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Lately, there’s been no shortage of talk about the transition to Web3, a new digital frontier powered by blockchain and accessible via decentralized applications (dapps). But while many of the products created thus far are groundbreaking — offering verifiable digital ownership and access to new financial instruments — they still haven’t managed to galvanize mainstream adoption yet.
To reach critical mass, the blockchain industry needs to ensure that platforms and services are easy to use as their current-gen counterparts.
We aren’t there yet
The current landscape of the internet is still very much grounded in Web2 architecture. While users can access a range of services, each requires its own unique username and password and third-party platforms are typically still needed to process payments. While this model has ostensibly worked well enough for the past two decades, it’s been mired by the centralized control of big tech companies, which thrive on selling user data.
In Web3, services will all be interconnected and interoperable. Users will be able to transfer assets and value across virtually any platform. Often, they’ll even own these platforms and, importantly, their data.
Some of the groundwork for this future has already been laid down with the rise of smart contract platforms and, by extension, dapps. But, issues remain.
Take Ethereum, for example; despite its popularity, the network is struggling with some severe limitations. For one, current levels of throughput, around 15 transactions per second, simply aren’t enough to support the type of traffic that worldwide adoption would bring about.
Then there’s the fact that fees have become so prohibitively high that many users can’t afford to transact on the chain, giving rise to elaborate scaling solutions that quite literally add another layer of complexity to the user experience. This puts up a real barrier to entry for a vast majority of the population, particularly those not well-versed in blockchain tech, undermining the notion of “banking the unbanked.” It isn’t a simple matter to scale the network either, evidenced by the fact that Ethereum has been attempting to scale for several years now and still, issues persist.
There are still more hurdles that slow overall adoption as well. Too many entry points are confusing to newcomers and the means of adequately securing assets is similarly complex for most. Combined with the growing concern that cryptocurrency has a negative environmental impact, it’s not hard to understand why so many average users shy away.
What it will take
To overcome the myriad of barriers to entry, these services need to implement improvements that make the space far more attractive to outsiders. For starters, these blockchains need to be able to handle far more transactions than they can right now. It isn’t enough to match legacy payment processors — they need to surpass them. The same goes for delivering web content. The average person doesn’t want to wait longer for their data, even if it is more secure. Future blockchain services need to be able to match or surpass web speeds if they want to attract casual users who don’t care about blockchain inherently.
On that same note, onboarding and user experiences should be seamless and require no understanding of the underlying technology or even knowledge of its existence. We can’t expect the average person to learn all the nuances of blockchain interfaces to unlock the potential here. Web3 has to be as straightforward as Web2 and require as few clicks as possible.
This extends to infrastructure, too — one of which being consumer-friendly wallets. Users need an uncomplicated and secure means of storing their assets and accessing dapps that don’t require advanced skills to operate, long-winded recovery seed phrases to memorize, or private keys to secure.
Lastly, the public needs to be reassured that this technology isn’t killing the planet. Nobody will want to reap the benefits of blockchain if they feel they’re stripping seconds from the Doomsday Clock in doing so. Future services will need to be based upon proof-of-stake (PoS) and go beyond that to ensure they are entirely carbon-negative.
Everything we’ve outlined is essential if Web3 is going to attract average users. Once in place, the opportunities for Web3 are almost limitless.
For example, any physical item could be tokenized as a nonfungible token (NFT) and traded in the same fashion. This would revolutionize how peer-to-peer commerce works, offering a new paradigm in secondary sales and giving rise to a new, virtual commerce market. A system this powerful and accessible could even be leveraged by big businesses for professional record keeping and documentation. Moreover, dapps should be accessible in one click from a secure and universal access point that appeals to both hardcore and casual users.
By making the entire process relatively simple and intuitive, the average user will almost certainly get on board in the same way that people became accustomed to eBay and Amazon. Furthermore, because these new systems will be built on highly efficient blockchains, the entire community can move past the stigma that digital assets are a pox on the environment. With practical and ethical barriers removed, there is a clear path forward for such systems to eventually breed a fully global level of adoption.
Web3 — taking shape
Web3 is starting to take shape, but it isn’t all there yet. What’s missing is a degree of accessibility that currently only exists with Web2 services. This is hardly insurmountable, but work will need to be done to make accessibility and user experience for these platforms as simple and intuitive as possible. Once accomplished, it should open the floodgates to a whole new level of adoption as more and more newcomers begin to appreciate the benefits that this space has to offer. Anything less, and the coming Web3 will likely remain stuck in a conceptual development phase forever.
David Kim is the head of publishing at WAX Studios.
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