Web 3 as a Movement
Hope you had a good long weekend! Welcome to all the new subscribers, thanks for the support!
Today we wanted to talk a little bit about Web 3 adoption and understand how Web 3 vibes (culture, mission, values, etc.) help drive adoption and onboarding.
Heads up: we are in the process of entering the next phase of Life in Color. Announcement post coming next week!
If you enjoy our content, follow us on Twitter: Life in Color Twitter
If you enjoy reading, please consider sharing the Life in Color Substack with others!
Thanks for the continued support!
To learn about where Life in Color is going next, please subscribe!
New technology takes time to get right.
Every time something new is released (not just tech), there’s an early adoption period where trailblazers lean in, while skeptics watch in the background.
Carlota Perez’s adoption curve tells us we know the cost of doing nothing goes up when we don’t lean in, but there’s a degree of suspicion / lack of awareness to overcome first.
The cycle of who’s hopping on the crypto bandwagon today is no different. The first question we get when we tell people about Life in Color is, “Oh, what do you think of crypto… is it here to stay?”
It feels like everyone is talking about crypto, but few are crossing the chasm. If you know, you know, and everyone else is merely talking about it.
Why is crossing the chasm so hard? (read: why is Web 3 adoption so low today?)
Web 3 as an “experience good” 🔺
There is a lot of attention in Web 3 product design focused on answering questions such as:
How do we make the technology work?
What is the UI/UX for decentralized apps?
What is the utility and value a user gets from using my product?
All of these are important questions, in fact they’re critical in product design.
But for a lot of people (read: majority of people), Web 3 products are not at the level of fidelity to compete with existing (Web 2) tech that most people are used to / familiar with.
While the technology is important, technology products take time to figure out. Building a product that stands the test of time for the masses is hard. This is not a problem that is unique to Web 3 — it applies to all innovative technologies. But technology itself doesn’t always do the best job of onboarding and driving adoption.
Web 3 as a technology is only one (albeit important) angle.
Web 3 is also a social movement.
The “social movement” part to Web 3 can be viewed as an “experience good”.
“An experience good in economics refers to a product for which the consumer does not initially know the quality and value of the item, aside from the price tag. The good is usually a product such as a book or movie, and the value is discovered after consumption.” [See longer definition here]
Framing it this way allows us to put ourselves in the shoes of users who have yet to jump into Web 3 and ask the fundamental question: Why should I cross the chasm into Web 3?
So if we are trying to get a bunch of people who have yet to cross the chasm to jump into Web 3, we must appeal to their hierarchy of needs. We have to give the user a reason to cross the chasm, even when the technology is early in its lifecycle. Similar to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, there is an Adoption Hierarchy of Needs in Web 3. It looks something like this:
The Adoption Hierarchy of Needs in Web 3
Levels 1 & 2 are largely technology and product design questions. When innovative technologies arise, the focus is often on Levels 1 and 2 of this hierarchy. In Web 3, they’re often what gets measured today and where all the focus is. Levels 1 & 2 are about seeing Web 3 as a technology innovation.
Level 3 is about seeing Web 3 as a social movement. If we get Level 3 right, there is a massive opportunity to onboard the next x-million (or x-billion) users. If we see Web 3 as an “experience good” — the vibes/culture/values/mission need to be so attractive to the potential user that they are willing to cross the chasm before they realize any value from Web 3.
Said another way, if you get the vibes (culture, values and mission) right, a bunch of people will cross the chasm despite the fact that the technology is still a work-in-progress.
When the vibes are bad, Web 3 has an image problem. When the vibes are good, people feel like they are joining a social movement.
Building a Bigger Pie 🥧
Why does adoption even matter?
One of the principles of Web 3 is to build open and transparent public goods. Public goods by definition have to be inclusive goods.
Ultimately adoption and being inclusive is about building a bigger pie. The more inclusive the broader Web 3 community, the more ideas, effort and contribution we get from net new users and contributors coming into the space. Obvious… but more users are good for the space… more contributors are also good for the space. 🤯 🤯 🤯
Once more people join Web 3, this will drive additional experimentation and innovation, ultimately increasing the chance to build an open and transparent user-owned internet.
All of this creates a lot more value than what Web 3 is today.
If you are early in Web 3, you might be asking: why is onboarding my responsibility?
Web 3 is still a relatively small and nascent industry in the grander scheme of things. We’ve all made jokes around how many users does Web 3 actually have?
But arguably onboarding is one of the biggest roles early adopters can play [see our article on Evangelists]. The early settlers have to promote inclusivity if they want to benefit from the upside of a user-owned internet. To be successful we actually need more users… onboarding new people is the only way we can win together.
Web 3 will remain a niche industry if we don’t appeal to a broader audience to join us.
Today, it feels like we are all fighting over the same “10 users”.
Why fight over crumbs when we can bake a bigger pie? 🥧
A new kind of game 🎲
Attracting more contributors and community members goes beyond upside and tokens. A niche culture can feel kind of exclusionary… where exclusion = a zero sum game.
The more barriers to entry, the fewer people will want to join and actually do so. They miss out. And the people on the inside miss out from their peers’ contributions too.
Nobody wins. ❌
For an industry that's supposed to be open and transparent, the best thing people can do is bring in new people and ideas.
We should be designing a positive sum game!!!
To enable this positive sum game (flywheel), Web 3 has to get people to cross the chasm by appealing to the human side of the technology (read: the vibes, culture, mission and values).
If Web 3 gets that right, people might just be more patient with what doesn’t work, or even better, jump in to help bring the technology over the finish line.
We’ve referenced Yat Siu saying this before and we’ll say it again: Web 3 is often painted as only technology innovation, but the innovation in Web 3 is also a human one.
Good vibes help bring people into Web 3.