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

Rachel Wolfson
Last updated: | 5 min read
Source: AdobeStock / Sergey Nivens

Web3 activity has increased over the course of 2023. According to a recent report from DappRadar, the decentralized application industry (dApp) achieved a milestone of 3.4 million daily Unique Active Wallets (dUAW) in November. The report notes that this represents a 7 percent increase in growth from October, while also establishing a record high for the year up until that point.

As the speculation of a new bull run looms, dApps are likely to continue to rise in popularity. While notable, it’s important to point out that building Web3 applications can be complex for developers. A blog post from DEV Community – an information sharing website for coders – further explains this. The post states:

“Web3 and blockchain development can be quite complex and difficult to understand for beginners. These technologies involve advanced concepts such as cryptography, decentralized networks, and smart contracts, which can be challenging to grasp without prior knowledge and experience. Additionally, because these technologies are new and evolving, there may not be as many resources and tutorials available to help beginners learn the basics.”

Web2 platforms aim to make Web3 convenient

Given the complexity of Web3 development, software as a service (SaaS) platforms are starting to incorporate components aimed at helping developers build dApps.

For example, Henri Stern, chief executive officer and co-founder of Privy – a platform that aims to easily onboard users to crypto products – told Cryptonews that Privy’s core goal is to make it easier for developers to build applications that keep users in control of their assets and data. “Crypto onboarding is our main path. Our core customers are building experiences for mainstream users that could not exist without crypto rails,” said Stern.

Stern elaborated that Privy makes onboarding easier for developers by providing individuals with a library and a simple sign-in process. Once users are signed in, the platform provides interfaces for developers to help their dApp users manage their own accounts. “A set of wallet connectors make it easy for developers to integrate any Web3 wallet onto their platform without having to wrangle individual libraries, wallet-specific RPC calls, or subtle mobile edge cases in getting signatures from wallet apps,” said Stern.

In addition, Stern noted that Privy uses an embedded wallet system that helps users sign in with systems they are familiar with. He said:

“This includes email or social logins, allowing users to get a self-custodial wallet under the hood. There is also an authentication system that helps developers manage user sessions, regardless of how a user signs in.”

Yet while platforms like Privy may be helpful for developers wanting to build dApps quickly, some industry experts are concerned that these tools go against the ethos of Web3.

Tegan Kline, chief executive officer and co-founder of Edge & Node – the team behind the indexing and query protocol known as “The Graph” – told Cryptonews that developers want data infrastructure solutions that are technically simple. “This would allow them to focus on their core products rather than the intricacies of their tech stack,” she said.

However, Kline mentioned that after interacting with certain developers, she has become aware that builders are considering moving workloads off of The Graph to service providers who offer similar functionalities. According to Kline, these platforms often operate under a traditional, extractive web2 SaaS business model. She added, “This shift often involves applying paywalls and restrictive access to what was initially open-source code.”

To put this in perspective, Stern shared that some of the libraries on Privy – such as the core cryptographic library – are open source, while others are not. “Privy is entirely free up to a given monthly active user count, and thereafter is billed based on usage,” he said. Stern added that Privy’s code does not sit behind a paywall per se. He said:

“It’s simply packaged as a binary that developers can use. Yet in order to interact with servers, developers have to pay a certain amount. The reason for this is that Privy was built as a fairly cohesive, complex software suite. I think we’d need to do a lot of work to split out individual independent modules that are built interdependently today in order to make it a compelling open source suite.”

Although this may be, Kline believes that paywall models for Web3 development are problematic. “This trend is concerning because it mirrors the extractive practices of web2. We’ve seen how such approaches can limit innovation and control access to technology and information,” she remarked.

On the other hand, there may be benefits associated with Web2 models for blockchain development. Or Dadosh, chief executive officer and co-founder of Ironblocks – a Blockchain security platform – told Cryptonews that Web3 developers are leveraging Web2 techniques for features like enhanced coding efficiency.

For instance, Dadosh explained that artificial intelligence driven development processes can help transform developers’ natural language intentions into formal specifications that streamline the development process. He added that “fuzzing techniques” – which is a common software testing technique – may enhance the efficiency of exploring smart contract states. “By avoiding transaction re-execution, it allows for quicker and more effective identification of vulnerabilities,” he said.

According to Dadosh, Ironblocks has started to integrate these methodologies on its platform. Yet he pointed out that decentralization remains key, noting that Ironblocks will continue to provide a GitHub integration for development teams. Dadosh further noted that while open source code contributes significantly to transparency and tool development, it does not inherently resolve security issues.

Is convenience worth it?

While there are both positive and negative aspects associated with SaaS models for Web3 development, Kline pointed out that developers must consider the long-term implications of the platforms they leverage for development. “Opting for short-term convenience with web2 models could hinder the broader goal of shifting to a more decentralized, censorship-resistant technology with no vendor lock-ins that empower individuals,” she said.

Dadosh further stated that a web2 platform for smart contracts could hamper privacy. “A large group of developers want to stay anonymous and centralized tools that might collect data might not be aligned with the ethos of Web3.”