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NFTs May Be Central to the Emerging ‘Internet of Value,’ Say Experts at Pulver VON3

Bringing back transaction costs for messages or phone calls may be a way to deter spam messages.



Jeff Pulver
Photo of Jeff Pulver

February 3, 2022 – The explosion of interest in non-fungible tokens — digital assets of unique internet content — is a result of, and an important player in, the next phase of the evolution of the internet, according to technology experts.

More companies are entering the so-called metaverse, a virtual world that mimics the real world, where real social interactions happen through avatars. Facebook has rebranded to become Meta in an effort to get ahead of this evolution, and Microsoft’s proposed purchase of Activision-Blizzard is to also be in part a proposal to get its foot into the metaverse.

But another relatively recent development in the space is the creation digital memorabilia known as non-fungible tokens, which are purchased and sold through no intermediary — that is, no payment processing company or bank gets involved in the transaction.

The way it works is that users enter a marketplace that features listings for these digital assets, which can be a digitized news item or even a memorable tweet from social media platform Twitter. The users will have a digital wallet that will store the items and will have a purse for cryptocurrencies, which are themselves on a decentralized ledger known as the blockchain.

When a transaction is made, all users of the blockchain will have a copy of the deal. This process is said to make fraud difficult, as opposed to a centralized ledger that would keep all deals on one system, keeping eyes of those not involved off transactions.

The development and increasing acceptance of these assets — and the move toward the metaverse largely — are what experts at The VON3 Summit last month are calling the next phase, the third big cycle, in the internet’s evolution.

In this third phase, the internet is focused on communities and users having control of their creative assets, unencumbered by large technology companies and banks trying to get a slice of them through transaction fees and the like.

“Web1 was a promise of an open internet. Web2 was a promise of social connection. Web3 is a promise of creative content ownership,” said Jeremy Lipschultz, a professor at University of Nebraska Omaha and participant of the conference.

Jeff Pulver, founder and host of The VON3 Summit, declared that Web3 is the “dawn of a new era of the internet.” He said, “Web2 is really about companies, products and then community, and Web3 has a characteristic that is community first.”

By selling, gifting, redeeming or trading NFTs through the blockchain, in other words, creators have complete control of their content and who has access to it, the summit heard.

‘Internet of Value’

Web 3 has been coined by some of Pulver’s contemporaries as the “Internet of Value” because individuals will have complete control of all their assets on the internet without an intermediary. This new reality would mean that the economic world we know today would completely shift, say proponents.

“The tools are there, the value to be created is there, it requires one thing: Imagination,” said Pulver.

Non-fungible tokens are the reason Web 3 could be critical to the creative community, the summit heard. NFTs are defined by Bret Kinsella, VON3 panelist and founder and CEO of, as the “bridge between Web 2 and Web 3.”

Beyond creativity, NFTs could also be the future of nonprofits and charities. Carole Baskin from Big Cats Rescue has used the power of NFTs to raise money that will save large cats like tigers and lions around the world. Even wineries are trying to get involved, said Jacob Ner David, CEO of one called Vinsent.

As pioneers discover and decide what is possible for NFTs as a result of Web3, Pulver was quick to remind listeners that “this is new for all of us. We’re in this together.”

Users owning their data

Jeremiah Owyang, an industry analyst based in Silicon Valley and one of the speakers at the conference, said that in the ideal Web3, “we can own our data, we can own our identities, and we can own our equity.”

Instead of internet platforms taking users’ data and making money from that, the users would have ownership and control over that data.

“That’s the vision,” said Owyang.

This vision was shared by other speakers, such as the co-founder and co-chair of location technology company Foursquare, Dennis Crowley. He said that while it would be the user’s choice what to do with their own information, maybe we, as users, would be able to “hold onto some of the value [of our data] and monetize them.”

Bringing back micropayments?

This vision also tied into an idea of Koji CEO Dmitry Shaprio: Bringing back transaction costs for messages or phone calls as a way to deter spam messages and robocalls.

