A16z crypto partner: the charm and challenge of blockchain

Chris Dixon is one of the most influential investors in the current blockchain field. He graduated from the Philosophy Department of Columbia University in 1999 and joined the investment institution a16z in 2013 after years of experience in traditional financial investment. He currently serves as a16z crypto. General partner. In Chris Dixon's view, the blockchain is the pirate flag that has risen again in Silicon Valley, leading you to engage in interesting, slightly dangerous and disruptive activities. Chris Dixon's first investment in a16z was Ripple. Since then, he has successively invested in star projects such as Coinbase and OpenBazaar. He has also made A16Z one of the most influential investment institutions in the blockchain industry.

In the past six years since entering the cryptocurrency industry, Chris Dixon has formed a series of rich and wonderful blockchain ideology. The chain catcher (ID: iqklbs) has compiled and organized the relevant remarks of Chris Dixon by collecting a large amount of information. It can be of great benefit to all readers.


Talking about the background of the development of cryptocurrency

Today's Internet is more like Disneyland. If I open a restaurant at Disneyland, the park thinks that I make too much money, it may raise the rent or change the rules. This is the case with Facebook, Google and Apple.

We live in this Disneyland-like internet, and I don't think it's a good thing. I don't think it's as diverse, exciting, less fun, and creative as it used to be. It ruined those creative business models. If we don't do anything to change the status quo, we will pay a huge price in the field of entrepreneurship and miss a lot of opportunities. The next Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page will be difficult to start doing business.

Looking back over the past two decades, there are currently two models for creating new things on the Internet: one is that you develop low-level agreements through non-profit, public-profit methods, which were adopted by the Internet early, through government and academic institutions. The core protocols, including the HTTP protocol, TCP/IP protocol, HTML, and SMTP (mail protocol), all work very well. But what more good agreements have you seen in the 20 years after the birth of these agreements?

For example, all Internet users now need to rely on a cryptographic library OpenSSL to communicate with SSL to help you encrypt sensitive data such as bank passwords and user passwords entered on the Internet to prevent them from being stolen.

But when a major security breach, the Heartbleed bug, emerged, it was discovered that only one and a half developers of OpenSSL's important encryption libraries were maintained. You can say that the development has actually stopped. In fact, the reason is very simple, because the agreement itself has no commercial value, so no one is willing to pay attention to it anymore.

Another development model is to start a business to earn money to support development, such as Facebook, Google to earn advertising revenue or Amazon to earn transaction fees, and then re-invest in technology development, and basically all the investment, smart developers of the world The energy is absorbed by the enterprises that are centrally managed.

Let's take a look. In fact, there are a group of developers in the world who are not employed by these platform companies. In essence, they can be said to have been used by these "platforms" for many years. Applications that they have worked hard to develop may eventually be used by these platforms. Blocking, or a 30% toll (AppStore/Google Play fee rate) that you are no longer resisting and willing to pay, can survive on the platform.

This group is now very frustrated, hoping to find a new model to support the cost of developing applications, and the new economic model of selling the underlying resources through cryptocurrencies is in line with this desire and demand.

At the same time, from the 1980s to the beginning of this century, mainstream Internet services were built on open agreements controlled by the Internet community. For example, the DNS, known as the "phone book" of the Internet world, is controlled by a distributed network of individuals and organizations, using rules of open creation and management that allow any individual or organization that follows community standards. With a domain name, it has a place in the Internet world.

This also means that the company's operating network and email delivery services are monitored. If they misbehave, users can transfer their domain name services to other service providers.

But from the middle of the first decade of this century to the present, Internet users' trust in public agreements has been replaced by trust in the corporate management team. Companies such as Google, Twitter, and Facebook have built software and services that go beyond open protocols, and users are gathering on these more sophisticated platforms.

However, the code for these platforms belongs to the private property of these companies, and the regulatory rules for these platforms may change rapidly.

How does a social network decide to approve or blacken a user? How does a search engine determine a website ranking? Social media may still be nurturing media organizations and small businesses in the last minute, and in the next minute it is possible to put their content into a cold house or change the revenue sharing model. At the same time, millions of users have experienced the pain of being abused or stolen by private data. Creative and creative companies that rely on the Internet platform have also experienced sudden changes in platform rules, making their audience and works profitable overnight. The relationship between them is gone.

The enormous energy of these platform giants has created a wide range of social tensions, and issues such as the proliferation of fake news, water forces, privacy laws and algorithmic biases have sparked heated debates.

This is why social thoughts are beginning to turn to embrace Internet services controlled by open rules and communities. These ideas have finally become possible in the near future. Specifically, thanks to technological innovations driven by the rise of blockchains and cryptocurrencies, trying to create new Internet services through growing social action.


Talking about the actual value and prospect of blockchain

A blockchain is a network built on top of the Internet, using a consensus mechanism such as a blockchain to maintain and update state. Users or developers can trust that a piece of code running on a blockchain computer can continue to operate according to the design concept. Even if individual participants in the network are distracted and try to destroy the network, they can't succeed.

