Unlocking Web3: The Potential of Read, Write, and Own Internet - ETI
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July 19, 2023

Unlocking Web3: The Potential of Read, Write, and Own Internet

The following transcript has been edited for length and readability. Listen to the entire discussion here on The Broadband Bunch. The Broadband Bunch is sponsored by ETI Software.

Brad Hine:

Hello, everyone, in broadband land.  Welcome to another episode of the Broadband Bunch. We are here on site today in Dallas, Texas for the Connected America conference put on by Total Telecom.

With me today, I have Nick James, founder of Web3 Earth and Web3 Texas. He is the chairman and CEO of Web3 Earth.

Nick, welcome to the show.

Nick James:

Well, thank you for having me on, Brad. Really appreciate it.

Embracing Web3 at Connected America

Brad Hine:

Yeah, man. What do you think of the show so far here in Dallas at Connected America?

Nick James:

I think it’s great. It’s got a really great, wide variety of people who come from different backgrounds, different industries. And just having been invited here as a startup to talk about Web3 to an industry that typically doesn’t have exposure to Web3 is just super rewarding. So I am very grateful for it.

Brad Hine:

Great, great. Before we get started, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Nick James:

Yeah, I’d be happy to. I’ve spent 15 years in cybersecurity. I started my career in the United States Marine Corps, and I served in the Marine Corps for eight years. I’ve worked for the VA, HSBC, Deloitte, and Bank of America. Still currently employed with AWS, or Amazon Web Services. I’m lucky to have support from my employer to do the activities I do with the nonprofit.

Bridging the Gap through Multidimensional Learning and Value-Driven Communities

Brad Hine:

Great, great. Tell us about your company. Tell us your “what” and your mission. Give us a glimpse of that.

Nick James:

I’d be happy to. We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, registered with the IRS. Our non-profit’s name is Web3 Earth, so you may understand our ambitions, our global ambitions, just by our name. Our mission is to make Web3 accessible to all through multidimensional learning experiences and value-driven communities. It’s a very packed mission statement, but it’s purposely built that way to make sure we are firmly grounded in exactly what our purpose is here on Earth. So if we break down multidimensional learning experiences, that is our way of saying that we need to reach the widest array of audiences possible and not leave anybody out.

Some of the tenants that are under multidimensional learning experiences, one that’s very key to us is adaptability. What that means is that we have a volunteer on our staff. He’s our director of accessibility. His name is James Warnken. He’s out of Ohio. And his job is to simply examine all of our technologies for compliance accessibility standards for the deaf, neurodiverse, and blind communities. So, adaptability and us being able to convey the message and education in a way that’s simple and compelling to our members is very important to us.

On the other side, at the end of the mission statement, we talk about value-driven communities. That means that we want to bring people together. And primarily, we want to unite people of complementary interests. What that means is, if, let’s say, you’re an employer and I’m a candidate, we want to reduce the distance and friction between these two profiles. And the other two profiles we’re working on are startup founders and investors.

The Evolution of the Internet

Brad Hine:

Excellent. For our listeners, educate them a little bit on Web3 itself and what that means.

Nick James:

Yeah, I’d be happy to. It’s actually fairly simple. At the beginning of the internet, which started around the 1960s, I’d say, it was only a handful of institutions, namely DARPA and educational institutions, and other three-letter agencies, that really had access to the internet and actually had the ability to publish to the internet or write to the internet. So, largely, between the early inception of the internet, all the way through the mid-90s was known as Web1 or the first version of the internet. And that was known as the read-only internet. So we’re going to go over three verbs. This is read, write, and own. And the combination of those and how they relate to the three versions.

