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Crypto summer – hot topics, data, text(books), reads, more

Welcome to the first edition of web3 weekly, a newsletter from a16z crypto that curates resources from us, and from others, for those seeking to understand and go deeper on all things crypto and web3. We aim to help cut through all the noise and share the signals that matter – whether data or resources from the builders, the researchers, the creators – for anyone building the next generation of the internet (aka web3). If you’re receiving this dispatch, then you’re still early! 

1. The question: How do blockchains, crypto, web3 relate; where’s the product innovation?  

Sonal Chokshi, Chris Dixon, Eddy Lazzarin, Tim Roughgarden, Ali Yahya

Crypto and web3 are overlapping but distinct movements built on the same underlying tech, of blockchains: Programmable computers that “live in the sky” that anyone can use but no one owns, and that enable technologies like smart contracts, tokens, more. The arc of innovation here is long, but given recent market sentiment, what are the best mental models and metrics for making sense of it all? There may be a method to the madness; check out the inaugural episodes of our new podcast for more:

listen to the episodes/ subscribe to ‘web3 with a16z’ in your podcast app

2. The data: price-innovation cycles, crypto activity, impact

Chris Dixon, Robert Hackett, Eddy Lazzarin, Daren Matsuoka

Where are we on the journey towards a web3-decentralized, community-owned-and-operated alternative to the centralized tech platforms of web2 – especially as these touch creators and developers? We believe we’re in the middle of the fourth “price-innovation cycle”: a feedback loop between price/ numbers that drives interest, which generates ideas and activity, which in turn fuels innovation. Our first annual State of Crypto report digs into all the data here, from monthly developer activity to where layer 2 trends like optimistic rollups and zero-knowledge rollups will change the landscape of blockchains. But the real stunners are what the data tell us about what web3 pays out to creators:

view or download the report here

3. The text & the subtext: Cryptoeconomics

Tyler Cowen, Alex Tabarrok

Crypto is one of the economics ideas that has been most discussed over the past decade – yet is still not a common topic in economics classes, observe noted economists (and authors of the highly influential economics blog Marginal Revolution) Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok. So in this new chapter of their popular textbook Modern Principles of Economics, they examine crypto through the lens of economic reasoning and explain smart contracts, bitcoin, DeFi, NFTs… and the possible “tokenization of everything”. Cryptoeconomics not only combines cryptography and economics to produce new methods of communication, cooperation, and organization; but, the authors argue, it might also “bring the invisible hand to computation”.  

download the full chapter here 

4. The trend: Metaverse!

Liz Harkavy, Eddy Lazzarin, Arianna Simpson; Scott Duke Kominers 

There has been a lot of buzz about “the metaverse” since its coinage in the ‘90s, but lately the term has gotten especially muddled. What is a metaverse exactly, and where does one draw a line between a metaverse and just another virtual world? Simply put, a metaverse is “a more social, immersive, and far more economically sophisticated” evolution of the internet: decentralized, interoperable, open, and owned by the communities that build and maintain it. And… it’s got property rights. Speaking of: what happens when metaverse platforms can give digital spaces a sense of physical place and geography? Given that digital space is infinitely expansible, does the concept of owning “land” in the metaverse even make sense?

read ‘7 Essential Ingredients’, a framework for the metaverse
read ‘Metaverse Land’, on what makes digital real estate valuable to users

Other views: Meta’s Nick Clegg’s take on the metaverse; Epics’ Tim Sweeney’s on gaming and the metaverse 

5. Building blocks: reads & resources

Business strategy evolving with web3

  • On how digital currencies can help small businesses / Shai Bernstein and Christian Catalini, Harvard Business Review 

  • On how web3 changes traditional web2 advantages of network effects, launching products, and notions of business competition / Jad Esber and Scott Duke Kominers, Harvard Business Review 

MPC in theory and in practice

  • On building the ability to access web3 directly from a dapp wallet and browser using multi-party computation (MPC) technology / Coinbase blog

  • On software, workshops, and other resources for MPC / Dragoș Rotaru on GitHub

Deep dives, foundations

  • On the Tendermint consensus protocol that achieves consistency and eventual liveness / Tim Roughgarden on YouTube & GitHub

  • On privacy-preserving computing in the blockchain era / Ghada Almashaqbeh and Ravital Solomon, IACR

  • On probabilistically checkable proofs (PCPs) and how deep algebraic tools are making it into practice with cryptocurrencies / Mordechai Rorvig, Quanta Magazine

  • On elliptic curves for proof systems, a survey of / Diego Aranha, Youssef El Housni, and Aurore Guillevic, IACR

In the news – signal/ noise

  • On visualizing the recent block reorg on the Ethereum beacon chain, understanding proof-of-stake, and more / Barnabé Monnot, The Price of Agency

  • On the TerraUSD de-peg, an on-chain investigation / Aurelie Barthere, Beili Baraki, Louisa Choe, and Yong Li Khoo of Nansen

  • On evaluating automated stablecoins, a couple thought experiments / Vitalik Buterin

summer nights 

— Sonal Chokshi, Robert Hackett, and the a16z crypto team

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