The difference now, of course, is that no one needs to be convinced that crypto is a good business. It’s already a trillion-dollar industry that has spawned dozens of huge companies, created dynastic wealth for early adopters, and attracted many of the best and brightest minds in Silicon Valley.

And when I looked beyond the decadence in New York, I could see strands of Web3 starting to weave themselves into things real people might want.

On Monday night, for example, I went to Greenpoint, Brooklyn, to attend a party thrown by Friends With Benefits, a new kind of leaderless crypto-club known as a “decentralized autonomous organization,” or DAO. Right now, DAOs — which have been described as “group chats with bank accounts” — are mostly an experimental plaything. But optimists think they could one day be a way that businesses and communities organize themselves.

Instead of selling normal tickets to the party — which featured a performance by the Russian punk-protest group Pussy Riot — Friends With Benefits required attendees to scan their crypto wallets at the door. If you owned at least five $FWB — the group’s membership tokens, which cost about $140 apiece as of party time — you got in. Bringing a plus-one required having 75 $FWB, or about $10,000. (There was a way to skip the line altogether: win an auction for the party’s official NFT, although that ended up selling for more than $50,000, making it a poor choice for the budget-conscious raver.)

All of this velvet-rope exclusivity might seem at odds with the claims of crypto enthusiasts that Web3 is a democratizing force that will expand access to financial services, level the playing field and get rid of legacy middlemen. And I did wonder, at times, if the Web3 kids were trying to tear down the old social hierarchy, only to replace it with a new, tokenized one where they were on top.

But the arrangement seemed to work for everyone — at least until around midnight, when the venue filled up and the $FWB token holders stuck on the sidewalk could no longer get in.

“I paid $600 to go to this party,” a man in line grumbled. “Oh well, at least the token might go up.”

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