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RALEIGH – The potential of “Web3” tech is getting overshadowed by headlines about crypto, says Dr. Campbell Harvey from Duke University
“The news, the mainstream media, talks about the trials and tribulations of Sam Bankman-Fried, or about Elon Musk tweeting about Dogecoin,” said Harvey. “What I want you to think about is stuff that’s not necessarily in the news, but the stuff that’s under the radar. That’s where the big opportunity is, and I see a fundamental and structural shift as possible for our economy, with this technology.”
Harvey spoke about the promise of Web3 at a Hyperledger meetup in Raleigh last month.
What is Web3?
If “Web2” describes the internet as we mostly know it today, then “Web3” is the next version.
Today’s Web2 is also called the “information web” since it gives users access to content (for example, through websites, social media platforms, online shopping outlets, and streaming services).
The main difference between Web2 and Web3 is where data is stored. Web2 is largely powered by centralized servers which store user data and transactions. Web3 seeks to decentralize data storage by replacing centralized servers with immutable ledgers.
This “decentralized” tech, like blockchain, could give users more control over their information and finances and support real-time interactions between people and machines without middlemen or intermediaries.
It’s also the tech that powers cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin—but that’s not all it can do.
IBM Fellow and author of Think Blockchain Jerry Cuomo also spoke at the event, remarking that Bitcoin is just “one of thousands” of applications of blockchain.
“And while I have little against cryptocurrency, my interest is predominantly in the other 999 applications,” said Cuomo during his talk.
Sterling Mah Ingui, Head of Next Gen Products at Fidelity Investments, spoke as well. She called 2023 a “good year for people to learn more” about Web3.
“It’ll take time for people to get comfortable, for them to connect the dots on what it really means, what is the difference between Web2 and Web3,” said Ingui. “That learning journey is really early for many.”
But according to Ingui, even though it will take some time for people to feel comfortable with the difference between Web2 and Web3 and connect the dots on what it really means, those conversations are happening.
“I think with all of the dialogue from policymakers, and regulatory interest, people are starting to have that dialogue more and more,” said Ingui. “That gives people the opportunity to think about what’s next.”
Web3 Innovation in the Triangle
Ingui mentioned the impact of having a Web3-focused event in the Triangle and what it means for the region.
“I’m very excited we have this great community in North Carolina focused around a technology that I think is incredible,” said Ingui during her talk.
Last month’s event was hosted by the Hyperledger Raleigh Meetup. Hyperledger Meetup groups have an informal relationship with Hyperledger, an open-source collaborative hosted by the Linux Foundation that’s dedicated to cross-industry blockchain technologies.
The Hyperledger Raleigh Meetup is sponsored by Kaleido, a Raleigh-based tech startup that provides a Web3 platform for building blockchain applications and digital assets.
Kaleido Co-founder and Head of Protocol Jim Zhang spoke at the event briefly, with a quick explainer of zero-knowledge proof blockchain (a secure method of data storage and transaction that allows two parties to prove that they know something without revealing any of the underlying details).
“This is sort of a fancy term; if you’ve can spell it, you’re in a different league,” said Zhang. “But in the last year or so, this is becoming mainstream, people are getting more comfortable with this. And it’s hugely important to the future of Web3.”
After the event, I spoke with Kaleido Co-Founder and President Sophia Lopez, hoping to understand whether the Triangle tech scene is ready for Web3.
“Raleigh is known globally as an early driver of seminal enterprise Blockchain initiatives, including the development of key open-source protocols and Web3 projects,” Lopez told me. “This area truly is a hotbed for innovation.”
Lopez also mentioned the impact of bringing the Triangle Web3 community together, face-to-face.
“Coming out of COVID, it’s great to get back together again in person, with our local world-class academics, thought leaders, and enterprise technologists,” said Lopez.
Over 50 attended in person at Raleigh Founded’s Warehouse location, and the event was live-streamed to an additional 300 people globally.
“It’s a way to bring this area’s expertise to every corner of the globe,” said Lopez.