Like the Internet, Blockchain Needs Inclusion to Spread

“I am not a fan of Bitcoin and other Cryptocurrencies, which are not money, and whose value is highly volatile and based on thin air. Unregulated Crypto Assets can facilitate unlawful behavior, including drug trade and other illegal activity.”

This quote was tweeted by President Trump, reflecting some of the most common concerns about crypto. If you’re in the blockchain space, you probably see cryptocurrency as one of many use-cases, and the technology as having the revolutionary potential to dis-intermediate centralized services.
The crypto market neared $1 trillion USD at its peak, and was around $800 billion in late 2017. With such a tremendous market, why do lay-people still think of it as potentially unlawful and illegal? The answer lies in inclusion. Blockchain and cryptocurrency, ironically, are still relatively exclusive technologies. In fact, only a tiny fraction of applications are actually used, with a few applications gaining the lion’s share of traction.

Even doing the simplest thing in the space, like buying Bitcoin, is considerably harder than the Hello World of most technologies we use today. First, users have to research Bitcoin wallets that are technically safe (e.g. that have never been hacked) and legal in their jurisdiction. These are not obvious to a lay-person and there are countless scam wallets out there. Then, they have to safely store their private key – again, not obvious to most users, especially when the most common password is 123456.

Next, a user has to do similar research to find a technically safe and compliant Bitcoin exchange for their jurisdiction, also finding out whether or not their bank would allow them to use their card to purchase from the exchange, or if they’d get their account frozen.

Upon select a suitable exchange, a user has to pass KYC/AML verification, which may take a few days, and involves the risky process of uploading documents such as a passport and bank statement. After verification, the user may place a “market order” or “limit order” for BTC, forking over a large chunk of their change to fees.

Then, after waiting for network confirmation, a user can find the Bitcoin in their exchange wallet, and then send it to their own wallet. That is only, however, if the exchange enables the amount of BTC withdrawal needed at their “level” of verification.

Assuming everything ran smoothly, the user passed the “Hello World” of blockchain. In terms of User Experience, this is the exact opposite of inclusion. Without inclusion, crypto will always be restricted to a small circle of followers, instead of encompassing the average Jane and John Doe.

What would an inclusive user experience look like?

An inclusive user experience asks users of the bare minimum. Ask yourself, what is the minimum information needed and the minimum number of steps that can be deployed to create value for the user? This simplification is the essence of an inclusive user experience.

It’s Just Like the Internet

“What’s missing from this electronic wonderland? Human contact. Discount the fawning techno-burble about virtual communities. Computers and networks isolate us from one another.” – Clifford Stoll

In the early days of the Internet, the technology was discounted. We see the same trends with every single new technology, whether it’s 4G, 5G, IoT, or blockchain.

However, what the “Net” needed to move from universities and Internet cafes into the pockets of everyone else was inclusivity – a better user experience.

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