While the overarching goal of the “web 3.0” movement is to create internet infrastructure that exists without over-reliance on middlemen, the make-up of such networks have been highly centralized; a phenomenon that has become especially apparent within projects that leverage blockchain technology.
By placing full decentralized applications (DApps) on their main chains, such projects have found themselves burdened with transaction throughput limitations that tend to get worse as the number of nodes in the network increases. As scalability solutions that disincentivize node count growth, like Proof-of-Stake, become increasingly popular, the probability of widespread node ownership and access continues to decrease. However, in making this trade-off, many industry stakeholders seem to underestimate how important it is for nodes to be easily accessible by normal users, in order to facilitate mainstream adoption. It is paramount that web 3.0 projects make every effort to ensure node accessibility for those not entwined in the space, even if it means reducing over-reliance on Blockchains, in favor of alternative node networks.
As it stands, the ability to run nodes within a decentralized network has remained a privilege for those with both wealth and nuanced technical understanding. Blockchain platforms have popped up in droves, most of which aim to run entire DApps, and all of their transactions, on main chains. As projects consolidate their node count to account for systemic transaction congestion, node operation is set to become the domain of users with financial resources (usually in the form of coin stakes or elite mining equipment) and deep blockchain knowledge. Given the major obstacles one is expected to overcome in order to run a node, the conversation on mainstream adoption of decentralized networks (a topic that frequently overlaps with cryptocurrencies) has largely centered around retail adoption of new speculative crypto assets.
By circumventing the ability for average people to process transactions across supposedly unstoppable networks, many web 3.0 (and blockchain) projects are tacitly accepting the growth of a technocracy, which, aside from ideologically conflicting with the base tenets of decentralization ideology, is highly counterproductive as it relates to adoption. Ownership of a node in a network creates a sense of pride, inclusion, and potential revenue stream, that speculative “HODLing” and trading simply can’t compete with. Projects should be actively pushing to increase their node counts, as each new node represents a network member that is invested in a way that goes beyond money.
For everyday users to jump on board en mass, the process of running a node has to be streamlined, making it simple for anyone to contribute to the architecture of the new web. Fortunately, the next class of web 3.0 projects have begun to churn out solutions that offer a chance for everyone to join the fold. We’re already seeing projects become more selective with their use of main chain transactions, deploying sidechains, and relying on communication infrastructures that increase, rather than decrease, throughput as more nodes join the network. Most importantly, these “new” nodes are becoming increasingly accessible via installation on smart devices that consumers already want to own, regardless of their knowledge of a potential “web 3.0”. When a user purchases, say, a TV box to stream their shows, they may be convinced to operate a node if all it requires of them is to click “ON”.
Once users realize they can earn money by passively routing communications, they may spend time actually learning about the network to which they’re contributing their energy. DApps will not see widespread adoption until consumers understand them, and the best way to drive that understanding is to give consumers the opportunity to easily and directly power them.