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Web2 Platforms Aim To Make Web3 Development Easy, But Will This Hurt The Industry?

Web3 activity saw a notable increase throughout 2023. According to a recent report by DappRadar, the decentralized application industry (dApp) reached a milestone of 3.4 million daily Unique Active Wallets (dUAW) in November. This represents a 7 percent growth from October and sets a record high for the year at that time.

With speculation about a new bull run looming, dApps are expected to continue gaining popularity. However, it’s essential to acknowledge that developing Web3 applications can be intricate for developers. A blog post from DEV Community, an information-sharing platform for coders, elaborates on this complexity:

“Web3 and blockchain development pose significant challenges for beginners. These technologies involve complex concepts such as cryptography, decentralized networks, and smart contracts, which can be difficult to grasp without prior knowledge and experience. Additionally, due to the novelty and rapid evolution of these technologies, there may be fewer resources and tutorials available to assist beginners in understanding the fundamentals.”

Web2 platforms aim to make Web3 convenient

In response to the complexity of Web3 development, software as a service (SaaS) platforms are integrating features aimed at assisting developers in building dApps.

For instance, Henri Stern, the chief executive officer and co-founder of Privy—a platform focused on facilitating user onboarding to crypto products—explained to Cryptonews that Privy’s primary objective is to simplify the process for developers creating applications that empower users to maintain control over their assets and data. Stern emphasized, “Crypto onboarding is our main focus. Our primary clientele is developing experiences for mainstream users that leverage crypto infrastructure.”

Stern further outlined that Privy streamlines onboarding for developers by offering a library and a straightforward sign-in procedure. Once users are authenticated, the platform furnishes developers with interfaces to assist dApp users in managing their own accounts. Stern stated, “A suite of wallet connectors simplifies the integration of any Web3 wallet onto their platform for developers, eliminating the need to navigate through individual libraries, wallet-specific RPC calls, or intricate mobile edge cases when obtaining signatures from wallet applications.”

Additionally, Stern highlighted that Privy employs an integrated wallet system to facilitate user sign-ins through familiar channels. He explained, “This encompasses email or social logins, granting users a self-custodial wallet seamlessly. Furthermore, there’s an authentication mechanism aiding developers in managing user sessions, irrespective of the sign-in method.”

However, while platforms such as Privy may benefit developers seeking rapid dApp development, some industry pundits express reservations regarding their compatibility with the ethos of Web3.

Tegan Kline, CEO and co-founder of Edge & Node – the team behind “The Graph,” an indexing and query protocol – shared with Cryptonews that developers seek straightforward data infrastructure solutions. “This would enable them to concentrate on their core products rather than grappling with technical intricacies,” she explained.

Nevertheless, Kline noted a trend among certain developers considering migrating workloads away from The Graph to service providers offering similar functionalities. She observed that these platforms often adhere to a conventional, extractive web2 SaaS business model. Kline cautioned, “This transition frequently involves implementing paywalls and restricting access to what was initially open-source code.”

Putting this into perspective, Stern revealed that while some libraries on Privy, like the core cryptographic library, are open source, others are not. “Privy offers complete free access up to a certain monthly active user count, after which users are billed based on their usage,” he explained. Stern clarified that Privy’s code isn’t hidden behind a paywall as such. He elaborated, “It’s simply provided as a binary for developers to utilize. However, to interact with servers, developers need to pay a specified amount. This is because Privy was designed as a tightly integrated, complex software suite. To transition it into a compelling open-source suite, considerable effort would be required to separate out individual modules that are currently interdependent.”

Despite this stance, Kline expresses concerns regarding paywall models in Web3 development. “This trend is worrisome as it echoes the extractive practices of web2. We’ve witnessed how such approaches can stifle innovation and restrict access to technology and information,” she cautioned.

Conversely, there are potential advantages linked to Web2 methodologies in blockchain development. Dadosh, CEO and co-founder of Ironblocks – a Blockchain security platform – informed Cryptonews that Web3 developers are harnessing Web2 techniques to enhance coding efficiency.

For example, Dadosh highlighted how artificial intelligence-driven development processes can translate developers’ natural language intentions into formal specifications, streamlining the development workflow. Additionally, he emphasized the use of “fuzzing techniques” – a common software testing approach – to improve the efficiency of exploring smart contract states. “By circumventing transaction re-execution, it enables faster and more effective vulnerability identification,” he explained.

Dadosh revealed that Ironblocks has begun incorporating these methodologies into its platform. However, he underscored the importance of decentralization, stating that Ironblocks will continue offering GitHub integration for development teams. Furthermore, Dadosh emphasized that while open-source code fosters transparency and tool development, it doesn’t inherently resolve security concerns.

Is convenience worth it?

While there exist both advantageous and detrimental facets linked to Software as a Service (SaaS) models in Web3 development, Kline emphasized the necessity for developers to contemplate the long-term ramifications of the platforms they utilize for development. “Opting for short-term convenience with web2 models could impede the overarching objective of transitioning towards a more decentralized, censorship-resistant technology devoid of vendor lock-ins that empower individuals,” she cautioned.

Dadosh echoed these sentiments, highlighting that a web2 platform for smart contracts could compromise privacy. “A significant portion of developers prefer to maintain anonymity, and centralized tools that potentially collect data may not align with the ethos of Web3,” he asserted.

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