Since I can remember, I’ve always been fascinated by technology. And, how it can change the way we live our daily lives. I always wanted to be a part of building products that reshape how we interact with our world — for the better.
It seems like we’re often hearing about the next big life-changing thing in tech, many of which have sadly come and gone. Head to any news site, forum or timeline. You’ll likely see Web 3.0 technologies grabbing more headlines and chatter each year from the Web 3.0 passionate, the nay-sayers and everyone in-between. Everyone has their own opinion on whether Web 3.0 will stand the test of time.
Some of the world’s best-known business and technology leaders, including Mark Cuban, Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg, have bet their hands on Web 3.0 technologies with various entries into the industry. Regardless of your opinion on these individuals, it’s undeniable to say they have all built lasting products that have proven to move through generations and technology adoption phases.
I firmly believe that Web 3.0 technologies are poised to fundamentally change how we store and trust data in our world — we just aren’t there yet.
Various technologies fall under the Web 3.0 umbrella. The most well-known include blockchain, cryptocurrency and NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens), the latter of which has been one of the hottest techie topics over the last few months.
A recent skit on the Colbert Show humorously summed up many non-techies’ thoughts around NFTs — “in just one year, we’ve gone from having no idea what they are, to having no idea why they are.” And I don’t blame them for the confusion. If you search NFT right now, it’s likely you’ll see search results about digital art pieces selling for millions of dollars.
In my last piece, I explained how NFTs are the digital answer to ownership and provenance, similar to any other collectible — baseball cards, art, classic cars — except NFTs are the digital version. Owning an NFT does not mean that no one else can see the collectible, it just means that no one else has the ownership rights.
So, while Bored Apes and other digital art may be the current popular use cases of NFT technology, I firmly believe this is only the beginning — a trend perpetuated by the early adopters. The best applications of these technologies haven’t been invented or widely launched — yet.
NFTs boast some particularly interesting applications when it comes to intellectual property. NFTs are secure, smart contracts built on blockchain technology. Meaning, they cannot be hacked and rely on the public ledger to verify each transaction. As more and more transactions occur online, cybercrime and fraud have become rampant. NFTs cannot be faked or altered — they directly answer the demand for fraudulent-proof contracts.
So why aren’t we seeing a larger variety of use cases yet? Think about the early ’90s, at the dawn of Web 1.0, when most companies weren’t advertising their services or selling goods on the internet. Why not? Because mainstream audiences weren’t there yet. Upon mass, widespread consumer and business adoption — not just the techies and early adopters — we saw that change. I expect something similar to happen with NFTs and other Web 3.0 technologies.
Every person has their own comfort level and reliable use cases with technology. For example, tech may be your passion, it may help you work or socialize or you may rarely use it. While everyone is unique, consumers generally fall into five categories of technology adoption habits: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards. These categories are mapped in this widely referenced bell curve chart that displays the human adoption of new technologies and products.
In his classic book Crossing the Chasm, Geoffrey Moore dives into the famous chart a step further. He explains the massive gap in high-tech adoption between the early market (innovators and early adopters) and the mainstream market (early majority, late majority and laggards). The former embrace innovation, looking for any opportunity to incorporate cutting-edge technology into their businesses for a competitive edge. The latter mainstream majority instead prefer to stick with proven technologies. It is in that gap — or chasm — where the creation of more mainstream use cases will begin to occur.
The mainstream market makes up nearly 70 percent of the population. So, while it may seem like everyone is talking about Web 3.0, it’s likely most of them fall within the early market.
According to Moore, successfully crossing the chasm and reaching the mainstream market requires the strategic targeting of the early majority, a niche group leading the mainstream market. Once that early majority is comfortable regularly using a product or service, the entry into the latter parts of the mainstream market will naturally happen. This occurs via word of mouth from the early majority to the other niches within the adoption chart. Following this theory, we are in the early stages of business opportunities for realizing value by leveraging these emerging technologies. I anticipate the true leaders in Web 3.0 will be the firms that choose to invest in their R&D.
Once we cross that chasm and reach the beginning of the change-resistant populations, we will see widespread use of Web 3.0 technologies. In turn, their adoption will propel the inevitable fundamental change in how we store and trust information for the better. We’re still at the start of this adoption journey.