Moxie Marlinspike, a self-described cryptographer and the CEO and founder of messaging app Signal, is closer to the scene than most other crypto critics. In a January blog post, he said that he never had much inclination to dive deeper into so-called “decentralized finance.” When he finally did, his opinions were not all that positive.
Marlinspike’s opinion doesn’t come from a place of antagonism as much as a regular web developer. In order to understand more about Web3, he created an app that let people mint tokens for NFTs and another to create, track, and exchange NFT derivatives (like derivatives of financial assets). Despite his intentions of just discovering what Web3 was all about, he found users had sunk thousands of dollars into his app, leading him to see the entire crypto ecosystem as nothing but a “gold rush.’ What he found is that the general promise of Web3, of a decentralized system where users are stakeholders in the system, is largely bogus. The only important thing about Web3 is making money for the people in charge of the centralized platforms and a few other lucky individuals.
“The people at the end of the line who are flipping NFTs do not fundamentally care about distributed trust models or payment mechanics, but they care about where the money is,” he said.
Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin posted his response to Marlinspike’s critiques on Reddit, of all places, saying it’s hard to find fault with the Signal developer’s methodologies. Buterin said that the cryptographer was pretty correct of his interpretation of how the space is currently, but argued that’s not where the NFT space might lead.
Marlinspike responded that even if this is the beginning, it’s not much consolation since “from the very beginning, these technologies immediately tended towards centralization through platforms in order for them to be realized… most participants don’t even know or care it’s happening.”