The Web3 community convened in full force at ETHDenver 2023, a conference that brought together 20,000+ attendees and some of the brightest minds in the industry. The event, held in Denver, Colorado from February 24th to March 5th, provided a platform for numerous projects and teams to showcase their innovative solutions and discuss the future of crypto, NFTs, and other related topics. We were excited to be able to attend again this year; here are some of our takeaways from the conference and surrounding events.
The Year of the Spork
SporkDAO, which emerged from ETHDenver in 2019, is a member-owned cooperative organization with a mission to establish Colorado as a preferred destination to “buidl the decentralized future”. The co-op manages ETHDenver, Bufficorn Ventures, the ColoradoJam Incubator, and the Buffcorn BUIDL Brigade.
Is 2023 the year of ZKPs and Rollups?
ZKPs are cryptographic protocols that allow one party to prove to another that they know a specific piece of information, without revealing anything about the information itself. This is especially useful for authentication, data sharing, and performing secure transactions.
Zk-rollups are a Layer 2 blockchain solution designed to address scalability issues. They allow blockchains to validate transactions faster and with lower gas fees, thanks to a combination of on- and off-chain processes.
At ETHDenver, we saw a lot of interest in ZKPs and Zk-rollups, with many projects exploring their potential. Some of those projects included StarkNet, zkSync, and Manta Network. It's exciting to see the Zk revolution gaining momentum — we’re interested to see where this leads in the future.
Web3 gaming had a strong showing 🎮
Another major trend at ETHDenver this year was the increasing excitement around Web3 gaming as teams showcased a range of games that take advantage of its benefits, including new digital economic opportunities and interoperability.
Some advantages Web3 can potentially bring to gaming:
Control and ownership
New game mechanics
CommunityWith Web3 at its core being community-driven, players have the opportunity to contribute to the development of games and create their own in-game assets. By involving the community in the process, we can create more engaging gaming experiences.
Here are a few Web3 games that caught our attention at ETHDenver:
- World Wide Webb — a “dystopian, pixel metaverse” NFT MMORPG
- Uldor — a free-to-play fantasy MMORPG
- Smashverse — an NFT close-combat game
- Bornless — a free-to-play first-person shooter game
- The Beacon — a pixel NFT RPG game
- Tollan Worlds — a pixel mmorpg game
- GridIron — a multiplayer sci-fi football game
- Mayhem League — a free-to-play multiplayer battling game
- NextWorld — a Web3 cyberpunk action RPG
- Mega Weapon — a competitive multiplayer shooter game
The hype around gaming at ETHDenver underscores the growing importance of this vertical within the broader Web3 industry, and the potential for gaming to drive mass adoption of blockchain technology in the years to come.
NFTs are back 👀
Another major trend that emerged was the renewed popularity of non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Although NFTs seemingly peaked in 2021 and 2022 — fueled by high-profile sales with almost unbelievable prices, the hype died down somewhat since then coinciding with the crypto market’s turbulence and market downturns. However, recently there has been a resurgence of interest in NFTs, and ETHDenver was no exception.
The world of music is no stranger to innovation, and at ETHDenver 2023, Music NFTs were a hot topic. Music NFTs are digital collectibles that represent assets like songs, albums, and concert tickets, which can be bought and sold on-chain. These NFTs can provide a new way for musicians and fans to engage with each other, and enable creators to have more control over their earnings and ownership of their works.
Artist Bloody White’s “congrats” track on Music-centric NFT marketplace Sound.xyz
CoopahTroopa was one of the artists promoting Music NFTs at ETHDenver this year and helped organize an NFT kickback event to showcase artists like Daniel Allan and Bloody White. Sponsored by Sound.xyz, Spinamp and LNRZDao, the event attracted a lot of attention from attendees and demonstrated the growing interest in Music NFTs as a way for artists to connect with fans and monetize their work.
"Probably A Label," another NFT project that piqued our interest at ETHDenver, is a partnership between Probably Nothing and Warner Records. The company aims to redefine intellectual property (IP) ownership by creating a new type of record label focused on providing musicians and artists more control over their music and royalties. The project's digital collectible, the "Probably A Label Pass," grants holders access to an IP incubation studio, exclusive drops, and more.
It will definitely be interesting to see how Music NFTs evolve and influence the music industry.
Renting & lending NFTs
Another trend we’ve noticed leading up to ETHDenver is the rise of NFT lending and borrowing. We saw evidence of this trend in person at the conference through companies like NFT rental infrastructure platform reNFT. This platform is intended to allow anyone to rent and use NFTs by paying a fee for a specific amount of time. By doing this, reNFT is making it possible for more people to access NFTs —even if only temporarily — while also opening up new possibilities for their usage.
