Several decades ago, computers were not the easily accessible, ubiquitous devices they are today.
In the 1950s, an IBM computer was equivalent to the size of 6 elephants. Retrieving data from the computer required a physical visit to its location.
Information sharing was a tedious process.
All of this changed with the cold war as the US Department of Defense needed a way to pass information in case of a nuclear attack.
This led to the creation of an information-sharing system called the ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network).
The ARPANET was good but limited. Only those who had business with the US Department of Defense could access it initially.
Eventually, other people started creating their own local networks to share information.
Still, there wasn’t a solution that connected every computer in the world. There was no easy way to share information across networks.
Enter the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP), also known as the internet, the eventual solution that birthed the worldwide internet as we know it today.
The TCP/IP was a set of instructions that allowed computers to communicate across long distances.
The network worked by sending information in small pieces through different routes at the same time and reassembling them at the end.
Though it was considered disruptive at its inception, the internet is now at the center of our daily lives and has become the foundation for multi-billion-dollar entities like Amazon and Meta.
So how did the internet get popular? What drove the widespread adoption of the novel technology and what lessons can blockchain enthusiasts learn from it?
I’ll share it below.
A pattern of technology adoption
Before the internet, connecting two computers was very expensive. And although the TCP/IP technology had the potential to drastically cut this cost, it wasn’t fully adopted until 30 years later.
Adoption for the TCP/IP came in phases. The different stages were the single-use, localization, substitution, and transformation stages.
First, there was the single-use phase. This initial stage only allowed for virtual circuits. This model worked very well for file transfers and remote logins.
With this, people could send data of virtually any size across a network. This was possible because the TCP/IP broke huge chunks of data into smaller chunks called packets.
The information sent in packets is reassembled at the destination and delivered as a whole.
Next, the TCP/IP transitioned to fit it into what was already existing. In this phase, users of the TCP/IP gained access to ARPANET’s time-sharing systems.
Connecting these two was a lot more economical than duplicating the two computers.
Finally, the transformation stage laid the background for the world wide web. At this point, people realized the internet wasn’t just designed for a single application, but as a general foundation on which other solutions can be built.
Relating this to Blockchain technology introduced in 2008, the adoption rate has been rather similar.
Going back to the point of lessons that can be learned from the internet’s adoption process, in your view, what stage is blockchain adoption currently in and how do we advance to the later stages?
Taking a step back, can the internet protocol adoption stages be directly mapped onto blockchain technology adoption?
Just as the internet didn’t get widespread in one day, it will take a while for the blockchain to become a part of our daily lives.
Yet, what would full-scale adoption look like?
Adaptation, not disruption
A lot of people say the blockchain will attack the traditional business model. They see it as a form of disruptive tech that will relegate the current technology.
This isn’t entirely true. Instead of taking over the systems we have now, I believe like the internet, the blockchain will form the basis of and create new foundations for our economic and social models.
The impact will be enormous, but it won’t happen overnight.
According to the a16z State of Crypto report, in 1995, we had about 50 million active internet users, 27 years later, we have over 1 billion active internet users.
Today, we have 50 million Ethereum active users. In the same vein, we can project that in 2031, we will have over 1 billion active Ethereum users.
My thesis around making this happen quickly is that if we can build real-world use-cases and utilities around crypto that’ll become part of our daily lives, and simplify the complexity of blockchain solutions for the average user, then we are one step closer to adoption.
Look out for my next article that talks about Africa’s role in this adoption story.