After-run thoughts captured and edited with ChatGPT

Trying out to find out what we actually mean with crypto-native. For me, often this comes as a very loaded term. Crypto-natives: who are they? So, let me try to unpack this for myself.

On one side, we have those OG builders; they are here because they want a distributed and decentralized web, they are here for the tech, that’s what they say. They care about permissionlessness, and they care about being in control. They buy into the idea of a decentralized autonomous organization, and they are trying to find the right position of the dial between automating as much as possible through code and smart contracts as they can, but still also believe that as individuals, your voice, your tokens, your wallet should be able to have a say in it. There is a sense of democracy, but also a sense of freedom. It’s less about breaking everything and the "system is broken" attitude, but more of our technology is evolved, and there are more autonomous empowering ways to do things. At the core, I feel in their mind the internet is a multiplayer space that needs tools for collective action. We are all part of a larger-than-life network, a hyperobject as we speak, and blockchains allow us to store consensus. They are native in crypto/web3 stack because they build for it; they live and breathe those principles.

But there are also those OGs that come from a very similar point but entered the realm of web3 less from a position of crypto as a stack of coordination tools and entered it through the realm of really the financial system is deeply broken. It’s opaque, it’s gated, and it needs to be the money of the people. There is a ton of overlap there, but the nuance often shows up in the language between those too. Our feelings and actions around “money” are often a lot more personal, a lot more individual. As I said, there is a ton of overlap to the first one, you need a big interconnected permissionless system that we as a user can be in full control, but I feel there is a focus on me as the one in control of my own doings and holdings versus in the former of me as part of a larger network. For me, when I think about this, I often think about my thesis that culture forms around marketplaces, this is the necessary step crypto and web3 needs to make, and is making. We are evolving from an entirely new monetary system, to a cultural coordination ledger. As they share a lot of the same stack, this nuance though creates some form of friction.

Then I wonder though too what about crypto-traders. The ones that use CoinbasePRO, that used FTX, Kucoin, etc. Trading overlaps with the former OGs, but their motivation is entirely different from the first ones. Even some of the most “crypto-native” traders I met use preferably CEX; it’s faster. That says everything for me, speed, and gains are really more important than the technology. You read this maybe with a little bit of resentment, but I think there is something to this bipolar aspect here.

A nuance of those are the meme-traders, those are often in terms of “technology” crypto-native. They are fluent in using web3 tools because a lot of those memes only exist there. For those, although they are traders, I think the better lens to look at it is actually of participating in a large massive competitive multiplayer live-service game. It’s hunting and gathering information, it’s making your bets, it’s about timing, so much for me is a lot more of participating in this game. You are a bird in a flock that wants to predict movements and get an advantage. There might be even more of a gradient of being an investor trader with a more long-term view versus a memetoken player. Nothing truly is obviously black and white.

Now those are not all characters that are potentially crypto-native. What are with those artists that are using web3 because they value ownership, proof of creation, etc.? That believe that creator and community are two things tightly connected. And that future of creator is to build pipes and connections for authentic relationships, with payment rails and social contract agreements about rights and usage built in. Is a creator on Zora that messes around with storing entirely on-chain but does not truly care about governance or the entire breadth of decentralized finance from leveraged yield farming to intents not crypto-native too?

Things get more complicated as we start to dive deeper into account abstraction. How much and how deep do you need to be into crypto to be native? Am I crypto-native if I use Metamask, but I only use it to mint Zora? Or am I more crypto-native if I use a non-self custody wallet but still interact with DeFi? Are both non-crypto-native? Am I crypto-native if I believe that the true power of crypto is the ability of new ways of distributed governance and new ways to fund projects like retroactive public goods funding?

Is being crypto-native meaning you are well aware of all the depths of its infrastructure? Is crypto-native a mindset or a set of actions?

The reason why I wonder about this is as I am working in this space for a while is frankly also my own journey. My own bias is that I entered this space through a belief in better privacy tools, open-data systems, and using the power of the internet and technology to make our lives easier. I started with data trusts and discovered token-curated registries. I learned about the open finance standard in the EU, and the pains of moving money in the US, and asked myself why is it so hard? I worked on privacy and user rights and started to wonder why do I have to accept an organization's terms and conditions and not the other way around? Couldn't we all unionize digitally to renegotiate those terms?

As crypto and web3 mature. I think terms like crypto-native become a lot harder to define. I read recently somewhere that as humans, our perception of time is often fairly foggy. When we think about crypto OGs, especially some like me that entered years ago, the picture I have is a blurred version of 2016/2018 and the very different atmosphere of 2021/2022. The OGs from the past are very different OGs from the near past, while being very different from the OGs of the near future that emerge right now.

Our tool stack is evolving. More and more, I see the boundaries that once were a clear line between decentralized and centralized blur. Is this a net good or net positive thing? One side of me is bleeding; I came here because I believed in decentralization but learned many of its pitfalls. To the point actually where I truly started to look back at the political system I grew up in the direct Swiss democracy, which when I squint at it, as actually a lot of this weird in-between that seems to emerge. At the same time very democratic and localized almost sometimes centralized, but then also like an onion, layers and layers that grow around it, deeply intertwined and connected.

Now I started this as a quest to just unravel what does crypto-native mean. When I asked ChatGPT, it meant organizations and collectives, that use cryptocurrencies and smart contracts, that are building with and on top of a blockchain stack, that strive for decentralizing operations, often with a very community-driven bottom-up approach and that have a deep belief that our rules and regulations are not yet fit for the current age.

So currently, a lot more tools, teams, projects, and protocols I talk to seem to lighten up. For once, I see this actually as a win for web3; our technology just becomes technology. For me, I always believed that if crypto wants to win it needs to be hyper-normalized, disappear in the background, so that we know it's there but are not truly aware of it. Account abstraction is a step there; if you set up a wallet but store your seed phrase in your iCloud (which honestly, I trust Apple a fair bit more than many wallet providers, if Apple messes up, that storm is a lot bigger), are you native? I think so. I think we are growing up, but we are in this weird spot where we are between "the old ape simpsons" yells at a cloud, for what crypto-native should mean, and the reality of it, in some way crypto is already here in the background, just in parts.

What this though means is as we are seeing more ventures into crypto consumer products, where meme tokens are not just a tool for the live service game but become utility tools in communities. Like $DEGEN or $BONSAI, where yes, it still is that game that some play but others not even participate and just see it as it is a currency, tool, token for utilities inside a community, the lens we look at web3 is widening, and getting a bit more blurry and fades. So, it might be the time to collectively work on some shared new archetypes.

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