unbelievable future of “web3” and NFTs and such.

            1. 1

              Leaving aside many artists’ emotional view of copyright, which does tend to veer mostly towards the “theft” part of the spectrum, it’s a fact that being seen as involved in NFTs is a reputational black mark. Some minter creating NFTs without the artists consent can direct a ton of ire onto the artist, simply because many, many people view NFTs as money-grabbing scams, and hate that their favorite artists and projects are “selling out”.

            2. 0

              a solution looking for a problem

              Have to disagree. This new era of finance brings a lot of possibilities not available in the old bureaucratic system with all its guardians. Not talking about dog coins and outright scams, but the legit projects.

              There’s so much composeability and innovation happening. One system plugs into the other, and suddenly you have an ecosystem of financial products miles ahead of what’s available to the average pleb “in the normal world”.

              Imagine if we only had closed-source software from old giants like IBM, Oracle, Microsoft and Apple instead of the wild-west of creativity and innovation that is open-source. Same idea.

              1. 15

                “An ecosystem of financial products” that burn copious amounts of energy, are susceptible to rug-pulls, have no actual technical innovation behind any of them, have their users go through shady leaps and bounds to realize their immaterial wealth, were centralized from the start, and only grow in value if there’s enough committed exchange of actual currencies.

                Ponzi scheme enthusiasts/grifters can keep spouting this “everything is great” rhetoric, it is not true and never will be. You are part of the problem.

                1. 3

                  What possibilities? There’s a lot of rhetoric and hopes here, but I don’t see much substance.

                  1. 1

                    There’s a bunch depending on how deep you wanna go. But starting from the top, you can:

                    • Borrow dollars against your portfolio and have a line of credit not available to you in legacy finance

                    • Deposit dollars and earn a pretty good interest rate not available to you in legacy finance (https://app.anchorprotocol.com/)

                    • Buy stock derivatives, enabling people in for example Thailand to invest in American stocks like Apple or Tesla (https://mirrorprotocol.app/)

                    • Pay online or in real life with your digital assets using something like Chai, Alice, Kash etc. Chai is used by millions of unsuspecting users in South Korea, and thousands of merchants connected: https://techcrunch.com/2020/12/09/seoul-based-payment-tech-startup-chai-gets-60-million-from-hanhwa-softbank-ventures-asia/

                    https://www.alice.co/ https://www.kash.io/

                    Alice and Kash goes even further than Chai I think. They are basically neo banks.

                    Then, there are some more advanced features which might not be for everyone, but you can also:

                    • Help secure the ledger/network by staking assets with a validator node, and get rewarded a portion of the transaction fees. It’s like if Visa or Chase Bank would partner with you and give you a small portion of the revenue.

                    • Provide liquidity to various projects and get paid for doing so, for example on exchanges. A little bit of passive income with assets that might otherwise only be speculative.

                    Personally I think it’s pretty cool with the composeability of a lot of projects. It’s like Lego or functional programming. The output of one project plugs into the input of another, and you can build some pretty sophisticated products/services using the basic building blocks.

                    1. 2

                      I can’t tell if you’re just really really enthusiastic about cryptocurrencies to a naive degree or just trying to advance an agenda. But referring to fiat currency as “legacy finance” and linking cryptocurrencies to the idea of functional programming seems to me as cheap attempts at gaining more mindshare among the folks here. Either that, or you’re living in a bubble which is sure to burst at some point.

                      In any case, maybe you should relax and stop commenting so much here trying to win people over that don’t want to be won over.

                      1. 1

                        Yeah ofc I’m just here to corrupt your virtuous souls

                        But referring to fiat currency as “legacy finance”

                        I didn’t. There’s plenty of fiat (stable coins) in crypto as well. I was talking about old banks & their old tech stacks.

                        linking cryptocurrencies to the idea of functional programming seems to me as cheap attempts at gaining more mindshare among the folks here

                        I’m just writing about aspects that interests me, one of which is FP. There are even a few projects written in Haskell.

                        stop commenting so much here trying to win people over that don’t want to be won over.

                        A.k.a you want to maintain the echo chamber? There must be room for other views as well.

                        bubble which is sure to burst at some point

                        There’s booms and busts everywhere. Same in the stock market & tech startups. The long game matters more.

                  2. 2

                    Mandrean, I think it is great that you showed up in the discussion since you’ve done a very polite job of representing a naive crypto-influenced hopeful.

