Revolutions are the product of the masses, not the elites.
Accordingly, we need to update the blockchain narrative to something more easily palpable for the average consumer and get on a path of attracting the millions of users.
Granted, the decentralized finance (DeFi) revolution is already on its way and poised to challenge traditional finance, but aside from DeFi what are some promising scenarios that could take the blockchain into mainstream experience? Let's flip blockchain’s promise on its head and think of mainstream users first.
Here are four usage scenarios that have a chance of being understood and adopted by mainstream consumers.
Earning by doing
Who wouldn’t like to be rewarded or compensated for their time, knowledge, data or hard work, whether online or not? Today, we have all become self-service slaves to a variety of online activities. Over the course of the Web 2.0 era, value capture shifted to the landlords who presented users with a buffet of actions. While these central players gave users some satisfaction and benefits, they reaped a lot more than they sowed or gave back.
Blockchains are money systems that transcend the real world. Of course, cryptocurrency is the perfect internet native currency, but cryptocurrency can also touch the physical world. It could usurp loyalty programs and provide users with a more fluid and universal currency.
Blockchains can reward people for taking actions just as consensus protocols reward computers for mining and validating transactions.
Steemit (now called Hive) users have already received $60 million in rewards since 2016. The Kin ecosystem (where I am an investor) grants a variety of earnings to users and developers, and has already dispensed over $15 million in rewards to its ecosystem of mobile App developers in the past two years.
Earning by doing will become a fundamental right. It is a general purpose capability, just as user-generated content was for Web 2.0.
Self-custody of value
We are used to storing valuables at home such as money, jewelry or art. However, when the value of these goods exceed what we can insure, or what we feel safe in keeping at home, we usually turn to banks or special custodians as more convenient safeguards for storing our liquid assets.
Cryptocurrency offers alternative storage options via personal wallets or easy on-ramps to exchanges or a new category of crypto custodians that possess their own secure vaults.
Today, many self-custody wallets already exist, allowing users to experience the self-service option for assets storage. Those same wallets also enable the storage of another blockchain novelty: “digitally unique” artifacts also known as non-fungible tokens (or NFTs; think CryptoKitties).
In the long term, banks and old-style physical storage services may not be the most popular or safest storage methods anymore. Being your own custodian is an attractive value proposition that comes with a degree of freedom and efficiency, as long as its relative ease of use and trust levels continue to improve. Many users will gradually de-bank their assets and move them into self-custody to take advantage of new services that are only available in the blockchain world.
Our driver licenses give us an explicit permission to drive on public roads. A bank card allows us to withdraw money or initiate transactions. Our house key lets us inside our homes. You can’t fake one key for another just as you can’t use your friend’s driver license as a substitute for yours and you can’t access any one else’s account with your bank card.
What if there was a solid equivalent to all these “access” options online? What if blockchain technology (combined with our smartphones and biometrics) could be used to grant us a wide array of access privileges, both in the physical and online worlds?
The equivalent to the physical keychain holder will be a smart wallet that contains a variety of “special keys,” also known as tokens, that open access to a mix of activities, web sites or actually places. The software just needs to check that you have the proper “access right” in your possession, in the same way as when you pull a token from your pocket to retrieve your garment at a coat check, or rely on the electronic device in your car to automatically calculate and grant your toll payment when your car passes through.
Many of the same self-custody wallets will also allow us to vote on a variety of issues just as easily as opening a mobile app and posting a picture or sending a tweet.
We live in an age of instant online connections, yet most of these interactions are optimized for the individual, not the group. We sign up individually to sites that recognize us as one unique person.
What if communities of similar interests were able to govern and rule themselves via clear and enforceable procedures such as voting, decision making and operational executions?
Today, we can do some of that via online community forums (e.g., Discord, Facebook Groups) or a variety of online chat platforms (e.g., Telegram, WhatsApp, Signal). But once these groups are formed, implementing governance and instilling enforceable systems that mirror the values of its participants is not so easily done.
Blockchain is perfect for empowering online community governance. Early versions already exist within DAOs (decentralized autonomous organizations), but a lot of work is still required before getting close to mainstream adoption, because these early DAO-based versions are quite geeky and assume that participants are steeped in technical capabilities. Newer apps to turbo-charge online communities are on the horizon.
Web 3 should not be technical
The above four use-cases are lighthouse beacons from which we can seek guidance. They are not perfect, but they are acceptable entry points that will usher us into a Web 3.0 era that is more about mainstream usages, and less about technical infrastructure jargon.
The blockchain world is full of big ideas. Beyond DeFi, the narrative needs to inspire a much wider segment of the population.
What if we could start earning real value by being online while also able to safely store what we earn? What if we became more efficient at self-organizing, while being empowered to also collectively act soon after?
These use cases already exist within several microcosms. Now the rest of the world must get inspired to move them into the mainstream.
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