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Don’t let Web3 repeat Web2’s interoperability mistakes

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Recently, I shared a photo of our family’s New Year celebration with my mom via WhatsApp. The following day, I asked her if she had seen it. “I didn’t receive any texts from you,” she responded. It took a moment to remind her that it was on WhatsApp, not her standard messaging app. After navigating her phone, she found the photo and, like any mom, was thrilled to get a glimpse into my life.

This interaction, which happens often with my older relatives, made me think more deeply about the siloed nature of Web2 applications. As my mind wandered between the pros and cons of WeChat and WhatsApp, I started to worry — are we replicating Web2’s mistake in how we’ve built blockchains?

In 2022, the European Union’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) proposed that the world’s six big tech companies adopt interoperability, yet two years later, Web2 messaging platforms remain walled-gardens, preventing users from sending or receiving messages from other apps.

When we look at the Web3 ecosystem, we see the same mistake playing out.

Because blockchains are siloed off from one another, communication between chains is non-existent or only possible via complicated bridges.

What’s more, the rise of chain tribalism has fragmented the space further, creating rifts and dividing the crypto community with some die hard fans refusing to go anywhere near other chains out of loyalty to their chosen one.

And while interoperability is an issue across both worlds, the financialization aspect of Web3 is more problematic from an economic perspective as many blockchains also have their own native tokens, hindering the seamless exchange of value across different chains.

To amend the interoperability problems we created in Web2, we need infrastructure that is chain and wallet agnostic.

The fragmented nature of Web3 communication

Web 3’s default to centralized messaging platforms has made platform migration a daily reality for many. For instance, NFT marketplaces like OpenSea, facilitating close to 20,000 NFT transactions daily, lack in-house messaging features. This forces users onto separate platforms for communications, often resulting in misdirected funds.

The constant jumping around doesn’t just make us vulnerable to data and privacy breaches, but also restricts communities from being able to integrate messaging with dapps, smart contracts and other blockchain functionalities.

Lack of interoperability has left us all with fragmented user experiences and digital identities that are all over the place and confusing to keep track of.

Read more from our opinion section: We need more ‘boring’ Web3 companies solving real problems

It begs the question, why is it that we can send something like an email to each other from multiple service providers, yet we’re still unable to send messages between Web3 applications?

And while specialized bridges that connect different blockchains exist, these bridges require constant maintenance, upkeep and can still fail, leaving users stranded in an ecosystem unable to connect their assets.

If we’re building for interoperability, we don’t need bridges. What we need is an ecosystem where data and value can flow freely between all platforms and chains.

Envisioning a unified future

Addressing interoperability requires more than just technical solutions; it necessitates a shift towards collaborative development over chain loyalty. I envision a network distributing data across global nodes, returning control to users and enabling effortless application interoperability — even for beginners.

Projects like Polkadot and Cosmos have made strides in addressing interoperability, yet the next step involves ensuring that practical applications, like ENS’s human-readable Ethereum addresses, are universally compatible.

DeFi is already ahead of the curve when it comes to cross-chain innovation, with projects like crypto router Squid allowing any token swaps between blockchains, and decentralized social network Farcaster enabling users to combine their wallets with their social profiles.

What both these projects have in common is that they are providing value to not just the users, but also to builders. It’s time we see that same type of innovation in the Web3 messaging space.

Ultimately, communication platforms should not only support messaging, but also seamlessly integrate with NFTs and digital assets, fostering a digital economy where communication and commerce coalesce.

Tackling Web3’s interoperability challenge demands a multifaceted approach, experimentation and community-wide collaboration. While there’s no swift solution, a collective effort can dismantle these digital barriers, paving the way for a more interconnected and collaborative Web3 ecosystem.

Joeyz Yu is an entrepreneur with over 18 years of experience in product design and development. He co-founded Sending Labs to revolutionize communication protocols and social applications for Web3, leading the development of their flagship products SendingMe and SendingNetwork. Previously, Joeyz co-founded MoboTab, where he created the Dolphin Browser, used by over 200 million users and later acquired by ChangYou. Joeyz’s passion for empowering users and building exceptional teams drives his mission to shape the future of the internet.

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