My Journey: Web3 and The Future of WordPress

I am so excited to be a part of launching the Web3 WP project to explore and introduce the WordPress community to the future of the decentralized Internet. As we launch into this community project, I thought it was important to lay a framework for the experiments we have planned using my own journey into Web3.

By sharing my own experience, I hope to inspire you and to provide a look into where Web3 WP comes from. With WordPress now running on 40% of websites and as a user and contributor to WordPress for over 15 years, I have a vested interest in the WordPress community leading the charge into the future. Whether you’re a skeptic, critic, curious, or a blockchain enthusiast, this post is designed to be an invitation for exploring Web3 and WordPress – and hopefully the spark for a community that will build amazing practical Web3 tools that benefit WordPress together.

First, Bitcoin & Ethereum

My first exploration into the world of the blockchain came in April 2014. It was right after the first major Bitcoin price spike and I was the developer of our MarketPress eCommerce plugin at WPMU DEV. We had a number of customers clamoring for a Bitcoin payment gateway add-on, so it seemed a good chance to learn what Bitcoin was all about. After doing lots of research to wrap my head around the technology, I remember deciding “this is cool, but this made-up money only has value as long as people believe it does”. It was far too risky for me, but I set out to experiment with it to see if we could build a payment gateway. I created a wallet address, but then realized how much of a hassle it would be to buy some Bitcoin to put inside it. Exchanges were still pretty new then, and most were shady overseas outfits. I did ask a developer friend to send a little to me just to play with, but it appears he never followed through. 

In researching this post, I did a deep search and found my old wallet address and key. I must confess as I looked it up the feverish hope crossed my mind that I would suddenly be one of those lucky crypto-millionaires after finding an old forgotten wallet full of Bitcoin bought back at $400! But alas, I’m poor. Just like most, I thought I was too late to a fad and chickened out.

Fast forward 3 years to the next major spike in Bitcoin – past $20,000. I still didn’t give in to the hype but decided that ok, there must be something to this technology. My risk appetite was still low, but I resigned myself to learning more and trying to get in at the ground floor of whatever the next wave in crypto would be with a small bet, just in case! That’s when I first read about Ethereum and Smart Contracts. It sounded cool but didn’t make a whole lot of sense, and there were basically no practical examples of what they could be used for. Just a bunch of futurists saying this is the new thing for blockchains. So I aped-in to ETH with $300 on Coinbase with the intent to HODL till I was a millionaire, then proceeded to forget about it for another three years.

Now it’s Winter, 2021 and we’ve seen Bitcoin hit new highs of $40k+. I was determined not to miss out this time around and began digging deep into the world of the blockchain.

Down the Blockchain Rabbit Hole

Altcoins

So I decided to look into various altcoins. Altcoins are smaller market cap cryptocurrencies than Bitcoin and Ethereum with more growth potential, but come with a higher risk. Most of these new coins are actually “tokens” built on the Ethereum blockchain, and often can’t be purchased on the major cryptocurrency exchanges like Coinbase. I learned to set up my own wallet using MetaMask and how to transfer ETH to it from an exchange. But to speculate on some of these altcoins, I needed a way to trade currencies. This led to my first experience using a dApp, an application that runs on a decentralized network.

The fact that a smart contract on the blockchain could replace the role of an exchange like Coinbase without having to trust any company, organization, or government was mind-blowing!

💩 Coins

The huge spikes in value of meme-coins like Dogecoin and Safemoon attracted a wave of social media driven speculators trying to make a quick buck in crypto. The crazy thing about the Ethereum ecosystem is that any developer can fairly easily create their own token that can be bought and sold on the decentralized exchanges (DEXs) by copy-pasting and deploying their own smart contract. So new 💩 coins were launching every hour, people would buy millions of $ worth in minutes, then race to be the first to get out of them. It was like some crazy cross between the Wolf of Wall Street and Vegas. Everyone knew they were pump and dumps, and all were trying to profit off them. The only way to get an advantage riding these was learning how to read their smart contracts. I learned about “tokenomics”, or the way tokens are programmed to be distributed. How many does the dev get, how many did their insider friends get, how many were added to the exchanges to provide liquidity for trading, how many were “burned” to lower the supply or disguise the creator’s true equity, and so much more. This was a great incentive to start learning Solidity, because to not get cheated you had to learn to read the code.

DeFi – Decentralized Finance

After experimenting with the tokenomics of pump-and-dumps, I fell into Decentralized Finance (DeFi). DeFi is the original imagined use case of smart contracts, which provide a way for anyone to program financial applications that used to be only in the realm of Wall Street giants. Crypto is not just about trading or investing to try and profit from market movements. DeFi has created a whole range of opportunities to make passive income off your cryptocurrency holdings, even stablecoins (coins with a value pegged to USD). I learned how to provide liquidity to Automated Market Makers (AMMs) like Uniswap in exchange for LP tokens and earn a percentage of fees for all trades. Then I learned how to deposit those LP tokens into yield farm smart contracts to earn insane amounts of interest while risking losing your principle to inflation and hacks of smart contract coding bugs. I learned about arbitrage, lending and borrowing protocols, and so many other financial innovations.

