In an era where the Web3 universe is rapidly changing, navigating the complexities of user privacy and data protection has become a real concern. Oasis knows the real challenges hindering mainstream acceptance of Web3 are more than just creating a new web, but getting people to adopt new habits and mentalities.
Patrick Degenhardt, head of marketing and community of Oasis, unravels the contemporary thread of Web3, then knits together its technological achievements with lessons from the Satoshi days. And, in turn, Oasis sheds a light to its strategic role in shaping a more privacy-centric future as the world starts to move away from Web2.
The following transcript is an unabridged interview with Patrick Degenhardt.
What brought you to the Oasis Network?
Degenhardt: The most fundamental reason I came to Oasis is the protocol’s mission, which is intimately linked to the very core of why Satoshi created Bitcoin during the global financial crisis of 2008 and 2009. Satoshi and all other cypherpunks since then – and even before Bitcoin – have been trying to create a new technological ecosystem that could protect and empower ordinary people with ownership of their own data and the financial means to progress in life.
Oasis is a fundamental clog in this system to deliver on that vision with regards to personal privacy and data ownership. This alignment between the original vision for blockchain technology and the role of Oasis, along with the amazing people I met at the Foundation and wider community – all these are the key reasons that made me choose to actively contribute to the Oasis ecosystem.
In your view, what’s the greatest barrier for mainstream acceptance of Web3?
Degenhardt: Well, there are several. Obviously, there are still regulatory hurdles and a need for the industry to offer better user experience for a very broad audience, way larger than what we have today, something Web2 has become really adept at.
As a matter of fact I think we can learn a lot from Web2, not the least to know what not to do! But in general, marketing in Web3 can learn from Web2 marketers in terms of how to become more efficient and promote growth using tried and tested techniques. But that’s not that simple.
In Web3, one needs to adopt a different approach than what Web2 has grown accustomed to. The approach must be inclusive and respectful – bottom-up instead of top-down. It must be democratic and transparent. Web2 companies usually say they do these things, but not really. In Web3, this needs to be in the DNA of everything we do. This means open collaboration where everyone has a say, especially the community, and a deep respect for people’s data – the very opposite of what we have been seeing with the internet giants that dominate the world today and earn billions extracting value from people’s data.
A great example of great Web3 marketing was a Polkadot branding exercise from a few years ago. DOT token holders voted on-chain to decide the new branding of the network. This is the type of inclusive policy that I want to see more projects doing – and you can expect to see Oasis doing as well! We, as a matter of fact, have a great solution for voting with confidentiality that other protocols can benefit greatly from.
I think another challenge we face as an industry is the tribalism we see with certain communities. I’m speaking of maximalists, people downplaying other communities, and so forth. I think there’s space for everyone in Web3, and as we collaborate with one another, all projects are elevated.
In history, the Celtic tribes were smashed by the centralized power of Rome because Rome was able to drive one tribe against the other. The same thing happens over and over again throughout history.
We need to learn from these mistakes or we will succumb as well. Let’s unite! Let’s work together! That’s the best way forward.
Before Oasis, what parts of Web3 occupied your time?
Degenhardt: I’ve had the opportunity to work with many amazing colleagues in Web3 since 2018, and even before that when I first started reading about blockchain and discussing the philosophy of this movement.
As a parenthesis, I think we are a movement, much more than a simple industry. People who are in Web3 feel part of a cultural movement. That’s much more engaging than just working for a simple company selling a product. I did that, I’m not complaining, but Web3 gives you so much more inspiration and a sense of real urgency to change things for the better.
But back to the question, I have worked in several ecosystems, from Ethereum to Polkadot, BNB Chain to Hyperledger, B2C projects, B2B projects. I’ve worked in fashion and metaverse, regulated funds, battery recycling and tooling for real builders to create multichain dApps, and so on. So, really a little bit of everything. And I always learn a lot from every project that I had the chance to contribute to. Most of these takeaways are applicable to new challenges from new projects. So, in the end, I think it’s super beneficial to have this wide experience to help the teams I’m working with.
Also, before Web3, I worked for many years in more traditional industries, which gave me the structure to help Web3 projects move from 0 to 1 and beyond without having to reinvent the wheel every time. But I love how Web3 is fundamentally different from Web2. I also think Web3 has a lot to learn from the structure and efficiency of some Web2 practices, especially in marketing and community.