                    A few things I’d like to point out:

                    • Proof of Stake is not decentralized and in fact cannot be decentralized. It is a permissionsed system where the only way to get voting rights is an out-of-band transaction (buying tokens) there’s also a convincing argument that you can force these platforms to recentralize if they become decentralized via coordinated bribery offers (but only if you have an oracle).
                    • The oracle problem is the elephant in the room and addressing that requires social networking technology not verifiable runtimes (blockchains).
                    • Proof of Work and also probably Chia’s Proof of Space+Time are things that work but /just barely/, with chia we may have a energy friendly settlement layer to build a p2p digital society on top of but they decided to premine as much as will be mined over the next 20 years.
                    • The fundamental coordination problem is not byzantine fault tolerance but rather the tragedy of the commons (sybil resistance is implied by resistance to TotC). Proof of Space+Time is still a resource wasting race so it’s not an improvement over bitcoin until we have the social layer to regulate the competition.
                    • NFTs can eventually become deeds to content but only once we have a legitimate platform, which people believe the combination of twitter and ethereum to be. However the legitimate platform (for the time being) is called government.

                    Basically, what someone said about the crypo-world programmers not needing to do their jobs to get paid is not only correct but I also think it is the other way around, if you want to get paid you need to do a scam; the problems are hard to solve, require large investment to make a noticable change in the state of tooling to address the problems and finally there is no way our current economic system will value charitable work. Sorry I have to run to lecture now I’d be willing to go deeper into these points.

                    1. 1

                      Proof of Stake is not decentralized and in fact cannot be decentralized.

                      Disagree; PoS can be decentralized not only in terms of geographic location & jurisdiction, but by voting power as well (and maintained that way).

                      For example, see study from Leeds University:

                      Our results based on simulated paths of the dynamics of nodes’ coins at stake suggest that decentralization of PoS blockchains can be largely maintained with moderate constant or dynamically adjusted coin inflation while decreasing inflation yields a large loss in active staking nodes over time when coin prices are static. Target node participation rates are not only fairer in terms of coin distribution but also yield higher value-weighted returns for participants.

                      The oracle problem is the elephant in the room

                      There are already decentralized oracle networks, for example Chainlink and Witnet https://chain.link/use-cases https://witnet.io/

                      sybil resistance / ToTC

                      It’s an interesting space to follow. Witnet’s whitepaper proposes algorithmic reputation: https://witnet.io/witnet-whitepaper.pdf

                      I’m sure researchers will come up with other interesting approaches in the coming years as well.

                      if you want to get paid you need to do a scam; the problems are hard to solve

                      Same applies to being an engineer at Netflix, Spotify, Tesla etc. as well then. Also scams!

                      1. 1

                        Disagree; …

                        Not a matter of opinion if mathematics is to be trusted. Democracy suffers from the same unsustainability problem (via totc).

                        chainlink … witnet..

                        I am aware of them, they don’t solve the incentive problem. Chainlink seems more bad-faith than witnet but neither works.

                        Netflix, Spotify, Tesla, …

                        Yes, this is a very good point. Our economic system systematically undermines non-scams so it’s no surprise that you can name many big companies, this is infact what prompted me to comment in the first place. People like to jump on a “solution” whenever there is a hard scary problem and some con man with a rationalization but the problem of “pollution” needs to be managed no matter whether or not we have a proper solution to it in the abstract, however, what we are actually seeing is that the problem is being ignored or made worse by people following the advice of those who claim to have a solution. COVID is being run on the same dynamic.

                1. 5

                  Energy / electricity usage…?

                  1. 10

                    I thought it was refreshing to find an article that doesn’t mention that.

                    The excessive energy consumption is the larger societal harm, as I see it, but I also appreciate that we’re able to point out the legitimate technical flaws that reveal how the designers were thinking only in the short-term.

                    1. 12

                      To the best of my understanding, not enough people know about this wasteful aspects. Mainstream news often don’t mention it and instead hype up NFTs. NFT and cryptocurrencies also advertise a lot on shows and podcasts. Never with a mention of this. Sure, a lot of people on here (most) know about it but it seems underreported.

                    2. 4

                      That’s my number one concern too, but I was strangely glad that it was absent in this write up. It doesn’t mean it’s a non-issue, but it’s often the first thing that crypto people people try to rebut and ends up a discussion tar pit.

                      1. 3

                        I’ve seen people get out of pow (or out of crypto all together) once they learn about this. There are issues where it’s pointless how much info you try to dump because there’s an underlying values mismatch rather than an info mismatch, but I believe this isn’t one yet, as in, I think there are plenty who would change their minds about it they knew about the energy and electronics waste issues.

                      2. 0

                        This is mostly an issue for older chains using “Proof of Work” consensus like BTC and ETH

                        Basically all new Layer 1 chains these days (Solana, Terra, Cosmos, Avalanche, Polygon, Polkadot, Cardano etc.) use “Proof of Stake” which this is a non-issue for.

                        Also ETH is moving to “Proof of Stake” probably Q2 2022. It’s in progress, but difficult to migrate a behemoth like ETH when it’s already in production.

