Why is no one really using Augur?

My experience in using the platform

Graph of Augur usage from dappradar

Augur is consistently only getting under 50 users a day. For a coin that has a marketcap currently valued at over $220 million it is falling short of many peoples expectations. But why is that the case? Is it the fault of Augur or just a general issue that all DAPPs are facing?

I was pretty excited about the development of a prediction markets platform on a blockchain but was disappointed when Augur launched. I really wanted to use the platform but find myself unable to. I decided to analyse Augur and break down the things would I like to see improved in a blockchain based prediction markets platform.

Background on my persona:

  • I bet regularly on other sporting platforms. Specifically NBA betting. During the NBA season I use betting platforms almost everyday. I am not a big better and prefer to spontaneously put small bet amounts quickly. All up I will spend an average of 2–5 mins each time I visit the platform.
  • I have been trading stocks on retail broking platforms ever since I first started working in a bank. The timeframe has been around 15 years.
  • I have been involved with Blockchain and specifically the Ethereum blockchain since 2015.
  • Over the years I have used multiple trading and betting platforms.

Even with my experiences with the above things I still find the Augur platform unusable. I have yet to make a first transaction on the platform.

As a little exercise I am going to use my own profile and experiences to comment on specific areas of the Augur platform. For comparisons sake I have used other released crypto platforms with no major issues: Iconomi, Cryptokitties, Gods Unchained, Metamask, PoWH3D and even crypto exchanges such as Etherdelta.

My Pain Points

Summarised under 4 main categories:

1. Accessibility

  • You cannot just log into a website to access Augur
  • You need to download the Augur application client to your desktop
  • As a prerequisite you need to have an Ethereum crypto wallet service like Metamask installed to interact with Augur. This adds even more complexity to the user learning curve. Metamask is not even that user friendly on it’s own but that is a topic for another blog post.
  • You need to have an Ether balance in your Metamask wallet. If you don’t have any you need to spend gas (currently about $0.20) to transfer some.

Improvement Recommendations:

DAPPs are still in their infant form and there is a lot of progress that is needed for mass user adoption. The main issue between apps and DAPPs are that with apps you can just download them directly to your device and use them straight away. With DAPPs and the nature in which they connect to a blockchain you need to jump through hoops just to make transactions.

We could solve this by an ecosystem that replicates our smartphone/desktop OS. Where you already have an account set up. Before you even download DAPPs you have set up your crypto wallets with balances. The OS is connected to the blockchain just like how our phones are always connected to the internet. When you download and install the DAPP it is then ready to go.

This is an issue not only faced by Augur but by all DAPPs. A co-ordinated effort could be initiated by the Ethereum development community to build such a service.

I have come across Coinbase Wallet but it is more like a web UI browser for DAPPs. I hope they evolve into what I have described to instead have seamless integration with DAPPs.

2. Time

  • To launch Augur it takes far too long and is extremely inconsistent. Even in normal circumstances it can take 30 mins to an hour just to gain access.

Improvements:

I have been trying to access Augur for 3 hours now but with no luck. There are no notifications on the network and I have no idea how much longer I need to wait. Simple communication by the team could help on network status.

3. Design

  • Far too complicated UI for even the average user.

Improvements:

Take into considerations the platform complexity level for different users. Provide a Basic and Advanced UI option. These options are already available in most of the big crypto exchange trading platforms.

The current Augur interface is already very complicated and most likely would fall in the Advanced option. Another light weight Basic version can be developed instead.

4. Options

  • Limited prediction markets to bet on.

Improvements:

When on a regular betting platform there are already many markets that are established and it is a simple exercise to browse what is there and make a bet. With Augur there is the concept of market maker. The platform relies on market makers to create markets. What are the incentives for a market maker? I believe they are able to charge % fee on the markets they create but I don’t think these are advertised clearly.

Betting markets are a critical part of betting platforms. Punters naturally gravitate to platforms which provide them with the best odds. Without the market in the first instance the punters won’t come.

In the early days of the Augur launch there could be better campaign incentives to attract Market Makers. Bonus rewards in the form of REP Tokens perhaps.

5. Costs

  • Gas costs are required each time you want to make a transaction through the Ethereum blockchain. Augur is built using smart contracts so whenever there is a prediction made there is an associated cost. The Gas costs are not trivial and currently it is very expensive to use the Ethereum blockchain. I have recently paid $0.20 for a transaction.
  • It is expensive to make predictions with Fees included such as Gas and Commissions. When one of the main selling points of blockchains are to reduce costs but in reality it is the opposite something is seriously wrong.

Improvements:

Scaling is the highest item of priority for many Blockchains including Ethereum. Until the scaling issues have been tackled the fees will remain high. Without clear dates on when scaling solutions will be implemented however it will continue to be an issue for Augur adoption. Unfortunately all DAPPs are going through the same issue with high fees preventing further usage.

Early Days

I still have hopes for Augur and am sure the team is hard at work making improvements. I will definitely use Augur in the future but most likely this will be after many version upgrades. The issues are mostly caused by the limitations of the Ethereum blockchain in its current form. Scaling being the main one.

I have learnt that we need to keep our expectations in check with DAPPs. I know that blockchains are going to be revolutionary but we are still clearly in the infancy stages.

Many more ecosystem related changes need to occur for the mass adoption of DAPPs to happen.