Age of pseudonymity: in Web3 you can be anyone. So, what’s the problem?
The internet has always had a weird effect on our personalities.
When social networks came along, everyone started pretending they were having a much better time than they really were. All the flat whites on marble tables, camera pans across the crowd from behind the DJ decks and Strava metrics you posted showed that you were a specific kind of person. But this overt style of signaling is passé in the new culture. If Web 2.0 was about amplifying your own personality, Web3 is about inventing a new one.
I call this the age of pseudonymity.
Social networks are always about influence. In these places, your clout and importance are measurable in the audience data presented on your profile. But in the emerging scenario, your pfp (profile pic) is the first, fast signifier of your status as a Web3 insider. Is your presence represented by a disinterested cartoon monkey from Bored Ape Yacht Club, or an anime-style aquatic bird from Pudgy Penguins? If they are, then you’re worth listening to. But things get more complicated when your alias is the one getting all the credit. And when friendships or connections form between pseudonymous figures in places like Discord or Twitter – what’s real and what’s not?
It is impossible to tell. But this fact is congruent with Web3’s revolutionary spirit. With all the opportunities for self-reinvention, there are fewer reasons to come to the party dressed in your everyday clothes – or rather, just plain old you. The eye-watering price of the most sought-after pfps attests this (the cheapest BAYC is now over $280k), but so does the importance people place on their digital selves. One-fifth of gaming platform Roblox’s daily active users – 8.6m people – update their avatars every day. Many, it seems, are striving for continuity too. Wolf3D, an avatar generator recently rolled out a platform called Ready Player Me, which will allow you to migrate your avatar to different metaverses.
The age of pseudonymity has thrown up opportunities for artists, investors and entrepreneurs. Many revel in the opportunity to create work, buy assets, or do business without the inhibiting handicap of an identity that can be admired or reviled. Speaking on the NFT Now Podcast, collector Deeze explained that his pseudonym is a deft way of avoiding the limelight, saying: “I don’t like just being a public figure.”
Further along, pseudonymity will spread further into the sphere of brands and businesses. Last week BuzzFeed doxed the two founders of BAYC, raising questions over whether the owners of a company with a market cap of $2.8bn can – or should – be able to obscure their true identities. Talking to BuzzFeed, Soona Amhaz, a partner at crypto VC firm Volt Capital put a convincing argument in favour: “It will meaningfully open up opportunities for people who otherwise have the odds against them because they didn’t come from the right school, right corporations, or because they live in a place where unstealthing yourself could mean becoming a target,” she says.
As Web3 matures, there will be more creative and commercial potential in using an alias. Want to know how to navigate this new landscape? Connect with me in the DMs. I am – honestly – Jolyon Varley.