John Newby, Director of TZ Connect, Interviewed at TezDev Paris, 2022

Veteran developer John Newby goes into detail about his background, and why he dislikes the term 'Web3'


900 words, 5 minute read

These days, John Newby is Director of in Berlin, one of the key developer teams in the Tezos ecosystem. But John’s professional journey started back in the 1990s, in the very early days of the Internet.

In a live interview with Marissa Trew of Blokhaus at the recent TezDev event in Paris, John Newby went into detail about his background, why the ‘crypto winter’ of 2022 feels a lot like the dot com bubble in the early 2000s, and his hopes for the future of blockchain technologies. He also explained what blockchain isn’t for, and why - as much as he dislikes it - he has grudgingly started to use the term ‘Web3’ in interviews.

You’ll find extracts from Marissa’s conversation with John Newby below, and the full video can be viewed at the top of this page.

The early days of the Internet:

I was in my last year at university when the web became a thing […] We were so full of hope in those days. We thought that the old order was gone and the new order was going to be extraordinary. […] And you could just do anything that you wanted to. You had to build everything yourself. There were really no standards. […] there was just this sense of unlimited possibilities, and they were all within reach.

On his dislike of the term ‘Web3’:

The blockchain is a different thing than the web, fundamentally. The web is websites. Web2 is not over, and Web3 is not a new thing which is replacing it. They’re complementary. And I feel like we should have enough confidence in the blockchain industry to not be harking back to the web, but just to say, ‘look, this is a whole new thing and it has a whole new name’.

If we’re going to use the terms Web1, Web2, Web3, I think Web1 was the time when everybody was making content and we were all hosting our own websites. […] There were no huge companies. […] just this profusion of really ugly websites made by enthusiastic people.

And then Web2 came along, and that was the time when there was a lot of power consolidated in the hands of Google and Apple, Facebook. […] And then Web3, if we’re going to use the term, in my head is a return to a time when the cost of things was actually quite explicit, when one had control over how much one wanted to expose or not, when one was able to do something for oneself.

Why the ‘crypto winter’ feels familiar:

I think it’s very reminiscent of the dot com bubble [in the early 2000s]. The stupid money got in at the end. There were people whose job was day trading. And there was this belief that no company really needed to make money, that prices would always go up, and that everybody was an expert. I think that the crypto bubble also had this; retail investors getting in, hyping values, and the bubble had to burst at some point.

But just as after the 2000 crash, the companies with genuine value survived and built something. Right now, I think we’re going to see the same thing. There were some products which were just built on sand, and they’re going to go. There are some which have genuine value, which will emerge from this stronger.

On NFTs as a test case for the utility of blockchain technology:

There’s genuine value in the blockchain and having a neutral platform on which people can transact in a relatively trustless fashion. […] What’s so wonderful about the NFT movement is that it gets things into people’s hands. It provides a revenue stream for artists. We’re now thinking about utility tokens, about token gated communities. This is stuff that’s actually useful and actually gives genuine value rather than just having a token that you speculate on or swap for another token.

As the entry level blockchain product that really got mass adoption, I think NFTs have been really useful. And I think that gradually they will gain more utility and more functionality and people will spread out into more complicated application areas. [But] there’s an awful lot of education that we must do before people are ready to do more meaningful interactions on the blockchain.

On blockchain bros and the challenge of increasing diversity in the crypto space:

Blockchain bros are a phenomenon, and there’s a lot of really ridiculous partiality dissing different blockchains because your one’s the best and really hyping it and pretending that absolutely everything in blockchain is extraordinary, whereas in fact we know that it’s complicated and there are good points and bad points.

But on the other hand, there’s an awful lot of people who are really committed to producing extraordinary products and to helping other people, especially in Tezos. The Tezos development community is really focused on helping other people to get things out there.

We just need to keep reaching out, keep creating spaces in which people can come and work with us, try to be as approachable and friendly and available as we can be.