                        1. 1

                          This is partially the case; probably if BTC were using PoS the energy problem wouldn’t get much attention. But, while it wouldn’t be burning more oil than Ireland for it’s current level of activity, it still just scales really really poorly to have a huge network of nodes all verifying the same ledger. Redundancy buys you resiliency, but it also wastes resources. You don’t want more of it than you actually need.

                          When thinking about the future of the technology, it’s easy to wave away PoW, since solutions are known. But large scale ledgers are still doomed to be inefficient, just not so inefficient that it finds its way into mainstream news outlets.

                          1. 0

                            I mostly agree with you, and BTC is a bit doomed to become “digital gold” because of these inefficiencies.

                            But some of the newer PoS chains have a TPS comparable (and in some cases even surpassing) that of Visa and MasterCard, with negligible tx fees.

                            Pretty interesting stuff! I’m sure the tech will only continue to improve as it attracts more funding and smart engineers/researchers.

                            IMHO the biggest wart on crypto right now is BTC’s use of PoW, but there are some interesting approaches to that issue. See this thread about what the Swedish state-owned (!) energy company Vattenfall has to say on the topic: https://twitter.com/ercwl/status/1457114531314995206

                            TL;DR: PoW can be used as a buffer/load-balancer in a mostly fossil-free energy grid like ours.

                            1. 4

                              PoW can be used as a buffer/load-balancer in a mostly fossil-free energy grid like ours.

                              Vattenfall considered harmful when it comes to this. Of course they want to sell electricity. They were very slow at getting out of the coal business, only closing their last plants as late as two years ago. (Growing up in climate activism, Vattenfall was The Enemy for all their coal plants.) I do give them credit for finally getting out of coal, fifteen years after everybody else did, but the talk of PoW being good doesn’t become more true or credible for coming from them.

                              The world found out the other day that almost a fifth of the worlds BTC is mined in Kazakhstan on hard coal, the older, ever more inefficient coal plants. Ingen nyhetsgrej direkt because of course BTC is gonna thrive where electricity is underpriced because of externalities not being accounted for.

                              As I’ve said before:

                              Spending energy on proof of work is not decreasing any fossil burning. It’s just not.

                              As an analogy, let’s say I want my students to get safe jobs instead of risking their lives as guillotine testers and tightrope dancers.

                              I take a quick glance at the jobs section and see that hmm, safe jobs seem to be paying better over the long run, if not in the short run.

                              So I take my students’ paychecks and burn the money in a big old firepit in the yard.

                              They’re like “Miss, miss, why’d you burn all that cash!” I’m like “If I waste all your money, I’ll increase your demand for money, and the new money capital expenditure that is most efficient is gonna be safer jobs” they’re not gonna go “thank you miss! That makes sense! We’ll start working those safe desk jobs right away so you can pour more of that money in the firepit!”

                              Instead, they’re gonna go “OMG we’re starving and we need cash right now and all our money got burninated, we are gonna go have to go work as dynamite jugglers!”

                              They’re not gonna go “Thank you for saving money on paper by flushing the groceries directly into the toilet.”

                              Additionally, what’s often elided when discussing the electricity use of PoW is the e-waste. The actual hardware used to mine. That’s a huge climate impact for how quick the obsolescence and turnaround is.

                              1. 1

                                And now electricity is so expensive that the gvmt is gonna pop in 6000 000 000 SEK. To the extent that even one öre of that is because of PoW mining, that is severely messed up. Miners have ruthless disregard for externalities and the interconnectedness and interdependence of human activity. New inroads into plundering the Earth 💔.

                              2. 1

                                PoW can be used as a buffer/load-balancer in a mostly fossil-free energy grid like ours.

                                I can think of a few other methods for buffering, such as recharging gravity batteries. Waste heat is an undesirable side effect almost everywhere.

                            2. 1

                              You normally don’t see me complaining about PoS or other FBA variants, like MOB (which Moxie’s app Signal is involved in). I mean, as far as I can see it’s just as proprietary as PayPal and thus pretty pointless, but what I’m mostly complaining about is and has been PoW. You can often see me be pretty explicit about this in other threads. I’m not long in any cryptocurrency including PoS, but you’ll see me complaining about PoW specifically.

                              However, I am not going to gice ETH credit for being PoS before it is.

                              For example, Reddit is moving to the PoW version of ETH and therefore that’s not OK.

                          1. 74

                            The fact that the NFT spec only stores an image URL on the blockchain, and no hash to verify the image, is just absolutely astounding. Moxie is more generous than I am; IMO it highlights the grift that NFTs are – like whoever threw it together gave no thought to security or longevity.

                            1. 28

                              Yeah to me this is the “tell” that the main thing driving it is other people’s FOMO money.

                              Basically software devs in this ecosystem realized they didn’t have to do their jobs to make money. The whole system keeps working even if you don’t do your job!!!

