In October 2022, as FTX faced its collapse, venture capitalist Chris Dixon embarked on writing a book that would become a rallying cry for the crypto industry. Titled “Read Write Own,” Dixon’s manifesto, set to release on Jan. 30, aims to redefine the narrative around blockchain technology in the wake of FTX’s failure, which left many associating crypto with fraud.
Dixon, the head of a16z’s crypto firm, with $7.6 billion of investors’ money at stake, envisions a decentralized future for the internet where blockchain becomes the cornerstone of a new era. The book positions itself as a combination of bible and self-help guide, challenging the prevailing negative perception of the industry.
Blockchain’s Potential Beyond Gambling and Speculation
Dixon, often seen as an elder statesman for crypto at the age of 52, contends that blockchain can transcend its current image as a hub for speculative trading and casino-like activities. In “Read Write Own,” he argues for a vision where blockchain serves as apolitical software, saving the internet from the dominance of corporate giants.
The Evolution of the Internet: From Consumption to Ownership
Dixon divides the evolution of the internet into three eras: the first allowed consumption (reading), the second facilitated creation (writing), and the third, driven by blockchain, empowers individuals with ownership (own). He sees a future where decentralized platforms enable users to vote on content moderation, monetize their content directly, and participate in governance through token systems.
Dixon’s Career: A Journey from Open Source to Blockchain
Dixon’s career has been marked by a commitment to open-source software, driving his interest in blockchain. From building early AI companies to becoming a partner at a16z in 2012, he has consistently championed the idea of decentralized networks. Dixon’s early fascination with the “Cathedral and the Bazaar” analogy by Eric Raymond laid the groundwork for his exploration of blockchain’s potential.
The Unsettling State of Crypto: Challenges and Controversies
Acknowledging the current state of the crypto industry, Dixon describes the rampant speculation as a “sugar high.” The book addresses concerns that the crypto space is often more focused on short-term gains, overshadowing the efforts of companies building essential infrastructure. Dixon has taken an unconventional role for a venture capitalist, actively engaging in lobbying efforts in Washington, advocating for sensible regulations that foster innovation.
a16z’s Paradox: Championing Decentralization Despite Past Investments
The irony of a16z championing a decentralized web is not lost on Dixon. Despite a16z’s past investments in corporate-owned internet giants like Airbnb, Facebook, and Twitter, Dixon argues for a pivot toward a decentralized future. The firm’s involvement in lobbying efforts and Dixon’s push for regulatory clarity highlights a commitment to ensuring a fair and open environment for the crypto industry.
Challenges and Criticisms: VCs’ Influence and Short-Term Incentives
While a16z’s involvement in the crypto space has sparked concerns about potential influence and conflicts of interest, Dixon emphasizes the importance of longer lock-up periods for tokens. The book also delves into the debate over whether crypto projects need venture-scale investments, addressing criticisms that massive funding may not align with the principles of decentralization.
The Road Ahead: A Compelling Vision Amid Skepticism
As Dixon emerges from the shadows of media-shyness, “Read Write Own” positions him as a compelling, if not ideal, messenger for the future of blockchain. The book’s release comes at a crucial juncture, with the crypto sector grappling for credibility and searching for a breakthrough that could bring blockchain’s potential to the mainstream.
Dixon’s contrarian vision for a decentralized internet, outlined in “Read Write Own,” challenges the skeptics and nonbelievers, presenting blockchain as a powerful and lucrative opportunity despite the industry’s current challenges. Whether Dixon’s vision materializes or not, his manifesto is set to spark conversations and shape perceptions within and beyond the crypto community.