Web3 in 2023: The good, the bad and the ugly

The silver lining during Crypto Winter is that most of the people left are the builders.

Web3 in 2023: The good, the bad and the ugly
Photo by Ian Schneider / Unsplash

New year. New site. And I'm happy to relaunch Digital Life Asia on Ghost in 2023 – the year web3 will become truly mainstream.

Sure, 2022 was the year of the dreaded Crypto Winter and the bear market in general. The silver lining, however, is that most of the people who are left in the crypto space are the builders. The ones who are in this for the long haul and are true believers in the power of web3 and decentralization.

Joining them are millions of people being onboarded to web3 for the first time. Last year saw well-known brands like Reddit, Meta (via Instagram), Nike, and Starbucks embracing NFTs (non-fungible tokens) and web3 in general. These four brands all partnered with Polygon, whose growing ecosystem was one of the bright spots during the Crypto Winter.


In fact, one clear sign that web3 is becoming more mainstream is that these brands have avoided using the term NFTs, instead using the term digital collectibles. And users are enthusiastically buying digital collectibles and enjoying new customer experiences – without even realizing that these are powered by blockchain technology.

As it should be.

If we really want mass adoption of web3, then we need to focus less on talking about technology, and more on communicating the benefits of new customer experiences.

Becoming mainstream means web3 will become ubiquitous yet invisible to us, just like most of us don't care about the technical details about how appliances work, or how the video games we buy were developed, or, heck, how we get electricity in our homes.

We just want it to work, and enjoy the experience.

That's how the internet became mainstream in the first place, instead of just being a military project born of the Cold War, and later the playground of scientists and geeks.

I'm old enough to remember when many people, including smart ones like Bill Gates, thought the internet was just a fad. Not because they didn't believe in the technology, but because they thought it would be too technical for the general public and that society wouldn't be ready for it.

Well, the same thing is happening now, with skeptics saying blockchain is just a fad. And once again, history will prove the skeptics wrong.

So what's in store for web3 in 2023? Here's the good, the bad and the ugly – all of which are the result of web3 becoming more mainstream.

The good

More and more people will be onboarded to web3, as more brands embrace blockchain technology to create innovative customer experiences.

Digital collectibles will no longer just appeal to Crypto Twitter, but will become as natural as collecting stickers at Starbucks or buying collectible cards.

Much of the prejudice against NFT art will disappear, as people realize that art is art. Heck, it might even silence the critics of AI-assisted art, because just as web3 is becoming more mainstream, so too is AI.

We will see more web3 games. Not all of them will be good, but more of them will now concentrate on being fun rather than focusing on letting players earn. I'm optimistic that we might also see the first games that will truly use blockchain to offer innovative gaming experiences, rather than just being web2 games with blockchain features like wallets, tokens, and NFTs.

The bad

As web3 becomes more mainstream, we will see clashes between so-called web2 and web3 people.

As I said in my e27 article, this conflict will be based on two extreme views, both of which are wrong.

On the one hand, it’s the mistaken belief of web2 people that they can simply waltz in and succeed in web3. And on the other hand, it’s the misconception of web3 people that they have nothing to learn from web2 people.

These will be interesting times of transition and disruption. I firmly believe in making the benefits of web3 accessible to everyone. In fact, my ikigai, which web3 helped me discover, is promoting crypto for creators, blockchain for good, and web3 for a better world.

But I will resist attempts to simply replicate web2 business models and mindsets on web3, and to dismiss the contributions of the pioneers who embraced blockchain before they came along. I may have only joined a web3 company in August, but I have made sure to immerse myself in the culture and interact with the community.

Sure, we can learn from the experience and expertise of people who have succeeded in the web1 and web2 eras. But they should embrace web3 with humility, respect for web3 culture, and a willingness to listen to and learn from the community.

The ugly

Needless to say, as web3 becomes more mainstream, we will see more scams and scandals.

Not because there is anything wrong with the technology, but because it's human nature to be gullible and greedy. Technology is a tool, and a tool is only as good or as evil as the people using it.

Unfortunately, bad actors are in web3, just as they are in every industry. And expect more of them to take advantage of gullibility and greed as millions of new users are onboarded to web3.

Of course, this will also mean more negative coverage from mainstream media, and more politicians calling for regulation. It's what happens whenever something new becomes mainstream, whether it's the internet, mobile phones, video games, and so on.

Mainstream media finds a new menace to society, and politicians find a new reason to conduct public hearings, give boring and uninformed speeches, and propose new regulation.

At any rate, the mainstream adoption of web3 is inevitable. It's not a question of if but when. The skeptics should learn from history.

Web3 is here to stay. How about you?