                              You just have to repeat the memes long enough, and it doesn’t matter if the tech actually does what it says it does, because nobody’s checking! Nobody really wants to stand up their own copies of these things and check if it works.

                              There’s little benefit in that. The benefit is talking about it and repeating it to your friends.


                              I was interested in IPFS before it grew the blockchain component. I went back the original paper, and it is genuinely a good idea, and something we still need: a cross between git and BitTorrent (it mentions this in the abstract). I have long wanted Debian repos, PyPI, CPAN, etc. to be stored in such a system, i.e. consistently versioned with metadata.

                              But it’s 6 years later, and when I go to look at it, apparently it just doesn’t work very well. And it probably won’t because it grew so many components. (Gall’s law: to get a big working system, you have to start from a small working system.)

                              https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20137918

                              So what should we expect of IPFS? At five years old, is this a project that’s usable ‘here and now’, as the homepage promised in 2017? Are all the parts in place, just waiting for web and application developers to see the light? Have the stumbling blocks I noticed in 2017 been smoothed over?

                              No

                              IPFS is still not usable for websites.

                              https://esteroids.medium.com/how-can-ipfs-reach-wide-adoption-42b9a5011bdf

                              As one commenter astutely put it, “IPFS struggles to host a plaintext bulletin board with logins like you’d find in the late 80s”


                              And to give some light on the other side … Despite having some interest in BitCoin since 2013 or so, I first bought it last year.

                              Because the founder of SciHub asked for donations in crypto on her site. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexandra_Elbakyan

                              So I just did it via CoinBase and I suppose it worked. So I would say there’s non-zero number of real use cases for cryptocurrency and blockchain. I think IPFS started out as genuine too, but it basically got ruined as working tech by an influx of money and employees.

                              1. 10

                                The situation with IPFS also affected gittorrent, another combination of git and bittorrent. Blockchains are like fig trees; as they grow, they choke whatever software projects originally gave them structure and purpose.

                                1. 2

                                  Hm what happened to it? It doesn’t look like very much code.


                                  Thinking more about the original comment … To “steel man” the blockchain, I do think there is a place for regular old web apps to serve data from a blockchain. I don’t think that is inherently a bad architecture. You just have to be honest about it!

                                  I think there will always be a place for money in the blockchain, however niche, as the Scihub example shows.

                                  It’s more logical for an end user like me to use Coinbase, which is centralized, but that’s OK. (Also big irony: it relies on sending your driver’s license in for verification, so it’s building on top of US state regulations which they want to be free of.)

                                  One viewpoint I heard is “Bitcoin is a settlement network, not a payment network”. That is, the logical end user is banks and companies like Coinbase, not consumers. It could make sense to have a two-tiered system.

                                  (Although then you have the same problem that those banks are subject to regulation of the countries they operate in, so you’ve lost a lot of the purported benefit of blockchain. I think people will gradually come to understand this and a much smaller set of use cases will be ironed out.)

                                  But I do think the logical evolution of blockchain is to evolve to be less “consumer” and more “enterprise”.

                                  I think the problems with the centralization of the cloud are real, and while web3 is mostly a BS term, and it’s not really a solution as is, I can see this type of distributed consensus as a useful primitive for small but important parts of real systems.

                                2. 2

                                  I believe that the Dat protocol and its successor Hypercore are both basically Bittorrent plus version control, but with no connection to blockchains or cryptocurrency that I know of. Please correct me if I’m incorrect :)

                                  I think Beaker Browser is a really cool project that suggests what could be done with Hypercore, but unfortunately a lot of websites and apps that were designed for its first iteration using Dat didn’t succeed in making the transition to the Hypercore version. I think the tech change cost it some momentum / users. Hopefully it will build up steam again, but I’m afraid IPFS has stolen its thunder by providing similar tech plus a chance to get rich quick :(

                                  1. 2

                                    Dat is so good aside from one critical flaw (IMHO, anyway): the “spec” is more or less “whatever the version you pull from NPM right now does.” Yes, there is some additional documentation, and a running reference implementation is great, but going a decade+ without a compatible version in some environment other than Node is a pretty big handicap and IMHO a major oversight by the project owners.

                                    Secure Scuttlebutt suffers from the same problem, and the “rewrite it in Rust” efforts for both are at best implicitly— if not explicitly, as in the most recent SSB -> Rust work — aimed at performance, not broad interop or adoption.

                                    So neither one can effectively run without hundreds of MBs of JS packages, there’s no support for languages that offer better native platform integration or type safety…heck, they don’t even ship TS definitions, and the internal APIs are so idiosyncratic it’s extremely difficult to build new apps on the platform.

                                    In a world where I had infinite time and attention to spend on an open software + network stack I would love to built a libdat or libssb that was straightforward to link in a Python project, or an iOS app, or really anything that can do normal C FFI. Alas, I don’t, so I haven’t. Maybe someday.

