Crypto is afraid to show its face at SXSW 2023

For all these companies, though, I’ve seen as many (if not more) crypto hires trying hard not to mention that fact. Two companies are shaping the future of social media, they say. Dig deep enough into their websites and both offer crypto-based incentives to consumers, but neither has chosen to feature crypto or blockchain technology as a selling point.

One of them, Ascend, had flyers in town. They made lofty—impossible—promises like “no misinformation” (who defines misinformation?). Some of these promises were fundamentally contradictory, such as “no toxicity” and “no hate speech” but “centralized censorship.” It’s not clear how the company expects to reconcile most of these competing priorities, but according to the site, the solution involves somehow acquiring “ascend credits,” which are described in the chart as crypto-only.

Another company, Archiv, founded a DAO in 2022 that aims to create a community of members using NFTs and blockchain instead of a central organization. The group met at SXSW 2023 and even held a panel on art decentralization, but downplayed the DAO and crypto angle. Even the archive’s own coverage of SXSW 2023 attendance doesn’t mention crypto.

In some cases, it is not clear whether companies have abandoned their crypto plans or simply choose not to highlight them. Even for companies widely known for their work in crypto, expo booths seemed hesitant to use any of the keywords closely associated with it. Demonstration b The sandbox-Sharing a small booth with other developers in the space -Proudly talked about the “metaverse” game and occasionally mentioned that it was a “Web3” platform. But the fact that much of the game was built around NFTs on the blockchain was somewhat obscured.

It’s a dynamic that I’ve come to call crypto-hiding from within. It’s not that any of these companies refuse to acknowledge each crypto. When asked, they were all excited to discuss their vision for a blockchain-based future. But they seem to act unperturbed, at best, a little unexpected to have their attention called to it. At worst? Active defense.

Crypto has often been compared to the first internet, the technology is interesting but not yet ready for normalization. Still, no matter how tumultuous the Internet was in its youth, there was never a time when companies shied away from saying they were building products “on the web” or “online.”

In the year Even in 2022, I will openly admit that I am very skeptical about crypto. There was enough evidence of scams, ripoffs, disinformation and fraud to make anyone wary of blockchain for at least the next decade. But I was forced to tone down my comments a bit. At a crypto-themed party that year, a friend of mine exclaimed, “NFTs SUCK!!” And while I wished for her strength, I hid her a little, fearing that some one might be angry.

This year, I felt like my suspicions were normal, or at least enough to express them clearly. Almost everyone I spoke to, few who had any opinions about crypto seemed eager to share their doubts. They didn’t think much about the technology. And besides, generative AI was more interesting to discuss.

I doubt any of this crypto is dead or dying. The technology has been around in one form or another for more than a decade, and public interest comes in waves. However, its subdued presence at SXSW suggests its advocates have learned a powerful lesson from last year: The best way to preach crypto outside of the tech bubble is to hope to convince people to pay no attention to the blockchain behind the scenes.

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