I believe blockchains and the software movement around them — typically called crypto or web3 — provide the only plausible path to sustaining the original vision of the internet as an open platform that incentivizes creativity and entrepreneurship. I’ve been investing behind this thesis for years, and advocating for it through writing and speaking and by talking to business leaders, journalists, and policymakers both here and around the world.
Through all that, it became clear that we need a comprehensive book that clearly explains new technologies like blockchains and the services built on top of them; how they fit into the history of the internet; and why they should matter to founders, developers, creators, and anyone interested in the history and evolution of business, technology, and innovation.
So I wrote that book: Read Write Own: Building the Next Era of the Internet.
My thesis is that seemingly small initial decisions around software and network design can have profound downstream consequences on the control and economics of digital services. The book walks through the history of the internet, showing how it has gone through three major design eras: the first focused on democratizing information (read), the second on democratizing publishing (write), and the third on democratizing ownership (own).
We are on the cusp of the third era — own — so I explain the key concepts underlying it, including blockchains and digital services built on top of blockchains. The book therefore answers a common question I hear: “What problems do blockchains solve?” Blockchains solve the same problems that other digital services solve, but with better outcomes. They can connect people in social networks, while empowering users over corporate interests. They can underpin marketplaces and payment systems that facilitate commerce, but with persistently lower take rates. They can enable new forms of monetizable media, interoperable and immersive digital worlds, and artificial intelligence services that compensate — rather than cannibalize — creators and communities.
The book takes controversial questions head on, including policy and regulatory topics, and the harmful “casino” culture that has developed around crypto that hurts public perception and undermines its potential. And I go deeper into intersecting topics like artificial intelligence, social networks, finance, media businesses, collaborative creation, video games, and virtual worlds.
Inspired by modern tech classics like Zero to One and The Hard Thing About Hard Things, I wrote the book to be succinct, thorough, and accessible. I also distill cutting-edge thinking from technologists and founders to make it useful to practitioners. My goal was to make it accessible without watering it down. The book is meant for a range of audiences, including entrepreneurs, technologists, company leaders, policymakers, journalists, business thinkers, artists, community builders, and people who are simply curious about new technologies, culture, and the future of the internet.
I love reading books but believe that tech and business topics usually work better in shorter formats, which is why in the past I’ve stuck to blogging and tweeting. But accomplishing all of the above warranted a longer treatment, bringing new and different ideas together in one place. So I spent much of the last year doing this. Many of the ideas I’ve thought about for a long time but never took the time to write.
Read Write Own: Building the Next Era of the Internet will be published by Random House on January 30, 2024. You can pre-order it here.
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[more about the term and title “Read Write Own” here]
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