Nobody really knows how decentralized app growth will pan out in the future. I think the future of decentralized web (or DWeb) is neither certain, nor somehow predetermined by the qualities of the blockchain technology. Its future depends on how well organizations like Blockstack, Ethereum, ConsenSys and the likes will be able to execute their visions, grow, attract talent and build communities around them.
Generally there are those who say that decentralized applications will grow substantially over the next years, and on the other side of the spectrum, there are others who argue that the only real use case for blockchain is digital currency. These points are well illustrated by a discussion in this very entertaining podcast episode by Laura Shin, where Joe Lubin and Jimmy Song try to negotiate terms for a bet on the future of decentralized applications.
Fortunately, blockchain projects like Blockstack tend to have a lot of open data. I’ve collected some of it to try and take a glimpse into the present state of Blockstack apps and also make some future projections about the growth.
Here’s a chart top 10 Blockstack apps by the number users that installed the app**. Once you have a Blockstack id the app is ‘installed’ into your user profile automatically when you open it for the first time.
By far the two most popular apps are Graphite docs — a sort of Google docs, but all your data is encrypted and in user’s control, and Stealthy — a decentralized communication platform that wants to become WeChat of decentralized apps.
The numbers might seem very unimpressive. On top of that, app #8 is a testnet and #10 is a Blockstack tutorial. However, the number of users on a given date might not be telling the whole story.
Let’s take a look into how the total number of apps installed was changing over the period of 3 weeks from August 23 to September 13.
Even if the numbers are low, the growth pattern is pretty clear. The number of app installations rose from 5410 to 7552 in 3 weeks. That’s an almost a 12% weekly growth rate — not bad at all.
We see that a big part of the growth happened on week 3 — possibly due to multiple events and hackathons happening that week. If we discount week 3 as an outlier and just look into the first two weeks that gives us a 6% weekly growth rate.
Now 6% to 12% weekly growth rate is really great. Here’s why. Say Blockstack app users keep installing apps at a 10% weekly rate. That’s 1 million installs in 1 year and 152 millions in 2 years!
A more pessimistic growth rate of 5% will result in close to 100k users in 1 year and 1.2 million in 2 years — not too bad either.
Even if total numbers are pretty low, the growth rate of the number of users who give Blockstack apps a try is impressive. If the team behind Blockstack can maintain this growth they have a serious chance at turning the vision of the decentralized web into reality in the next 2–5 years.
There are a couple of caveats though. First, 3 weeks is a short period of time and might not represent a long term trend. Second, the statistic discussed include, for example, users who have opened a Blockstack app once and have never returned to it. So, what this statistic actually represents is how many users hit the top of the user-journey funnel i.e. decide to open the app. Although that’s an important metric, the metric that decides if a product lives or dies is the user return rate. In other words: how many users who open an app become active repeat-users.
It’s too early to confidently say that DWeb is taking off. Dweb of today is miniscule, but it’s also alive, kicking and growing.
** The statistics include only multi-player apps i.e. apps where users can share their data with other users. Some of the popular apps on Blockstack, such as Coins, are single-player.