Steve Jobs (AAPL) was a legendary technologist who may have been better at words than he would have been with design. He recognized that “every once in a while, a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything.” From the printing press to the telegram to the iPhone – these products not only changed entire industries, but they also changed the world and the way we interact with it.
Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone in 2007 and highlighted its unique user interface. It replaced the traditional smartphone keyboard with an expansive multi-touch screen. This breakthrough product decision set a new standard in consumer hardware and enabled other innovations. Without the iPhone, there would likely be no Snapchat and WhatsApp.
Web 3 is a hot topic today. Its unique technology, smart contracts that are composed of immutable code on the blockchain and data on the Blockchain, is intended to remove the need for middlemen in financial services to allow creators to retain ownership. Similar to the iPhone’s trajectory, enthusiasts posit that smart contracts innovation will create new and improved industries and behaviors.
Smart contracts can be used to create products that are similar to the iPhone’s early smartphones. They are far from decentralization, highly technical, and have discordant user interfaces.
The first step is to find the right wallet that supports the particular blockchain you are interested in using.
The second step is to write down your 12 to 24-word seed phrase (password), and keep it safe. Then you must on-ramp fiat currency into cryptocurrency – mind the regulatory gaps, depending on your domicile.
It is possible to succeed or fail. If you don’t give up you have to learn about gas fees, swaps, slippage, bridges and other concepts to buy or trade tokens. It is a fact that people have grown accustomed to frictionless, beautifully designed products. The majority will give up.
Web 3 products aren’t smart or easy to use. The Web 3 products will not become widely adopted unless the builders think differently and design with consumers in mind.
Here I expect Web 3 enthusiasts to highlight upcoming technical updates that will simplify and make it cheaper. I’m optimistic, but those updates remain in progress. Builders should reconsider three important things: language and custody, as well as utility.
Rethink your language: The crypto to-Web 3 rebrand made a huge impact on how we talk and think about Ethereum innovation. The language used by builders is not easily understood by most people. What is composable? Permissionless? Trustless? These terms sound much more complicated than they really are. One of my favorite crypto wallets, a considerably consumer-friendly one, labels Polygon as a “sidechain with its own consensus mechanisms.” This means nothing to the everyday person without a deep knowledge of Ethereum networks. This language is actually hostile and difficult to understand. To avoid discouraging curious newcomers, we must change the way that we talk about Web 3 products.
Rethink custody: 75% of respondents to a 2019 Google survey expressed frustration in keeping track of their passwords these are more basic. Web 3 asks people to remember and secure 12 random words that makeup seed phrases. Short-term, builders need to find creative custodial options that allow consumers to adapt and gradually change their behavior. Pool suite, an online leisure organization, introduced membership non-fungible tokens last year. It also offers mobile wallet integration. iPhone users can add their Poolsuite non-fungible tokens (NFT) to their Apple Wallet to unlock future experiences. This shows Web 3’s ability to meet people right where they are while working towards a decentralized tomorrow.
Rethink utility. Several Web 3 protocols have been introduced that mimic existing features and platforms. Why? We don’t really need another Twitter, skeuomorphic wallet, or Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT derivative. Builders should instead use the latest technologies available to create new experiences. We’ve just begun to scratch the surface of generative artificial intelligence (AI) NFTs for storytelling and identity, the bridge between online and physical goods, and tokenized economies. How these ideas manifest will depend on builders pushing the limit of what’s possible with both software and hardware.
You could argue that friction can be good for innovation. However, there’s entirely too much friction in Web 3 today and it’s detrimental to widespread adoption. Ultimately, Web 3 should feel like an iPhone – an intuitive and essential part of life. Changes in how we communicate, how people hold and use products, and Web 3’s realized value will make this reality possible.