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Tag: decentralized apps

We Need Web2 User Experience To Get Us to Web3, Not Blockchain Protocols

To unleash blockchain’s creativity, awkwardness and quirks in the Web3 user experience must be fixed.

There is a joke in tech circles that “if the user experience is bad, it must be Web3.”

While the focus on incorporating blockchain technology is a priority, there is a growing concern that, in the pursuit of this innovation, valuable lessons learned from Web2 in terms of user interface (UI) design are being overlooked. This oversight is hindering the broader adoption of this new technology. 

Web3 should embrace proven user experience (UX) practices from Web2 rather than reinvent the wheel, ensuring a more familiar and user-friendly transition into the next phase of the internet. If they don’t, they risk alienating mainstream consumers and creating products accessible only to a small, tech-savvy niche of crypto natives.

Years have been spent painstakingly creating fluid and understandable user interfaces for Web2 and mobile applications. It has been demonstrated that clarity and simplicity deliver engaging and productive user experiences. These principles have resulted in billions of users flocking to social media platforms, content destinations, travel services, streaming venues, and e-commerce giants. 

The allure of Web3 espouses a radical departure from the norms of established Web paradigms. However, the shift to blockchain technology, decentralization, and cryptographic ownership should not come at the expense of user experience. 

Here are three reasons why Web3 needs more Web2:

  • The average user prioritizes usability over blockchain technology. Complex onboarding processes, jargon-filled interfaces, and lack of intuitive navigation hinder adoption and alienate them.
  • Familiarity with Web2 interfaces fosters trust and engagement, enhancing comfort and security for users entering the Web3 space, promoting further exploration and engagement.
  • Simplicity and clarity are key for promoting accessibility to a wider audience. Web3’s decentralized nature is innovative, but its user interface doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel. 

Amidst the majority of Web3 apps that have no chance of gaining mainstream adoption, there is a new generation of apps that are not so smitten by Web3 geekiness and prioritize Web2 ease of use instead. Here is a sample.

In the dining category, Blackbird looks like a restaurant loyalty app to the user. Somewhere in its technology structure, blockchain magic enables unique, non-transferable badges (NFT-based) that users earn as a visit counter. There is also a private cryptocurrency akin to airline miles that can be exchanged for restaurant perks, all with very little transaction friction.

In decentralized finance (DeFi) where apps tilt on crypto nerdiness, Prime is a cross-chain prime brokerage service that lets users deposit, borrow, repay, and withdraw cryptocurrency across 8 different chains seamlessly. This sounds like a boring trait in traditional finance because currency fluidity is taken for granted (though at the cost of a lot of inner friction). In the blockchain world, Prime represents an advanced level of tucking-in interoperability across blockchains while hiding it from the user. 

In social media, Warpcast looks almost exactly like Twitter (now known as X), but behind the scenes lies a social network protocol with a few web3 features such as blockchain-based identity, encrypted authentication, and decentralized data that the casual user need not worry about unless they want to. The initial experience is very mainstream Web2, while the platform gently surfaces Web3 snippets. 

In the sports fantasy world, Silks lets you take ownership of a jockey, a horse, and land for your stables. The most interesting aspect is a synthetic 1:1 linkage from your fantasy (NFT) horse to a real one that could be racing at the Kentucky Derby, Belmont Stakes, or other known races. No one else owns that relationship. You can follow the real horse’s activity via a virtual stable dashboard on Equibase. When the horse wins, your account is credited 1% of earnings, automatically deposited in your (crypto) wallet. 

In messaging, Converse is a simple messaging application with embedded wallets. Users create any number of accounts, and a crypto wallet automagically appears, enabling you to send/receive cryptocurrency or even collect event tickets. Converse flipped the traditional crypto wallet model by embedding it inside a messaging app, elegantly and without obfuscation. 

In the money transmission field, several new apps are vying to replicate Venmo’s popularity with a fresh approach. Among them are Beans, Code, and Sling. Even Coinbase has entered the fray with the simple thought of generating a special link that can be shared across messaging apps to enable stablecoin transfers. 

What is common to all these lighthouse examples is a voluntary design goal to not force the user to geek out on Web3 from the first encounter. Rather, Web3 is hidden and appears at the right moment, allowing the user to get their feet wet before deciding to venture further. 

Blockchain purists might disagree with this approach by stating that everything must be decentralized from the get-go. They argue that, if you sign on with Google credentials, for example, you’re defeating the purpose of decentralization.

However, the counterargument is grounded in user experience best practices: let users take Web3 in incremental doses. Small, familiar ones first, bigger ones later.