Think of it like this: Let’s say you own an NFT that grants access to exclusive events. Instead of letting the NFT sit there when you can’t attend an NFT-ticketed event, you can earn some crypto by lending your NFT to someone who’s willing to rent it. You still own the NFT, and you earn money via the rental fee, while the renter gets to attend an event they otherwise might miss out on because they can’t afford to purchase the NFT outright. The same principle can be applied to other assets in metaverses, such as virtual lands, in-game characters, items, etc. — allowing you to earn money from your NFTs while unlocking experiences for others.
Web3 wallets continue to evolve
ERC - 4337 deployed at WalletCon
The day before the ETHDenver main event, a side event called WalletCon took place. WalletCon attracted an enthusiastic group who were eager to learn more about the wallet ecosystem in Web3 and multiple wallet providers and projects such as WalletConnect, Phantom, Argent, and Ambire Wallet.
WalletCon attendees were there to learn about the Web3 wallet ecosystem. But the event took an unexpected turn when Ethereum made a major announcement; the crowd was surprised to learn that ERC-4337, or account abstraction, had been successfully deployed. “Account abstraction is another way of saying that programmable smart contracts can be used to represent accounts instead of Ethereum addresses.
The newly deployed account abstraction standard in Web3 brings several advanced features like multi-sig, biometric authentication, and even the option for trusted and designated individuals like friends or lawyers to recover your wallet account if needed. This is an exciting development, as it could potentially eliminate the need for memorizing and storing seed phrases, making it less of a hassle for newbies to get started in Web3.
The deployment of this new standard is seen as a major step forward in improving the interoperability between crypto wallets and other dApps. However, there are some concerns about the security implications of this new standard. Giving third parties access to your information can be risky and open you up to security vulnerabilities. It will be important for wallet providers to implement strong security measures to ensure that users' assets and data remain safe. Nonetheless, the announcement of ERC-4337 at WalletCon was a significant moment for the wallet ecosystem, and attendees left the event with a greater understanding of the potential benefits and challenges of this new development.
Uniswap announced new self-custody wallet… but Apple won’t approve it
Uniswap's announcement of their new self-custody wallet sparked conversations at ETHDenver 2023 about improving security and user experience when interacting with dApps. The wallet boasts features such as peer-to-peer payments and the ability to connect with other Ethereum wallets. However, Uniswap faces a hurdle as Apple has yet to approve the wallet. Despite this obstacle, UniSwap’s wallet announcement generated some excitement among attendees and highlighted the continued innovation in the Web3 wallet development space.
DeFi is still alive!
Members of Hedera, dfinity, Euler Finance, XBTO, and ZettaFi Labs discuss The Future of DeFi with host David Wachsman. Photo courtesy of ETHDenver
Sometimes it may not seem like it, but it was clear that DeFi is still a major trend. Despite the recent market volatility and price fluctuations, many DeFi space projects continue to innovate and attract users. Several notable DeFi projects showcased their latest developments at ETHDenver including Hedera, dfinity, and Hop Protocol.
The enthusiasm and interest in DeFi at ETHDenver is a testament to the resilience of this trend — and also speaks to the appeal of DeFi over trusting centralized exchanges. Despite the challenges posed by the market volatility and regulatory uncertainty, many teams at ETHDenver are still focused on building innovative DeFi products and services and providing alternatives to centralized providers.
DeFi interest at ETHDenver also reflects the broader trend of blockchain moving beyond cryptocurrencies and into the realm of broader financial services. As more people recognize the potential benefits of decentralized finance — increased accessibility, transparency, and security — there is likely to be continued growth in the DeFi space. Moreover, the current challenges facing traditional financial institutions, such as inflation and lack of liquidity leading to bank runs like we just saw with Silicon Valley Bank, may accelerate the adoption of DeFi solutions in the coming years.
Our takeaways from ETHDenver 2023
ETHDenver 2023 was a productive conference that reinforced our optimism about the future of Web3. The event showcased the latest trends and innovations in the industry, providing valuable insights into the direction of blockchain tech. One of the standout themes of the conference was the increasing focus on building truly fun Web3 games, with numerous innovative projects and platforms aiming to bridge the gap between gaming and decentralized technology.
And in addition to gaming, the conference highlighted the continued growth of zero-knowledge proofs (ZKPs), ZK-Rollups, and the emergence of user-friendly decentralized applications (dApps). The events featured a range of informative presentations, workshops, and discussions on various topics, attracting blockchain enthusiasts, developers, and teams from over the world. Overall, we left the conference feeling energized and bullish about the future of Web3, and are excited to see how these trends and innovations will continue to shape the industry in the coming years.