                                    1. 1

                                      Whoops, it seems Beaker Browser is being discontinued: https://github.com/beakerbrowser/beaker/discussions/1944

                                      I’m not surprised but I am really sad about this. I thought it had a lot of potential for building a resilient web that could e.g. handle network outages by making it trivial to continue sharing websites over a LAN. It seemed to be great at sharing static websites which are where I’m putting my development efforts these days, but it appears the developer was frustrated by this and wanted people to share web apps instead.

                                      Agregore looks like it may be continuing on with support for Hypercore, but it also supports IPFS and I saw not interacting with Protocol Labs and their reliance on / promotion of cryptocurrency as a significant feature.

                                      1. 1

                                        IPFS is a very pure “better BitTorrent” and the fact that some web3 stuff hosts content on IPFS should not taint the protocol, even if you happen to hate web3. Lots of web1 content on IPFS too, the protocol predates web3 by a lot, etc

                                        1. 4

                                          Part of the problem here is that “hosts content on IPFS” is a misnomer, for the same reason that things aren’t “hosted on BitTorrent”. IPFS is a distribution mechanism, not a storage mechanism (despite what their marketing implies), and so something can only be distributed through IPFS - it needs to be hosted somewhere else, and that “somewhere else” is left undefined by IPFS.

                                          That might sound like pedantry, but it has some crucial implications: it means that by default, the network cannot provide meaningfully better availability than BitTorrent can, which is to say the availability is really bad and unsuitable for hosting websites on. You could address this by seeding your content from a server, but then what have you really accomplished, other than a potential ‘download accelerator’ (which is again distribution, not storage)?

                                          1. 1

                                            which is to say the availability is really bad and unsuitable for hosting websites on. You could address this by seeding your content from a server

                                            This seems like a contradiction. Of course you cannot host an IPFS powered website without seeding it from somewhere! That doesn’t make availability bad or unsuitable any more than HTTP is bad or unsuitable. What I love about IPFS is that I can pin my websites on any computer connected to the internet, and usually much more than one! No special setup is needed, and if I want to change what computer pins the content I can easily do so at any time without changing any settings anywhere else. It just seamlessly keeps working.

                                        2. 1

                                          Hm I heard of Dat a few years ago, but I didn’t know about Hypercore. Thanks for the pointer!

                                          I think eventually we will get something like this … just because there is a need. In the meantime I might write my own with shell scripts invoking git, and then curl or BitTorrent :)

                                          I forget which post I read this in, but there are really 2 kinds of “decentralized systems”, i.e. ones that don’t rely on “the cloud”:

                                          1. Something like git, where it’s trivial to stand up your own. BitTorrent is also in this category. As well as a web server with Apache or Nginx.
                                          2. Something like BitCoin where there’s no central node.

                                          Notably, it’s not only hard to run your own Ethereum node, but you also don’t want to run your own Ethereum network!

                                          So the word is overloaded, and they have very different architectures. I care more about the first kind. So really I don’t want a global file system like IPFS – I’d rather have distributed storage that runs on a few nodes, is easy to administer, etc.

                                        3. 1
                                          IPFS is still not usable for websites.
                                          

                                          I have been using IPFS for websites for years. It works great.

                                          1. 1

                                            Where do you persist user-mutable state and how?

                                            1. 2

                                              Websites do not have user-mutable state. I guess if you want your blog to have a user theme toggle or some other appy feature a website might want you can use a cookie or localStorage just as you would on the regular web.

                                        4. 7

                                          Moxie is more generous than I am

                                          Indeed. That’s what makes this a balanced critique. Good-faith.

                                          1. 44

                                            I don’t think bad faith is necessary to provide valid criticism. The fact that NFTs are sold to the public as ‘stored forever in the blockchain’ and the reality is that there’s no actual mechanism storing anything other than a URL pointing to the content is almost by definition a scam. If I was going around selling ownership contracts to a house I don’t own, I’d be charged with fraud.

                                            1. 4

                                              I don’t think bad faith is necessary to provide valid criticism

                                              That’s not what I meant. When @tao_oat said “Moxie is more generous than I am”, the difference between a “generous” take and a “not generous” take can often be the assumption of good faith. Are you trying to take a keep a neutral eye while evaluating this argument, or are you just looking for more evidence confirm your existing bias, that’s the difference between having good faith or approaching a topic cynically.

                                              I think you’re prejudiced against NFTs and are just looking to criticize them. That’s fine, I think NFTs being used to attest art and their associated speculation is pretty stupid, so you aren’t gonna find me defending any of this. I also agree with each of Moxie’s criticisms. That said, I just don’t think the sort of cynical, charged rhetoric in this thread is indicative of good faith. Your comment even assumes a position from me that I don’t have. Good faith keeps discussions intellectually interesting IMO. I don’t have that much more to say here, I’ll let everyone else continue ranting in anger.

