Unless we nail the user experience.
Somewhere, someone is complaining about Facebook. Someone else is complaining about Google or Twitter or any number of platforms that monetize user data. Those people are exactly who should be interested in decentralized applications that allow for true user-owned data.
Those people are exactly who ARE NOT using decentralized applications now.
This is the problem we face in the decentralized (Web 3.0) ecosystem. The early adopters are those already in the community. That, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. But the Web 3.0 movement isn’t as early as many people want you to believe. There are enough protocols and enough platforms for user-ready, enterprise-level, production-worthy applications to be thriving. Are there things yet to be built? Yes. Are there limits to what can be done with the existing technology. Yes. But that doesn’t mean the applications currently being built should not be driving user adoption at a higher rate.
There are a plethora of reasons why usage of decentralized apps is growing slowly, but the primary reason is the user experience. Most decentralized apps require you to log in through some additional web layer which is still foreign to most internet users.
Metamask requires a browser extension which is far from intuitive to non-power users.
Toshi only runs as a mobile app.
Both Toshi and Metamask require funding in order to use most (if not all) decentralized apps. That’s a barrier to entry that is always going to be too high for widespread adoption.
Blockstack, on the other hand, has a simple authentication mechanism that replicates the traditional web’s user experience most closely. Sign into an app, create an ID or use your existing ID, and that’s it. It’s very similar to the traditional web’s oAuth flow. Graphite uses Blockstack because the user experience is light years ahead of any other decentralized application protocol/platform.
So far, we’ve just talked about authentication. But there’s more. There’s the actual use of a decentralized application.
Why does someone use a decentralized application, outside of the novelty of it? From our experience at Graphite, there are a few reasons:
Those people, though, are going to make the jump to something that suits their needs even if the user experience isn’t great. The question is, how do decentralized apps attract the remaining 95% of the app user population?
First, decentralized applications need to stop trying to replicate everything traditional apps have done. Take Graphite, for example. Graphite is a decentralized and encrypted alternative to Google’s G-Suite, but we’ve worked hard not to look and feel and operate exactly like G-Suite. Simple things like tags instead of folders, real-time search, and integrations with other apps are laying the foundation to a better user experience than the one Google provides.
Second, decentralized applications need to enable new ways of conducting ourselves online. I’m not sure what that looks like yet, but I’m convinced it’s possible. Once someone finds a way to let users solve a problem that is entirely unsolvable with a traditional app, that is what will open the gates to mass adoption. But here’s the caveat: It has to be simple and it has to be a big enough problem. Many people will say that the simple fact that people can transact directly is the differentiator that will drive decentralized app adoption. But that’s just not true. Most people would prefer to use Venmo (a very anti-privacy p2p payment system) over any cryptocurrency. So, let cryptocurrencies figure out the solution to that while decentralized, non-financial-based, applications figure out what the larger, worldwide pain points are. Going back to the statement earlier about Web 3.0 not being as early as many like to say, this is the area where those people are right. Solutions, not protocols, are early. Developers and entrepreneurs are still working to figure out what problems can be solved now that simply couldn’t be solved before.
The bottom line is that any application built on top of Web 3.0 needs to work harder at not just matching the user experience of the traditional web but improving upon it. Graphite is not there yet, but we’re working hard on it. Try us out, give us feedback, and let’s try to make the new web better than the old web.