On the other hand, crypto tokens are used to motivate consensus participants (miners/verifiers) and other network participants. The incentive mechanism is the most exciting point in the movement of cryptocurrency. It makes all the participants in this blockchain network platform have the same interests, and everyone will not hurt each other in the same boat.

The most exciting part of this incentive mechanism is not only to encourage startups or developers to develop new applications on the platform, but also to encourage people to be willing to serve this platform in the early stage, so that the new platform is unprecedented. The rapid growth of the bitcoin, Ethereum is one of the best.

In the Internet age, when you start a business that requires network effects, the good news is that once you have a certain amount of users, you can easily succeed later; but the bad news is that until you have a certain amount of users, you The business model is a bit confusing from the outside world. It's like a dating site with only one user is the worst idea in the world, but a dating site with one million users sounds a lot more convincing, but the question facing the founder is how to do this?

Chris Dixon

I used to be an entrepreneur and now I am an investor. In terms of personal experience, 99% of businesses that actually need network effects will fail in the initial stage. But when you ask Airbnb founder Brian Chesky or the founder of Ebay how to overcome "first chicken or egg", they always have some heroic stories about how they are purely willpower, tricks or Money has to break through many difficulties, but there are only about 15 platforms with economies of scale on the Internet. You can imagine that there may be another million startups who have lost the opportunity to make progress and improve existing services because they have not passed the initial stage.

Therefore, cryptocurrency is more like a universal solution for the typical problems of “chicken or egg” that all startups will encounter. When there are not enough users to create platform value, you can use financial value. Inspire early users, but slowly you give less and less financial value to later users, because later users will be able to enjoy the value brought by the platform after the platform is formed.

At the specific incentive level, the Proof of Stake (PoS) is being used by more and more people, and the most obvious place is the Proof of Work (PoW) to the proof of equity. The change of mechanism, which makes the consensus mechanism have more design space, for example, it can increase the punishment mechanism in the consensus mechanism, which has not happened before.

Email is a good example because it doesn't have any penalty mechanism, so there is a bad causal loop. When people find that sending emails is completely cost-free, someone will send a billion emails, which is a big problem. Think about it, if you have to pay for each time you create a new email account and send spam, people will naturally consider the cost before doing it. This punishment mechanism will greatly improve the current e-mail problem.

The blockchain network also uses a variety of mechanisms to ensure that it stays neutral while growing, preventing it from becoming centralized. First, the contract between the blockchain network and the participants is executed in open source code. Irresponsible employees on large Internet platforms decide how to rank and filter information, which users are promoted and which are banned. In the blockchain industry, these decisions are made by the community and use open and transparent mechanisms. As we know from the real world, democracy is not perfect, but it is much better than alternatives.

Second, blockchain network participants are supervised through a "sound" and "exit" mechanism. Participants “send voices” through community governance, including “on the chain” (through agreements) and “under the chain” (through social structures around the agreement). If the status of the blockchain network is not satisfactory, participants can either withdraw by selling their tokens or perform a fork in extreme cases.

In short, the blockchain network brings together network participants to work together to achieve a common goal—the growth of the network and the appreciation of tokens. This consistent alliance is that cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin continue to despise skeptics. And one of the main reasons for maintaining prosperity.

Today, the biggest challenge for the cryptocurrency industry is how to prevent themselves from becoming centralized, and the more serious limitations are performance and scalability. In the next few years, the focus of the industry development will be to address these limitations while strengthening the infrastructure of the encryption network. After that, most of the resources will shift to building decentralized applications on top of the infrastructure.

Centralized applications are usually getting started very well, like the Internet giant GAFA has many advantages, including huge cash reserves, user base and operational infrastructure. Decentralized systems are often not perfect at the beginning, but under the right conditions, the new contributors they attract will multiply.

For developers and entrepreneurs, the blockchain network has a more attractive value proposition. If the blockchain network can win the full recognition of these developers, you can mobilize more resources than GAFA and quickly develop products beyond them.

Moreover, there are millions of highly skilled developers in the world, only a small number of which work in large technology companies, and even smaller in new product development. Many of the most important software projects in history have been created by more startups or independent developer communities. Centralization or decentralization systems will win the next era of the Internet. It can be attributed to who will build the most attractive products, and who can win more high-quality support from developers and entrepreneurs.

In the end, people no longer need to trust their trust in a company. We can entrust trust to the software that the community owns and runs. In the end, we can change the governance principle of the Internet from “do not evil” to “can’t be evil”. "Evil" can't be evil.

Core reference material:

Chris Dixon: Why is decentralization of blockchain important?

Chris Dixon: Why do I believe that blockchain will reshape the Internet ecosystem?

"Fred Wilson and Chris Dixon talk about "destructive innovation," super fun things are happening"

Author / Hu Wei

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