                                              1. 4

                                                FWIW I agree with you – on doing more research, a good-faith take would be that whoever wrote the ERC721 spec might have seen the promise of an image that changes over time. They might not have foreseen that art collectibles would be the primary driver behind NFTs. In the spec they write:

                                                A mechanism is provided to associate NFTs with URIs. We expect that many implementations will take advantage of this to provide metadata for each NFT. The image size recommendation is taken from Instagram, they probably know much about image usability. The URI MAY be mutable (i.e. it changes from time to time). We considered an NFT representing ownership of a house, in this case metadata about the house (image, occupants, etc.) can naturally change.

                                                (Though having a sentence like “The image size recommendation is taken from Instagram, they probably know much about image usability” in an official spec doesn’t exactly scream professionalism or care to me).

                                                I should direct my critique against those who push art NFTs without mentioning the serious technical issues, and not the spec authors themselves.

                                                I think the broader question is: when you keep seeing red flags in an ecosystem/community how long can or should you make an effort to retain good faith?

                                                1. 1

                                                  I think the broader question is: when you keep seeing red flags in an ecosystem/community how long can or should you make an effort to retain good faith?

                                                  I think that’s the wrong question to ask. Technology usually has two components. One is the design and engineering that goes into it. Think with XMPP the protocol and standards used to send/receive messages. The other is adoption: this can be success in number of users, its usage, or its revenue. There’s plenty of technologies, ones much less complicated and more “clearly” incremental than a blockchain, that have failed purely because their adoption was lacking, despite years of attempts to make themselves relevant. Examples here are Laserdisc, Betamax, HD-DVD, and more. Adoption of a technology has much more to do with culture, user-experience, or business considerations than the engineering behind the technology. These questions you’re asking, about whether the space is filled with hucksters and such, are questions affecting the adoption of the technology. Discussions concerning the adoption of a technology are much more complicated (well IMO at least, probably because I’m an engineer first and foremost!) than discussions dealing with the design and engineering behind a technology, and also off-topic for Lobsters (probably due to the challenge of dealing with the nature of those discussions properly.) I will say though, a space filled with fraud doesn’t exactly instill confidence, especially when it’s a person’s money or other resources on the line…

                                                  But I also don’t think it’s necessary to get inordinately angry at the blockchain space. Businesses are made and die every day, some full of hucksters, others just blatant copies of existing businesses. Community projects are made and die every day. It’s the churn of human creativity. If humans knew exactly which projects would succeed and which would fail, then we’d already have solved our problems, wouldn’t we?

                                              2. 3

                                                I don’t really care for collectibles, real or virtual, but to be fair the NFT is stored in the blockchain. The media is not the NFT, just an associated decoration.

                                                1. 23

                                                  This sounds like a solution looking for a problem, and then someone inventing a problem for the solution to fix. One thing I’ll give ‘crypto bros’ - specially those pumping the NFT racket - is that they’ve managed to befuddle the world into thinking they created something actually revolutionary. Every single problem the article describes is stuff anyone who understands this technology works could’ve guessed from day 1. Ultimately ‘web3’ is just a nebulous term that means nothing and everything, depending on who you ask and what time you ask them.

                                                  1. 2

                                                    Sure, I don’t collect baseball or magic cards either, so the while thing doesn’t connect with me personally.

                                                  2. 18

                                                    But nobody says that an NFT is a URL, i.e. a string starting with “https://…” Because nobody would find such a string, in itself, interesting enough to pay money for.

                                                    The scam is that people describe and sell NFTs as being a file, or even a unique fingerprint of such a file, when they’re no such thing.

                                                    It’s like selling you a painting, only it turns out you only bought the frame, and the gallery reserves the right to swap out the canvas for another one, or just take it away, at their pleasure.

                                                    1. 8

                                                      Yeah but the funny thing is: who cares if it was actually pinned to the right file?

                                                      What’s to stop me from minting another NFT for the same artwork and selling it? I just have to convince enough people it’s valuable.

                                                      As far as I can tell, the thing that makes NFTs “work” in any sense is specific pockets of social media, e.g. Twitter. Reality is socially constructed.

                                                      Like the artist Beeple has to go on Twitter and say he’s selling some number that represents art that he created.

                                                      https://twitter.com/beeple

                                                      And other people witness that and they believe it is him, i.e. the person who keeps creating all the enjoyable pictures. Twitter and other centralized social networks provide some continuity of identity. lobste.rs does this too.

                                                      If somebody else tries to sell an NFT of his artwork, maybe he can use Twitter to shame them or whatever. That’s about it.