Lower costs for voice and data communications have been a godsend for many. But the fact that there is no charge (beyond access to an internet service provider) to send email messages led in the early internet to the proliferation of spam.

More recently, the widespread use of digital telephony and a U.S. regulatory system in which termination charges have been eliminated for cellular calls has led some to appreciate the value that toll charges impose in ensuring that the communicators aren’t scamming recipients of their messages.

Or as Shaprio put it, “Want to send me a message? Pay the price.”

Chris Fine, a technologist and business leader, also emphasized the value of time, saying that in Web3, there should be “some way to filter” the messages and calls received.

Pulver agreed. “Pay me for my time,” he said.

Theadora Soter contributed reporting to this article.

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Cryptocurrency Has Promise But ‘Screams for Regulation,’ Says Miami Mayor Francis Suarez

The mayor has been an enthusiastic proponent of MiamiCoin, a privately-owned cryptocurrency.



Screenshot of Francis Suarez, mayor of the City of Miami, at the Wilson Center event

WASHINGTON, January 19, 2023 — Embracing emerging technologies such as cryptocurrency will have long-term benefits for the general public, but the industry needs much stronger regulation, City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said at an event hosted Tuesday by the Wilson Center.

Suarez, who is president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, spoke in advance of the mayors’ 91st annual meeting from Tuesday until this Friday.

Suarez has long been an advocate for cryptocurrency adoption; after winning reelection in 2021, he announced that his own salary would be paid in bitcoin. He has also been an enthusiastic proponent of MiamiCoin, a privately-owned cryptocurrency meant to benefit the city — even after the currency’s value dropped by more than 95 percent.

However, when discussing the recent collapse of crypto exchange FTX, Suarez acknowledged that the technology “screams for regulation.” U.S. legislation tends to be reactive instead of proactive, but the latter approach might have been able to stop the FTX crash, he added.

“I think there should have been regulation on what some of these custodial entities could do with custody assets,” he said. “They’re like banks — the kind of assets that they had were enormous — and what they were doing when you when you peel back the layers of the onion is frightening… there’s a reason why some level of regulation exists already in the banking industry.”

Suarez said that the first step for lawmakers taking on cryptocurrency regulation should be to recognize the significance of the technology. Issues such as the national debt ceiling and rate of inflation demonstrate the value of having currency “outside of the mainstream fiat system,” he said.

In addition to cryptocurrency, Suarez expressed his opinion on a variety of other timely technology issues.

“I think AI is going to be our generation’s arms race,” he said, noting the growing potential for cyberwarfare as weapons systems come to rely on encrypted technology.

Suarez also discussed the impacts that an increasingly digital world may have on childhood development. “My daughter one shocked me when she was two years old — she’s four now — by taking a pretend selfie with her pacifier of me,” he said. “And I was like, wow, this is really crazy.”

Despite having initial concerns about technology’s impact on children, Suarez said that watching his own children’s online interactions had assuaged his fears.

“I’m actually going to take it a step further — I’m starting to see socialization opportunities… they’re actually virtually online with a friend, and they’re playing and talking and socializing,” he said.

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CES 2023: Crypto Protects Privacy and Civil Liberties

The ability to coordinate outside of government control could be a massive boon for oppressed or dissident groups.



Photo of Kurt Opsahl, Mike Wawszczak, Anna Stone, and Sandy Carter (left to right)

LAS VEGAS, January 5, 2023 – Despite the crypto industry’s recent stumbles, a panel of experts at the Consumer Electronics Show remained bullish on its potential – as well as that of its underlying technology, the blockchain – to protect individuals’ data privacy and civil liberties.

Many blockchains, although residing in the digital world, largely fall into the category of “public goods,” which traditionally includes shared infrastructure such as roads, argued Anna Stone, director of impact at eToro. Stone cited the Ethereum network, which is open source and allows many individuals to build on it. “What makes Ethereum exist is not any one company that’s doing anything, it’s actually that there are thousands of different contributors,” she said. 

