Getting Grandma Into Web 3.0

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Mass adoption is the elusive ‘Holy Grail’ of any consumer technology, and something that has been written and thought about a lot as it relates to the emerging Web 3.0 industry.

But how does one measure something like ‘mass adoption’? Would it be based on the number of users? Or the revenue generated by the industries that built the technology?

Maybe it’s better to measure mass adoption of consumer technologies by something else. Albert Einstein famously said that, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

So, maybe the best way to measure the mass adoption of Web 3.0 is to ask whether or not it has become so simple that your grandmother can explain it, and more importantly, use it.

Grandma knows what’s up

My grandmother is as sharp as a tack. She’s college-educated, reads voraciously and is a master of many subjects. Information technology, however, is not her strong suit.

Like many of her generation, she feels that ‘newfangled’ computer technologies are needlessly opaque, difficult and dangerous to navigate and endlessly changing.

Which, even to a technologist like me, I must admit is a valid criticism, especially when it comes to Web 3.0.

If you come right down to it, crypto, blockchain and Web 3.0, in general, are complicated. It’s a world chock-full of prototypes competing for attention and funding.

Almost everything is still in beta. Almost nothing has regulatory clarity in most major jurisdictions, let alone approval.

And when it comes to the most important part of adoption for consumer technologies, it leaves a lot to be desired to say the least.

It’s hard to measure exactly how many Web 3.0 users there are, but JP Morgan recently highlighted the decline in ETH transactions following their much heralded Shanghai upgrade, calling it ‘disappointing.’

Bitcoin shows some disappointing realities too. According to a recent report by Chainalysis, there are now over 460 million Bitcoin addresses but over 288 million of those hold no balance or were used only once, and of the wallets identified by Chainalysis to be ‘economically relevant,’ only 27 million actually hold any Bitcoin.

It is estimated that although nearly 90% of people have heard of Bitcoin or crypto, only 2.7% of the global population actually holds any crypto.

The hashrate for Bitcoin hit a new all-time high in September of 2023, indicating that more miners than ever before are trying to mine new Bitcoin but only about $7 billion worth of transactions involving Bitcoin were settled on centralized exchanges this year, markedly lower than $13.8 billion and $11 billion witnessed in 2021 and 2022 respectively.

In other words, almost everyone has heard of crypto and Web 3.0, but most users who try it leave and don’t come back.

Doesn’t seem like the kind of technology Grandma is going to be going out of her way to learn to use anytime soon.

A bigger problem than lack of adoption people fleeing

But why do so many people leave Web 3.0? Well, the most obvious answer to me is that it’s just too hard to use. DeFi, DEXs, swaps, impermanent loss, yield farming, dollar cost averaging, abiding by complicated tax rules and the list goes on.

I’ve been in crypto for a long time, but to this day, every time I set up a new wallet I still have the unshakable feeling that someday I’m going to lose my 24-word seed phrase and be locked out of my wallet forever.

Imagine Grandma trying to keep track of that. I get tired just thinking about trying to explain what a ‘seed phrase’ is to mine.

Another problem is language. Mempool, halving, forking, airdrops, consensus, Byzantine Fault Tolerance, HODL and DAO.

If you turn Grandma loose on these words without a Web 3.0 dictionary, she’s sure to end up getting ‘rekt.’

Even crypto natives struggle with some of these terms. I know die-hard Bitcoin maximalists who disagree about whether the reduction of Bitcoin mining rewards should be called the ‘halving’ or the ‘halvening.’

Regardless of which of the two you prefer, Grandma’s going to stay out of Web 3.0 until we come up with language that she can understand.

Something else that scares a lot of users about Web 3.0 is that there’s no way back.

Transactions are final even if you make a mistake. Didn’t mean to send all your ETH in that transaction? Too bad. Miss a step while trying to bridge some assets to layer two? That’s gone.

In November of 2022, accidentally sent 320,000 ETH or about $400,000,000 to the wrong recipient.

Just this past September, Paxos accidentally paid $500,000 in Bitcoin transaction fees and had to go ask the Bitcoin miners that had processed the transaction to return the money.

In both of these cases, the funds were recovered, but if Grandma makes a mistake like this, she’s just out of luck, and out of crypto.

Grandma isn’t joining Web 3.0 until it’s safe

This ties into what I think is still the biggest problem in Web 3.0 today it’s dangerous. Even major businesses like Paxos and are making mistakes.

It seems like almost every day we hear about Mark Cuban’s crypto wallet getting hacked and losing $870,000 or Hong Kong starting to welcome Web 3.0 back only to immediately hear news of a $200 million DeFi hack.

As much as people in Web 3.0 like to make jokes about these kinds of mistakes, the rest of the world isn’t laughing. They’re scared.

No one wants to hit the wrong button or click a suspicious link and then have to sit and watch helplessly as all their funds disappear.

Web 3.0 is supposed to offer a trustless alternative to centralized legacy finance, but presently, all it seems to offer is a series of pitfalls with no safety nets and no way to climb out if you fall into one.

The effect of this combined with the still fresh reputational damage done by the likes of FTX, Terra Luna and many others, is more than enough to scare away even the most technically savvy investors and users let alone Grandma.

If Mark Cuban can’t keep his hot wallet safe, you can bet your Bitcoin that Grandma isn’t going to feel comfortable using one anytime soon.

