Help Me Better Understand the Benefits of Web 3.0/De-Fi

So full disclosure, I do have some positions in crypto and do think that it has some use cases for cutting out middlemen, processing transactions, etc., which is why I've invested in it. I'm now trying to get my arms around some of these newer technologies, namely Web 3, De-Fi, etc. 

For example, with De-Fi, people tell me stuff like "you can be your own bank", but as someone in a first world country with mature financial markets, I'm not understanding why this is beneficial to me. Yes, it's annoying that financial intermediaries take a cut out of my transactions, but I'm willing to, for example, indirectly pay for credit card fees if it means said intermediaries assume some of the financial risk associated with fraudulent charges. Again, I totally get how De-Fi can be powerful for groups of people around the world that don't quite have this access to capital I do, but that's a fairly niche use case, right? Same with Peer-to-Peer lending. Yes, I'd get higher "returns" without an intermediary, but I'd also have to do a lot more diligence and be willing to put up with more capital losses if I choose to do this.

Similarly for Web 3, how does having an internet that's not controlled by large, centralized tech companies necessarily benefit me? Yeah, it's annoying that Facebook/Apple/Google all have access to my data and are selling it. However, they also have the best platform for messaging/search and need to monetize it these otherwise free services somehow in order to keep them running and providing value to me.

I probably don't understand this tech well enough so I'm looking for genuine discussion on both sides in order to better parse through what is hype and what are actual use cases that would cause this tech to continue to rapidly expand. 

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Comments (87)

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Jan 11, 2022 - 2:50pm

Doesn't fully encompass web3 but there's a quote I like that goes something like "owning an NFT is akin to your wife going around fucking every other dude in sight, but you have the marriage certificate"

Needless to say I'm a bear (at least based on the current market, how saturated it is, etc.) I'm sure there will be a few startups / initiatives / projects that come out ahead.

Similar to OP - open to being educated but I just don't really see it

Jan 12, 2022 - 4:59pm

I see NFTs as effectively baseball cards with really accurate  "certificates of authenticity" 

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Jan 13, 2022 - 7:14pm

Except to the original commenter's point, everyone else has access to that baseball card, you just get to say you own it. Actual baseball cards, other people don't have access to. (I mean I guess they could print them from pictures or something, but it feels a little different).

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Jan 14, 2022 - 10:05am

These things will receive enforcement as time passes by and blockchain technology gains adoption. Think about it this way, today you cannot just upload music or films on youtube/instagram if you don't have rights - it will be filtered out and deleted. It will work same way with NFTs and other blockchain tokens in the future.

Jan 11, 2022 - 2:52pm

What makes you think Web 3.0 should be a benefit to you? It's just another trap to steal your attention and advertising revenue. 

Jan 11, 2022 - 4:22pm

"Benefit to me" is perhaps a poor choice of words. What I meant to ask is what's the incentive to use it/use case for someone like me versus going through "centralized" finance or the regular internet? What pressing need does this solve because, setting aside the UI challenges alone, I don't really one for someone in my position.

I do understand some niche use cases for smart contracts, cross-border transactions via cryptocurrencies, and perhaps democratizing finance a bit more for people who don't have easy access to capital, but how big is this market really and what other things can this tech do that I am missing, which would lead to this being a multi-trillion dollar industry. 

Jan 11, 2022 - 5:09pm

yes I don't understand either. what happens when I accidentally send 90% of my net worth to the wrong wallet?

Jan 11, 2022 - 4:27pm

Benefit is you are entirely in control of your funds in your web3 wallet (Metamask, Clover, Trustwallet, etc.). You pick what your funds do. they can do nothing and just sit in your wallet or you can yield farm (lend assets and be paid in yield) entirely trustless architecture with the only person you need is the company you're trying to connect your wallet with. It entirely removes the need for banks and bankers. You can generate unreal yield. Now realize DeFi is young, and there are a LOT of risks associated with this. But there are a ton of good opportunities to make $$ and leverage up if you want to. I can lend 100k and borrow up to 80% against that without having to do anything other than lend assets. No middle man. It's great for the average person who knows what they are doing.

