It’s me, the person who works in crypto. I’m home for Thanksgiving.

If you are like me — the one crypto person representing the entire industry around the dinner table this Thanksgiving — you are also likely anticipating the usual barrage of questions stuffed with preconceived judgments about Web3, crypto and blockchain. 

Let’s think about all those questions before we are in a food-induced stupor, and maybe this year we can finally be thankful for finally getting through to your most skeptical aunt. 

What is going on with the crypto guy who has been in the news?

FTX, SBF, FBI, SEC — an alarming jumble of letters that has spelled out some stressful times for our industry. In short, Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF) committed fraud using an exchange he created. 

When it comes down to it, fraud is fraud. Bankman-Fried committed fraud and used crypto and Web3 to do it, and no, his actions are not reflective of an entire industry. Think about the internet; we can use it to order double chocolate cookies to our door, or we can use it to sell fake autographed pictures of Elvis. 

Read more: SBF’s guilty: What’s next?

The use of a technology like the internet as we know it, or Web3, doesn’t make it inherently bad. Bankman-Fried’s use of a crypto exchange to steal money from his customers doesn’t make crypto inherently bad either.

Bitcoins and doggie coins? Did I miss something?  

Bitcoin is crypto (a cryptocurrency), just as ether, and dogecoin (or doggie coin as my cousin prefers to call it) are. There are actually thousands of cryptocurrencies with different pros and cons. Some people love to speculate on crypto prices, some people think they are securities, and some people move to Miami because of them. 

Read more: Gensler: Bitcoin is not a security, but tokenized Pokemon cards may be

The interesting thing about them, to me at least, is what they could do. Think borderless payments, contracts without middlemen, and a more accessible financial system. We are working on it. 

Is it called crypto, or Web3, or what? 

We delight in arbitrarily changing up which term we use to maintain a sense of intellectual superiority, but when it comes down to it:

Crypto often refers to the industry, but more specifically cryptocurrencies (think about bitcoin, ethereum, etc.)

Blockchain technology is the technology that powers everything — basically, a ledger that can be used without the traditional trust and middlemen required by our current systems, and it’s permanent and can’t be edited. 

Web3 is the big umbrella term that covers everything we are talking about, from cryptocurrency, blockchain, and the applications that are built on top of blockchain networks. We like to think we are building a new internet. What most of us use now is Web2 (think Google, Amazon, current websites, etc.) and Web3 is a move forward to improve it all by giving you control over your own data and money.

Isn’t crypto terrible for the environment?

Technology and our current financial system (banks, credit cards, etc) require energy. Our industry is no exception. Crypto got a bad rap because of how much energy Bitcoin was using, but many projects have shifted their approach to be much more environmentally friendly by shifting how they work (Ethereum did this), paying for carbon removal, or shifting their energy sources. These days, research shows that Bitcoin is powered primarily by renewable energy sources and, in some cases, is actually reducing harmful emissions.

Where do you work (a quick key)? 

I work in a new field of technology called Web3. One year feels like 5 sometimes, which is why I look significantly older this year. 

If you work for a layer-1: I work in a new field of technology for a project focused on the foundation layer of Web3, which is a new version of the internet. A layer-1, or L1, is what the whole world of other projects build on top of, think of Nintendo 64 as a layer-1 and Starfox as the project built on top of it. 

If you work for a layer-2: I work for a project that is supposed to improve the foundation layer of Web3 by making it easier to use — faster and more streamlined, or just adding enhanced functionality. In this case, think about the foundation layer (L1) as a N64 controller and the layer-2 (L2) as the rumble pack. 

If you work for a crypto focused investment firm: I work for a firm that funds different projects, like layer-1s, layer-2s etc.

I know it’s still confusing, it’s not just you. I’ve heard different questions for the past five Thanksgivings, and I’m genuinely thankful you are still curious about it all. Just like stuffing recipes, there are variations in how we do things and we don’t even agree on everything among ourselves. It will all stay a little stressful, and a little different, until this new technology fades into the background and becomes something we use without really thinking about it.

