By Jimmy Zhong, CEO of IOST, the application-friendly, next generation public blockchain infrastructure, helping decentralized app developers overcome some of the most challenging problems with mass adoption.
Since its inception, advocates of blockchain technology have been working towards mainstream adoption. In the past year, many have weighed in on how and when this may occur, but most have agreed that enterprises and consumers face significant barriers when it comes to incorporating this technology into their operations and their daily lives.
While many projects race to build the infrastructure that may one day serve as the basis for exponential mainstream adoption, the power of supporting real, functioning, decentralized apps, also known as DApps, for users to engage with is often overlooked. It is entirely possible that a breakthrough in mainstream adoption across industries such as banking and financial markets, gaming, and healthcare will not be awarded to the project with the best technology.
Indeed, a breakthrough in mainstream adoption will depend heavily on the usability and popularity of the applications themselves.
In its current state, access to the cryptocurrency and blockchain industry is largely limited. Users can only own cryptocurrencies by mining or purchasing their cryptocurrency of choice on an exchange – activities that require a fair amount of technical and background knowledge, ranging from knowledge of computer science to complex KYC and trading processes. Unless the industry opens up a better dialogue with the users it is trying to target, adoption rates will stagnate.
To prevent a standstill, the industry could take a leaf out of AOL’s book in the early internet era, when the company started distributing free CDs, packaged attractively with content, through door-to-door mailing. This made it easier and more appealing for everyday people who hadn’t used online services to trial AOL’s offering.
In the same vein, the best approach to encouraging the adoption of blockchain technology may be to promote this level of inclusiveness and lower the barriers to entry, giving people easy access to participate in industry growth in meaningful ways. At this point in time, users need a Mail app to send and receive emails, not a smtp or POP3 protocol. The industry must build applications for users wherein the use of cryptocurrency makes sense and benefits them, something that IOST is focusing on.
There are several applications that are making strides when it comes to giving users easy access to cryptocurrency. Existing DApps such as Bermi, a social network that rewards users for creating and engaging with short videos, ActiFit, which enables users to earn from their everyday movements and exercise, and Ethlend, a peer-to-peer lending platform, possess low barriers to entry and allow users to familiarize themselves with earning and spending cryptocurrencies to engage with the DApps’ purpose.
This in turn gradually embeds the idea of smart contracts into the user experience, making users actually adopt the infrastructure of blockchain.
While the uptake of DApps will span many industries and use cases, gaming is the current poster child for the adoption of smart contract technology. Tokenizing real-world assets such as art and real estate comes with the cost and inconvenience of auditing and custodial solutions, and since the majority of business logic in gaming is already coded online, blockchain adoption is made easy and human interaction is unnecessary.
In this way, token rewards can be easily distributed to gamers in a more transparent manner. When it comes to other major industries, particularly banking and financial markets, healthcare, entertainment, and general enterprise, promising use cases are coming to the fore through DApp development, but adoption is proving far more challenging.
Projects such as Rate3, an identity management platform, Aragon, a digital business register, and Brave, a fast and private browser, are certainly advancing their respective industry applications. However, to date, disruption through DApps has been difficult to get off the ground, as much of the capital has been raised by larger blockchain infrastructures.
To take the industry to its next stage of growth, and toward mainstream acceptance and mass use, larger projects have a duty to work with funding partners to allocate resources to promising individual DApps. Incubators and accelerators like Bluehill can help to support developers of DApps and provide the tools needed to launch valuable applications for consumers and enterprises.
Modelling after its success in launching DApp projects in network security, payment processing, and content distribution, other VCs and incubators should give more attention to helping DApp developers build real-world applications. Only then will we see more industries beyond gaming move to blockchain.
As the blockchain industry remains optimistic about a future where this technology permeates almost every aspect of our lives, it is now critical for influential players to set their sights on demonstrating the tangible benefits and value that DApps can offer. If not, we risk blockchain pursued for the sake of blockchain.