For many, web3 remains either too complex or simply uninteresting, and to make web3 more than just a buzzword, user experience should be simple and intuitive.
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Web3 is a world in the making. It operates atop a trio of fundamental technologies: blockchain for data immutability and consensus, smart contracts for self-executing business logic, and cryptographic tools for identity and security. What’s more: it’s an Autonomous World, where “anybody can enforce the introduction rule without damaging its objectivity,” and which nobody can “unplug.” And because of its near-maximal autonomy, there are no gatekeepers in the world of web3.
Given its architecture with blockchain as the substrate, no particular entity can control — or rule — web3. But while web3 doesn’t require privileged individuals to survive, it needs active and expanding communities to thrive, particularly if this groundbreaking phenomenon is to achieve its full impact.
Onboarding and empowering the masses with the power of decentralized “world-technology” is thus the most crucial goal for web3 innovators at this point. Although hopes are soaring with all the promises made in recent years, there’s still a lot to do in offering the convenient experiences most users seek.
Using web3 today: Pride or pain?
For a small cohort of tech-savvy entities — mostly Gen Zs and Millenials — that hold privacy, autonomy, and self-sovereignty in high regard, using web3 is a source of pride. It’s their language for voting out centralized frameworks infamous for manipulative and authoritative tendencies. And from the point of view of this group, ease of access is often a secondary priority.
But from a broader perspective, focusing only on the tech-savvy while building the web3 stack ultimately forms a privileged elite. This is particularly notable when considering how legacy web2 systems have done little to foster genuine technological competence among most day-to-day users.
The development of internet technology | Source: DEV Community
One mustn’t forget the context of web3’s evolution — i.e., nearly four decades of technical developments aimed at making processes more convenient and hassle-free for end-users. This fact remains even with the underlying menace of centralization stripping individuals of their natural rights.
For many, web3 remains either too complex or simply uninteresting. From wallet setups to transactions in the metaverse, barriers to entry remain dauntingly high. Additionally, the overall UX is way inferior vis-à-vis the legacy products and services with which people are already familiar.
Meeting users in their digital habitats
According to a Wunderman Thompson Intelligence report, over 93% of consumers worldwide agree that technology is the future. For web3 to be part of this future, it needs to offer more than just decentralization. Web2 giants like Google, Apple, and Meta owe their success to seamless user experiences. Behind their user-friendly interfaces lie vast infrastructures designed to obscure complexity — something web3 must emulate.
A closer look at the consensus mechanisms powering web3 offers clarity. Proof-of-work (PoW), while secure, is energy-intensive. Its greener counterpart, proof-of-stake (PoS), while promising, brings its own challenges, such as the ‘nothing at stake’ problem. These consensus intricacies play a pivotal role in transaction speeds and subsequently, user experience.
Web3 needs to be more than just a buzzword. It’s high time to make “hassle-free” a practical feature of web3 protocols and services, not just a fancy term in websites and white papers to excite investors. From onboarding to daily interactions, the experience should be intuitive. Given the prevalence of instant gratification in today’s digital culture, the transition to web3 platforms should be, above all, effortless. From KYC processing to signing transactions and managing digital asset portfolios, everything must feel like a breeze for end-users.
Besides seamless onboarding, it’s also important to ensure that those entering the world of web3 continue to inhabit it. This highlights the need to uphold convenience across the board. Systems for easier private key management — i.e., a pain even for experienced users — shorter learning curves, and more intuitive experiences are some potent means to this end.
The convenience-resilience balance
Vitalik Buterin formulated the ‘Scalability Trilemma’ in an insightful post discussing Ethereum’s scalability. He showed how blockchain-based systems using “simple” techniques can achieve only two of the three desirable properties: decentralization, security, and scalability. Since the usability of such systems is a function of these properties, building convenient or hassle-free web3 solutions is easier said than done.
However, while the Trilemma still holds, protocol-level capabilities have improved significantly in the last few years. Thanks to the rise of robust layer-2 frameworks, account abstraction (ERC-4337), zero-knowledge proofs (ZKP), etc., balancing convenience and resilience is now possible.
Technological marvels like multi-party computation (MPC) are instrumental in maintaining the equilibrium between impeccable user experience and fortified security. Take the Threshold Signature Schemes (TSS) as an example. This specialization within the MPC arena enables the production of digital signatures without centralizing trust. Applied aptly, it can revolutionize key management systems, a linchpin in crypto-security, by nullifying single points of vulnerability. Not stopping there, TSS frameworks can power an array of solutions, from decentralized applications and atomic swaps to layer-2 scaling and more.
Strategically integrating such tools could even supplant costly on-chain smart contract functions with streamlined, trustworthy alternatives. What’s more, the progressive BLS-TSS models present a paradigm shift, veering away from conventional private key procedures towards TSS-driven distributed frameworks, fostering the inception of both secure and key-agnostic web3 wallets — a keystone for user attraction and retention.
Likewise, advancements such as ERC-4337 make features like ‘forgot my password’ or social recovery easier to implement in web3, introducing a level of seamlessness and interoperability common in web2. Coupled with cost-optimizing and privacy-enhancing layer-2 techniques, such as rollups, the emerging tech stack is bracing up to craft fantastic web3 experiences.
Indeed, the current wave of innovation underscores the fact that the momentum of web3 is propelled by relentless ingenuity. The crux lies in genuine problem-solving, and as long as developers persist in tailoring solutions that cater to real-world needs, the widespread embrace of web3 becomes inevitable.