Blockchains are the new app stores
September 21st, 2021

1/ Topic: Blockchains are the new app stores 🧵

2/ If you were an ambitious, risk-seeking founder in the mobile golden age circa 2009-12, you built a new mobile app. That was when Uber, WhatsApp, Instagram, Venmo, Snapchat, and many other top apps were built.

3/ Mobile has since moved up the technology adoption S-curve. Great mobile apps will still be built, but the low-hanging fruit has been picked. The computing frontier of this decade is building apps on programmable blockchains like Ethereum.

4/ Blockchains are virtual computers that run on top of networks of physical computers. They have new properties and new capabilities that prior kinds of computers didn’t have.

5/ We say blockchains are programmable when they have highly expressive, near Turing-complete programming languages. The most popular programmable blockchain is Ethereum.

6/ Programmable blockchains are interesting for the same reason mobile phones became interesting when they opened up development to 3rd parties via app stores. The best ideas tend to come from the fringes.

7/ We saw this start to play out last year during "DeFi summer" as the first wave of crypto/blockchain killer apps broke out: Uniswap, Aave, Compound, Maker, etc.

8/ DeFi shows it’s possible to build financial services that are inclusive, fair, transparent, and composable. On Wall Street, value flows inward to institutions at the center. In DeFi, value flows outward to people at the edges.

“Whereas most technologies tend to automate workers on the periphery doing menial tasks, blockchains automate away the center. Instead of putting the taxi driver out of a job, blockchain puts Uber out of a job and lets the taxi drivers work with the customer directly.” - Vitalik Buterin

9/ This year NFTs and gaming were the next wave of blockchain apps to break out: NBA Top Shot, CryptoPunks, Axie Infinity, etc. You can see this reflected in the rapid growth of gross sales at OpenSea, the largest NFT marketplace:

10/ To some people, NFTs seem frivolous and toy-like. But NFTs are important because they offer radically better economics to creators and developers versus existing Web 2 platforms.

11/ What will be the next wave of blockchain killer apps? Computing waves are hard to predict, but there are some interesting emerging categories.

12/ DAOs (decentralized autonomous organizations) are internet-native, global collectives that share resources, build products, and work together toward common goals.

13/ Social tokens are new ways for creators to make money online. They remove rent-seeking intermediaries and enable the development of mini-economies that grow along with the fan base.

14/ Blockchain-based social networks make strong commitments to users and developers, so they can build on solid ground, without worrying about changing APIs and economics.

15/ Crypto-enabled 3D worlds and metaverse experiences let people socialize, earn money, and build mini-worlds, while guaranteeing interoperability and genuine ownership.

16/ These are some ideas, but entrepreneurs are better at building the future than people like me are at predicting it. It’s very likely the best ideas either haven’t yet been conceived or seem strange to us today.

17/ If you work in crypto, you are used to outsiders looking at you funny or thinking what you are doing is silly or a scam. We often don’t have names for what people are working on. It’s too new.

18/ This is what working at the start of the S-curve feels like. Programmable blockchains are the computing frontier, as PCs were in the 80s, internet in the 90s, and mobile in the last decade.

19/ We look back today on classic moments in computing and wonder what it was like to be there.

20/ But you are there! The Homebrew Computer Club of 2021 is a DAO or a Discord server, but the pattern is the same. Enthusiasts sharing ideas. Tinkerers hacking away on nights and weekends. These are the good old days - life on the frontier.


Originally published 8/16/21 on Twitter.

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