So you want to be a Web3 developer

The latest industry buzzword is creating an opening for ambitious developers to contribute to an exciting emerging ecosystem, underpinned by distributed ledgers and cryptocurrency. But there are plenty of caveats on Web3 to contend with first.

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Even one of Web3’s biggest exponents, Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong, admitted recently on Twitter that “it’s still difficult to build things in a decentralized way (nascent tools), so you are seeing various apps/companies revert to using more centralized Web2 techniques when they run into a hairy technical problem.”

Still, many developers, often younger or looking to stake their career on the next big thing, are as likely to see this as a challenge or an opportunity, rather than a barrier to entry.

Ethereum cofounder Buterin believes that the limitations of Web3 today boil down to “limited technical resources and funding,” and that these will melt away as more developers flood into the space. “Fortunately, the dependencies are being attacked and resolved one by one, and there has already been a lot of progress. Once the general-purpose hard legwork is done by a few dedicated teams, building trustless applications will become much more feasible for all dev teams, that would just need to plug in the libraries,” he wrote on Reddit.

Ethical concerns over Web3

There also remains the ethical elephant in the room. Much of the initial pushback against Web3, specifically its inherent links to volatile cryptocurrencies, hinges on ethical concerns around new coin scams, NFT theft and fraud, and serious environmental impacts.

The European Central Bank has raised concerns over the “exorbitant carbon footprint” of crypto assets. Cambridge University’s Bitcoin Electricity Consumption index estimates that bitcoin mining consumes 138.9 terawatt-hours a year of electricity, which is as much consumption as entire countries. Even crypto believer Elon Musk has raised concerns over the environmental impact of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.

Additionally, the dialog over Web3 tends to descend into polarized shouting matches pretty quickly, making it hard for well-meaning technologists to cross the divide. This came to a head in software development circles recently, when ex-Microsoft developer advocate Chloe Condon was attacked online for her decision to join Coinbase.

“Web3 is imperfect, but there is a vein of defensiveness and maximalism from its proponents that turns off would-be entrants to the space,” tweeted venture capitalist Chris Cantino at Color Capital. “Accessibility is perhaps the most valid critique of Web3. The learning curve is steep. Developers have not figured out how to mainstream skeptics. There are many obstacles to overcome, and it is early days.”

Edge & Node’s Dabit is similarly realistic about the risks of committing to Web3 full-time, having firsthand experience of making that leap. “You see things like scammers trying to get over on people and steal their money, endless talk about price swings from people who are speculating, and outright scam projects that often discredit the industry as a whole,” he wrote.

All of these factors make Web3 a risky career bet. But, as Coinbase’s Youngblood said, “if you are early enough, you can have an outsized impact on your career by having new skills that are very in demand.”

And it’s not just startups and crypto companies that are building for Web3. Facebook parent Meta is working on native NFT functionality, virtually every bank is looking at crypto and the applicability of blockchain technology, and Google recently established a new unit focused on “blockchain and other next-gen distributed computing and data storage technologies,” according to Bloomberg.

That being said, committing to Web3 at this stage is still akin to sitting down at a Blackjack table: It should be fun, you could make some new friends and maybe a bit of money, but you had better be comfortable with the ups and downs.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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