User MisterSignal posted a pointed question on DFINITY's Reddit thread that went to the core of any emerging technology platform,  "DFINITY's GTM (Go-To Market) Strategy & Possibly Emphasizing the NNS". It's a monumental question as all great tech startups, no matter how superior its technology stack is, how innovative its product is, or how star-stubbed its founding team is, will prosper or fizzle depending on whether it can drive early user adoption rapidly and decisively.

It's also a question I've been thinking a lot lately, so I typed up a long reply on Reddit under the original comment and keep a copy here for future reference. It's worth noting that the recent incident where China regulator bans Didi the ride-hailing service brought consumer's data privacy issue onto the center stage and public discussions. After Baidu's Robin Li infamously proclaimed that Chinese consumers don't care about their personal privacy (implying that it's ok for Baidu and other Internet platforms to monetize their data) in 2018, we now might be approaching a tipping point where consumers (and regulators) are waking up and turning around with increasingly strong awareness that personal data shall not be manipulated, let alone owned by tech giants. This brewing sentiment could in particular help advance the narrative for # 1 below.

Excellent post by the OP. Thank you for stirring up this discussion. This is the most consequential question in all the startup stories. It’s mission critical to identify one super strong use case, execute the hell out of it (while making other trade-offs), and then let the fire spread.

Dfinity aims at AWS and cloud computing industry at large. It’s a 2B infrastructure business by definition. Its customers are developers and startups (enterprises will come onboard eventually, but at much later stage, if we look at AWS’ history). The Joe and Mary in the street, who use IG, Tiktok and Snapchat, are NOT the target users of the Internet Computer.

Throughout AWS’ wild run of the past 15 years, average consumers would not feel anything different about the websites/apps they use with regard to its backend infra. They won’t differentiate if it’s hosted on Digital Ocean or EC2. It’s true that they don’t care. DFINITY’s success does not rely on consumers’ embracing the IC or comprehending its tech specs.

AWS in its early days was adopted by many startups in Silicon Valley because it saved them money and time, and allow developers to focus on creating user experience rather than worrying about tuning up HP severs. I’m talking about the initial 2-3 years where AWS was the only cloud computing game in town and GCP/Microsoft/Alibaba didn’t wake up yet.

DFINITY and the Internet Computer are at a similar junction of Web 3.0’s evolution. It needs to convince a developer that:

  1. it’s faster to deploy a website/dapp on IC than on AWS/GCP
  2. it’s cheaper to build and manage a website/app on IC.

While it’s a bit early to write up a white paper to offer a categorical proof, I have seen anecdotal evidence that IC/Dfinity are on their way of getting there, based on my own experience and other developer friends who have built apps on IC. I’m very hopeful.

Whether those apps are the next Linkedin killer or Facebook killer doesn’t actually matter that much. They’re all good for the ecosystem. :) (ok, let’s kill Linkedin first. It’s way overdue)

While we’re at this important topic raised by the OP, there are probably 4 areas that an average consumer might find Dfinity/IC offer unique solutions, imho:

  1. Total data ownership by consumers (in the future world of IC, everyone should have his/her own canister that stores all personal data, such as medical record, biophysics, emails, blog posts, etc)
  2. Cross-border wealth transfer (BTC/ETH can do that too but they’re difficult to use for this cohort who are usually aged 40-60 with no tech background)
  3. All the defi things, but on a much more secured public chain in IC to leverage IC’s security measures and decentralized distribution. Defi has a lot of cool use cases, but it suffers mightily from security loopholes and malicious bad actors who deploy those defi apps on centralized platforms.
  4. A token economy for every brand and merchant in the world out of box. Five years from now, every brand, artist, barber shop, restaurant should have its own token that is built on IC and pegged to ICP. This will usher us into a whole new world of nearly perfect alignment of interests between paying customers and the service providers, and eliminate the invasive advertising industry along the way.

While I’m happy to pay as a consumer for any IC app out of the above four genres, the general population clearly is not there yet. A small cohort of retail investors may be interested in 3; many billionaires in country X would pay for 2 in a heart beat; the group for 1 is growing and the speed is accelerating; 4 is a bit too far out for most people but that’s only because they don’t know any better.

Dfinity’s top priority in the next 12-18 months should be recruiting the best developers around the world to build on IC, the more the merrier.

IC will find a way.

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