That said, it’s not all doom and gloom. These are still the early days, and Web 3.0 has already made and will continue to make huge leaps forward in both technical advancements and user adoption.

I have confidence in the promise of Web 3.0 and the ingenuity of this industry, but I think we would all do well to keep Grandma in mind when we’re discussing mass adoption and especially when designing new applications and user experiences.

Until Grandma is using Web 3.0 without ever knowing who Satoshi Nakamoto is, we haven’t done our jobs, Web 3.0 hasn’t succeeded, and we’ll never truly reach that elusive Holy Grail.

Mariana Krym, COO of VSC, a HealthFi ecosystem that leverages Web 3.0 technology to promote positive lifestyle habits through anonymized health data monetization. Mariana has also traded crypto for a number of years and is a veteran media consultant expert, having worked with such notable companies as Waze (now Google), Twitter (now X), Spotify, Snapchat and LinkedIn.


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Web3 is far from its iPhone moment

On January 9, 2007, a man in a black turtleneck sweater delivered the Keynote Address at Macworld 2007, in San Francisco, California. He was wearing “Dad” jeans and flavorless white running shoes. He promised the world three products: a widescreen iPod with touch controls, a revolutionary new kind of mobile phone and a breakthrough internet communication device, but he was really only talking about one: the iPhone. 

The first such product of its kind. 

iPhones quickly became the best-selling product of all time. Steve Jobs didn’t offer free trials. He didn’t hold giveaways or go on TV and beg for users. He and Apple just delivered an undeniably superior, paradigm-changing product to the market, and mass adoption happened as naturally as a falling apple hits the ground.

The iPhone did away with physical keyboards and the stylus in order to make the phones intuitive for anyone in the world to use. Web3 leaders would do well to make their projects equally intuitive and accessible too. 

Until the leaders of Web3 are able to deliver a new system to the market that is so far superior to the old ways of Web2 that mass adoption happens naturally and speedily, Web3 will continue to be little more than an interesting set of failed projects and fringe idealists.

Doesn’t anybody in crypto own a black turtleneck?

Learning from how Big Tech successfully captured our parents as customers

My mother has never owned a computer in her life, and even she has an iPhone now. This is the lesson that Web3 must learn if it is ever going to reach the fabled promise land of mass adoption. 

My mother has an iPhone because she has to have one. She learned to use one because she had to learn. She didn’t want to. She still doesn’t want to. But iPhones are so ubiquitous and have so completely changed the way the world works that she has been forced to use one to continue doing a job she started back in the 1980s.

If Web3 is ever going to reach this level of paradigm-shifting impact, if they are ever going to achieve mass adoption and displace the arcane tyranny of Web2, then they are going to have to build and offer a system to the market that is undeniably better than what’s currently out there: the longstanding kings of Web2.

Steve Jobs and his iconic black turtleneck are gone, but Apple still charges a 30% fee for apps and in-app purchases on the iOS, iPadOS, watchOS and macOS App Store. Of the $279.81 billion of revenue Google generated in 2022, $162.45 billion came from monetizing their users’ data by selling search ads (and not sharing this revenue with their users). It took Elon Musk buying Twitter and taking it private as X in order to launch an ad revenue-sharing program in July 2023, which allows revenue from verified users’ organic impressions of ads to be shared with the users who created the content posted on X.

The promise of Web3 is an alternative. An Internet of Value. A digital world where users own their data. A chance to have a digital identity and digital property rights. A chance to break the vice grip that all of these centralized corporate overlords hold on their platforms, their users and the money they make from exploiting both. The promise is appealing, but the results have not materialized.

Where Web3 falls short

Crypto offers users the opportunity to self custody their assets, giving them total control of their value, free from third-party governments or corporate masters. However, private keys can be lost and the assets become unrecoverable. Chainalysis estimates about 25% of bitcoins have been lost forever in this manner.

Celsius offered to custody user assets and generate yield off of them, the bulk of which would go back to the users who actually owned the assets. But their slogan “Unbank Yourself” became “Bankrupt Yourself” when unsound management led to bankruptcy in July of 2022.

FTX adopted the tagline, “Built by traders, for traders,” which captures the Web3 idea of user ownership. FTX also made a grand show of their philosophy of effective altruism. But that all ended when it was revealed that the entire business had been a house of cards.

NFT technology is mostly being used by Web3 projects like a child’s trading card game, instead of being used to create “the next generation of markets” by tokenizing real world assets as BlackRock CEO Larry Fink has publicly suggested. And most NFTs are just links to a picture hosted on a Web2 server, not a truly on-chain piece of digital property.

Solana and Ethereum have both recently launched their own phones to compete with the iPhone, but I don’t think Apple is worried about losing my mother as a customer any time soon.

Though Web3 isn’t where it needs to be yet, let’s not forget the reasons for its existence: Traditional finance and Web2 have failed real people time and time again.

Lessons for Web3 to actually do better than its forefathers

The value of data ownership must be communicated and it must have real-world financial results. Security and data integrity must be assured and not depend on users remembering complex private keys. DeFi must become actually decentralized and not subject to manipulation by a few large players. It must be accessible and inclusive of all market participants. 

The language of Web3 must be plain and dapps must be as easy to use as, well, an iPhone. Or better yet, a light switch. 

Above all, Web3 must be safe, transparent and trustless. It can no longer allow centralized bad actors to destroy the market’s belief in the promise of the Internet of Value.

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