So, the first version of the internet in that first period was known as the read-only internet because people like you and I didn’t have the means, the time, the resources, or the knowledge to actually write or publish to the internet. Now, with Moore’s Law and the advancement of technology, and the ease of access, broadband played a huge role, and just internet connectivity played a huge role in the start of Web2, where we were given the ability to publish to the internet. As speeds and feeds got faster to the home, to the user, we were able to create dynamic pages that weren’t just static like one-way read-only pages. We were actually starting to have the ability to enter our information online and essentially create our identity online.

From Renting to Owning Digital Assets

Brad Hine:

Interact.

Nick James:

Yes, exactly. That became known as the read-and-write internet. Regular people like you and I were able to write on the Internet. Andreessen Horowitz famously calls it the democratization of publishing. So, Web1 was known as the democratization of information, and Web2 is the democratization of publishing.

Now here we are, and we’re sort of in Web 2.2, 2.3, right? Essentially, this new internet, Web3, through the underpinning of a very, very critical piece of technology called blockchain, which essentially is a distributed ledger technology, is another way of referring to blockchain, by underpinning that to the very fabric of the next version of the internet, we’re able to assert, make claims to digital assets. What that means is we’re actually able to own digital assets.

If you think about the internet of today, we’re simply renting everything we think we own. If you buy a domain, you’re not buying a domain. You’re leasing a domain from a registrar.

Brad Hine:

Ah, okay.

Nick James:

Right?

Empowering Individuals to Take Custody of Digital Assets

Brad Hine:

Yeah. Great point.

Nick James:

If you post on social media, whether it’s LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, or anywhere, you’re actually renting space on someone else’s server. In exchange for that, you’re granting a limited license to the intellectual property that you created, right? It’s never truly yours. You don’t actually own anything on the internet right now.

So with the use of blockchain technology, now you’re able to actually own and make a claim to a digital asset and actually have custody of that asset. Custody is just such a huge word because we haven’t been used to being able to custody anything. In fact, we don’t necessarily have custody of anything except the cash we have hiding under our bed, right? Somebody else is always the custodian of our assets that we may claim, but necessarily aren’t our own at the moment until we withdraw them. So, that’s really what Web3 is about. It’s known as the read, writes, and on internet.

Brad Hine:

Excellent. Wow. Some of what you just said is a bit unsettling.

Nick James:

Yeah, it’s reality.

Navigating the Changing Landscape of Digital Currency and Knowledge Displacement

Brad Hine:

Fascinating. I have a son who’s 15, and he’s grown up with the environment that you just mentioned. So I can confirm and attest to the fact that, yes, he’s really only used to digital currency, I mean, in simple spending habits. When he goes out to the local pizza parlor, he’s using Apple Pay.

So, I mean, that’s really fascinating. I say that word twice now. But I stand in shock a little bit. And you mentioned ChatGPT and the displacement of some of the knowledge vessels and folks in our society right now. So, can you get a little more detailed into that? How old is Web3 Earth at this point?

Nick James:

I guess I missed the part of the story, the founding story. Web3 Earth was founded as a meetup group in February of 2022. We filed our paperwork, and our first date of incorporation was predated back to August 14th of 2022.

Plan to Provide Foundational Education

Brad Hine:

Wow. So relatively new. And so you’re trying to be ahead of the curve and thinking ahead. So, get into a little more detail about your plan to educate this group to make sure that AI doesn’t leave them behind.

Nick James:

Yeah, number one is to provide a foundational education. Our very purpose is to provide a 100-level education, which creates that layer of concrete underneath you. Build your house upon the rock, not the sand, right? So we want to provide a foundation upon which you can go and explore. There are a lot of risks and a lot of scam artists, just like we saw scam artists in the boom of the dot-com, even in the bubble, and in the bubble they start to show themselves.

This is all cyclic. This is invention cycles, innovative cycles. Gartner has a hype cycle that has a number of different phases of the hype cycle. This is just another hype cycle. And going through that, it’s really important to identify the areas where we have these sort of zero-to-one innovations, like Peter Thiel’s book, Zero to One, where we are actually creating something brand new, not repurposing. A lot of innovation has to do with taking something old and making it new. It’s very rare that something is actually new-new.

