Driving Protocol Adoption

Drafting December 2022

Work in Progress: These are a set of working notes about how to drive adoption of new protocols.

  • A protocol wins if it gets adopted, where adoption is a large number of people using the protocol on a daily basis (DAUs).
  • In order to gain widespread adoption, the protocol needs to be in use in a few popular applications.
    • In practice, protocol usage will be dominated by a few major applications or platforms.
    • In general, developers won't adopt a brand-new protocol until it has already shown proof of adoption.
    • Protocols need the evolutionary pressures of real-world usage to shape them into usefulness.
  • To get to the few popular applications that will drive the majority of the usage, you need lots of applications. Why?
    • It's impossible to predict in advance which applications will drive the most usage.
    • The "latent space" or "possibility space" of a new protocol is unknown and can only be discovered through exploration.
  • In order to efficiently explore the possibility space looking for hits, it's important to apply portfolio thinking.
    • Exploration needs to begin by emphasizing diversity and randomness, while taking into account "hunches" based on current understanding.
    • As attempts are made to build applications, new information is learned about the shape of the possible, and should be used to inform next explorations.
  • Brand-new protocols often suffer from a "cold start problem" before network effects start to kick in. Tactically, there are several ways a protocol could overcome this:
    • Give seed funding to startups using the protocol (RedwoodJS Startup Fund, some FileCoin grants).
    • Internally incubate applications.
    • Commons Funding.
    • Start a movement and invite others into it.
  • Adoption is also enabled and accelerated, but not caused, by best practices in DevRel:
    • Documentation needs to be top-notch.
    • "Getting started" experience needs to be optimized to speed up first-time usage.
    • Where to ask questions needs to be obvious and someone's dedicated responsibility.