As a 5-year+ crypto veteran, I love DeFi. I am getting 20-30% on my stablecoins. I am not getting 0.03% from Chase. Always always always manage your risk. If you didnt write the smart contract, there is risk that you cannot foresee. 

Jan 11, 2022 - 5:06pm

Thanks for the reply! Staking/yield-farming is another concept I don't really get. How are these exchanges or whatever able to pay 20% on a stablecoin that mimicks the USD and what's happening behind the scenes when someone stakes a coin? So for example, if I "stake" one of my ETH, my questions are:

1. What does the intermediary do with my ETH after I've staked it?

2. How in the hell are they able to give 20% yields or whatever on that coin? Surely they must using that ETH in a very high-risk project to be able to afford that interest rate, no? Do I have any transparency on how that coin is being used when I stake it?

3. What recourse would I have, if any, if my collateral goes bust because this intermediary is basically gambling with my ETH coin?

Jan 12, 2022 - 9:30am

For your first question, staking/yield farming is usually subsidized by swap fees. When you swap from Token A to Token B, the Decentralized Exchange (DEX) will take a small swap fee of like 0.25% or something like that. They can then turn around and pay that to people who are lending liquidity. Add in other revenue streams, and some of these DEXs can pay a decent amount for your liquidity. I know of a few bringing in 250k/day on Fantom (SpookySwap).

1. The intermediary does nothing you cant undo. You still have full control to withdraw your ETH whenever you want. They may lend it onto another platform in the background or something like banks do for your dollar today, but you will be able to withdraw whenever you want. Now do read up on "Impermanent Loss." It sounds super terrible but it should be renamed to "Auto-rebalancing." Youtube is your friend here. Search Impermanent Loss, Liquidity Providing, Liquidity Mining and watch 3-5 videos. You'll get it really quick. 

2.  Answered above. Swap fees, revenue subsidizing your liquidity, and often lending in the background to other platforms generating yield there too. There are more complex strategies but those are the most simple.

3. You can control who you lend ETH to. Never lend assets to anyone that gambles with your assets. Safety and risk management are primary concerns in DeFi

Jan 12, 2022 - 9:32am

Take a look on the Fantom ecosystem (SpookySwap, SpiritSwap, BeethovenX, Scream, Tarot, etc.). BeethovenX offers 15% on a USDC-DAI pool called Steady Beets. They just launched a second pool with even better yield! I have a friend who works for Reaper.Farm (yield aggregator) who says they will have some strategies coming up to get 40% using borrowing/lending platforms. Keep an eye out for them in the next month or two. Big things coming for that team.

Jan 12, 2022 - 3:02am

so, who pays you 20-30% annual return? where does this money come from? if somebody borrows from you at 20-30%, do you really expect them to pay back? if they were trustworthy, wouldn't a bank lend them at 10%?

Jan 12, 2022 - 6:00am

Question on the wallets - isn't the wallet funded by actual currency? Like isn't having a crypto wallet only made possible by converting actual dollars or whatever into crypto via purchasing such assets? I guess all I'm wondering is why is it so special to have my money stored in a digital asset wallet? Your example of getting 20-30% yield on stablecoins is a result of a highly speculative investment no? You're not just getting that yield from converting say USD to whatever stablecoin you're in. Genuinely curious here.

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Jan 12, 2022 - 9:41am

Depends. I spent $3k USD in 2017 and now through speculative investing am in the low 7 figs working to 8. It's all relative. I understand that now people have to spend $1 for 1 USDC. Much of DeFi and crypto is speculative investing. Much of it is also looking at ecosystems and understanding what provides value. Fantom is Ethereum but better. It's tech is 5 years newer. For example, a transaction on Ethereum can cost $50 for a swap from Token A to Token B. On Fantom that swap is $0.10 or less. Ethereum time to finality (cannot revert a transaction) is 30 minutes. On Fantom it's 2 seconds. You have to dive into the research, try different blockchains, and understand where in the scheme of things projects fit. It's very time consuming to do it well.

