Chris Dixon: Crypto Networks and Why They Matter | Summary and Q&A

May 13, 2020
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Chris Dixon: Crypto Networks and Why They Matter


This presentation provides an overview of the waves of cryptocurrency and blockchain development, highlighting the importance of price, interest, and activity in driving innovation and adoption.

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Key Insights

  • 👾 Waves of cryptocurrency development have driven interest, innovation, and activity in the blockchain space.
  • 🎏 Prices are a lagging indicator and not the sole determinant of the blockchain's value.
  • 👶 Blockchain architecture provides trust guarantees and enables the creation of new digital primitives.
  • 🤩 Progressive decentralization is a key goal for many blockchain startups, empowering users and creating more trustworthy and transparent systems.
  • 👻 The future of blockchain may involve interoperability between different blockchains, allowing for collaboration and the creation of a diverse ecosystem.
  • 👶 Real-world identity on the blockchain can enhance trust and enable new possibilities for decentralized applications.
  • ❓ Blockchain has the potential to revolutionize various industries, including finance, gaming, and social networks.


foreign welcome it's awesome to have everybody here um so um this is uh going to be very high level and but don't worry there's i guess um hopefully we're going to dig into a lot of it over the next seven weeks we have a lot of reading material we can answer questions so this so if it's some of it seems too high level or too abstract i think that's... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: How do price swings in the cryptocurrency market impact overall interest and activity in the blockchain space?

Price swings in the cryptocurrency market often generate increased interest and awareness, attracting new participants to the space. However, long-term engagement is driven by a genuine belief in the technology and its potential, rather than solely relying on price movements.

Q: How does the blockchain architecture work, and what distinguishes it from traditional computers?

A blockchain is a virtual computer that operates on a network of physical computers. This architecture enables the creation of trust guarantees, as the software governs the hardware, ensuring that the computer continues to operate as designed. Unlike traditional computers, blockchains can make commitments and provide secure, decentralized services.

Q: How can blockchain technology enhance user trust in digital platforms?

Blockchains provide increased trust by allowing users to have ownership and control over their digital assets and data. This ensures transparency, immutability, and security, creating a more trustworthy environment compared to centralized platforms where the rules can change at any time.

Q: What role does decentralization play in the future of blockchain startups?

Decentralization is an important concept in blockchain startups, as it allows for greater trust, security, and community governance. While startups may start off more centralized, the goal is often to progressively decentralize and empower users through token ownership and participation.


In this video, the speaker discusses the history and the potential of blockchains. They present a data analysis project that explores the different waves of crypto and how they have led to increased interest and awareness in the space. They also explain their perspective on blockchains as virtual computers that run on a network of physical computers, and the importance of trust guarantees and making commitments in this new design space. The speaker highlights the potential applications and opportunities that blockchains offer, such as digital money, smart contracts, decentralized organizations, and more. They also address the challenges and improvements that need to be made in terms of scalability, user experience, and usability. The video concludes with the idea that blockchains are still in the early stages, and there is much more to discover and build in this space.

Questions & Answers

Q: What is the purpose of the data analysis project mentioned in the video?

The data analysis project aims to provide historical context and put some numbers behind the different waves of crypto. It helps to understand the growth and interest in the space over time and counters the negative narrative that often surrounds cryptocurrencies in the media.

Q: How do prices in the cryptocurrency space impact interest and activity?

The speaker explains that prices in the cryptocurrency space act as a proxy for the general excitement level in the industry. They create a flywheel effect, generating interest, awareness, and social media activity. While prices are not the sole focus, they play a significant role in attracting people and getting them interested in the technology. However, the speaker emphasizes that genuine belief in the technology, rather than just speculation on prices, is what keeps people engaged in the long run.

Q: What is the key characteristic of blockchains that makes them unique?

Blockchains are virtual computers that run on top of a network of physical computers. The speaker highlights that this architecture allows for the creation of trust guarantees and commitments. Unlike traditional computers, which can be controlled and changed by individuals or organizations, blockchains are governed by software, providing a level of assurance and confidence through mathematical and cryptographic mechanisms.

