The blockchain industry is one that has been shrouded in mystery for a large part of its existence. It has long been the tool of tech gurus and early adopters – a new technology so abstract and complex that it has yet to reach a mainstream audience despite its shocking rise.
The attention grabbing headlines that describe millions of dollars in profits draw in the interest of people who have been ambivalent towards crypto in the past, but a significant technological barrier still stands in their way. Now experts are warning that if blockchain doesn’t become more accessible, it is doomed to fail.
A Growing Concern
“The next several years, I think, would be about building consumer-facing crypto products. Right now, it’s still not really into the hands of the people,” said crypto expert Nischal Shetty in a recent interview on the future of crypto. As the founder of the Indian crypto service WazirX, Shetty is familiar with the ups and downs of the crypto market. The past decade or so of crypto development has shown very little dedication to getting crypto into the hands of ordinary folk.
Blockchain, as a decentralized method of transmitting data and securing transactions; relying on peer-to-peer networks rather than central servers, is an already abstract concept, made more difficult by the unintuitive ways it is often used. Crypto aficionados generally purchase and hold crypto using browser extensions. They can then spend and trade their virtual cash in a variety of ways. While the opportunities for using cryptocurrencies has expanded in recent years, even the most popular NFT collectibles, like Crypto Punks and MeeBits have little broad appeal outside of the crypto industry.
While easy-access crypto options for newcomers are few and far between, certain innovations and collaborations in the crypto sphere show that developers are starting to see the writing on the wall. News recently broke that Twitter and Instagram are both working on their own integrated NFT features that will allow users to trade collectibles within the app. While the specifics of these features are not known this could provide an easy initiation into the world of crypto for the previously uninterested.
Other NFT developers are working with popular brands like the NBA to create collectibles that have a much broader appeal than traditional NFTs. NBA Top Shot, developed by Dapper Labs on the Flow blockchain, is a collectible game that sells moments from NBA games as NFTs. Similar to traditional sports memorabilia, rare cards that relate to basketball legends sell for high prices. One video of a Lebron James dunk recently sold for over $200,000.
More NFT collectibles are in the works on the Flow blockchain, like MotoGP Ignition, a collectible game that attracts Motocross fans. An important feature of MotoGP Ignition and other innovative NFT collections is their integration with modern crypto services like Blocto. Drawing interest from outside groups like sports fans is one of the things keeping the NFT industry alive, but providing fans with easy onboarding experiences is just as important. Blocto is a mobile crypto app developed by a group of crypto innovators who saw the need for a simple way to start using blockchain.
Simplicity is Key
“The products that are built on these technologies, they’re still quite primitive. It’s still very technical, normal people without technical backgrounds have difficulty using these applications,” said Hsuan Lee, one of the co-founders of Portto, the company that developed Blocto. “We wanted to lower the entry barrier, so the rest of the population can actually use these products and enjoy their benefits.”
Blocto essentially acts as a central hub for all aspects of the crypto industry. Using the app, people can purchase various cryptocurrencies using fiat currency. People can also buy and trade NFTs, like MotoGP Ignition, which is an exclusive partner with Blocto. It has the typical appealing design of a mobile app, so anyone with a smartphone will be instantly familiar when they open the app.
While the development of Blocto has largely been focused on making its mobile app as attractive and simple as possible, the developers also created an SDK so that their service can easily be integrated with existing dapps. For example, on the MotoGP Ignition website, users only need to sign into their Blocto account to purchase collectible packs using the funds they hold on their Blocto wallet. The experts at Portto recognized early on that combining attention-grabbing crypto products with an easy way to access them was the future of the industry.
“We focus on lowering the entry barrier and we are looking for partners that are building interesting applications. Back in early 2020, we formed a partnership with Flow, which the team is known for building attractive applications,” said Lee. These are exactly the kind of “consumer-facing” crypto products described by Nischal Shetty as a way of pushing crypto into the mainstream.
Lee likens the future of cryptocurrency with the way other technological innovations have risen in the past. “It’s very similar to the early days of the internet. In 1982 or 1993 the internet technology was just getting mature, but the services like Netscape were the ones to push this technology to normal people,” said Lee.
Just as cryptocurrency is seen now, innovations like smartphones, even the internet itself, were seen as passing fads upon their release. Developments that made them easy to use and attractive were what caused their popularity to skyrocket. The internet is not just useful these days, it’s absolutely imperative in nearly every global industry. Experts believe that if the crypto industry is given the same treatment, it could become just as vital to our daily lives as smartphones have.
For now, the crypto industry remains relatively niche. Despite what shocking headlines might suggest, like the NFT artwork that recently sold for $69 million, only a small percentage of people around the world are regularly using crypto. If the advice of crypto experts is followed, and the trend of creating consumer-facing crypto products continues on a larger scale, we could very well see blockchain move into the mainstream in a big way.