Posted on Feb 12, 2024Read on

At the edge of the dark forest

"Trailheads. As far as the eye can see. And then some more. It was a sight to behold for those early to emerge from the dark forest onto the infinite shore in front of the main streams & internet super highways. What lies inside the dark forest of the internet? Tidal waves of culture & humanity, ready to spring forth, instantly and seemingly all at once, with just a click, clack or tap."

After a few days of onchain social posting on Farcaster - or to be specific, Warpcast, my Farcaster frontend client of choice - that’s exactly how I’m feeling about life today on the internet, or at least our neck of the internet, metaphorically speaking.

By “our neck” I’m talking about Ethereum’s End and the loosely affiliated grouping of crypto-powered digital villages - NFTs, DeFi, Devs, Builders, Degens, and more - located on the bleeding edge of the niche-y fringier end of the internet alongside other crypto projects, sub-Reddits, certain gaming universes, and Twitch Fandoms.

The Digital Villages of Ethereum

Note that I said “digital villages” and not “digital neighborhoods.”

Calling them neighborhoods would imply that the inhabitants were somehow more united around or part of something greater than the group of folks who reside in their same village. The reality is that they were more like villages co-located in the same general region, but existing as distinct and self-contained atomized groups.

Historically speaking, the emergence of villages is a strong signal of a healthy environment conducive towards establishing community and growing culture. That said, they have proven to be extremely weak organizational and structural containers for protecting those communities over long periods of time.

A quick review of the history of modern state formation and the often bloody background of how early villages ended up being “incorporated” into larger administrative districts and states clearly shows this.

Eternal September events that mark the end of early communities on social networks that experience viral growth, while not as well documented as their IRL counterparts, may be less bloody but are no less violent and often more destructive to early communities who are entirely at the mercy of the platform overlords if they even survive the deluge of new entrants following the viral tsunami of attention.

While Ethereum has grown into the second largest market cap in all of crypto at $300B benefiting many of the digital villages who have been building atop it, no single group or individual within Ethereum - not even Vitalik - has managed to develop a sufficiently strong enough voice to influence a critical mass of hearts & minds on a global scale, let alone crypto-wide basis.

Crypto literally is collaboration, and every single wallet address or crypto holder or builder is either literally connected via onchain transactions or potentially may be, however, the social interactions that occur within the Ethereum ecosystem specifically and crypto space generally have been fragmented and largely occur in the isolation of the digital village unit tucked away in the dark forest of different apps and platforms making it near impossible to activate a larger portion of the disparate digital villages in a meaningfully unified way.

A Purple Light at the Edge of the Dark Forest

That’s changing now thanks to Farcaster.

Farcaster is a sufficiently decentralized protocol for digital nation-state building. The first case study is being written in real time as the Ethereum ecosystem consolidates its web of emergent communities and groups atop the Farcaster protocol.

Over the past few months in particular, but gradually over the past few years, we’ve seen a critical mass of villagers - artists, builders, collectors, degens - from across the Ethereum space come out of the dark forest, literally, to join Farcaster.

Farcaster is architected such that it effectively synthesizes the best of Twitter along with Reddit and Discord - the three main platforms and tools Ethereum digital villages have used - by providing a public forum in the form of the main feed populated by casts from other users you follow (like Twitter and very popular sub-Reddits) along with quieter, less immediately public spaces for community members to foster connections and share info between in /channels (like Discord servers and very specific sub-Reddits).

By merging the public forum of the main feed with spaces aka /channels that provide cover similar to what you find in the dark forest, everyone is in one-click proximity to one another instead of being a click, clack, or tap away on a totally separate app.

All of that said, we still need to watch how (and if) these groups start to interact and collaborate with one another more and more over the next few months.

More users will inevitably continue to flow onto the protocol - will that growth continue to be absorbed in a way across the public and more private ares of the protocol that lets users access the information and individuals they align with and feel closest to while exposing them to individuals and ideas from parts of Ethereum they may have previously had no idea about?

We’ll need to monitor this, but luckily, since Farcaster is literally built differently and protocol data is public, anyone interested has the ability to monitor the ever changing situation by utilizing one of the many dashboards created by the community or core team, or alternatively, creating a brand new dashboard to monitor these changes and responses over time.

What a time to be alive and building together with friends on the internet at the bleeding edge of digital community, culture, and nation-state formation.


Cover Image: “the society of mind” from Reflections by Pindar Van Arman