In just the last two years, Web3 has been on a rollercoaster ride of fortune. Hailed as the future of the internet as well as the crypto and blockchain spaces all at once, Web3 had a difficult set of expectations to meet even from the beginning. By the summer of 2023, many prominent voices inside and outside of the Web3 space have criticized the project heavily. One popular website, “Web3 is Going Just Great,” purports to keep a running total of all of the scams and fraud in the crypto space with a “Grift Counter.” As of August 2, 2023, the counter totals about $67.8 billion in fraud.
There are many reasons why detractors of Web3 can argue that the project is not yet successful. These range from the fraud above to a widespread decline in venture capital heading toward Web3-focused companies to problems with project utility to wild swings in the crypto market and much more. In such a turbulent world that is dominated by strong personalities and potentially large sums of speculative cash flying around, it’s perhaps to be expected that high-profile feuds and fights will develop. Some may argue that these battles do nothing to help Web3 overcome its many hurdles—and, in fact, that they may exacerbate some of the problems that critics point to.
In this list, we look at the top five most famous feuds in Web3 history.
1. Elon Musk vs. Mark Zuckerberg
Undoubtedly the most high-profile feud in the Web3 (or Web3-adjacent) space is the ongoing tension between Tesla CEO and owner of X (formerly Twitter) Elon Musk and Meta (formerly Facebook) founder Mark Zuckerberg. Musk and Zuckerberg are among the wealthiest people on the planet (Forbes places them at #1 and #7, respectively, as of this writing), and they both have legions of fans as well as scores of detractors. Their fighting also pre-dates the Web3 project by many years.
In the fall of 2016, a $200-million satellite built by Zuckerberg exploded in an pre-launch accident on a rocket for SpaceX, another of Musk’s companies. Zuckerberg pinned the blame on Musk’s company, writing on Facebook at the time that “SpaceX’s launch failure destroyed our satellite.”
Zuckerberg took another shot at Musk the next year, when he commented on artificial intelligence “naysayers” as being “irresponsible.” Though he didn’t mention Musk by name, the billionaire was widely seen as the primary target of Zuckerberg’s comment. Indeed, Musk took to Twitter to respond, calling Zuckerberg’s understanding of artificial intelligence “limited.”
Musk escalated in 2018 when he publicly joined the “Delete Facebook” movement following the company’s political scandal with Cambridge Analytica. Both SpaceX and Tesla deleted their official Facebook pages. He has never reinstated official pages for either company. Musk went on in later years to call Facebook “lame,” urging followers to delete their accounts, and blaming Facebook for the events of January 6th, 2021 in Washington, D.C.
After Musk purchased Twitter in 2022, Zuckerberg seemed to make an attempt to bring the temperature down. The latter executive praised Musk’s early handling of Twitter, saying Musk’s decision to lay off a substantial portion of Twitter’s staff was “probably good for the industry.”
However, any potential calming of the waters did not last long. Twitter advertisers have left the platform in droves since Musk took over leadership, opening up space for rivals to assert dominance. Meta Platforms recently launched Threads, designed as a direct rival to Twitter, and Musk escalated the rhetoric with Zuckerberg. Following the news of Threads’ launch, Musk tweeted “I’m sure Earth can’t wait to be exclusively under Zuck’s thumb.” Musk even floated the idea of a “cage match” between the two; Zuckerberg responded seriously, saying “send me location.” Musk didn’t back down: “Vegas Octagon” was his response. There was even a famous shirtless photo produced as part of the sparring.
This back-and-forth heated up through June of 2023. As of this writing, no public plans for a real cage match have been announced, but neither has there been any apparent ceasefire between the two billionaires.
2. Vitalik Buterin vs. Craig Wright
Craig Wright is a polarizing figure in the crypto world. He’s the self-proclaimed inventor of Bitcoin—developed by a pseudonymous figure or figures known as “Satoshi Nakamoto”—who is known for being particularly litigious. In fact, he launched five separate lawsuits against prominent figures in the cryptocurrency community who all publicly questioned Wright’s claims of creating the most famous crypto of all.
Vitalik Buterin, the founder of Ethereum, was the most high-profile target of Wright’s lawsuits. At Deconomy 2018 in Seoul, South Korea, Buterin asked why a “fraud” was allowed to speak at the conference, referring to Wright. Buterin followed that question up with a public repository of links to materials from cryptocurrency experts supporting the assertion that Wright is not, in fact, Satoshi Nakamoto.
Wright’s lawyers asked Buterin to retract his comments and apologize. When Buterin didn’t meet their request, Wright’s legal team then served a formal writ against Ethereum’s developer in the U.K.
What happened next is somewhat unclear. According to Buterin, Wright allowed the time limit to expire without following up on the lawsuit, and nothing happened. Wright says, though, that Buterin declined to respond to the letter, effectively denying the lawsuit due to discrepancies in libel laws between the U.K. and other parts of the world.
The feud has continued more recently as well, as Wright has sought to codify his legal status as Satoshi and Buterin has continued to lash out, calling Wright a “not very intellectual” person, among other comments.
3. Roger Ver vs. Everyone
Roger Ver is sometimes referred to as “Bitcoin Jesus” for his early and outspoken support of the nascent cryptocurrency. However, in more recent years he has become a target of enmity from many in the crypto world. A primary reason for this is Ver’s shifting beliefs about bitcoin, which have led to some strong and potentially misleading statements, among other provocations.
Ver’s view of bitcoin shifted after the early days of the coin. He came to see Bitcoin Cash, forked from the original bitcoin, as a token that adhered more closely to the original vision of the cryptocurrency. Fundamentally, Ver would like the bitcoin blocksize to be increased immediately in order to reduce transaction fees. This view has led Ver to voice his support for several other crypto tokens in addition to or before his support for Bitcoin Cash. The “Bitcoin Jesus” has advocated for Bitcoin XT, Bitcoin Classic, and Bitcoin Unlimited at various times, among other tokens. Ver’s detractors claim that he makes misleading statements about these coins.
Ver has also complained about what he views as excessive censorship on the /r/bitcoin subreddit. Additionally, he owns the website bitcoin.com, which some critics have said pushes “propaganda” for Ver’s own pet projects and goals. But perhaps the biggest reason of all why many in the crypto space dislike Ver is that he has allegedly defaulted on multiple loans, including to the crypto broker Genesis and trading platform CoinFLEX. Even Craig Wright has pursued legal action against Ver.
4. Justin Sun vs. Ethereum Community
Justin Sun is the founder of the TRON Network, a blockchain that can run smart contracts. He is known for pushing the initial coin offering of Tron’s crypto token, TRX, in China just days before the Chinese government banned ICOs, and then for having left the country. Some have speculated that Sun was aware the ban was coming and went ahead with the ICO anyway, despite knowing that it might be harmful to early adopters of the new token. Sun has also been accused of insider trading and market making activities.
Sun’s business tactics may be catching up with him—in March of 2023 the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said it was charging Sun and his companies for fraud and securities law violations.
Besides his activities surrounding his own companies and crypto tokens, Sun has drawn the ire of members of the Ethereum community as well. Sun has reportedly redeemed tens of millions of dollars worth of staked Ether from the liquid staking platform Lido. He is the largest holder of staked Ether, with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of tokens accounted for. Still, redeeming even a portion of those tokens could send the price of staked Ether away from the price of Ether, causing trouble for investors in both areas.