Dapps are the concert and crypto is the ticket at the door. Stick with me here.
I understand and agree with the notion that we need to “balance usability and security”, but there’s something missing. Generally speaking, people don’t just hop into new solutions with all they have — especially not in the world of crypto. The underlying assumption around the usability conversation today is that when people try out crypto, they are putting all of their money into a wallet and then oh no! they lose their passphrase and they’re toast. I don’t think this is a fair assumption and it frames the conversation about usability in such a way that every potential consequence of making something more usable is “people will lose all of their money and hate crypto forever!” I just don’t think that’s an accurate representation of what is likely to happen when people start to explore crypto.
Of course, I agree that there needs to be a balance, but I don’t agree that usability and security are such obvious tradeoffs, at least not in the context of non-financial dapps. If you make crypto easier to access, I think you’ll get more people exploring dapps (and thus more people realizing the potential of blockchain outside the realm of crypto and financial applications).
In the context of dapps, crypto is not the star of the show. Instead, crypto is the ticket in and maybe the way you pay for some drinks at the bar. This is the inherent problem with the usability conversation: it’s far too focused on decentralized finance and not focused on other dapps that exist in the ecosystem. As a result, companies are building solutions that consciously make the acquisition of crypto harder than it needs to be in order to ensure people don’t waste their life savings on Bitcoin. But here’s the kicker: no one wants to put their life savings in Bitcoin! The dapp ecosystem is building fascinating projects, many of which require a small amount of crypto to get users started. This is the nature of blockchain solutions. Yet, the conversation around usability in acquiring crypto is not considering users in the context of these dapps. Instead, the usability conversation is happening in the context of financial applications and thus assumes that without proper educational tools, users will buy massive amounts of crypto and lose all of their money. Taking necessary precautions to ensure that users understand the differences between crypto and traditional payment methods is important, but creating huge barriers to entry is counterproductive. No one is going to buy tickets to a concert (start using a dapp) if the purchase of that ticket (crypto) requires 30 minutes of financial literacy seminars followed by a “quick 37-step guide to purchasing your ticket”.
People are trying to make art, learn something new, try out a new skill, or play a game. Someone trying to play pixEOS doesn’t need to go through a 10 step guide about how to make money management decisions and the finality of immutable transactions on the blockchain in order to pay a fee to color a pixel.
The big distinction is this: in decentralized finance, crypto is the foundation — it’s the backbone of the financial innovation that blockchain brings to the table and financial literacy and crypto literacy is important. In the rest of the blockchain world, crypto is often the ticket in the door. Sure, it plays a role later once a user has started to use a dapp, but without the ticket in the door, the user won’t understand what’s so great about the show.