April 17, 2023
If We Aren't Building for Web3 Mass Adoption, What’s the Point?
In crypto’s early days, much of the early work was done by highly skilled cryptographers: expert mathematicians and engineers who were obsessed with figuring out the security models that would prove blockchains could become the trusted ledger for digital transactions that many of us believed so much in.
That work was absolutely essential to proving the validity of blockchains and everything built on them, from cryptocurrencies to NFTs. However, as we enter the next stage of building on blockchains, it’s now worth taking a step back, looking at the progress we’ve made, and asking: What’s the point of it all?
In my last piece, I explored what a “Web3 Hierarchy of Needs” might look like. In that piece, I posit that Web3’s need for “Accessibility” mirrors what Maslow described as the ultimate need for humanity: “Actualization.”
I intentionally chose accessibility as the blockchain’s fullest form of actualization because, to me, this all comes down to a simple question …
If we aren’t building toward a Web3 ecosystem capable of benefiting humanity at scale, then what’s the point of all of this?
That might seem like a question so obvious it’s not even worth asking. Of course we’re building toward adoption! Blockchain architects, developers, and experts talk all the time about the lofty goals we have for putting the world on-chain.
However, I would argue that our actions don’t actually support our lofty talk, particularly when you look at where we invest our time and our money in this space. For as much as we nod to usability, we often get distracted by other factors: disputes over differing protocol structures, web3 ideologies, technical differences, and modular name branding battles, to name just a few.
We have now proven that security and decentralization is achievable — the validator market has shown itself to be a trustworthy method for providing security, which is why major chains, including Ethereum and many others, have moved to the Proof of Stake model.
Now we must now flip the blockchain building model on its head by prioritizing for speed and scalability, not in lieu of security and decentralization, but in addition to it.
A chain or L2 off-chain scaling software that optimizes for absolute security above all other factors is only usable by expert engineers and crypto architects — and after all the money, time and energy present on building the blockchain, anything less than mass adoption would be a disappointment.
How to Actually Reach Mass Adoption
Let’s assume security and decentralization has been achieved. If that’s the case, how do we actually work with the intention of onboarding the majority of the internet’s users onto Web3 technology?
I can think of three key ways:
- Improve user experience.
- Build infrastructure for everybody.
- Invest in speed, efficiency and throughput.
1) Improve User Experience
First, we must improve the user experience in web3 applications and chains, making it easier for users to feel the benefits of the blockchain without it being a distraction, or even worse, a blocker, in their everyday life.
To enable these “invisible” blockchain experiences, developers have to return back to the core application of their product and focus on delivering that value as seamlessly as possible.
That may mean accentuating the presence of blockchains or it may mean downplaying them, just like it may be critical to know what kind of engine you have in your car but maybe less important to know what kind of engine is in your lawnmower — one simply matters more to the user than the other.
We’re seeing a number of relatively seamless and invisible use cases emerge.
Fireside Chat, built on SKALE and cofounded by Mark Cuban and Falon Fatemi, is a platform that connects creators directly to their “super fans” through memberships that are on the blockchain, even if the user doesn’t need blockchain knowledge or a crypto wallet to use them.
2) Build Infrastructure for Everybody
We must recognize what it takes to hold up a network with hundreds of millions of users doing billions of transactions. We must build with that goal in mind, rather than building new chains and scaling technology that has no real chance of supporting a global load of users.
If that seems like too lofty a goal, consider that Web2 companies like Facebook — now Meta — have never shied away from such ambitions.
Look at Meta's mission statement today — “to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together” — and notice the sentence that immediately follows. “Our products empower more than 3 billion people around the world to share ideas, offer support and make a difference.”
Meta/Facebook isn’t shy about its goals. And for those who might say, “Sure, it’s easy for Facebook to talk about its global audience, now that it’s been built.”
However, that vision was set long before it became reality. In 2004, Facebook’s mission was “making the world more open and connected.” And when Mark Zuckerberg took the company public in May 2012, he reiterated that the company’s goal was not to go public but to “make the world more open and connected.”
What does it mean to build for everybody? At a base level, it means cost can’t be a barrier to usage.
That’s part of the reason why SKALE charges zero gas fees and by adding functions that make it easier for non-web3 native users to participate, such as the ability with a specific implementation to play NFT games on the SKALE network without logging into a crypto wallet.
3) Invest in Speed, Efficiency and Throughput
Lastly, we must direct investment toward chains and apps that can process transactions quickly and effectively for large numbers of users at the same time, a necessary condition if we want people to actually use the products we build.
Again, this may seem obvious. And yet, how many times do we see investment and attention go to blockchains that claim a novel tweak to the cryptographic formula, but actually have no chance at supporting a user base of even a few million — much less the kind of scale that can onboard the world?
At this point, the validator market has proven to be safe and secure. Now it’s time to build on the security innovations of the past by investing in chains that have a proven record of being able to ramp up capacity. This is also something we’ve tackled at SKALE, creating unlimited by capacity by using modular architecture to amplify computational stage — whether it’s 100 SKALE Chains processing nearly 40,000 TPS or 1,000 SKALE Chains processing nearly 400,000 TPS.
All That’s at Stake
The original goal of the blockchain wasn't to make marginal change — it was to make a better system and create more value for all.
Our actions should follow accordingly as we onboard the next billion users.