If we want early adopters to invite their friends into Web3, we need to let them ease themselves into it by tucking crypto features under a Web2 veneer. You don’t typically get too many first chances. 

By prioritizing user-centric design, Web3 can truly revolutionize the internet experience, making it more accessible and intuitive for everyone.

In the long run, the popular blockchain protocols that we know today will be little more than stepping stones for developers. They are not legitimate consumer on-ramps. The true on-ramps will be user-friendly apps that will bring in millions of users.

A version of this post was publised in Fortune Crypto, These Web3 companies are embracing Web2 principles to reach users more interested in restaurant rewards than blockchains.

What Incentives Will Push Users to Move to Decentralized Applications?

In light of Elizabeth Warren’s proposal for breaking-up the big US Tech companies such as Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple, some potential beneficiaries are already rejoicing at the prospects of a break-up, while others are betting on the fact that new startups that are based on decentralized business models will eventually usurp them by virtue of new user acquisitions.

However, we shouldn’t rush to believe that it will be so easy for these potential beneficiaries to expect users to fall into their lap, just because they will be based on decentralized models.

Of course, centrally-run systems could become unfair, corrupt, untrustworthy, evil, abusive, inefficient, expensive, or eventually plain useless. And there are plenty of examples to go around for each of these cases, and you would think that these bad practices would be enough to move users away from them.

Although I believe that one of the best value propositions the blockchain has for itself today, is to become an enabler for all these decentralization-focused business models, I’m not sure that it is going to be enough to move users to these systems, away from the centralized incumbents, just because the data is decentralized or not owned by the operator.

We can’t just say – let’s have a decentralized twitter, decentralized facebook, decentralized messaging, etc. just because it’s decentralized, and expect users to flock to these new applications. The incentive must be stronger for users to care about moving. There is a psychology of change that is prevailing here, and it goes like this: People are risk-averse in the domain of gains, and they are risk-seeking in the domain of losses.

As I covered this point in my previous talk Unpacking Decentralized Governance in the Blockchain Era, this means that- you aren’t going to move users or people to try something new if they are currently happy with what they are using, and you just tell them it is “better”. But if someone is currently experiencing a loss, a pain, a defect, a deprivation, or something negative, and you come in and propose to them a solution that stops these pains or losses, the motivation to move are much greater and they would gladly do it.

So, I think there will be two ways that users will move to these new systems:

  1. Via catastrophes that result in data loss, thefts, breaches, etc from the central players that lead to real financial and harm-type of losses for users, and that will push users to move to these new systems.
  2. By introducing new features and benefits that are not available from incumbents so that new users will be drawn to them for those uniqueness, and not from a “better me-too”.


Finally, we should keep in mind that all of these central players will have more than one trick up their sleeves, and if the tide moves completely to decentralized data, they could become two-faced about it, just like Mark Zuckerberg just did for privacy, and they will declare they are all for decentralized data as well.

How these new decentralized players emerge, and how they compete against centralized players is a very interesting development that will start to unravel in the coming months and years.

We plan on covering that topic at the next Token Summit in New York on May 16th where we will have a specific discussion with some of the new players that are leading this new paradigm shift.

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The Ultimate List of Bitcoin and Blockchain White Papers

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Want to (really) understand Bitcoin and the blockchain? Read these 30 White Papers.

Bitcoin and the blockchain are fascinating developments that are capturing the imagination of developers, entrepreneurs, investors, governments and consumers. But it’s still made-up of complex pieces.

You can be a passive or active actor in Bitcoin’s future. If you want to be passive, just wait til it develops further. But if you want to be an active actor, you need to understand as many of these pieces as possible, because each one of you is a potential developer, investor, inventor, creator or innovator in the crypto-based ecosystem that is dominated by Bitcoin and its blockchain technology.

In established markets, you need develop new products to gain market attention, and sometimes you do start with a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), and evolve from there. But when the field is uncharted, and the market is undefined, innovation needs to be manufactured by multiple visionaries. So, these visionaries write a White Paper first, (as a sort of MVP) where they describe their vision, and get feedback. Then, they embark on delivering a product later. That’s almost exactly what all Bitcoin and blockchain technology companies have done, including the original creator of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto.

I’ve been a student of Bitcoin and blockchain technologies for the past 18 months, and still read a fair share of content about it on an on-going basis, in addition to regularly interacting with some of the key innovators that are leading its development and deployment. I can’t emphasize enough that my understanding has deepened the more I read (and often re-read) several of the seminal white papers that pepper this space.

So I’ve compiled a list of the foundational papers and resources that are serving as the basis for the innovation that’s taking place in this segment. Behind each one of these papers, there is either a protocol, an idea, a platform, a product, a service, a marketplace or a dream.