                                                      As far as I can see, social media is really the thing that matters, and not anything in the blockchain. It seems clear that no end users every really look at the blockchain and verify things. (Hell I didn’t when I sent the donation to the Scihub founder. Did it really get sent? I just trusted Coinbase.)

                                                      So I think there’s no notion of identity, exclusivity, or authenticity on the blockchain. You always have to make some jump between the number/hash and the “thing”, and other people can make that jump too.

                                                      I’d be interested in any arguments otherwise … I have never actually used NFTs or Ethereum, but it seems like there is an obvious hole either way.

                                                      i.e. the blockchain is really built on trust built by social media; it can’t stand alone. Social media is very powerful – the former US president got elected in a large part because of it, and then he got blocked from it with huge consequences, and now he wishes he had his own Twitter and there are multiple efforts in that direction, etc. It has a lot of real consequences in the world, and is intimately connected to it. Blockchain doesn’t have that property at all!

                                                      1. 9

                                                        Right — I can just touch one pixel in the image, or add a no-op EXIF tag, and suddenly it’s a different file with a different digest that I can sell as a different NFT.

                                                        That was my day-one objection to NFTs. In terms of my analogy, it’s like buying a limited edition print where I only have the artist’s promise she won’t issue more. But the realization that it’s just a URL makes them orders of magnitude sillier and more scam-like.

                                                        1. 7

                                                          Yeah this has been beat to death, but I was reading conversations earlier this year, and one analogy is the company that used to sell naming rights to the stars:

                                                          https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26488430

                                                          Like they would sell you a certificate that a star was named after you.

                                                          Never mind that anybody can rename the same star for a different person, and sell that. Nobody ever used those names – not even the one scientist who might have a picture of that star or care about it. (Again, reality is socially constructed.)


                                                          Another problem is that you’re literally just getting the NFT number itself. You’re not getting the copyright to that work !!!

                                                          Like you could buy the NFT, and then the artist can sell the actual artwork to somebody else, which IS enforceable by copyright law !!! But your NFT isn’t.

                                                          Also with music, there are separate rights to perform songs in public places, to play recordings at bars, and to publish the sheet music. You do NOT get that if you buy an NFT of a song.

                                                          In fact I remember seeing a VC blog or podcast where this was brought up ….

                                                          And so that basically proves that it doesn’t matter if the NFT has an immutable hash or not. You’re buying a useless pointer to a thing, not anything related to the thing itself … so it doesn’t matter what’s in it!

                                                      2. 3

                                                        I don’t understand this sticking point. An NFT is just a provably-unique (i.e. non-fungible) thing maintained on a chain. What it maps to off-chain, or how it does so, is basically incidental. It’s a contract, meaningful only in a specific domain: for legal contracts, that domain is typically a government jurisdiction; for NFTs, it’s the chain on which they exist.

                                                        1. 4

                                                          I think it’s because the loudest use is for art collectibles so people get hung up on that. For me the best analogy is baseball cards. No one would say “but the card doesn’t contain an actual baseball player! You don’t get the right to boss the real human around!” But somehow NFTs the detractors think should “be” the art or “be” the copyright in a way that they were never intended to be.

                                                          1. 7

                                                            The problem with that analogy is that the issuer of the baseball card could, if it were an NFT, blank the contents of the card or change it to something else at any point. If baseball cards had that property, would people trade them? If a baseball card just had a QR code on it that let you go to a web page of stats about the player, would they be as valuable? Would they keep being valuable once some of the servers hosting the stats went offline (or would ones pointing to dead URLs become more valuable?)? What about when someone buys the domain for a popular card and points it at a porn site?

                                                            1. 2

                                                              The problem with that analogy is that the issuer of the baseball card could, if it were an NFT, blank the contents of the card or change it to something else at any point.

                                                              In this analogy the NFT, the contract which exists on-chain, is itself the baseball card. The fact that one of the metadata fields of the NFT is a URL that may or may not resolve is more or less incidental.

                                                              Would they keep being valuable once some of the servers hosting the stats went offline (or would ones pointing to dead URLs become more valuable?)?

                                                              The important properties of NFTs are that, in the context of the chain on which they exist, they’re provably unique, non-fungible, and owned. A broken URL in the metadata doesn’t impact those properties. Of course, value is determined by the market, and the crypto markets are wildly irrational, so you may have a point.

                                                              1. 1

                                                                In this analogy the NFT, the contract which exists on-chain, is itself the baseball card. The fact that one of the metadata fields of the NFT is a URL that may or may not resolve is more or less incidental.

                                                                I’ll buy this, but practically speaking, what then is the use of the NFT? If you’re saying the URL isn’t important, what exactly are you buying?

                                                                1. 1

                                                                  You’re buying something which is guaranteed to be unique and non-fungible, in the context of a specific chain. There is no intrinsic value, any more than a specific painting or whatever is valuable. The value relies on the market belief that the NFT’s chain-specific scarcity is valuable.

