Unless you have been living under a rock in the past months, the fervent and loud, but vague debates of web3.0 have been causing quite a scene on the Internet. Those tiny murmurs a few months ago have turned into an avalanche of blares and booms, with both believers and detractors crying out their facts and hyperboles.
Within the web3.0, decentralized storage technologies have been rising to a crescendo. So many new names have come forth into the decentralized storage space, most backed by blockchain and incentivized by cryptocurrencies and is putting the 19th century California Gold Rush to shame.
At present, the decentralized storage market segment is fluid, very vibrant and very volatile. Being the perennial storage guy that I am, I would very much like the decentralized storage to be sustainably successful but first, it has to make sense. Logic must prevail before confidence follows.
Classic “Crossing the Chasm”
To understand this decentralization storage chaos, we must understand where it is now, and where it is going. History never forgets to teach us of the past to be intelligible in the fast approaching future.
I look to this situation as a classic crossing the chasm case. This Crossing the Chasm concept was depicted in Geoffrey Moore’s 1991 book of the same name. In his book, he spoke well about the Technology Adoption Cycle that classifies and demonstrates the different demographics and psychological progression (and regression) of how a technology is taken to mainstream.
As a new technology enters the market, the adoption is often fueled by the innovators, the testers, the crazy ones. It progresses and the early adopters set in. Here we get the believers, the fanatics, the cults that push the envelope a bit further, going against the institutions and the conventions. This, which is obvious, describes the early adopter stage of the decentralized storage today.
Like all technologies, it has to go mainstream to be profitable and to get there, its value to the masses must be well defined to be accepted. This is the market segment that decentralized storage must move to, to the early majority stage. But there is a gap, rightly pointed out and well defined by Geoffrey Moore. The “Chasm“. [ Note: To read about why the chasm, read this article ].
So how will decentralized storage cross the chasm to the majority of the market?
Technology history teaches us
History is strewn with technology failures. History is also dotted with technology successes. And the easiest way is to look at the successful technology that is ubiquitous to us all – Cloud Computing. How did we adopt cloud computing so well when just less than 2 decades ago, cloud computing was widely disparaged?
I believe many would read Moxie Marlinspike‘s blog last week about his first impression of web3.0. Moxie was the CEO of Signal (he resigned last week), and is a well respected security expert and cryptographer (security cryptography, not coin crypto). He co-created the Signal protocol that provides encryption which powers many messaging services such as Signal, WhatsApp, Skype and Facebook Messenger.
While he has expressed his opinions about NFTs (non-fungible tokens) and the obfuscated decentralized services, I was drawn to what he wrote about web1.0, web2.0 and the nascent web3.0.
Mixing his commentary with other articles I have read, basically in web1.0, there was a client-server relationship because it started with organizations (and individuals) running their own services. It could be email servers, database servers, web servers, and so on. In web2.0, as written by Moxie, “People don’t want to run their own servers and they never will” rings loudly. The chasm was crossed when the torch of running own servers was passed on to service providers to run the servers and services on the end users’ behalf. Here we saw the meteoric rise of the hyperscalers, and the cloud computing behemoths we get today.
The Real Currency of Decentralized Storage
The decentralized storage landscape is peppered with coins today. Cryptos (not the security kind) rise to fuel the grand adoption of decentralized storage platforms and services. They are financial incentives and promises to entice and capture the early adopters to jump into their bandwagons. But the profits gained from these early adopters will be minuscule compared to what could be coming when decentralized storage technology reaches the majority. The real gold rush will begin when chasm is crossed.
We are aware of the many reasonings given by many parties involved. Decentralization, security benefits, not to be controlled by one organizations, more cost effective, crowd sourced and so many more. I do not dispute these reasons because they are valid ones but will it be enough to get the masses to join in and dip their toes in the water big time?
Regardless of the advantages and the financial gains of these promises, organizations of the majority must have the confidence to take to decentralized storage on a large scale. Geoffrey Moore spoke about the dynamics of both early adopters and early majority. Visionaries drive the early adopters but pragmatists drive the adoption of the majority.
Thus decentralized storage, the technology and the vision, has to make sense to the pragmatists. To get there, the pragmatists must be able to perceive value (not just the cryptos) and how decentralized storage can be applied to solve problems. They must be confident that the application(s) of decentralized storage can bring value and solutions to what they intend to solve, without shaking status quo too abruptly.
To get to the value stage of the majority, we work with the pragmatists’ confidence. To gain their confidence, the first thing to do is to have the trust in whatever we are pitching and selling. TRUST, in my opinion, is the REAL currency to establish decentralized storage as a confident and viable platform and service to these organizations majority.
For the win
Everything about decentralized storage is very fluid right now. We do not know which direction the technology will flow and will be forced to flow to. As such, it will come to a stage where it has to cross the chasm to majority adoption. To get there will not be as difficult as trying to solve the Navier-Stoke Equation, a mathematical equation that describe the flows and motions of fluids such as water and air.
To be successful, decentralization storage devotees must target a specific segment of the market. Yes, it will sound niche-y but this segment is critical. Just like the Gartner® Magic Quadrant, the Niche Player quadrant is a start. Thus decentralized storage has to be a market niche, for now.
Look at the problems to solve. Pick one, go after it and solve it, as advised by Geoffrey Moore. Then move to the next one and the next, to gain value and confidence of the watching majority. Trust has to be earned, not given.
Right now, there are use cases waiting to be solved. These can be high risks, high profile cases or low risks, high profile cases to be tackled to bring decentralized storage to the fore front.
I tweeted a week ago about one of use cases:
Underneath the tweet, there is a reason to my tone of the question. For the win, I would love to see decentralized storage solve that question comprehensively, not just from a technology angle.
So here and there, I am doing my bit to advance this nascent technology. I am excited about the future of decentralized storage. May it live long and prosper.