Most of the Protocol related papers require a degree of technical knowledge if you’d like to fully understand them, but you don’t need to be a software developer in order to at least capture some partial understanding. The three categories are presented in descending order of technical content difficulty, so if you’d like to start less technical, start from the bottom of the list.

The Protocols

Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System (Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoin’s inventor) This is the key paper that started the whole crypto revolution. Even if you only understand 10% of it, you’ve got to read it. It’s like a rite of passage, and it will give you a context for what has happened since this paper was published in 2008.

A Next Generation Smart Contract & Decentralized Application Platform (Vitalik Buterin, Ethereum’s creator) Arguably, this might be the second most important paper, after Nakamoto’s. Unsatisfied with the original Bitcoin premise, Vitalik Buterin set the bar higher on what cryptography can do to computer science and decentralized applications, and he painted a compelling vision in this seminal paper. Think of Ethereum as a new computing environment with its own stack that’s been optimized for decentralized apps, and you’ll appreciate the future significance of this paper.

Enabling Blockchain Innovations with Pegged Sidechains (Blockstream team) There are high expectations around sidechains, another key concept that’s supposed to drive innovation around the Bitcoin blockchain, without disturbing its core principles. This paper was authored by nine notable authors and proposes a solution that enables bitcoins and other ledger assets to be transferred between multiple blockchains. Also, see this “Simple Explanation of Bitcoin Sidechains for a less technical interpretation to the same paper.

Ethereum: A Secure Decentralized Generalized Transaction Ledger (Gavin Wood, Ethereum’s co-founder) A technical paper that takes deeper dives at describing how Ethereum will build and deliver their technology.

The Counterparty Platform (Counterparty) Counterparty is a platform that’s focused on the financial aspects of a peer-to-peer financial platform that extends Bitcoin’s functionality.

Mastercoin (Mastercoin) Mastercoin is a protocol layer on top of the Bitcoin network that enables anyone to build their own currency.

Ripple (Ripple Labs) Ripple is a payment protocol that supports fiat and cryptocurrency, and allows transactions to be settled without the need for a centralized clearing house.

NXT (NXT) NXT is attempting to build an ecosystem based on its own blockchain, and focused on trustless financial transactions. It includes its own (computing) client and online wallets.

Tendermint (Jae Kwon) Tendermint is a decentralized  consensus engine that runs on its own blockchain.

Pebble (Pebble) Pebble is an open source project to launch a  decentralized cryptocurrency that can support economies for microtransactions and up.

Permacoin: Repurposing Bitcoin Work for Data Preservation (Miller, Juels, Shi, Parno, Katz) A proposal that repurposes Bitcoin mining resources to achieve distributed storage of archival data.

Colored Coins: here are 2 papers to understand this concept, Overview of Colored Coins (Meni Rosenfeld, 2012), and this one.

Decentralized Apps and Middlelayers (sometimes including an underlying protocol)

Assembly Coins Whitepaper (Andrew Barisser)

Codius Architecture (Codius)

La’Zooz open source collaborative transportation ecosystem (La’Zooz)

Stellar (Stellar)

Factom Project  (Factom)

Making Sense of the Whole Thing

The Blockchain Application Stack (Joel Monegro)

The General Theory of Decentralized Applications, DApps (David Johnston)

The Value of App Coins (David Johnston)

The dawn of trustworthy computing (Nick Szabo)

The Second Wave of Blockchain Innovation (Joel Dietz)

An architecture for the Internet of Money (Meher Roy) Crowdsale Best Practices (David Johnston)

Some Interesting Add-Ons

A Note on Cryptocurrency Stabilisation: Seigniorage Shares (Robert Sams)

Bitmarkets: Private decentralized marketplaces (Bitmarkets)

The Decerver and Thelonious (Eris Industries)

And to end this list, two books. The Anatomy of a Money-Like Informational Commodity: A Study of Bitcoin, by Tim Swanson. And the much anticipated book authored by Andreas Antonopoulos, due to be released on December 27, 2014. It is oriented for the technical reader, but some of its chapters are approachable for business readers: Mastering Bitcoin: Unlocking Digital Cryptocurrencies (Andreas Antonopoulos). Here’s a free excerpt from Chapter 1.

One more thing. If you’d like to track Bitcoin developments on an on-going basis, you can also follow my Bitcoin collection on Feedly. It includes 55 sources that regularly cover this topic, and it is already being followed by about 4,300 users. Just “add” the collection to your Feedly account with one-click, and it’s yours.

I will continue updating this page with new essentials, as they get published.

Happy reading. The holidays are around the corner!

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