a16z Podcast: Crypto and the Evolution of Open Source

The open source movement enabled so much in computing, including the collaborative building of libraries — that is, building blocks of code that developers could combine together to build applications. But as these applications grew to massive scale, those libraries ended up being somewhat asymmetrical for “nights-and-weekend” developers (compared to say, the disproportionate resources of a large company with billions of users and big data).

Blockchains, however — enabled by cryptotokens that align incentives among stakeholders — shift open source development from libraries, to the creation of shared, open, permissionless services. Instead of being siloed and repetitively produced as if from the industrial factory era, any smart contract developed on Ethereum becomes a shared service that can interact with any other service… incentivizing developers to improve on existing services, build on top of them, and enable combinatorial innovation at greater scale than ever before.

But if decentralized networks are to win the third era of the internet, how will we resolve challenges such as single-purpose services (another form of consolidation), community conflicts, and other issues? In this episode of the a16z Podcast, freelance software engineer (and blockchain app developer) and writer (and urban watcher) Devon Zuegel guest-interviews a16z crypto partners Denis Nazarov and Jesse Walden, the co-founders of Mediachain Labs (which was acquired by Spotify in 2017). They draw on their past experiences leading open source development of a decentralized media attribution protocol for connecting creators to their audience, and what the implications of “services vs. libraries” could be for creatives now. And what about identity, stablecoins and crypto finance, and more? Finally, they extend their previous analogy of cities and network effects and how it fits the idea of libraries vs. services in crypto.

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