If there’s any one metric which indicates an app’s success, it’s how many people are using it - but dApp user numbers aren’t stacking up.
Decentralized applications, or dApps, run on blockchain technology and offer benefits to security, better service up-time, increased data protection, and facilitate peer-to-peer transactions.
Stateofthedapps.com, a service which tracks dApp use on a daily basis, shows that some of the largest web 3.0 applications, like Steemit or Cosmochain, typically have around 3,000 – 5,000 users per day. Compare this to some 30 million visitors to YouTube each day or the 150 million active subscribers to Netflix, and it’s plain to see that dApps are lagging behind.
Regardless, we can cut web 3.0 some slack. A still nascent industry, blockchain and dApps are for the most part still establishing their place in the world. Making this process all the more difficult is the huge task of attracting new customers with no prior knowledge of blockchain technology – but current onboarding procedures don’t reflect this need. Why is it so hard to bring users into the world of web 3.0?
Web 3.0 access? There’s an app for that.
Want to access the latest dApps? Chances are, you’ll need an app for that. At present, downloading other apps to access web 3.0 infrastructure is one of the best available routes for new users to access blockchain based dApps. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this approach, and some great apps have surfaced to provide access to web 3.0 applications.
Metamask, for example, is a browser-based plugin which acts as a bridge for Ethereum native dApps to run inside Chrome and Firefox browsers. Similarly, Trust Wallet includes a built in web 3.0 browser which allows direct access to dApps, and custodial solutions such as MyEtherWallet are providing simple client-side interfaces to tie web 3.0 services together.
These solutions provide easy-to-action services to those who are already familiar with blockchain technology. However, for new users joining the space, these apps all represent a steep learning curve through completely alien territory – when all the average user wants to do is use an app straight out of the box.
Just as many Android app users don’t have intimate (or any) knowledge of Kotlin or Java programming languages, the future users of web 3.0 applications don’t necessarily need to be blockchain experts. Instead, users simply need to appreciate that it’s a more secure experience than web 2.0 applications. So, how do web 3.0 developers make it easier to onboard new users?
The attention economy and its effect on web 3.0
- This man is clearly exasperated - he's probably trying to access web 3.0 in its current form.
The situation is far more problematic than simply being a hassle for new users to access web 3.0. It’s actually significantly hampering meaningful adoption of blockchain dApps.
Let’s examine similar pain-points in another digital industry. In e-commerce, the holy grail of the completed checkout is fraught with difficulty throughout the user journey. Software usability researchers, the Nielsen Norman Group (NNG), found that users who simply want to buy an item and leave the site are highly likely to quit their purchase when presented with a login wall, asked to fill out too many details, or bombarded with light-boxes.
Why? Because as users, we have frighteningly short attention spans. The NNG term this ‘the attention economy’, where attention is a limited resource which UX designers and developers must fight for a share of. Thinking back to the various hurdles involved in interacting with web 3.0 in its current form, it’s easy to see how attention and a user’s willingness to persevere with the onboarding process becomes a bottleneck for dApp use.
The majority of web 2.0 applications have developed easy ways for users to sign up and login. Many sites now feature third-party integrations with the likes of Facebook and Google accounts, providing one-click access and demanding negligible attention from their users – a stark contrast to the current state of dApps.
In theory, the remedy for this is simple – make web 3.0 easier to access. But in practice, delivering an easier onboarding experience while staying in keeping with the self-sovereign tenets of blockchain technology is a difficult task. Instead, a solution is required which provides adequate safety guarantees, while also providing the familiarity of a web 2.0 environment.
The FunFair Wallet
- There's a web3 dApp powering this game - but it looks the same as any online casino interface.
As veterans of the blockchain space and one of the most recognizable web 3.0 projects, FunFair Technologies are at the forefront of the onboarding dilemma. Unlike a majority of blockchain projects, FunFair’s online casino gaming solutions, which provide provably fair gambling, are ready to deploy. But by their own admission, the onboarding process has been more difficult than they anticipated.
- Users can export their wallet like a traditional blockchain wallet, but this isn't required to access FunFair powered games.
In a recent interview with BlockTV, FunFair founder and CEO Jez San explained that this “high-friction onboarding problem is something most blockchain projects won’t discover until they actually launch.” FunFair launched the first use-case of their technology with proof of concept CasinoFair, though soon found that leading users through the complex on-boarding process required for a web 3.0 environment was preventing adoption. FunFair instead discovered that in keeping with on-boarding in other industries, the average new user stops their on-boarding experience at the first hurdle.
Not willing to wait for the wider web 3.0 community to recognize and build solutions to this issue, FunFair set about building their own wallet. The FunFair Wallet is a non-custodial solution which enables web 3.0 applications to run inside a normal web browser, such as Chrome or Firefox. Operating inside an inline frame, or ‘iFrame’, a HTML element embedded inside another HTML element on a web-page; the FunFair Wallet enables access to the FunFair web 3.0 app for both mobile and desktop users.
Instead of delving into blockchain addresses, private keys, and custodial wallets, the FunFair Wallet allows the average user access to web 3.0 apps by simply signing up for an account with their email and password, just like familiar web 2.0 apps. In contrast to current solutions, the FunFair Wallet doesn’t require downloads, plugins or installs. Similarly, it generates private keys for users locally inside the browser window and never takes custody of user funds.
Explaining the FunFair Wallet in a recent blog post, San remarked:
“Our short term goal is to work with the new FunFair Wallet in a controlled environment. Initially, it will support just FUN and ETH and only work with FunFair-powered sites. We’ll learn from our users’ experience and tweak the wallet to do whatever we can to reduce friction and improve usability.”
The actual process FunFair have deployed to sign up and login to the FunFair Wallet is completely unremarkable – and that’s a good thing. Regardless of the complex blockchain technology ticking away under the hood, accessing FunFair-powered sites is now as easy as creating a Google or Facebook account. It’s the unremarkable nature of the FunFair Wallet sign up process which makes it the perfect example of how easy it needs to be to access web 3.0 applications.
It’s time to solve web 3.0 on-boarding limbo
As tech and blockchain enthusiasts, we’ve become accustomed to the steps we have to take to access web 3.0 services, but the decentralized economy won’t thrive with enthusiasts alone. It requires mass adoption. Therefore, the first solutions which crack the code of delivering a web 2.0 experience for web 3.0 apps will be instrumental in leading a revolution in blockchain user on-boarding.
Decentralized application developers and others in the blockchain space can stand to learn valuable lessons from other web 3.0 pioneers, such as FunFair, who have demonstrable experience at the bleeding-edge of user adoption. Projects like FunFair have learnt first-hand that exposing end users to the complexity of blockchain technology is not the key to on-boarding – simplicity is.
Naturally, some blockchain-maximalists may not welcome an approach which makes participation in web 3.0 as easy as web 2.0 applications. It is, after all, a departure from the original vision of decentralization which places great emphasis on self-sovereignty of assets and fund control.
Nevertheless, without these solutions, it’s likely that web 3.0 apps will persist in a state of permanent limbo, becoming stagnant and unable to attract new users – users who, in the future, may take a keen interest in blockchain and help further our industry.
Disclaimer - Elliot Hill is a blockchain and cryptocurrency writer from the United Kingdom. Although he holds digital assets from several projects, he has no vested interests in any project mentioned in this article.