Decentralization | 4 min read

Using xApps to Solve Blockchain’s Biggest Problem

Hint: It is not scalability!

I love decentralization, Blockchain/DLT, smart contracts and cryptocurrencies. However, there is one issue that hasn’t been solved yet in the Blockchain world: The Learning Curve

It is well-known that either you get the crypto bug, or you don’t. But before this happens, you need to go through a painful process which looks like this:

Of course, everyone doesn’t fall in love with Blockchain at first sight. It usually takes some time, which varies in length for everybody, and during which each person goes through his own process, which allows them to forge their own opinion on why Blockchain is useful — or not!

So how do we get people to kickstart this thinking process AND come to the right conclusion?

There is no magic, most people must feel a need to use a solution based on Blockchain technology before they’re convinced or even feel they need to learn more about it.

In order to identify what that need could be, we need to ask the question: What problem do they have TODAY that can be solved using Blockchain… TODAY?

Finding a Real-World Problem

It is common knowledge that to create a successful product you have to identify a problem and then find the best way to solve it for your potential customers.

Although many people may forget it, this also applies in achieving widespread adoption of Blockchain.

Find a problem in your industry and then identify the best way to solve it using Blockchain. That is the key to getting people to learn more about the benefits of Blockchain.

Oh, wait… I forgot a small detail: Blockchain, in general, is extremely geeky. Often it feels like we’re back in the early days of the internet where the only people using the internet looked like this:

But, nowadays, Internet users look like this:

Before Emily (above) and others like her, start talking about the latest DApp on “DInstagram”, we, as a community, need to make sure that we shush our inner-geek and start thinking like Emily and- the other 99% of the population.

DApps are flawed for the 99%

Even if you have a killer idea that is solving a real-world problem for Emily, let’s face it, she is not going to install MetaMask and buy some ETH through Coinbase to surf on your DApp any time soon… (Unless she has that guy in the picture above to help her get started)

Currently, on most DApps, I noted these major flaws that would scare off 99% of the population right away:

  • People are not used to install other software before they visit and use a website
  • They are not used to print a 24 words seed and lose permanent access to their accounts if they lose it
  • They are not used to “sign” messages or pay fees every time they take an action on a website
  • They are not used to pay with a currency whose value is changing every minute

I am not disputing the facts some of these “flaws” are actually strong benefits when you look from the other side, I am just exposing what Emily and 99% of the population would feel at first.

Introducing Cross-Apps (xApps)

xApps are hybrid apps that are both decentralized and centralized at the same time — I can already hear you shouting “Nonsense… Sorcery… Burn him!” but please, read on.

Although I agree that once you get the bug, decentralization becomes your “raison d’être” and that we cannot trade it for “cheap” centralization, I strongly believe we have to think and act more strategically in order to find a common ground so that we can reach a decentralized world sooner rather than later.

You may have heard the terms Graceful Degradation & Progressive Enhancement before? For those who don’t, both are widespread web development techniques which are about ensuring a website is usable for most browsers:

  • Graceful Degradation focuses on designing for modern browsers and having only the basic functionality on older browsers
  • Progressive Enhancement focuses on designing for all browsers and having extra functionality for modern browsers.

Most DApps creators are so obsessed with all the good things a decentralized world would bring that they tend to forget they are using a super cutting-edge browser while 99% of the web is still using a standard browser.

Whichever of those two approaches they choose, every respectable DApp developer should be conscious of how to make their app work within a more standard setup that would cover the technical and psychological flaws cited above.

How to “think” a xApp?

Thankfully, people are used to technology and how it can solve their problems:

  • If they want to keep in touch with their friends, they use Facebook
  • If they want to call home when they’re abroad, they use WhatsApp
  • If they want to buy something, they shop on Amazon

People trust these websites, they know how they work and feel comfortable using them. We have to build on that user knowledge and experience if we want to speed up their learning curve.

A xApp should be as friendly as Facebook, work on mobile as swiftly as WhatsApp and be as easy to use as Amazon to make purchases.

A xApp is truly the next generation app whose basic functionality is working seamlessly whatever the platform (web, mobile, embedded, centralized, decentralized, etc.)

There lies the difficulty in building a xApp, you cannot just be satisfied with a DApp, you have to make sure it is usable by most if you want your product to stand out.

If you want to see a real-life example of how a xApp is designed, stay tuned!