Over the last year, an unprecedented amount of hype and speculation has surrounded the crypto ecosystem. Despite this, crypto is still far from mainstream adoption. Latest figures suggest that there are only about 20–30m crypto users. Dapp usage is orders of magnitude lower, with the most popular dapps (excluding exchanges) getting only about a 100 users per day.
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Driving usage will not only require upgrading the underlying infrastructure to solve for scalability, but will also be dependent on building out products and services that make the crypto more accessible for end users.
For crypto newbies, buying your first bitcoin and making your first crypto transaction is a far cry from the seamless Paypal or Revolut experiences we’re used to. Purchasing a crypto kitty for a non crypto holder requires a ridiculous amount of steps:
- Setting up an account with an exchange e.g. Coinbase. This involves verifying your bank account, your identity, waiting 10 days, etc.
- Installing a browser plugin or native mobile wallet e.g. Metamask, remembering a ridiculously long seed phrase or storing it on a piece of paper at the risk of forgetting it and losing all your Ether forever…
- Sending Ether from Coinbase to your Metamask address ie a massive string of random numbers and letters 0x2fB7e5B3B9055dFcA8841AB83EdD8b056FE86WTF?? Get one letter wrong and you lose your Ether forever..
- To top it all off, you need to do it all over again on every new device or every blockchain, which means managing multiple wallets/private keys. The list goes on and on…
In a world where users are accustomed one click purchases and using the same username and password to access a specific service across all their devices, this reality cannot fly.
Below I outline several different ways of addressing accessibility in crypto. I would love to hear from anyone that is tackling this problem and coming up with new ways of doing so.
- Wallet integration into existing products
Interacting with crypto requires an entirely new set of tools and products. Given that most of us use mobile wallets and browsers on a daily basis, why don’t we start integrating crypto tools here?
Opera is leading the way in this respect having rolled out a new version of its browser, with an inbuilt crypto-wallet. Revolut, Robinhood and Line, amongst others, have also added crypto functionality, albeit limited, to their offerings. Hopefully, the Googles and Facebooks of this world will shortly follow suit.
2. Fiat to crypto exchanges
The single biggest point of friction in crypto is the on-ramp. Moving from fiat to crypto requires interacting with a centralised, regulated entity and going through the AML to KYC processes. In certain cases, this can take up to 10 days, leading to a huge drop off. What if we could skip this step?
Ramp Network is one of the few protocols addressing the above via its decentralised escrow mechanism to enable secure fiat to crypto trades. So far, this area is still underdeveloped and it would be great to see more people working on it.
3. Replacing addresses with usernames
With the rise of payment apps like Venmo and Revolut, we’ve become accustomed to being able to send messages and money to our friends by merely entering their name, phone number or email. The world of crypto is way behind in this respect, its address system is impractical and users are prone to making mistakes.
Ethereum Name Service (ENS) and BitAlias are introducing easy to remember usernames instead of long addresses for Ethereum and Bitcoin respectively. However, these have yet to take off. Blockstack and Ethos have introduced similar features.
4. Private key management and recovery systems
Having to remember a 64 character seed phrase or writing it down on a piece of paper at risk of losing all of your money is a huge barrier to entry in today’s world of easy resettable passwords. Tenzorum and Vault 12 are addressing the above problem by creating a social recovery system which allows them to securely split their seed phrase with people they trust in case they forget it.
5. Removing fees
Another key point of friction for adoption is the network fees (gas in the case of Ethereum) users must pay to get their transaction recorded on the blockchain. Particularly for simple dapps (e.g. a voting app) that have nothing to do with transferring money, this is likely to be a huge deterrent for potential users.
6. Cross-device and cross-blockchain dapp browsers
Most dapp browsers work either on desktop or on mobile, sorry Metamask but that just doesn’t cut it in today’s cloud connected world. Wallet Connect has developed a new standard to bridge this gap, but we still have a long way to go.
To date, all browsers are blockchain specific and moving to cross-blockchain will require a significant development on the infrastructure layer. Cosmos, Polkadot, Ark, Blockcollider and Wanchain are some of the projects solving for interoperability, one of the most pressing issues for blockchain development.
These are just a few examples of projects aiming to make crypto more accessible. Although, these initiatives are key to driving mainstream adoption, they are heavily dependent on solving vital infrastructure constraints such as scalability, interoperability and to a certain extent volatility. Once the above challenges are addressed, interacting with dapps and the broader crypto ecosystem should feel no different from interacting with a traditional website. Wallets and fees should eventually sync into the background and become relatively invisible to the end user.
If you’ve come across any projects in this space or are working on solving accessibility for end users, I’d love to hear from you!