Pass the cranberry sauce please. 

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Web3 keeps falling short of real decentralization

While a lot has changed in the decade since Satoshi Nakamoto invented bitcoin — including the rise of centralized financial services for trading, lending, borrowing — decentralization remains a core value for crypto.

Yet, time and time again, Web3 is falling short of true decentralization. 

Web3 should reflect the diversity of the global population, including the full spectrum of geographic regions and technical expertise. If the industry doesn’t start taking this into account, full decentralization — and geographic diversity — will remain out of reach forever.

It’s no secret that a major focus of Web3 is to onboard new users with the ultimate goal of worldwide adoption.

Let’s first acknowledge that regulations pose legitimate restrictions on where Web3 DApps can deploy and allow users access. Beyond the compliance policies of each jurisdiction, there are many other factors that determine how well a region supports crypto, including job opportunities, company headquarters and industry conferences. 

It’s worth noting that the cities that made it into a recent ranking of crypto-friendly countries include Singapore, London, Seoul, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles and New York City. All of these also happen to be cosmopolitan cities with some of the highest GDPs. 

Perhaps not surprisingly, user acquisition spend in the form of in-person meetups, demo days, grant programs and other marketing and advertising initiatives are often directed to populations based in these very same cities. 

But true network decentralization cannot be reached without incorporating the full spectrum of users at every level of the ecosystem. This means educating people in rural and under-resourced areas on how to become node operators. It means helping those with lower access to computing power gain access to the financial tools and services that blockchain networks are supposed to enable. It also entails hiring talented people for Web3 jobs outside of cosmopolitan cities. According to Pantera’s recent compensation survey of Web3 work, the vast majority of crypto jobs (88%) are remote, so there is no logistics-based reason to limit hires based on geography.

Don’t underestimate commonly overlooked regions 

Chainalysis’ 2023 Global Adoption Index reveals which countries have the highest day-to-day usage of cryptocurrencies. Notably, Chainalysis does not define “usage” as transaction volume, which would have resulted in the wealthiest countries landing at the top of the list.

Instead, the report focuses on the nations in which people are putting the greatest share of their wealth into cryptocurrencies based on a variety of factors. India, Nigeria and Vietnam take the top three spots, followed by the United States, Ukraine, Philippines and Indonesia.

Read more from our opinion section: The US is losing the crypto race

Notably, most of the countries in the top ten have emerging rather than established economies. And while overall adoption is down globally, this is not the case in Asia. The countries with highest adoption are similar to those Chainalysis identified in 2022 — though it’s worth pointing out that India and Nigeria surpassed Vietnam in terms of adoption this year. The success of Axie Infinity, which was founded in Vietnam, kicked off a massive wave of adoption in the country. The incredible impact a single game had on adoption (at least for a time) suggests that improved UI/UX in Web3 gaming could have a similar impact.

Across the adoption index for this year and last, countries with emerging markets are adopting crypto far faster than wealthy nations. This supports the core ethos of crypto, which is not to make the rich richer, but rather to expand access to finance and other services. 

The adoption indices also lend data-based validation to the understanding that there is an eager and interested audience in countries with emerging markets. Only by putting “boots on the ground” in every part of the globe will Web3 become ubiquitous.

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Follow Sam Bankman-Fried’s trial with the latest news from the courtroom

It’s Time for Web3 Games to Embrace Play AND Earn

As a first step to getting traditional gamers interested in exploring Web3, games need to move away from the play-to-earn model to a vision that more fully embraces the original gaming ethos: fun! This means that before Web3 games can offer players ownership of in-game assets, game developers need to focus on the elements that draw players to games in the first place: evocative worlds, great storytelling, frictionless game-play experience, a sense of community and the ability to hone in-game skills.