The Challenges of Taking Web3 Mainstream
Before Web3 becomes mainstream, there are more than a few challenges it needs to overcome. Don’t get us wrong, Web3 has infinite potential. Its decentralized nature and community focus can bring back the original promise of the internet. No censorship, no centralized control, and limitless possibilities of what could be done on the World Wide Web. If you’re already using the blockchain, you get it. For those that believe that crypto and blockchains are a scheme or a passing fad, getting adoption will take some work.
But the possibilities are endless in how Web3 can contribute once everyone is on board.
There’s no Takeover
We won’t go into a full history of the evolution of the web here. But, before we go any further, however, there’s an unfounded misconception to clear up. Web3 isn’t here to replace anything. It’s merely the next evolution of the internet as we know it. It’s a way to better describe the massive paradigm shift caused by blockchain technology.
While the existing definitions are rather vague, it’s generally agreed that the evolution of the web can be defined in three stages:
Web1: Read-Only (1990)
Web2: Read-Write (2004)
Web3: Read-Write-Own (Since 2016)
The assumption is that these stages are sequential and that the technologies will simply replace each other. That’s far from true. No one is coming to take away your Web1 or Web2. Web3 does and will include Web1 and Web2 technologies. In fact, many technologies of Web1 - like the Apache Web Server are still fundamental building blocks of the web we use every day.
Frankly, there’s no way that every web-based technology can be decentralized for a multitude of economical, technological, and practical reasons alike. In the foreseeable future, even DAOs will take advantage of the thousands of available SaaS Applications (Apps) that help them work productively. You’ll be able to use a Web3 tool like a MetaMask wallet, and then populate a Google Sheet with your crypto balance, for example.
Apps and dApps will co-exist for a long time to come.
The Challenges of Web3
However, there are still many challenges that need to be addressed before everyone can fully adopt Web3. We’ve highlighted some below, and we’ll continue to do so in our next blog post.
In no particular order:
At present, existing Web3 projects aren’t all that accessible to Web2 users. Depending on a number of factors including location, your financial institution, or even the device you use, it’s a challenge to interact with Web3 projects, tokens, or dApps. The only way to access these tools is with a crypto wallet - it becomes your passport.
Because Web3 relies on blockchain networks and blockchains rely on cryptocurrency or tokens to facilitate operations and represent a form of payment of storage of value on-chain, people need to buy in. And since cryptocurrency needs crypto wallets to be stored in, sent from, and transacted with, to do anything on-chain, it’s a hard sell.
Now you’re asking people who only trust fiat and physical banks, to dive off the deep end, take a leap of faith. Trade in perfectly good, physical money, for digital coins. Yes, they don’t need to buy crypto to access Web3, but what’s the point of accessing the blockchain, if you can’t do anything with it? Interaction requires tokens.
Web3 developers and builders need to lower the barrier to entry, in order to encourage more people to embrace Web3 solutions. For example, perhaps temporary custodial solutions built into Web3 tools that offer risk-free access. Or perhaps making the wallet optional and allowing purchases with fiat.
Or some sort of connector that allows a Web2 user to access Web3 securely, offering an easy interface on the consumer’s side that makes blockchain access easy.
Web3 relies on linked data, which means that data from different sources needs to be linked together in order for it to be useful. This can be a daunting task when you consider the sheer volume of data that exists on the blockchain. In order for linked data to be effective, we need to find ways to efficiently link all this data together. But the larger a blockchain is, the longer the transaction time, and the higher the gas fees get. It then becomes too expensive and too time-consuming to efficiently rely on that chain.
Additionally, linked data also needs to be continuously updated and verified in order for it to be accurate and useful. Depending on the verification method the chain uses (Proof of Work/Proof of Stake), can make or break the utility of a chain.
Especially since we can conduct transactions for free, at lightning speed on Web2, this presents a huge deterrent to widespread adoption.
The very nature of decentralization and trustless, secure transactions means that transactions need to stay on chain as much as possible. That way, the record is immutable and the transaction transparent. A blockchain, however, can offload the transactions to a layer 2 blockchain, a separate blockchain dedicated to transactions to help with scaling and other bottlenecks. This should help with speed and help keep the gas fees low.
Blockchains live in isolation. As in, they don’t interact with each other. Each one is separate and different Web3 projects and dApps are designed to deploy on multiple chains. Users on one blockchain are less likely to consider owning assets or using tools on more than one chain, as long as it’s impossible and largely insecure to transfer across chains. Once you have a favorite chain, you don’t look at any other, essentially.
Bridges do exist, to facilitate some sort of interoperability between chains, but they are known to be unreliable and slow, which makes them inaccessible to the general population.
Then, above all that, is the divide between Web3 and Web2. The very nature of the blockchain and the decentralized nature of Web3 means there cannot be any hard connections between the two Webs. There are too many issues with the veracity of data being transferred on and off chain and a dApp connecting to Web2 would automatically become centralized.
Oracles do exist and make it possible to pull off-chain data such as exchange rates into Web3 and interact with a smart contract, but it’s only one way. Once the data interacts with a smart contract, there’s no way to send any data back to Web2, as oracles don’t have the ability to conduct smart contract transactions.
For the average Web2 user, this situation is easily the most incomprehensible part. First of all, there’s no way to use any of your SaaS tools to maintain any sort of ongoing dialogue between Web2 data and Web3. Then, you also need to pick one blockchain and stick with it. Then, you need to consider fees, transaction times, and if the dApps and tools your looking for are compatible with your chain.
Web3 projects need to start developing a way to facilitate operability on multiple blockchains - a universal, composable system that can seamlessly connect on-, off- and cross-chain systems to allow dApps to empower their users to do whatever they see fit.
Thankfully, there’s a movement to make this a reality, sooner rather than later. Projects such as Grindery Nexus, for example, are building solutions to help build a chain-agnostic future. This way, dApps, DAOs and other Web3 projects can share liquidity and functions across multiple networks.
Thinking back, it’s easy to forget how bumpy the journey for the web has been. Web2 came with its challenges, and the more it solved its challenges, the more mainstream adoption grew. The same will be true of Web3 as developers and communities begin to fix the challenges associated with their use. There are already a few key players in this space that are beginning to pave the way for this new era of the internet, where bridging the gap between Web2 and Web3 will be seamless.
Stay tuned for Part 2.