                                                                  It’s kind of like a deed. The property isn’t legally yours until the relevant legal regime accepts that you own the deed. The deed isn’t the property but it uniquely represents the property in a specific domain.

                                                                  But like value is not the only interesting thing about NFTs. The non-fungibility itself is novel and opens the door to lots of interesting things.

                                                            2. 2
                                                            3. 2

                                                              Sure, but that is absolutely not how NFTs are understood by 99.9999% of people. That mismatch is the scam.

                                                    2. 3

                                                      The fact that the NFT spec only stores an image URL on the blockchain

                                                      This is not universally true. A lot of NFT projects use IPFS, Filecoin or similar decentralized storage.

                                                      But for the ones using Amazon S3 it’s kinda hilarious, yes

                                                      1. 3

                                                        A lot of NFT projects use IPFS, Filecoin or similar decentralized storage.

                                                        These solutions have a similar problem as with Bittorrent. The stuff that’s not popular won’t get seeded/hosted. It just adds one layer of indirection to the storage issue, but once the business that’s pushing NFTs goes out of business these files are probably not going to get shared.

                                                        1. 1

                                                          I don’t see how that’s a problem in this context? If the URL is IPFS you have a hash, which was the objection being replied to here.

                                                          1. 1

                                                            My understanding of how this works is: the NFT is an object on the blockchain, whose rules enforce its uniqueness. We’re gonna assume the chain is going to be continued to be mined and therefore “exist” indefinitely.

                                                            The NFT contains a hash denoting a location on IPFS. Accessing it using an IPFS gateway will show the user the JPG portraying whatever they paid $2.4M in funny money for. But that JPG has to reside on disk somewhere. And when the company or user goes out of business or the VPS is decommissioned or they get kicked out of AWS for scamming, where is the JPG?

                                                            Of course, concerned parties can… right click on the image, save it to disk, and then use that as a source of data for the IPFS hash, but that does kind of put a lie to the popular imagination on how all this nonsense works.

                                                            1. 2

                                                              You can become a node in the IPFS network yourself, and host just the image.

                                                              1. 1

                                                                Just like the baseball player the “hash” (picture) on a baseball card may die, so may the hosting for an NFTs associated JPG go away. Of course if you want to preserve it you can simply pin it yourself and thus your own computer becomes a host for it. So it’s actually more resiliant than the baseball player :). The NFT is not the image, the image is an associated decoration

                                                      1. 11

                                                        I want to align with “web3” because I really, really believe in decentralizing the net, at least that part of it that mediates social interaction between people. I’ve been fascinated by the promise of P2P since, oh, 2002 or so.

                                                        But inserting blockchains into the web3 concept makes no sense to me. The only use for the blockchain stuff is to enable financial transactions. But

                                                        • social interaction doesn’t require money, and in many cases is antithetical to it (“the surest way to lose a friend is to lend them money.”)
                                                        • blockchains as they currently exist are so heavyweight that they can’t be accessed from client devices, as Moxie points out, so they require centralization.

                                                        I’m left with a sense of despair that all the energy in the (worldwide) room is going to crypto-bro pipe dreams / scams, at the expense of actually-decentralized applications. But that energy is critically important, because it’s needed to drive the network effects (Metcalfe’s Law) that govern adoption of new social software.

                                                        1. 2

                                                          But inserting blockchains into the web3 concept makes no sense to me. The only use for the blockchain stuff is to enable financial transactions.

                                                          I’ll be honest, I have no idea when “web3” became a rallying cry for both cryptobros and folks criticizing crypto. It was for years just the kitschy name for the JS library that helped you work with the Ethereum chain. The same way NextStep was just an OS, it wasn’t the literal future. 🤷‍♂️ this is how buzzwords start I guess.

                                                          1. 1

                                                            AFAICT “web3” mostly uses chains for identity (domains in HNS, or NFTs) but still uses normal old webtech for most of the rest.

                                                            Of course, as a buzzword everything is called web3 now so 🤷‍♂️

                                                            1. 0

                                                              This implies binary thinking; either everything is decentralized, or it cannot call itself different from Web2

                                                              It’s moving there. The ledger and the consensus is decentralized, and other components are moving in that direction.

                                                              Most users of Web3 see it as “interacting with crypto finance apps using your wallet as identification” imho.

                                                            1. 1

                                                              250 Mbit fiber + TimeCapsule + Ubiquity AC Pro

                                                              1. 1

                                                                I use Firefox + LastPass and a few (duplicated) YubiKeys for 2FA.

                                                                Works great for me, regardless of if I’m on Mac/Windows/Linux or iOS.

                                                                (I’m sure a self-hosted bitwarden-rs would be more secure.)