20-30% Yield can be generated from simply holding USDC/DAI and loaning those dollars out to platforms for yield. It depends on the type of loan. You can loan for a fixed term (locked assets) for yield. You can lend assets for yield (short term). You can lend liquidity (create a Liquidity Provider LP token) and lend those to a platform for yield. There are new and exciting things happening. Yes some of it is speculative investing, but you can also just lend stable coins on Coinbase for 5% (or whatever the rate is now, havent looked recently). That beats the hell out of 0.05% Chase wants to give me.

Jan 11, 2022 - 4:30pm

NFTs are a bubble. Don't get me wrong, you can get rich in a bubble but you can also lose your shirt. (Just ask Isaac Newton about the South Sea Co. or say "Tulips")  As to web 3.0 I'd like faster payment processing but pushing everything thru the CC gives me a month of float and I get to keep 2/3 of the interchange fees.  Why give that up.

The only difference between Asset Management and Investment Research is assets. I generally see somebody I know on TV on Bloomberg/CNBC etc. once or twice a week. This sounds cool, until I remind myself that I see somebody I know on ESPN five days a week.
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Jan 11, 2022 - 5:10pm

I think it's closer to 90% but they strategically don't tell anything.  I might make out over 100% for some big firms and lose on others. Small guys get screwed by CC fees, my barber on Park Pl eats tax if I pay cash. 

The only difference between Asset Management and Investment Research is assets. I generally see somebody I know on TV on Bloomberg/CNBC etc. once or twice a week. This sounds cool, until I remind myself that I see somebody I know on ESPN five days a week.
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Jan 11, 2022 - 8:31pm

Highly recommend this essay that came out a few days ago. A somewhat technical but really good analysis from the guy who created the Signal instant messaging service.

https://moxie.org/2022/01/07/web3-first-impressions.html

His main thesis is that decentralized protocols invariably devolve into centralized platforms, and that this has already happened in the crypto world, just as it did when "web1" became "web2".

Jan 13, 2022 - 8:55am

The more people that come in to DeFi and Web3, the more decentralized experiences become centralized. Liquidity is a good example of this. Truly decentralized exchanges (DEX) have the problem when they first launch that they cant offer the efficiency of a Centralized Exchange (CEX) like Binance or Coinbase. As these DEXs grow, they begin to aggregate liquidity that would have been on other DEXs and now you essentially devolve into a CEX. I do agree with this premise, but I think that is also more relative to adoption than a negative on Web3. The more people who use something, the more mainstream it becomes. The more the user experience has to be great to stay. People won't use products that dont offer efficiency or a better user experience, so we devolve. 

Jan 11, 2022 - 9:06pm

It has the potential to revolutionize finance and investing. DAOs, or decentralized autonomous organizations, like the one that bought the Constitution could potentially disrupt typical fund structures in Finance such as PE funds. Especially if it is open to non accredited investors.

Jan 12, 2022 - 1:08am

There's nothing to understand. It's another get rich quick scheme just like the classic multilevel marketing. The only people making money on the system are the (1) brokers / intermediary (e.g., OpeanSea) and (2) the scammers selling their garbage. 
 

There is no substance. Everything else is marketing to persuade others to join the greater fool game as naturally some cut their losses and exit. 

Jan 12, 2022 - 2:57am

to me all this talk about decentralization sounds like people chanting ACAB. people think police is bad. then, when they get rid of police, like in this area in Portland, the crime grows and some people will appear who will take on the role of policing and they will shoot up people (check what happened in Portland). our current banking system is just fine. I don't spend anything on using credit cards, there are no fees, I get like $100 of cash back every month, and every time there is some issue (unrecognized transaction, etc.), my bank resolves it quickly and effectively. why tf would I need your crypto? my money works just fine.

Jan 12, 2022 - 11:04am

This is kind of my read on it too tbqf. I get that there are problems with large companies that have a disproportionate amount of power, just as there are issues with police departments, to continue your analogy. That said, these institutions came up for a reason and I don't think eliminating them will be the rainbows and sunshine people are envisioning. A merchant accepts the fees for credit cards, even though it lowers their margin, because they inherently know that it increases liquidity and thereby improves transaction volumes.