Brad Hine:

Right. Well put.

Nick James:

Yeah. And AI and the release of it to the public… I don’t want to… It’s really hard for me to say whether or not it was the right time. Because once again, if we go back to our why, which… Is it okay if I spend just a few minutes on our why?

Brad Hine:

Absolutely. Yeah, please.

Mitigating Risks and Creating Risk-Aware Participants

Nick James:

I come from 15 years in cybersecurity. I’ve seen a lot of bad things happen to good, innocent people. When I was talking about that transition between Web1 and Web2 in the late 90s, nobody ever really spent time trying to understand the risks we would expose ourselves to as a society because that was another zero-to-one innovation. We don’t know what we don’t know. We didn’t know what we didn’t know at the time. Now that we have a good baseline of what a zero-to-one innovation can do, and what kind of risks it can expose innocent people to, the general public, I think that it definitely warrants the creation of something like what we started here. And that is a public group, a group that’s focused on providing a public service to educate people on the risks of entering this space.

For example, in the Web1-to-Web2 transition, if there was just a class that taught people what is a password. How do you create a strong one? Where do you store it? What’s a phishing email? How do you spot it? The Prince of Nigeria doesn’t want to be your best friend. You should not wire him money. Just simple things like that. We’d be living in a very different digital society today. But there is opportunity in war and opportunity in any disaster. I’m not saying that the cybersecurity industry is a bad thing. I think the reason it’s been so lucrative and irreplaceable is simply that we as humans adopted behavior that was wrong. We didn’t know what was wrong back then. It’s become so embedded into our daily life, it’s a learned behavior that we just can’t shake off.

Empowering Users in the Transition to Web3

Now we’re going into Web3, essentially, where we’re telling people they can custody their own assets, which means becoming your own bank. And we haven’t even addressed the behavioral problems of online behavior in Web2. So now we’re just compounding on top. For example, if you have a digital wallet and you’re self-custody your assets, if you sign a transaction, meaning a transfer or a sale of an asset or something like that, to someone else, if it’s a scam, there’s no 1-800 number you can call. There’s no FDIC insurance. No one’s going to come and save the day for you.

So we need to hit the nail on the head and really help people. Because a lot of our training also talks about some of the behavioral problems that exist in Web2, like simple password hygiene and things like that. So, we’re trying to play a little bit of catch-up. But we’re also focused on informing people about the risks of Web3. Our goal is to create well-informed and risk-aware participants of Web3.

From Determination Letter to Fundraising

Brad Hine:

Gotcha. So, hardcore education on Web3 for the generation that’s coming up.

Talk a little bit about your call to action, and a little more detail about the actual fundraising itself. How are you going about fundraising and targets there?

Nick James:

That’s a great question. We received our determination letter from the IRS eight months in advance than what we expected. This being my second job, or, like my wife would say, my fourth or fifth job, I didn’t anticipate that. So we weren’t necessarily prepared to start fundraising. I thought I had some time to prepare. But it was great news that we received it that quickly. I don’t know the reason why it was processed so quickly. But the current lead time for a nonprofit filing with the IRS is six to nine months and we received it in a month.

Brad Hine:

Oh, wow.

Web3 Earth’s Global Expansion 

Nick James:

Yeah. So it was great. Once again, I don’t know the reason why we received it so quickly. But needless to say, right now we’re looking to gain the support of institutions, whether corporations or family offices, or just high-net-worth individuals who believe in our mission and who sincerely want to see us succeed. Because we’re not just building here in Texas, Brad, we’re building across the world.

For example, and this is the first time I’m publicly saying this, I have no problem saying it, it’ll probably be announced by the time you release this interview. Not only are we launching in Houston on April 11th and we’re partnering with The Cannon, which is an amazing startup incubation coworking office space down in Houston. But we’re launching in Illinois; we’re launching in Utah. We have sites in Florida, New York, and California. Then moving beyond the borders of the United States, we’re looking at Canada; we’re looking at Japan, the Philippines, and definitely Dubai.

