The Year In Tech: Web3…Wha’ Happened? (Guest Post)

Andy Mendelsohn is manager at Full Stop Management, where his clients include Kings of Leon and almost monday.

The anticipated mass adoption and migration into a Web3 world, for the most part, has failed to take place. 

It’s not that Web3 functionality failed to become vastly superior in every way, because it is.  It’s not because Web3 fails to offer more security, because it does.  It’s certainly not due to a lack of effort and money by the smartest, most ambitious early adopters, because they invested fully.   

If not for these reasons, then why? How is it possible that the smartest names and biggest funds have yet to crack the code on how to get folks through the (virtual) door? 

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First, it turns out, opening a digital wallet is hard. It’s been too difficult for too long for too many people and it remains a clunky process today. No matter how many times Blockchain experts say it’s easy, even hand-holding folks through the process, the resulting experience often ends in frustration. It WILL get easier, and there are some solid companies on the horizon. 

Where’s the emerging star to draw in the masses? 

Many thought they saw bright lights on the horizon, but most would-be stars took assumptions with rights that were not on the table. This occurred mostly in music (shocker!). 

Once Kings of Leon dropped the first (and the band’s last) major label release as an NFT in March ‘21, labels being labels quickly closed any perceived loopholes to prevent the next Napster-level event from taking place. This was overkill, because record labels actually covered NFTs decades ago when they started including “mediums known and unknown” in recording contracts. That little phrase covers the labels, so end-arounds are not possible without contention. 

Can someone figure out how to balance it all?

I’m optimistic someone will.  It could still be years before the masses care enough to adopt Web3 en masse. We are still waiting for someone to prove itself as a proper destination for fan experience and engagement. Lots of talk and chatter about what’s coming, which is certainly hopeful. Not helping was a crypto bubble burst that placed the world in a deep winter freeze with no signs of spring. 

A year ago, if you could get a Bored Ape for less than $300k, it was worth taking out a second mortgage. No one is talking about Bored Apes or concerts in the Metaverse these days. Decentraland and Sandbox never had more that 1,000 users on-platform , even with all the deafening hype about these platforms being the “must have” component in any meaningful creative pitch. 

Another issue is the masses are still Web2 addicted. We love our apps, and most of us have no issue giving up our privacy for the convenience of Waze and Postmates. Society likes the way the system works, but until people get over it and want their privacy back, there is little chance of Web3 catching a mainstream wave. 

Everything moved so fast and changed so much in the last two years. It’s reached a point where many people who couldn’t get their heads around NFTs have simply written it off and may never get it. Now it’s up to the next generation to perfect it and benefit fully. Which brings me to my final point, sometimes these things take time. 

Transformational technology often involves spikes and crashes, which can be the result of expecting change too quickly. Case in point, the late ‘90s dot-com crash didn’t kill the internet, but rather set the stage for the single greatest tech disruption in our lifetimes. Social media also experienced pullback at one point. We all felt “enough is enough with the check-ins and food pics,” and then suddenly we figured out the value this data represents for direct-to-consumer capabilities. YouTube, once an unquenchable fount of cats videos, now has entire companies built on the back of this flywheel. 

So the question I would pose is this: Do Web3’s shortcomings reflect the idea that hard changes require more time for adoption, or are we still in search of the perfect complement that unlocks Web3 value? Or both? 

Simply put, change is hard. We want instant satisfaction, and 2021 may seem like the year of being “too successful, too soon.” Maybe, just maybe, we need to redefine what “success” means for Web3. Setbacks and shortcomings might break anticipated timelines, but they aren’t necessarily failures. Rather, they can be lessons in what works and what doesn’t, which can serve as stepping stones toward the ultimate goal of a fully immersive, mass adopted, multi-platform worldwide Web3. 

Consider the points above. We identified several Web3 issues to be addressed, and recognizing the problem is often the first step toward solving it. Stop with the timelines, treat each step seriously, and Web3 may still achieve the traditional definition of success.

Look for Part 2 of this guest post discussing the positive developments in Web3 adoption in an upcoming issue of Pollstar.