I actually think De-Fi could fall apart the minute things go south and people lose money. For example, a lot of my friends swear I'm missing out on "free" 20% yield by not staking, yet they still can't explain to me how someone is able to pay me such a ridiculous yield that's equivalent to a distressed bond. Right now, we're still essentially in a bull market, but I think people will understand why intermediaries are kind of necessary when things go south and the suddenly are now solely responsible for their losses without FDIC insurance or any rule of law to go to for recourse. 

So again, I'm kind of torn because smart contracts, as an example, are a cool application. I just don't know how big the market for these niche use cases is and am extremely skeptical of people who think De-Fi will displace the entire banking system as it currently stands.

Jan 12, 2022 - 2:57pm

Yield is generated as a combo is fees and protocol token issuance. Let's use Curve for an example. If you provide liquidity for a stablecoin pool on pool on Curve, you earn a pro rata share of the pool's fees (more trading against the pool = more fees generated) + you're rewarded with CRV tokens. The yield from fees may only be 1% or less, especially on stables. But with token yield your overall is significantly higher. If you're uncomfortable you can dump the token for stables, but still more with this that only your interest is at risk, not principal. 
 

and you can insure your deposits on a lot of platforms for like < 150 bps per year, and still net double digit yield

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Jan 15, 2022 - 3:54pm

With due respect this is not a charitable take, though I see why you think so. Firstly, there are plenty of ways to perform a $75 crypto transaction for 0.02c fees or whatever on non-ETH blockchains, that specific figure is coming from ETH which is extremely congested. Why is ETH congested, and will it be less so in the future? Yes, because of crypto innovations called Layer 2s, which use certain cryptographic proofs (zero-knowledge proofs) to prevent the fees being high. ETH is a very new technology, and it has many teething problems, just as all revolutionary technology has in the past. A flaw with a current iteration of an idea does not mean the idea is permanently doomed, especially when that flaw is actively being addressed day in day out.

Jan 12, 2022 - 8:23am

Future success of web3, namely NFTs, are always gonna be a tossup. I see it the same way as crypto back in the early 2010s, where people swore it as a scam but now it's huge.

While I could not tell you what the future of NFTs hold, trading volume has 10x since the former part of last year. I've jumped on a few of the "safer" projects (like the Adidas metaverse thing) in hopes for some quick profits.

My opinion? Worth throwing some money you're willing to lose in there, see what sticks and maybe make some profit. However, I can't see myself still doing this and growing a web3 portfolio in say, 2 years from now. I'd just rather fail and lose my money than to have never tried at all and web3 becomes something bigger.

PSU Student. Goes to non-target disregard what he says.
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Jan 12, 2022 - 4:02pm

All just hype created by a16z to pump up their investments in the crypto space... Decentralised system are inherently bad at scaling, there is a reason most things eventually become centralised. Also happening with cryptos, NFTs etc. Just look at the dominance of a few exchanges, wallets... Sure, theoretically you don't need those centralisation nodes, but if you ever want to have something that is remotely close to existing solutions in terms of efficiency and reliability, centralisation will happen eventually. 

Good read here: https://moxie.org/2022/01/07/web3-first-impressions.html. (that guy is the founder of Signal, the encrypted messenger app, so i'd think he definitely has the required technical background)

Main point he makes: We should accept the premise that people will not run their own servers [...]

For example, whether it's running on mobile or the web, a dApp like Autonomous Art or First Derivative needs to interact with the blockchain somehow – in order to modify or render state (the collectively produced work of art, the edit history for it, the NFT derivatives, etc). That's not really possible to do from the client, though, since the blockchain can't live on your mobile device (or in your desktop browser realistically). So the only alternative is to interact with the blockchain via a node that's running remotely on a server somewhere.

A server! But, as we know, people don't want to run their own servers. As it happens, companies have emerged that sell API access to an ethereum node they run as a service, along with providing analytics, enhanced APIs they've built on top of the default ethereum APIs, and access to historical transactions. Which sounds… familiar. At this point, there are basically two companies. Almost all dApps use either Infura or Alchemy in order to interact with the blockchain. In fact, even when you connect a wallet like MetaMask to a dApp, and the dApp interacts with the blockchain via your wallet, MetaMask is just making calls to Infura!

These client APIs are not using anything to verify blockchain state or the authenticity of responses. The results aren't even signed. An app like Autonomous Art says "hey what's the output of this view function on this smart contract," Alchemy or Infura responds with a JSON blob that says "this is the output," and the app renders it.

