cover image Read Write Own: Building the Next Era of the Internet

Read Write Own: Building the Next Era of the Internet

Chris Dixon. Random House, $31 (320p) ISBN 978-0-593-73138-3

The illuminating if technical debut from Dixon, general partner at the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, sings the praise of blockchain networks, which he likens to “computers that can, for the first time ever, establish inviolable rules in software” so that, for instance, app stores couldn’t arbitrarily raise their cut from app sales. Blockchain has the potential to dilute the monopolistic power of Silicon Valley behemoths, according to Dixon, who posits that, among other benefits, the open-access nature of the technology facilitates greater interoperability. That means data could more easily be shared between programs or platforms, making impossible such maneuvers as Mark Zuckerberg’s 2013 decision to deny the now-defunct video app Vine access to Facebook’s application programming interface, which made it difficult to share Vine content on the social network and hastened the app’s demise. Dixon’s detailed discussions add nuance to the oversimplified metaphors often used to describe blockchain (“Any developer in the world can write and run apps, ranging from marketplaces to metaverses, on blockchains.... This is why it’s wrong to think of blockchains as mere ledgers for tabulating numbers”), though his complicated explanations of the roles played by “state transitions” and “validators” can be difficult to follow. Still, it’s a stimulating overview of blockchain’s potential. Agent: Chris Parris-Lamb, Gernert Co. (Jan.)