Cryptonetworks and Decentralization: Building Blocks

“Show me the incentive and I’ll show you the outcomes.”

At the end of the day, observes a16z crypto general partner Chris Dixon, Satoshi’s whitepaper [the original bitcoin paper outlining a peer-to-peer decentralized network and blockchain sans centralized third parties] is nine pages of incentives. It’s the kind of incentive design that you can use to build many other things on the internet (which itself is driven by very simple core protocols and could even upgrade itself as a result). But only with the right incentives (and alignment of those incentives among different entities), of course. Which is where cryptonetworks come in — especially since they don’t rely on hardware buildout (as with earlier generations of internet deployment), but rather on software (which is essentially just logic, the kind of building block you can use to build countless other things). The breadth of possibilities is endless.

This means that platforms and networks (and operating systems, for that matter) can spend less time, energy, money, and frankly, suffering due to fighting — thanks to distorted business models that lead them to extract value from users and compete among complements (vs. substitutes/better alternatives). The internet-native business models baked into crypto, however, could lead to greater competition and better options for users.

But what are the missing building blocks, that can help make such networks more iterated games vs. one-off prisoner’s dilemmas? And what will it take for these networks to truly reach web-scale, as it’s still just the beginning? Because decentralization is the means to an end — not the end in and itself — observes a16z crypto partner Ali Yahya, so what do we need to build next to get there? In this video (guest hosted by freelance software engineer and writer Devon Zuegel), Dixon and Yahya share their thoughts on where we’ve been, and where we’re going with the internet.