Why Sacrificing Some Decentralization is the Key to Blockchain’s Early Success
Since the day I started Contentos, the debate over centralization and decentralization has never stopped. Many people question whether Contentos is actually decentralized or if it’s just a centralized service that has tokens and is based on the concept of blockchain.
I get it. As a strong believer in blockchain and bitcoin, I understand how important it is to have a fully decentralized content blockchain.
But let’s face it. Today there are so many obstacles that prevent blockchain technology from being massively adopted. Just learning the fundamentals of public/private key management and passphrase are enough reasons to stop 99 percent of the population from adopting blockchain. Don’t you believe in me? Ask your parents to create a wallet address then finish their first transaction on any blockchain platform. Then ask them how it compares to the experience of creating and using a Facebook account .
That’s why I believe in order to bring the general public to the world of blockchain, you need to sacrifice a certain degree of decentralization in exchange of usability in the early phase. There is a middle point between decentralization and centralization (Sometimes I call it “semi-decentralization”), and that is the best place for regular users to experience the power of blockchain today. We will be able to move toward true decentralization one step at a time until we finally reach full decentralization.
Make no mistake, it’s hard. It took 30 years for the internet to be adopted by 3 billion people. In the past decade, 100 million people have adopted blockchain. While it might sound like a lot, it’s only a very small fraction of the entire human population.
How do we reach widespread adoption? The trick is finding that middle point between centralization and decentralization — he point that balances usability, transparency, and security. The hard part is that this balance point is constantly shifting. It shifts when your product value proposition changes, when your user starts to get used to a small bit of decentralization, and when the whole industry advances and is accepted by more mainstream voices, such as the government and media.
Okay, now you’re probably thinking: As long as there is a centralized part, I can’t trust it since the entire system might be manipulated by the centralized part.
Let’s use this example to imagine a user who just stepped into the world of decentralization is like a newborn baby and it needs a babysitter. The babysitter has the power to control the baby’s behavior and guide them. The babysitter also has an obligation to ensure the baby’s safety. One day when the baby grows up, there will be no need for the babysitter anymore. But how do we prevent the babysitter from becoming a bad actor? Some parents install camera to monitor the babysitter’s behavior and ensure nothing bad happens.
Any consumer-facing blockchain project is playing the role of the babysitter. These projects use product experience to educate users about the concept of blockchain and decentralization, and the way to ensure these projects don’t become bad actors is the transparency of code. Open source means everyone can monitor and examine the implementation of the system, helping to reduce the risk and improve the quality of the product. I believe this should be the minimum requirement for any decentralized project. By the way, you can find Contentos’ full source code here: https://github.com/coschain/.
For the next step, our goal is to bring in millions of global users into the world of blockchain, but it’s important to make sure some basic obstacles are removed beforehand. For instance:
- Account system.
Normal users are already used to the standard credential system that requires items such as a username and password. An account recovery system is usually provided as well.
2. Ease of use.
It should be based on real products instead of products designed and built for blockchain users only.
3. User motivation.
It should encourage further learning. A step-by-step tutorial is essential for most of today’s apps, especially games. Every time a user completes a certain task, a reward should be granted then followed by an advanced task, so a user can be navigated deeper and deeper. However, this type of system is absent from most blockchain products.
The diagram and information below explains Contentos’ approach.
1. A proxy server that is 100% open source and on Github (https://github.com/coschain/contento_proxy). It’s a bridge between centralized apps and the decentralized Contentos blockchain. It provides essential utilities for on-chain/off-chain operations. Developers will be able to leverage this open-source project and build their own proxy server then interact with Contentos blockchain. This proxy server also resolves the issue of account management by helping users keep track of their credentials. However, there may be security vulnerabilities, and it will be an attractive target to hackers. That’s why it’s so important that we’re open-source and can invite community developers to help and fix any potential risk in the system.
2. Leverage existing apps and content communities such as PhotoGrid and LiveMe. The cost of building a new app is small compared with user acquisition and community operation. Any DApp needs has to face the competition of user acquisition with centralized Apps, but major app promotion channels such as AppStore or GooglePlay restrict the promotion of DApps at this moment. An app that already has millions of users is the better option to facilitate massive blockchain adoption. After all, a user’s core motivation for using a product is that it provides value, not that it’s a blockchain-powered product.
3. Daily sign-in, a random chest-opening system, and rewards for content interaction. These tasks are designed to encourage the general public experience Contentos and its products. These features are common in many centralized products today and have been tested and fine-tuned for years. Soon more interactive product designs will be introduced into Contentos-powered products. Users will need to perform more actions, contribute more content and positive community behavior, learn more decentralization-related knowledge, such as address/key management, to be continually rewarded.. Eventually users will get used to decentralization technology, just like they are used to today’s centralized products.
When I was young, I would play with computers often. I remember configuring the internet connection for the first time and how difficult it was. I would have to configure the modem, and the internet protocols, and then the browser. It took years of effort — not just advancements in the underlying technology but in product design and user education — for billions of users to enjoy the internet today. The blockchain industry is in its early phase like the internet once was. The underlying technology is still being developed.
As we move forward, it’s important that there are products and services designed to educate the general public because the transformation from centralization to decentralization will take a large amount of effort. It will be hard and compromises must be made to find a middle ground between both. At Contentos, we believe this is the only way to introduce blockchain to millions of global users, which will eventually lead to complete decentralization in the years to come.