Commerce is experiencing a new evolution, thanks to web3. It’s enough of a paradigmatic shift that it deserves a new moniker, just as e-commerce developed in the late 1990s and came to dominate the last few years.
E-commerce created a host of winners and losers — the likes of Amazon and Alibaba took the crown while Walmart was forced to reinvent itself and Kmart is down to three locations.
Web3 is the next step in the internet’s evolution and it’s heavily focused on ideas of value, ownership, and autonomy, making commerce a ripe space for transformation: all hail 3commerce.
A clear definition is still to be determined by more qualified experts, but there are some key factors composing this new paradigm that have presented themselves and are only made possible via web3.
Portability of goods
No worries about supply chains or shipping delays. As long as the chain is managing its load well enough, then there should be no issue with delivery of goods. All you need is sound code, solid smart contracts, and decent network throughput.
There are no borders in 3commerce, no tariffs or duty taxes, and very little in the way of restrictions. Even under the harshest sanctions regime in recent memory, crypto transactions can still move through the most impermeable of political borders.
Refunds are nice, but there’s hardly such a thing in web3. Transactions are functionally permanent, unless you can somehow convince enough miners or validators to roll back the chain — a near-impossibility given the present scale of the community.
Every 3commerce purchase carries an additional degree of risk not present in e-commerce, as there is no guarantee of value in the purchase nor is there a guaranteed ability to recover the original funds.
There is a hope for token consumers: a new standard for NFT contracts is gaining traction called ERC-721R, which enables refunds (usually in a given time period). Alas, this process still relies on the better nature of the contract owner, so it’s not a salve to 3commerce’s immutability risk.
In a cryptographic world, identity is naturally a sticking point. How much privacy is due? How do we hold buyers and sellers accountable? Thankfully, there are some mechanisms built into chains and protocols to ensure a minimum of good behavior, but very little is enforceable IRL.
It’s incumbent on the wallet-holder to determine how much identity is expressed and wrapped around the wallet’s assets and transactions, which creates an aura of mystery across every entity without a human face.
It’s becoming increasingly common for new NFTrepreneurs to dox themselves via sharing their LinkedIn and Twitter, their resume, and their holdings in influential communities as a proxy for communicating value.
What’s helpful is you can’t deny an activity happened by looking at the block explorer, but attaching that activity to a real person will be an eternal challenge, presenting a different set of tradeoffs from previous forms of commerce. Different sets of biases weigh on the decision and the risk is surely greater when you don’t have a firm grasp of a seller’s identity, while sellers are much less able to discriminate amongst their buyers.
Only One Rule
There are no rules! Rules and regulations have yet to fully catch up with 3commerce, but its very nature will make that an elusive pursuit.
Barriers to entry for 3commerce are quite low. All one needs to engage is an internet-enabled device and a wallet. Then it’s off to the races!
Buyers don’t need to open a bank account, they don’t need to expose their identities, and they don’t need to collateralize their possessions or livelihoods. There are fewer protections just as there are fewer barriers to entry.
Becoming a seller is is even easier in 3commerce, too. Learn to code up a contract, create something valuable, and market the good to the right audience. There’s no technical need to incorporate, lease an office, or deal with HR — only develop and deliver on the contract, which can come in nigh-infinite shapes and sizes.
The future for 3commerce is promising! Major companies like Stripe and Shopify are beginning to enable crypto payments and NFT trading volumes continue to soldier on. 3commerce is getting wider and wider adoption by established brands, with rich innovation in the medium and increasing validation with every project, every announcement, with every new person creating a wallet for the first time.
Regulators will eventually catch up and install some guardrails (probably poorly). True decentralization is still possible, but the desirability of the principle is still a huge question mark as new platforms emerge to provide order, stability, and good UX for the web3 masses. Financial institutions will catch on to the trends and offer convenient, secure products for buyers and sellers to engage in 3commerce more seamlessly with their fiat holdings.
Will 3commerce supplant ecommerce as the dominant mode of transaction?
It’s hard to say, we’re all still very early in this lightning-fast space. All we can do is put our best foot forward and start inserting “3commerce” into our everyday vernacular.