Web3 in 2023: 6 Trends Towards The Path of Sanity
In the post-FTX scandal era, the Web3 rules are changing.
- What worked for web3 in the past is not going to work. Focus has shifted to value creation and new turfs of value are emerging, older spaces are outdated and crowded. We are moving towards sanity.
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We came off a euphoric bull run in 2021 to an epic bear market in 2022. A lot has changed in this period, with protocol collapses, regulatory bans, code sanctions, CeFi obliteration, heightened FUD and bad actors causing an industry-wide contagion through acts of fraud.
There have been many positive developments in this period that lay the platform for blockchain adoption, like venture capitalist posture maturity and new technologies like Optimism and Arbitrum that address scaling issues with blockchain, the emergence of new categories like decentralized platforms and regulatory clarity in many countries. A few notable and likely trends for 2023 are shaping up.
Stand-alone value matters
Liquid tokens on a project's balance sheet cannot drive valuations anymore; companies and projects must show tangible value to create free cash flow and harness network effects. Lately, the focus has been on the standalone ability to generate value versus buying growth using tokens in the short term.
Emphasis is shifting to user monetization from bought-out growth that has proven unsustainable as market cycles change. Investors view equity as claims to future cash flows and profits (minus liabilities) and tokens as value created from future utility or services delivered by the protocol.
Given the relative maturity of the market, many protocols have not charted a clear path to sustain value through future delivery of utility, causing a shift in investor mindset. Investors are now emphasizing the quality of revenue, which can raise the value of their equity profile while eventually accruing token value.
A "Tokuity" model evolves
Investors like the liquidity associated with the token; its volatility and longevity have been concerning to many. There seems to be a shift from pure short-term and liquidity-driven posture to long-term, value-creating models.
Investors would like long-term value creation incentivized by a combination of tokens (short-term liquidity) and equity (long-term incentives), reducing volatility and ensuring long-term thinking, i.e., a new model Tokuity (Tokens + Equity).
ETH killers are unviable
It was once possible that multiple new players would emerge to overcome Ethereum's technical shortcomings, slow execution and market dominance. Many Layer 1 protocols squandered their windows of opportunity, failing to drive adoption at scale.
It may be difficult for a new platform to unseat Ethereum as the dominant player anymore as it embarks on many improvements in the months ahead. Ethereum and Polygon dominate use cases, consumers, enterprises and ecosystems. Users and enterprises will trade off minor technical advantages of other blockchains for security, interoperability and network effects.
Ethereum, the blockchain everyone loved to hate in the bull market, now has the last laugh for "ETH killers." Most Ethereum-hating chains have completed or are racing to become EVM compliant (Hedera, Solana, Algorand, Near, etc.). Others like Phantom wallet (Solana's wallet) and Trader Joe (Avalanche's DEX) also extend support to the Ethereum ecosystem.
The future is still multichain
Even though ETH-killers will not likely deliver the advantages amassed by the Ethereum ecosystem (including Polygon, Optimism, Arbitrum, etc.), the future will still be multichain.
The concept of a "multi-chain" system refers to using multiple independent blockchain networks that can interoperate with each other allowing flexibility in application deployment for different transactions or processes. For example, one blockchain might focus on high-speed, low-cost transactions, while another might focus on security and immutability. For Defi, users will want their collateral on one chain and borrow on another. The portability of gaming assets across metaverses is another use case. A multi-chain system could offer the best of both worlds by allowing different blockchains to work together.
Interoperability is a critical capability required for a true multichain world to manifest. However, the current bridge technology is fragile, leading to security risks and hacks. Blockchains using bridges to Ethereum create more risk and less value with enterprise use cases.
While niche chains, e.g., Hedera (optimized for enterprise) or Flow (optimized for metaverse and gaming), may co-exist, the market simply cannot afford the number of Layer 1 protocols/blockchains in existence today. The L1 space is crowded, differentiation is limited, and the market is finite. A multichain future requires mature interoperability solutions.
Layer 2 is the new frontier
After the Ethereum 'merge,' the blockchain landscape is significantly altered by negating competitive differentiation for the ETH-killers. Ethereum is repositioned as the base layer for settlement under multiple Layer 2 protocols, forming a scalable ecosystem.
Blockchain's scaling problems are unfolding. As enterprise adoption of blockchains grows, we will enter a magnitude of multi-billion daily transactions, and even baked Layer 2 solutions may not be enough. We will see the rapid evolution of new categories like decentralized platforms and new forms of roll-ups. These will migrate action up the blockchain stack while letting the base protocol accrue its own value. The last few cycles were about Layer 1 and infrastructure; it will now be about scaling, interoperability, and ecosystem maturity. Layer 1 battlefield is now empty with a handful of survivors; layer 2 is the new frontier.
Decentralized platforms will accelerate ecosystem adoption
For adoption scale, technology must make it easy by reducing barriers for non-technical users, deploying faster Decentralized Applications (dapp) deployment and faster routes to value creation. The new category of decentralized platforms sits between Layer 2 chains (layer 1 chains) and the fractured landscape of dapps and use cases driving a vibrant ecosystem.
A dPlat (decentralized platform) can simulate an iOS or Android-like effect, shielding the Layer 1 and Layer 2 chain complexities and abstracting blockchain features to enable ease of development for uses. Many users will not realize the complexities of the layer-one protocol underneath, and protocols will become easier to build on. The dPlat space is one to watch closely.
Layer 2 technologies, robust network effects, regulatory considerations, decentralized platforms, and investment outlook changes will help the inherently raw protocols to scale adoption and transactions. The next 12 months bring a lot of positive changes to the ecosystem despite a bull or bear market; let us prepare for the new paradigms.