A retrospective of Apps
The rise of smartphones has brought us the ecosystem of apps and with that a completely new way of how software is being used by users. The Apple iPhone has set new milestones in regard to simplicity and usability of applications, almost overnight. This was not an evolution but rather a revolution. Even people who didn’t care about software, hardware, and other such nerd-stuff can now use highly complex systems with the ease of pressing one button and some finger moves.
Let us go some more steps into the past to understand the fundamental problems of dApps. Before apps, there was software. This was usually and most often used with a Windows-powered desktop computer. If a user was interested in a specific kind of software, let’s say to draw pictures, he had to search for himself. There was nothing like a marketplace. He had to look and search on the Internet. After doing some manual research and making the decision which software to use, the download started. The software needed to be (and still can be) installed manually by the user. It was not too complex, yet it was not as easy as the app system is. One marketplace, user reviews, no (or at least much less) fraud and automatically installed updates. The software has become applications and the hardware has become smartphones, tablets or something entirely else. A true game-changer.
This change has impressively shown that in order to reach mass adoption there is an extreme need for simplification. The common user does not care about options, configurations, update logs or how the app works in the machine room. The crowd chooses usability over control. It’s as simple as that.
The idea of dApps
How is this connected with the appearance of Blockchain? Blockchain came with the promise it would give back control to the users, ignoring the fact that it was the users who willingly chose to give control to the apps in the first place. Blockchain says it will be the users who own assets and values. Besides the concept of a tokenized and digitalized economy, it should primarily bring back ownership to the users. No more middlemen and no more authorities who must be trusted by the users. It’s still the spirit in the Blockchain community nowadays. Cryptocurrencies are stored on USB sticks or on paper wallets.
Although there are valid arguments to not store values on exchanges, this lacks a deeper analysis. The Blockchain is a young technology and so there have been many players and service providers. It is absolutely right and recommended to not store any kind of value on third-party platforms, which are not highly trustworthy. Yet, this is going to change. New players are entering the market and they bring much more professionalism. Regulations are about to be set place worldwide regarding Blockchain, and companies with a lot more experience are providing their services.
Hence, what to do with dApps? The attributes of dApps are quite the opposite of the ones which enabled apps to become such extreme success. Instead of focusing on usability and simplicity it requires its users to actively engage with Blockchain technology. To keep your own private keys safe is an enormous responsibility; too much responsibility and work just to be able to play a simple online game. This concept will catch early adopters but won’t reach any common users. That is why there are still less than 200,000 people worldwide who use dApps regularly. That is why Cryptokitties is still the best-known dApps (even though it is 1.5 years old now). That is also why decentralized exchanges have less than 0.1% volume when compared to centralized ones.
Blockchain ain’t sexy. Normal people won’t care whether it is Ethereum or Tron nor whether the Gas Price is below or over 1 cent. The Blockchain is just a database. When was the last time that you actively tried to spend some time learning more about the Facebook database? You probably have never thought about this and have even less to actually spend time on this topic. Welcome to the Blockchain.
Proposal of hApps
This does not necessarily mean that dApps do not have any future. There will be some small dApp market for sure, and the idea of owning values and assets has to live on. On the same side, we need a much more pragmatic way of how Blockchain can be used.
That is what we propose with hybrid apps (so-called hApps). hApps are applications which consist of central and decentral components. It’s not about being a purist on one of the two sides, but about what will bring the best experience to the user.
With hApps, the user is still in control over his assets. Ideally, this is also supported by clear regulations by the authorities. Additionally, usability is the focus and therefore the GUI stays the way it has been for the last decade – easy to use and avoiding unneeded elements. This also includes addressing the happened conditioning of users for the last 20 years. They are used that it is no hassle to reset a password. Although private keys are often compared to passwords, they work completely differently. Forgetting them or showing them to another person is surely not the best idea. This huge hassle needs to be avoided. Not that the user should be responsible for the safety of his key (at least not if he doesn’t want to be) but give this control to another trusted service. Therefore, the huge majority of people are using banks instead of storing gold bars in the basement and physical money in the snacks tube. This might be happening for part of their wealth, but normally not the majority of it. Responsibility is quite a lot of work, and humans tend to reduce this responsibility whenever possible.
Conclusion and what has to happen
To bring Blockchain into the crowd and to reach mass adoption, we need to start to integrate it and much more pragmatic. The Blockchain is able to replace centralized databases. Let’s start with that instead of trying to take the epic leap from one side (centralized) to the other (decentralized). Here are our six steps which can help us to stay focused and give orientation:
1. Follow the #userfirst approach
2. Keep in mind how users have been conditioned for the last 20 years
3. Blockchain needs to stay in the background
4. Users should not be confronted with Keys, Gas, Blocks and stuff like that
5. (H)apps need active promotion to reach the critical mass for success
6. Blockchains need greater interoperability for further simplification
Disclosure: Tangany offers technological cloud solutions (‘Wallet as a Service’) in this area.