This was surprising to me. So much work, energy, and time has gone into creating a trustless distributed consensus mechanism, but virtually all clients that wish to access it do so by simply trusting the outputs from these two companies without any further verification. It also doesn't seem like the best privacy situation. Imagine if every time you interacted with a website in Chrome, your request first went to Google before being routed to the destination and back. That's the situation with ethereum today. All write traffic is obviously already public on the blockchain, but these companies also have visibility into almost all read requests from almost all users in almost all dApps.

Partisans of the blockchain might say that it's okay if these types of centralized platforms emerge, because the state itself is available on the blockchain, so if these platforms misbehave clients can simply move elsewhere. However, I would suggest that this is a very simplistic view of the dynamics that make platforms what they are.

Jan 12, 2022 - 5:34pm

i don't know enough to know if i'm bullish or not on defi and crypto in general, but despite arguing with OP above i think everyone on this forum would benefit from immersing themselves in the space for at least a week or two. 

there's a ton of parallels between defi and tradfi in terms of product offering, trading infrastructure, capital flows, etc. i see a lot of synergy between applying tradfi concepts to defi, and bringing a defi way of thinking to our tradfi day jobs. indisputably a lot wealth has been created through the crypto ecosystem, whether on-chain or via platform adjacencies. most of the beneficiaries have either (a) impressive technical backgrounds, or (b) a proven ability to hitch their cart to the right horse (whether a management team, protocol, asset class, etc.). for example, a16z is obviously in bucket (b). most others are lucky apes. not a lot of people have the crossover (i) in-depth understanding of financial theory, whether executed via tradfi or defi platforms, and (ii) a genuine understanding of the web3 / defi ecosystem.

i personally think of a lot of altcoins / 'speculative' tokens as equities. it's the same thing. you get proportional governance (1 share = 1 vote = 1 token) and a proportional claim to cash flows (% of LP [liquidity provider] / protocol / platform revenues). i don't think many people in the crypto space think this way - and rightfully so, because the majority of capital is allocated based on momentum, not fundamentals - but i think there is alpha to be made via such a mindset.

when some altcoin offers 20-100% APY, there's obviously a risk associated with that, but just from qualitatively observing the community the risk oftentimes seems to be mispriced. defi puritarians seem to gloss over that and think 'stable = riskless' - and to their credit, in defi world, staking a stable in e.g. USDC/DAI is as close to a riskfree rate as one is going to get. tradfi folks see the returns and think it must be a rug / scam / otherwise not real. the answer must be somewhere in the middle, and i think there's most likely arb to be had in the risk/reward of a lot of a lot of protocols.

no quantitative backing or mad gainz to back up any of the above, but would be interested in hearing other's thoughts.

Jan 13, 2022 - 10:24pm

I'd like to learn more but idk myself either. In CRE, there used to be talk about how the blockchain would help the titling process. In my very limited understanding of NFTs, it makes sense to me that physical properties would be purchased as NFTs and then running DD checks in the title/survey/zoning processes would be significantly easier going forward. However, digitizing every county's systems into a rolled up regional/national system would take an eternity.

Quant (ˈkwänt) n: An expert, someone who knows more and more about less and less until they know everything about nothing.

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Jan 14, 2022 - 10:23am

Disclaimer: I've been a major beneficiary of blockchain/crypto. I was a relatively early adopter of BTC, having mined my first block back in 2010 when it was nothing more than a curiosity. I was also a very early adopter of LINK. Aside from tokens, I have also invested in early stage startups, including most notably a company that came out of Y Combinator called OpenSea that originally billed itself as "ebay for digital goods," but has capitalized on the recent NFT craze to become a unicorn several times over (when I invested, NFTs were not the "hot" thing that they are today). Despite all that, I must admit to a healthy level of cynicism about the whole industry.

Most of us probably want to live in a world with a more egalitarian internet and equitable society. The so-called crypto/Web3 "enthusiasts/evangelists/people-who've-found-religion" would have you believe that Web3 holds the key to such a utopian ideal, but the thing you have to realize is that once you are able to look past the fancy veneer and the many bells and whistles of Web3, you will (or should) realize that there is really nothing new or even necessary about it, much less to our current way of life.

