The New Computing Paradigm
Innovation and Opportunities in Web3
As we advance farther into the next internet age, there are countless opportunities for entrepreneurs to build transformative Web3 technology.
From the widespread embrace of crypto and NFTs to the proliferation of DAOs and the numerous innovations in blockchain-based infrastructure and storage, the new computing paradigm of Web3 is quickly becoming mainstream.
Since joining Greylock in 2020, I’ve focused on partnering with entrepreneurs building the next generation of marketplaces and service-based sectors. My previous experience at Uber, where I was part of the team that launched and scaled UberEats, fostered my passion for game-changing technology that impacts everyday life. This has paved the way for my work with Novi Connect, Instawork, and most recently, Web3 companies Rabbithole, Pinata, and Portals.
The breadth and depth of Web3 has made the sector into my now dominant area of focus, particularly the intersection of crypto and commerce. I see many opportunities for blockchain to serve as the underlying infrastructure for a wide range of companies, just as the once-nascent technologies of Web 1.0 and 2.0 re-shaped every industry.
I recently joined Greylock head of editorial Heather Mack on the Greymatter podcast to talk in detail about what I’m seeing in the sector.
You can listen to the Greymatter podcast here.
Additionally, myself and fellow Greylock investors Sarah Guo and Mike Duboe have launched the Fungible Times podcast, which is solely devoted to the topic of Web3.
Christine, welcome to Greymatter. Thanks so much for joining us today.
Hello, it’s so great to be here, I’m excited.
Awesome. Well, let’s just start with the very most basic of basics. What is Web 3?
Web 3 is this all-encompassing term and we’re referring to the next iteration of the internet. Some people might call it the decentralized web. If I wanted to quote Decrypt, a definition might be, “Web3 is the next major iteration of the internet, which promises to wrest control from the centralized corporations that today dominate the web.” And that really is an important theme of Web3.
In a lot of ways, Web3 is a reaction to Web 2.0, this period that you could argue we’re coming out of or that we’re in currently right now. And those centralized corporations that we aim to wrest control from would be platforms like Facebook or Google or Amazon, which today have been great, amazing services, but have mostly served to aggregate data and monetize off that data.
I think there’s been a movement in users on the internet and a desire to control and own more of our data – [a desire to] control our own identities, and sort of what companies can do with that.
I’d say there’s sort of this philosophical movement. It’s interesting to think about the ideologies behind Web3, principles like decentralization, individual ownership, just distributed collective collaboration or distributed computing.
Anyway, if we were to even rewind a bit, Web 2.0 is this period that followed Web 1.0. So we’ll just kind of pause for the listeners and just kind of go through that history. Web 1.0 was this period from the ’80s to really the early 2000s. You had early players like AOL and Netscape and Yahoo, and it was early, early, really early internet days. Some might say this is the read-only version of the web. It was likely very hard to get content on the web, but this was a time when users were just starting to digest and consume content on the web that was really controlled and kind of put out and published by a few players in this space.
And that’s what we mean by read-only – you had players like AOL or Yahoo that were publishing news and covering things, maybe even taking over from our previous channels where we were consuming media like TV and radio, and we’re able to now get all this information on the internet. But we weren’t really participating in a way from consumers publishing information.
Web 2.0 is this period that follows the mid-2000s to today. I would say we’re still really in a very Web 2.0- dominated environment. Some of those companies that really dominate this space, like your Facebook, Google, and Amazon. But another way to think about this is instead of just being a read-only web experience, you now have a read-write web.
Now I’m kind of using read-write, these are some of these primitives that you’ll hear in computer science often. And by read-write, it means, “Hey, not only can we read and see what’s on the internet, but we can also publish and push content onto the internet.” And so [this is] early blogging or things like Reddit or even Facebook, where now I can put up photos and I can write blogs or I can put out content on the internet, user-generated content. YouTube is a great example of this.
We’re in this new period where I would say users are simultaneously consuming content, but then also putting out content and creating content just as much. Yet at the same time, you have this sort of pattern where you have centralized platforms and corporations that are mostly controlling, I would say, a majority of the social media experience that we have online today, or controlling a lot of the content or curating and censoring a lot of the content that we have today.
And so that brings us to Web3. So we kind of touched on some of the principles that define Web3, but if I were to follow that analogy of like read-only to read-write web, now we have a read, write, and execute web where we’re not only consuming, we’re not only creating content up there, but we’re also (on a distributed level) executing the web.
And when I say executing the web, what I really mean is on a decentralized network basis – you have many computers or many participants actually contributing to the computation that is going to be required for the internet to scale. That’s the layer that is added in this Web3 element.
So, that’s why you see the emergence of these networks like Bitcoin or Ethereum, or even decentralized exchanges like UniSwap. These are all household names of Web3. There’s many more that we’re going to get into. But a fundamental defining characteristic as well is that you have the collective community contributing to them, or you have some sort of collective network that’s contributing to the computation. And that’s definitely a new characteristic that we don’t see in Web 2.0.
You’ve been focused on transformative tech since you began your career. Uber and other on-demand startups completely changed the way we think about transportation, food delivery and other services. The companies you’ve worked with at Greylock are overhauling a variety of sectors like employment or commerce. How does Web3 fit into your focus area?
Yeah, that’s a great question because I definitely came to Greylock with eyes wide open. I came to Greylock after five years, like you said, at Uber. I was mostly working on the UberEATS Product there, and I was in engineering product lead there. And so I came to Greylock with a real love for marketplaces, with a love for consumer technology, and did a little bit of all of that.
Some of my earlier investments were in supply chain marketplaces to the future of work. I love looking at things in the healthcare and education space. Anything that touched the lives of consumers, I was super interested in.
And I would still say that dominates how I look at the space today. Looking at Web3 with a consumer perspective is really what I’m bringing to the table now.