What role do you see Oasis playing in the future of Web3?
Degenhardt: Well, Oasis can be one of the key unifying factors in Web3.
All protocols need to protect the confidentiality of their users. All projects can create interesting dApps using aspects of privacy that can help differentiate them for specific audiences and use cases. And all of that can be built with Oasis technology.
Whether a project decides to build directly on Sapphire to, for example, enable MEV protection in a DEX, or if an existing project on Ethereum wants to customize aspects of their dApps to offer privacy features using Smart Privacy tools like the Oasis Privacy Layer, Oasis can serve their needs too.
One key component of this positioning for Oasis is the concept of Smart Privacy that we introduced at EthCC in Paris. Just like in smart contract development, Smart Privacy can also be programmed with customized outcomes for data confidentiality. Builders can select exactly what aspects of their dApp or protocol will be transparent and what aspects will be protected.
So, I see Oasis as being a partner to any protocol, DAO or dApp in Web3. It’s a big statement, but Oasis provides privacy solutions that are simultaneously technically simple to implement and extremely powerful for end users.
Why do you see privacy as being so important to a successful Web3?
Degenhardt: Privacy is a fundamental human right. We know that there are plenty of flawed aspects of Web3 today, like MEV, for example, or how voting can be biased by whales. Other examples are dApps that resort to storing data off-chain just to enable certain features for users. All of these things could be improved by using some of the technologies that Oasis has built and launched specifically for these communities.
So, by working together with these protocols, DAOs, dApp developers, and other creators in Web3, Oasis can improve the overall user experience and work together to bring the power of Web3 to millions more users.
This is exactly what we need as an industry and as a movement.
Beyond Web3, can you tell us something about yourself that most people wouldn’t know?
Degenhardt: Something personal? What about my privacy? < laughs >
Well, as I hinted in an earlier question, I’m a big history nerd. When I’m not working on Web3, I spend a good chunk of my time learning about ancient societies and cultures. I love to learn about how ordinary people lived their lives in ancient times, their customs and language, and how that still influences us today. I really dig all eras of history, from the Romans, Bronze Age, prehistory, Middle Ages, and also our contemporary times. Really, everything!
We can understand our world much better when we know the historical background. And knowing history is a great way to avoid making the same mistakes as well! This also takes us back to Web3 and our intentions to avoid the pitfalls from Web2 companies…everything is connected.
What can we expect to see in the upcoming months for Oasis?
Degenhardt: A lot, and on all fronts! The excitement and announcements from Oasis at EthCC was a great initial win for us at the Oasis Foundation since I joined. We showcased to a record audience the latest developments for two of our most important solutions: Sapphire and the Oasis Privacy Layer (OPL). Our community can expect a lot more of this as we continue to speak to a technical audience of dedicated builders, and as we incentivize them to build privacy-enabled applications.
Related to ecosystem support, we also kicked off our Privacy4Web3 hackathon at EthCC. Since the announcement, there are more than 200 registrations -- another record for the protocol. The hackathon is on, and anyone with a good idea in the areas of integrating privacy into Web3 dApps should register.
We will also be more active with Oasis ecosystem projects and partnerships. These are fundamental points for the growth of the protocol. For example, besides the hackathon, I foresee that our grants programme will be much more active in strategically selecting projects that add lots of value for not only the Oasis Network, but to Web3 in general. We’re working actively with teams through the grant programme, and you’ll hear about these very soon. Well, one of them was just announced this week, Crust.
We’ve seen some fantastic partners joining us at EthCC, and I encourage everyone to check out the recording of the event here as the quality of the speakers and content presented were really second to none. Expect more on this front as well.
Also, regarding our global community, the Foundation team has doubled down on our support on Discord and Telegram for technical questions from developers creating dApps that use Oasis technology and other less technical users. For example, we launched the Oasis Odyssey programme for the wider community to contribute to Oasis, and we have also some exciting news coming up for ambassadors. So, stay tuned!
All in all, I see a few strategic areas where we can do better, especially in the sense of helping the ecosystem to build more using Oasis. I mean both natively and with a SDK-like solution such as OPL. The marketing and community team at the Foundation will support this, and we are seeking to continuously decentralize and incorporate the community in every aspect of our approach to building the Oasis ecosystem.
I can definitely see a bright and exciting future for Oasis and Web3 privacy!