While it might come as a surprise to Web3 natives, Richard Widmann—Google’s head of strategy, Web3, and cloud—sees the Web2 giant as ideologically aligned with many of crypto’s core values, including open-source development and decentralization.
Prior to jumping headfirst into Google’s crypto initiatives, Widmann worked as legal counsel for the trillion-dollar tech company and also has a background in securities law.
At the Mainnet conference in New York City, he said in an interview that he’s working to “build a giant bridge” between Web3 companies and blockchain by offering node services via Google Cloud. Nodes, which run code for crypto networks, can be imagined as foundational building blocks for Web3.
“The Cloud provision—we’re a layer zero,” Widmann said.
The lawyer-turned strategist stressed that Google’s nodes have to be decentralized and global enough to be resilient to things like internet outages and political unrest because each node is a single point of failure.
And if one or two big tech companies like Amazon or Google end up controlling the overwhelming majority of blockchain nodes, that defeats the purpose of decentralized technology.
“If everything is running on Google, I will be the first to say that is a problem, frankly,” Widmann said of Web3’s future.
But decentralization isn’t a black or white issue. While Widmann sees decentralization as essential to Google’s Web3 strategy, not everything can or should be as decentralized as possible.
“If you tried to build a data center with a group of DAO participants—I’m sure you could raise the capital, but I don’t really know if you could coordinate around that kind of resourcing to build that,” he said.
If decentralization is feasible, should everything eventually be on the blockchain? Widmann doesn’t think so.
“There are some things where a censorship resistant, distributed source of truth makes sense,” Widmann said, but added that “there are [also] a lot of things that don’t require immutable ledgers.”
Google Cloud is chain-agnostic and wants to let layer one protocols build on top of Cloud and compete against one another or fulfill different niches, he said.
Widmann differentiated Google’s vision from that of Avalanche Network, which he said is a layer one blockchain and not a layer zero for crypto like some might think. He acknowledged, however, that the label is a “rhetorical issue.”
“Any layer one protocol is running compute containers, generally on a cloud of some kind,” Widmann said. “Avalanche doesn’t have a cloud business. They run on data centers, just like every other layer one.”
“They try and set themselves as that foundational layer, but ultimately, it’s all running on top of a compute container hosted somewhere, and that’s where the cloud providers come in.”