Spreading the Revolution — Blockchain and Inclusion

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“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.”

President Trump tweeted this quote, showing some of the most frequent concerns about crypto. If you are in the blockchain space, you probably see cryptocurrency as one of many use-cases, and the technology as having the unprecedented potential to dis-intermediate centralized services.

The crypto market neared USD 1 trillion at its peak and was around USD 800 billion in late 2017. With such a colossal 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 small part of applications are actually utilized, with a few apps winning 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 utilize nowadays. First, users have to examine 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 numerous scam wallets out there. Then, they have to safely store their private key — again, not apparent to most users, especially when the most common password is 123456.

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

Upon selecting 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 can 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 allows the amount of BTC withdrawal needed at their “level” of verification.

Assuming everything went 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 forever 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 generate value for the user?

This simplification is the essence of inclusive user experience.

What is missing from this electronic wonderland? Human contact. Discount the fawning techno-burble about virtual communities. Computers and networks isolate us from one another.

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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