So we have people who are reaching out to us and asking if they can replicate our model. The one thing that we’ve done right, above anything else, is we’ve remained consistent. We have delivered our mission consistently. Well, has it been the greatest? I don’t think there’s a measuring tool out there, frankly, but I certainly expect better as a CEO and the chairman. But honestly, it’s consistency. The people see us out here at a conference that focuses on broadband and internet connectivity. We’re out here.

Advocating Web3 to Those Unfamiliar, Questioning, and Seeking Support

Sometimes I relate it to… I’m not a super-religious person, I was raised religiously. Jesus would go hang out with the outcasts. He wouldn’t hang out with all the folks in the church. He’d go hang out with the tax collectors and so on and so forth, just the people who are general outcasts of society. Not saying that these people that we go and interact with are outcasts, but it draws a correlation. We go and talk to people who don’t know anything about it. We’re not afraid to be around people who don’t know anything about it and perhaps even question the general concept of Web3 because we’re able to clearly defend and articulate the importance of it to the individual moving forward.

So, here is a call to action. If you believe in what you’re hearing right now, please reach out to us through our website, web3earth.org. You can always connect with me on LinkedIn, Nick James. Really easy to spell, N-I-C-K J-A-M-E-S. Brown guy with a big white smile. It says Web3 on it. You can’t miss me.

A Call to Action

But just reach out to me. We’d love to talk to you. There are many resources. We even have a corporate membership where we can provide benefits to your employees and help train internally. But in general, we need your help now because I think we’re hitting our stride.

Just crypto digital currencies are showing their effectiveness in a crippling, traditional financial infrastructure that’s happening right now with Silvergate and Silicon Valley Bank. We’re starting to see the fractures in our traditional financial system. If it’s not important to you, I promise you, it’s important to your kids. It’s important to your nephews; it’s important to your nieces.

Brad Hine:

It’s sneaking up on us-

Nick James:

It is.

Connecting with Web3 Earth and Joining the Total Telecom Community

Brad Hine:

I want to step back just real quick. Your golf shirt says Web3 Texas, so I know that’s your focus. You’re local here to the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Your vision is for maybe a chapter in each state. I think Connected America, put on by Total Telecom, is a fabulous organization for you because, obviously, their expanse is global at this point. This is the first Connected America or Connected show by Total Telecom here in the US.

Nick James:

Oh, I didn’t know that.

Brad Hine:

Yeah, Connected Britain has been a popular show, at least for the Broadband Bunch. And I know there are several of those around the world, too. So this is a great vehicle for you to jump in and take a ride with the Total Telecom bunch.

And before we go today, I know you mentioned it, but I’d like for you to do it again. If folks want to get in touch with you, Nick, how do they do that online?

Nick James:

Just go to web3earth.org, W-E-B, the number 3, not spelled out three, the number 3, earth, E-A-R-T-H, .org. You can fill out a contact form. And frankly, you could just reach out to me on LinkedIn. I’m very open. Or you can just email admin@web3earth.org. That comes straight to me.

So, please, please reach out. I’d be happy to just talk in general about Web3. Whether or not you’re interested in helping us with our funding or you’re just generally curious, we’d be happy to talk to you.

Wrapping Up with Gratitude

Brad Hine:

Great. Well, for our listeners in broadband land, please check out the Web3 Earth website. And from everyone at the Broadband Bunch podcast today, Nick, thanks a lot for joining. Also, we’ll look forward to seeing you soon at a conference.

Nick James:

Absolutely. It was a pleasure having you here. And just chatting with you the past two days, it’s been such a pleasure. Thanks for having me on.

Brad Hine:

Thank you. Certainly, it is our pleasure to have you as well. Bye-bye.

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