Mike Wawszczak, general counsel at Alliance, argued that the traditional funders of public goods – governments – make serious mistakes that stem from being insulated from market forces. “[Crypto] offers an alternative method of managing and governing these protocols – that we’re only now starting to see massive amounts of experimentation in – might not be subject to the same failure[s]…that we see in states,” Wawszczak said.

Later in the panel, Wawszczak argued that decentralized autonomous organizations empower individuals and communities to further and protect their own interests, even in opposition to state authority. “If you can imagine a lot of the more disparate groups that exist around particular social-justice causes or identity groups that are far flung or spread out, but now they have a new means of coordinating their behiavior and of generating economic wealth,” Wawszczak explained. He argued that the ability to coordinate outside of government control could be a massive boon for oppressed or dissident groups.

Panelists further said blockchain technologies can ensure that consumers maintain control over their own data. “Giving [users] that choice…to pick a place that is built and verifiable to be secure, to be private, to be a place that fits with their values, that can really enhance things for the users,” said Kurt Opsahl, general counsel at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

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Brookings Panelists Debate the Future of Crypto

Some crypto skeptics say that regulating the digital coin is a mistake since it would provide legitimacy to the industry.



Screenshot of Peter Conti-Brown, professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania

December 20, 2022 – Academics discussed the potential usefulness of crypto-related technologies and how they should be regulated at a web event hosted Tuesday by The Brookings Institution.

The prices of digital assets have fluctuated wildly in the last year, driving calls for the institution of a crypto-specific regulatory framework. The price of Bitcoin, for instance, plummeted from $64,400 in November 2021 to less than $17,000 early Tuesday afternoon. The downfall of prominent Crypto exchange FTX, allegedly due to massive fraud, has provided further rhetorical fodder to would-be regulators.

Some crypto skeptics say that regulating crypto is a mistake, however, since it would provide legitimacy to the industry. “Legitimizing [crypto] is simply going to drain creative resources from productive activities,” argued Stephen Cecchetti, Rosen Family Chair in International Finance at the Brandeis International Business School. “In economic terms, this would be like subsidizing a dead-weight loss.”

Cecchetti argued that a new regulatory regime would push crypto into the traditional financial world. “Imagine where we would be if leveraged financial intermediaries had been holding crypto in November of 2021, before the plunge in value,” Cecchetti. “So if we need any new rules, they’re rules to prohibit exposure of traditional leveraged intermediaries – prohibit banks, dealers, insurers, pension funds ­– from holding this stuff and from accepting it as collateral.”

Peter Conti-Brown, professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and nonresident fellow at The Brookings Institution, argued that crypto, even without a dedicated regulatory framework, has already been established a significant foothold. Policymakers should clarify how crypto assets fit into existing regulatory structures, Conti-Brown argued. Due to similarities of various types of crypto to elements of traditional finance, he said, the absence of crypto regulation is a “declaration of a prosecutorial non-enforcement of existing laws.”

Regulators should make clear that “if you’re going to act and smell and quack like a bank, you need to charter, and if you’re going to hawk securities, you need to register,” Conti-Brown argued later in the conversation.

Crypto: Useful or useless?

While crypto’s biggest proponents argue that it, along with its underlying technology, blockchain, are revolutionary innovations, many don’t agree. At a recent Senate hearing held Wednesday on the FTX collapse, a law professor from the American University Washington College of Law advocated banning crypto outright. One senator advocated instituting a “pause” on crypto at a hearing held two weeks prior.

Cecchetti voice skepticism as well. “I don’t think crypto is the future of anything” he said, adding that it is, in his opinion, “utterly without redeeming social value.”

Conti-Brown said some crypto-related innovations may prove useful. He further argued that the very possibility of blockchain-driven innovations threatens incumbent industry – e.g., traditional financial technology firms – and will likely drive innovation.

“Every major payments player is…following blockchain developments, and thinking about where this might represent both opportunity and challenge,” Conti-Brown said. Crypto solutions may be “inchoate, (but) are not non sequiturs,” he added.

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