Web3 is for regular people, too

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Tech-savvy engineers have created Web3 just for themselves. 

Everything in Web3 may be clear to us, but the slang alone makes it very difficult for everyday internet users. Take this as an example: You have to receive a cross-border payment this weekend when the banks are closed. Your non-Web3 proficient friend is supposed to send you the money, but has to deal with words like gas, gwei, private key, seed phrase, public key, ERC-20, BEP-20, L1, L2. 

You’re unlikely to receive that payment any time soon. It’s like if a doctor told you that you showed ventricular tachycardia during a symptomatic spell. You’d ask for an explanation. And a new doctor.

Web3 seems totally stuck on the brink of a major breakthrough. Its anticipated and highly desired mass adoption has been postponed time and time again because Web3 is not mature enough to reach everyday consumer culture.

Consumers are attracted by simplicity. Web3 is nothing but complexity.

Bridging the divide

Web3 is home to extremely fierce rivalry, which makes time to market very short. UX is often deprioritized, and onboarding processes may not always be properly checked in order to save time. 

NFT marketplaces are particularly cluttered. This makes for a painful experience for those just beginning their Web3 journeys when they open apps that aren’t logical or easy to navigate. 

Users with minimal crypto knowledge using wallets like MetaMask Snaps to bridge to another wallet like Solflare would be confused from the get-go. Bridging itself is overcomplicated, gas fees are unclear and slippage (the difference between the expected price of an asset, and its actual executed price) is high. This should be as easy as transferring money from Citi to HSBC — but it’s not.

Crypto is a much more volatile market than the regular tech space. Developers should focus on finding validation and fitting the market, rather than on creating simple programs that end up confusing the everyday user.

According to a 2019 HYPR study, 78% of people admitted to forgetting a personal password and having to reset it within the past 90 days. However, mistakes and forgotten passwords are almost impossible to fix with Web3. Forgetting a private key or allowing it to get into the wrong hands could see your whole wallet get drained.

Web3 is also very unforgiving. Unlike Web2 — which is designed to prevent users from making mistakes when transferring money through transaction limits and name checks — it’s impossible to reverse a wrong transaction or swap with Web3. Instead, it’s up to the user to deal with the jargon and check whether the destination wallet is TRC20 or ERC20. An incorrect pick, however, and the money will be gone.

These current Web3 processes are designed to maximize security, because the user has complete control over their funds and assets — users are responsible for their own security. But this also means that mistakes can be expensive.

Because of such hurdles, technologies like wallet apps have mainly attracted native-hardcore Web3 users.  It’s not that they don’t care. Since the primary users have been hardcore tech enthusiasts, it doesn’t make sense for developers to make any effort in transaction simulation (which previews how a transaction will behave without committing real assets). Instead, they have focused on integrating other chains, extending support and better UI to make sure the product is ready.

But it is now time for this to change.

Web3 can offer real-world value and convenience for everyone in tokenization (gaming, real-world assets), and DeFi (payments). Users can get a loan using crypto instead of going to a bank with a credit score and using their house as collateral. Everybody should be able to make the most of this new transformational technology, but the pace at which this happens will depend on how approachable we make it.

Vocabulary is one fairly easy fix. Ordinary people will not trust Web3 wallets with their funds if they don’t understand the wording. Switch words like private key, seed phrase and dapp to ones Web2 users are already familiar with — password, backup, master password, app.

Read more from our opinion section: Yes, criminals use crypto. No, don’t blame the developers.

Then comes the issue of irreversibility. It’s not an inviting environment if users have to overthink unfamiliar things while performing familiar actions, like making a monetary transfer. Account abstraction can help: Social recovery and 2FA will help Web2 users cope with security issues and feel safer in terms of Web3 transfers. 

The good news is that there’s an easy way to break the ice with a mass audience. We have to approach the issue with the meticulousness and clarity we would with any other tech core element of a product, be it a new smart contract or when writing a crucial function. 

Put simply, people don’t like things they don’t understand. Improperly handled irreversibility issues may be as fatal for a project as a flaw in a piece of code, which had been written by a senior developer and reviewed by an even more senior one. There’s no excuse to go on kicking UX further and further down the line.

JJ is a seasoned executive and technology investor with over 20 years of experience in IT and cloud infrastructure. He has held various positions, including CEO, CRO, board member and advisor, with a focus on next-generation technologies. He led the global transformation of Acronis into cloud infrastructure services as CRO, growing the company to a $3.5B valuation with investment from major firms. He has also served as CEO of Intergenia Group and has experience building emerging technologies and markets in various regions. He holds degrees from the Hanze University in The Netherlands and the University of Wuerzburg in Germany.
JJ joined Chainstack in 2023 bringing its expertise to help the company solidify its position as a leading web3 infrastructure provider. He believes the company is set to connect all developers to web3 like no other and open a new era of growth and innovation in the sector.

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Web3 is for regular people, too is written by Jan-Jaap Jager for blockworks.co

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