Documenting Beyond's journey into Web3. Elissa Santamaria, UX designer and Tom Hudson, Product lead, explore the evolution of the internet, what Web3 has in store and why the NEAR Protocol is so important for bringing Web3 to the masses. This article is the second in a series around Web3.
Beyond is moving into Web3! Before we detail why we’re doing this, it’s important to understand what Web3 is and how it differs from the web that we’re all familiar with.
The internet is a story of ongoing evolution. What started as websites where people were limited to viewing content in a passive read-only manner (Web1) has now become one in which users can actively participate (Web2). This version of the web centres on the idea of users generating content and uploading it to platforms who own it e.g. social media and forums. Web3 is the next iteration of the internet and it is underpinned by blockchain technology. This creates a more decentralised and open internet, where users own their data and have access to even greater functionality.
To better understand the value this will bring we suggest reading our recent Web3 article that explores this topic in more detail.
Beyond has strong capabilities in Web2 having worked with and advised many industry leading companies. Web3 has transformative potential for many industries, with use cases the world is only starting to explore. For Beyond, Web3 is a new opportunity to help clients serve their customers better and in new ways. Web3 technology will drive the next wave of innovation, establishing new business models and delivering services unavailable to users today.
Beyond’s expertise in design, product and technical capabilities will help companies explore, adopt and adapt Web3 to take advantage of this next wave of internet innovation and help them create new value.
Beyond has partnered with the NEAR Foundation to provide market and user research services to companies within the NEAR Ecosystem. NEAR is a collective, a foundation, and a development platform built on a new layer-one blockchain. Put simply, NEAR is building a platform that allows different applications to be built on top of it - by doing so NEAR will help bring Web3 into the mainstream.
NEAR differentiates itself from other blockchain platforms in two key ways. First is the focus on the user experience. NEAR provides friendly functionality such as Human-readable account names and an education platform to help guide developers and new users through using the platform. The NEAR Foundation recently announced $800M in grants for the community to build out the overall ecosystem, so expect the user experience to only improve. Second is the technical capability of the blockchain. NEAR stores transactions on the blockchain by using a Proof of Stake (PoS) consensus model. This has a number of advantages over Proof of Work (PoW) blockchains, covered later, as PoS models allow for faster transaction times and lower transaction fees all with just a fraction of the computational power. In fact, unlike some blockchains that have the energy consumption of a small country, the NEAR blockchain is certified as carbon neutral. This focus on user experiences, technical functionality and sustainability was a great match for us as we share similar values in how we work.
Beyond spent 5 days exploring the world of Web3 and the NEAR platform. Alongside secondary research approaches (e.g. reading anything and everything Web3 related), leaders in this space were interviewed. This gave us a great understanding of the ecosystem, the opportunities and challenges within it and answered a number of questions that we had. This process really demystified some of the terms we had heard so far (e.g. DeFI, NFTs, and DAOs) and helped us to better understand the types of application being built on NEAR. You can read more about some of the different NEAR applications here.
Web3 will be revolutionary for many companies, because as mentioned, the blockchain technology allows for new opportunities, new business models and new relationships between technology and data. Through our research we found three key areas that will be important for the companies that adopt Web3, including how the community impacts design, how users gain trust in Web3 and misconceptions around Web3.
The Web3 community plays a crucial role in the product development process; it is a close knit community that engages frequently with each other over channels like Discord and Twitter. This highlights an unmet need for overall user experience and product design in Web3, because users expect a higher standard of communication and involvement in the building process.
Web3, crypto currencies and blockchain technology are still foreign concepts to the majority of people. So, how do consumers enter the world of Web3 and how do they build trust in Web3 products?
People are often encouraged by those they already trust, so they tend to be willing to take a leap of faith into Web3 if recommended by family or friends.
In some cases first hand experiences are the best way to shape opinions. Even though a lot of Web3 users have low overall trust, they will take a risk in hope of a large reward.
Community sentiment has a significant influence on decision making; users will follow experts who have many years of experience in the crypto world.
There tend to be many misconceptions around Web3 including sustainability concerns and whether Web3 applications are solving real problems.
One of the common misconceptions is that all blockchains are not sustainable because they consume large amounts of energy. This stems from the way Bitcoin runs its PoW consensus model, however this is only one consensus model. NEAR’s PoS model uses far less energy and aims to create a more sustainable and inclusive Web3 future.
There is a lot of doubt around Web3 capabilities, it being the next iteration of the internet and whether blockchain technology is solving real problems. From our research we have found many valuable use cases that put these doubts to rest - one example is stopping ticket scalping, which we will cover in the next article.
Web3 terminology can be quite overwhelming for people entering this space. Websites and applications are slowly improving education on their platforms; however more can be done to guide new users onboarding into the Web3 world.
Web2 is typically associated with more traditional organisational structures, however Web3 is emerging and operates on a smaller scale, therefore, they function as flat organisational structures. This comes with its own challenges like more fluid job roles and undefined processes. So far, this has resulted in a low level of UX maturity compared with Web2, meaning there is an opportunity in Web3 to utilise good UX as a competitive advantage.
The pace of Web3 moves so quickly that it can be hard to stay abreast of the latest updates and applications. Whilst challenging, the functionality and rate of advancement, especially when compared to Web2, is exciting and creates new opportunities in this space. Beyond is well versed in moving at pace to help businesses design and build Web3 technology and ensure they don’t fall behind the growing market. In the next article we will be applying our services to SeatlabNFT, a Web3 company looking to reinvent the ticketing process.
If you want to learn more about Web3 or the NEAR Protocol we recommend the following links and videos.
The OWS blockchain basic series