Ethereum’s Missing Piece: Users!

When you have a disruptive technology you can’t see the margins… Why did Facebook not happen in 1992? You didn’t have enough density of adoption… You didn’t even have home-based Internet that was permanently on…
- Andreas Antonopoulos, in his excellent presentation: Blockchain vs. Bullshit: Thoughts on the Future of Money

We Are Searching In the Dark

We’ve all heard that DAPPs (De-centralized Applications) are great.

But try explaining that to someone who isn’t already a crypto enthusiast, and you’re in for a hard sell. The problems that DAPPs solve are either trivial, like letting crypto-nerds trade kittens, or unbelievable, like enabling truly private, anonymous work-for-hire. Most people have no conception of a compelling DAPP. And here’s the rub: there won’t be any truly compelling DAPPS, at least for the masses, until there are tons of users.

In the 1990’s this same chicken-and-egg problem caused smart people to miss the potential of the Internet: there was no compelling use-case, because there weren’t enough users with the right technology…

Paul Krugman — New York Times Op-Ed columnist
“most people have nothing to say to each other! By 2005 or so, it will become clear that the Internet’s impact on the economy has been no greater than the fax machine’s.
- Paul Krugman, 1998

How Ethereum DAPPs Could Be Great

Here’s what we know: Crypto-currency in general, and Ethereum in particular bring with them the possibility for decentralized, trust-less applications. This is the revolutionary aspect to these systems. Because it means less court cases; less arguments; less fraud; more privacy; more anonymity (and therefore fairness, since the same rules apply to everybody) and maybe even freedom from tyrannical government regulations.

Here’s an an example that hits home with many of us. Just about a month ago a friend of mine sent 10,000 DAI to a crypto-exchange. After he deposited his DAI, the exchange changed their policy, and informed him that he couldn’t withdraw any funds until after he passed their new very stringent KYC process. This was a sort of swindle (since there was no way he could fulfill their KYC requirements, because he’s not a legal citizen). He asked me how he could avoid this in the future, and my immediate response was: “use a decentralized, trustless exchange, (DEX) such as Radar Relay.” Now that he’s turned on to a distributed exchange, he’ll never go back to one that requires trust.

Not to belabor the point, but all of human societal evolution, from feudalism to legal frameworks to private property rights, is a progression towards systems that enable humans to interact with guarantees of fairness, without fraud, and theft. And trust-less DAPPs are the next step in that evolution. Like I said, DAPPs are great.

Tomorrow’s DAPPs Cannot Exist Today

There are plenty of companies that are creating DAPPs right now. But these primarily cater to those who have already “drunk the koolaid”, such as distributed crypto-exchanges (DEXs). The reason of course is that the only people who can use these DAPPs are people who already have the tools to do so — and that’s a very small group. We know that other DAPPs will become popular, but not because a large number of people will predict their massive appeal (Did anyone predict the popularity of Gangnum-Style?). The reason that they’ll become popular is because one person, who already has the requisite tools, will check it out, and then another and another. And then everyone will be surprised at how popular the next Crypto-Kitties has become.

We don’t know what the compelling DAPPs will be. But this model of applications is so radically different than anything that is available now, we can be certain that they will appear, and some of them will be widely adopted. And if we want, we can speed this process along.

What We Need For Tomorrow’s DAPPs

The Ethereum Wildfire Project is finding innovative ways to get Ethereum tools into the hands of masses of people who have no interest in crypto-currencies. They’ll install MetaMask because it will be the simple way to login to their online banking website or some online mall; or because it will be the required way to login to their corporate network where they work.

We envision that when a critical threshold of people have Ethereum accounts, and the means to access them (eg. MetaMask), we’ll being to see a wave of DAPPs. It’s difficult now to predict which of these will take-off… After all, honestly, in 1985 how many of us could have predicted the popularity of cloud-based bug-tracking, online banking, reddit, or Amazon? The point is that none of these could have become popular until a critical threshold of people already had daily, fast access to the Internet.

Similarly, when a critical threshold of people have access to Ethereum accounts, (eg. via MetaMask), then the DAPPs will appear. And some of them will be revolutionary. And then the reason that people will purchase Ether won’t be to invest in it — they’ll purchase Ether to pay the teeny gas cost of using some really cool DAPP.

Check out our website to find out more, and to contribute to the Ethereum Wildfire Project.

Ethereum Wildfire Project