What blew my mind is how new all these innovations are but already have hundreds of billions of dollars in value passing through or locked in them because of their practical uses. And anyone can build one of these protocols, it’s turned banking into code that anyone can fork, modify, and deploy, outside the reach of government regulation and completely anonymously.

The NFT Boom

No doubt these last few months you’ve seen the news headlines and your Twitter feed fill up with pictures of digital art and jpegs selling for millions of dollars. Honestly, it all seemed ridiculous to me. I’m not much of an artist so ascribing value even to rare art in the real world is foreign to me. There is no doubt that these skyrocketing prices and excitement cannot continue forever. But if you look past all the craziness at what NFTs are and the real-world use cases for this technology, it’s quite exciting. They essentially solve the longstanding problem of provenance for assets in the digital world and provide a frictionless, trustless way to exchange and monetize them. This is not just about art, NFTs can be used for things like:

  • Certificates
  • Social proof
  • Titles and deeds
  • Tickets
  • Music
  • Real estate
  • Assets in online worlds
  • Gaming
  • And so much more

Imagine if the deed to your home was an NFT. Your ownership could be proven in the public blockchain without needing to be verified by any government, with no risk of corruption or seizure. When you want to sell it, you can simply authorize it in a marketplace smart contract which puts it up for a seamless auction. When the auction closes based on your rules there is no need for escrow or a title company, the exchange of funds for ownership is trustlessly executed by the smart contract; no party can cheat on the deal. What if you needed a mortgage to buy a home? The lender creates a smart contract to hold the NFT deed, and the smart contract automatically handles payments, payoff, even foreclosure with no risk to the lender or unexpected changes to the buyer. All without the need for banks, brokers, etc.

This is already happening in in the “Metaverse”, or online worlds like Decentraland where prime real estate is trading for million of USD. It’s only a matter of time before this move to the real world as well.

Web3 WP

By this point even with so much more to learn and explore, I was thoroughly convinced that Web3 decentralized app technology was ready for the real world. Today feels like when the Internet was new and we were just beginning to invent and discover all its potential use cases. Like when I first discovered WordPress which empowered me to build my first website, learn to code, sell my services, and eventually becoming the CTO of one of the largest & oldest WordPress companies.

We are still at the very beginning of the next great technology wave, and I don’t want to miss it.

WordPress and its community have had such an impact on my life and career and I don’t want it to miss the boat either. This is why we are launching Web3 WP.

The learning curve and barrier to entry to Web3 are still high and going at it alone can feel overwhelming. It would be so much better to build a community within my existing WordPress community of like-minded people who want to learn together and see how Web3 can be used to benefit WordPress.

There is no better way of doing this than actually building practical experiments for the community that demonstrate some of the potentials of this tech, while at the same time creating a trusted resource and safer environment for educating users and developers.

The Wapuu NFT Drop

When deciding what our first launching experiment should be for Web3 WP, NFTs seemed to be the perfect opportunity. So we picked everyone’s favorite GPL (un)official collectible mascot of WordPress, the Wapuu! Wapuu swag has been created and collected at WordCamps around the world. We took the next step by building a generative art project of 2,222 unique Wapuus that can be minted as an NFT, collected, and traded by the WordPress community on the Ethereum blockchain.

But Why NFTs?

NFTs are the perfect on-ramp for people into this new technology since it combines existing concepts they already understand: Art, collecting, and trading. It gives us the opportunity to:

  • Educate – Teach users how to get started interacting with the blockchain and smart contracts, and how they can be used to build interesting use cases for the WordPress community.
  • Learn – Smart contract development is a whole new concept and programming language. What better way to learn it than this project?
  • Experiment – The Wapuu NFT collection is just the first experiment to inspire and help build a community of users around our two favorite technologies – Web3 and WordPress.
  • Raising Funds – To execute this Web3 WP project we’ve got to pay the bills, this seemed like a good way to fundraise in a fun and exciting way, and we’ve tried to price it so people new to crypto can get started at a fraction of the cost of other similar projects.
  • Open Source – By giving other developers (and companies like yours) buy-in, we can work together to shape the future of WordPress by exploring and building practical applications of Web3 technologies for the open-source community.
  • Give Back – Every time a Wapuu is traded on popular NFT marketplaces, a portion of the sale will be donated to the WordPress foundation.

If this interests you please consider supporting us and joining the Web3 WP community at launch by minting your own unique Wapuu!

NFTs Are Just the Beginning!

With your participation in the Web3 WP community, we hope to build and share future projects exploring:

  • Incentivizing WordPress’s growth by creating new markets to monetize open source contributions.
  • Solutions to open source governance with DAOs that programmatically connect voting rights and incentives to project contributions while preventing centralized control.
  • Proof-of-attendance and digital swag for WordCamps
  • Blockchain-based provenance of written copy.
  • Community building and social tokens.
  • New ways for creators to monetize and maintain ownership of their work.
  • Security and privacy solutions for WordPress logins.
  • Your ideas!

Leave a comment, join the discussion on Discord, and follow Web3 WP on Twitter.

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Aaron Edwards

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