The fundamental problem is that all of these proposed solutions inherently do not scale except by becoming the very things they intended to replace in the first place. This is not just a flaw, but an actual "feature" of the system. Moreover, the costs associated with censorship-resistant computing are completely uneconomical and blockchain solutions are more expensive to maintain than centralized solutions. Indeed, centralization will always win out purely from its ability to physically serve data over a network to customers more efficiently. The "inconvenient truth" about this industry is that the more scalable something becomes, the more centralized it ultimately becomes, until you end up doing things exactly the same way as you would in the traditional systems you sought to disrupt.

Suppose you wanted to create a "truly decentralized" social media platform because Facebook (or "Meta," or whatever...) is evil. Okay, who is going to pay for the global data centers to serve content to users? Who will ban the child pornography, pedophilia, genocide, human trafficking, and other morally reprehensible content? Who is going to reset your grandmother's password when she forgets how to log in for the umpteenth time? If it isn't obvious by now, what I am getting at is that decentralized systems and running a global business at scale do not mix, as the latter inherently requires centralization by virtue of simply having to co-exist and interact with the rest of society. If you introduce centralized data centers and processes to handle all of the human interactions that are hard to address via decentralization, well then great job! You've just recreated another centralized entity that is the same as the incumbents you sought to disrupt...

At its core, web3 is really nothing more than a PR campaign that is trying to reframe the public's negative associations of crypto into a false narrative about disrupting legacy big tech company's whose size and influence have resulted in certain negative externalities (despite net producing an overwhelming amount of good). It is a misdirection with the aim of selling more tokens while continuing to ride the gravy train of circumventing securities regulation. You can see this in the circular reasoning by which most proponents of the crypto and web3 talk about these phenomena. Crypto and the underlying blockchain "technology" are a solution in search of a problem, but the only true problem to be solved is how they can post-hoc rationalize their own existence. That is not to say that money cannot be made. Indeed, a small number (including yours truly) have made spectacular fortunes seemingly overnight, but I suspect many more will be left holding the bag when all is said and done.

Jan 14, 2022 - 10:54am

Tesla's success forced Ford/GM to build EVs. 

Who are the Teslas in the Crypto world that will force PayPal and Well Fargo to change from wires and ACH to the blockchain? 

“Capitalism: God’s way of determining who is smart and who is poor.” Ron Swanson

Jan 14, 2022 - 2:23pm

DAOs are pretty cool. I'll try to provide a breakdown here. DAOs or, decentralized autonomous organizations, are digital organizations based on the blockchain technology behind Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Anyone can start a DAO. They effectively lower the costs of association (starting a business or nonprofit venture is hard). This results in freeing individuals to create solutions to social problems free from governmental burdens.

How DAOS work in practice: Members own and manage DAOs, each of which are built upon a unique smart contract (programming code). The smart contract functions as a set of "by-laws," a set of rules governing how the DAO operates and how proposed changes to those rules can be made. New members can join by acquiring tokens or purchasing shares. 

How to make a DAO: Developers write code to execute the mission of each DAO. This can be a lending platform, freelancing network, or a venture capital fund. Next, they raise funds by selling tokens or shares in a process similar to the direct public offerings used by for-profit corporations. Or, if nonprofit, they can sell memberships as a way of receiving donations. Once they finish the code and raise the money to execute the mission, the developers are done and the DAO is managed by its members.

It is basically crowdsourcing with less risk of funds misappropriation. For further reading I would suggest: 

DAOs are the foundation of Web3, the creator economy and the future of work

Jan 16, 2022 - 7:46pm

Question on Defi - it provides liquidity. My understanding is that it is easier AND cheaper to swap for ETH to say Sol rather than sell ETH for USD and then purchase SOL with USD. Is that a correct statement? Also the yields that you are getting they are being paid out in the token? Are these tokens essentially being printed resulting in the price of the token to go down eventually? So it may look like you are getting a good yield, but really net net it isn't when you factor in price and volume. Appreciate the write up.    

Jan 16, 2022 - 8:53pm

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