Q: How does the speaker describe the blockchain design space?

The speaker sees the blockchain design space as incredibly rich and underexplored. They compare it to a maze with many possibilities and opportunities waiting to be discovered. They believe that there are still very few people exploring and running around this maze, and the goal is to encourage more people to realize how exciting it is and contribute to the innovation and development of new applications.

Q: What are some of the building blocks or lego bricks enabled by blockchains?

Some of the building blocks enabled by blockchains include digital money, digital goods (Non-Fungible Tokens - NFTs), smart contracts, and decentralized organizations (DAOs). These building blocks provide new functionalities and possibilities that were not available in traditional computing systems. They offer opportunities for ownership, secure transactions, programmable value, and community-driven governance.

Q: How does the speaker envision the future of blockchains and their usability?

The speaker believes that blockchains will follow a similar pattern to previous computing cycles, where usability and user experience will significantly improve over time. They compare it to the early days of mobile phones when building applications was complex and required low-level expertise. However, as platforms and abstractions evolved, application developers were able to focus more on their core business logic. The speaker predicts that in a few years, building applications on top of blockchains will become more accessible and straightforward, allowing developers to focus on their specific domain expertise rather than the underlying infrastructure.

Q: What is the significance of ownership in the digital world according to the speaker?

The speaker points out that ownership has been taken for granted in the physical world but is lacking in the digital world. They emphasize the importance of digital ownership and control over assets and data. They believe that blockchains provide a means to assert and enable digital ownership, allowing users to truly control their digital assets and data without relying on centralized authorities or intermediaries.

Q: How does the speaker address the challenges of scalability and user experience in blockchains?

The speaker acknowledges that blockchains face challenges in terms of scalability and user experience. They compare it to the early stages of other computing platforms, such as the iPhone, which initially had limitations and usability issues. However, they believe that these weaknesses will be addressed over time, with continuous improvements driven by many smart people working on the problems. They emphasize that these challenges are not unique to blockchains and have been overcome in previous computing cycles.

Q: Is there a winner-takes-all situation in the blockchain space?

The speaker does not believe that there will be a winner-takes-all situation in the blockchain space. They mention that the early assumption was that Bitcoin would dominate, but Ethereum presented important advancements and possibilities, leading to multiple important blockchain projects and networks. They encourage application developers to focus on finding the right infrastructure for their needs and tapping into the opportunities and possibilities offered by various blockchains.

Q: What are the key aspects that product developers need to convey to end users about blockchains?

The speaker suggests that it will take time and specific moments of realization for end users to fully understand and appreciate the benefits and potential of blockchains. They mention examples like transferring Bitcoin or experiencing ownership of virtual goods in gaming. It is important for product developers to create these magical moments, highlighting the trust guarantees, ownership, and other unique features that blockchains offer. As more applications and use cases are developed, end users will gradually grasp the value and power of blockchains.


Blockchains have experienced different waves of interest and growth, and they offer a new design space with rich possibilities. They are virtual computers that run on top of physical networks, providing trust guarantees and the ability to make commitments. Through blockchains, new building blocks, such as digital money, smart contracts, and decentralized organizations, are created. Although blockchains face challenges in scalability and user experience, similar to early stages of other technologies, continuous improvements are expected. The digital ownership and control provided by blockchains are fundamental shift paradigms. While there won't be a winner-takes-all scenario, developers need to help end users understand and appreciate the benefits of blockchains by creating impactful moments that showcase trust, ownership, and the unique features they offer.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • The presentation explores the waves of cryptocurrency development, starting with the early adopters in pre-2011, followed by price surges in 2013 and 2017.

  • Data analysis reveals that each wave of interest and activity in the cryptocurrency space has led to significant growth rates in various categories, such as developer activity, startup activity, and social media engagement.

  • The speaker emphasizes that prices are a lagging indicator and that the true value of blockchain lies in its ability to provide trust guarantees and enable the creation of new digital primitives.

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