Email, social media and applications such as iTunes and the Google search engine are indispensable in our daily lives. Apart from being useful applications that have had a major impact on humanity, they have also ensured the mass adoption of the Internet technology itself. The applications are so important to us that we buy devices so we can use it, just like the light bulb resulting in the global acceptance of electricity. Such applications are also referred to as “killer apps”. PC Magazine calls them “the beginning of a completely new breed”. For computers, these were the precursors of Word and Excel: Visicalc and Wordperfect; for the Internet, the Mosaic web browser, email, and later iTunes and social media.

Many blockchain enthusiasts are also eagerly looking for the first real killer app for this new technology. Cryptocurrency traders find this particularly interesting because they think that the value of their currency will increase as a result, while technology enthusiasts want to make the many, groundbreaking benefits of safety, efficiency and decentralized options more accessible to consumers.

Experts stumble over each other while discussing developments within the blockchain technology that have led or might lead to the first killer app. On the one hand, there are applications such as CryptoKitties and the launch of the Bakkt crypto platform, and on the other hand, there is the successful implementation of the blockchain technology and additional benefits for industries ranging from online gaming, publishing, and travel to cross-border payments, the Internet of Things and supply chain management.

Vitalik Buterin, the founder of Ethereum, the largest cryptocurrency after Bitcoin, wrote:

“If there existed some particular application to show that blockchain technology is massively superior to anything else … then people would be loudly talking about it already … And so far, there has been no single application that anyone has come up with that has seriously stood out to dominate everything else on the horizon.”

However, it is still difficult for Western consumers to designate a real killer app. According to the recent reports from Deloitte and McKinsey, the successful developments in the field of blockchain mainly take place in the area of financial transactions. Furthermore, it appears that most successful implementations are mainly achieved by large companies themselves. They prefer to keep them secret for reasons of competition.

The investment bank Morgan Stanley also indicated that we are not there yet:

“We are now firmly in the middle of the proof-of-concept phase of development. Blockchain still hasn’t had a true test. Early signs are that this is a promising technology, but many of the big questions have yet to be answered, and it hasn’t been tested at scale in a complex, fast-moving business environment.”

If experts are correct and blockchain technology follows the same development path as the Internet, then it will certainly take another 10 years before we can expect a real killer app. In about five years the technology will end up on the “plateau of productivity” of the Gartner Hypecycle and will experience the same growth spurt in a further five years, similar to what the Internet experienced in terms of adoption and investment in its creation.

Personally, I think that shifting focus can certainly speed up the process. At present, a lot of time, money and attention is given to the efficiency successes that large companies make with the technology and the transforming effect it has on the global financial industry. Hopefully, these things continue to be considered.

I actually find the impact on developing countries much more interesting! There are 1.5 billion people without proof of identity (such as a Passport or birth certificate), more than 2 billion people without a bank account, much large data hacks every day and many countries are still suffering from corruption. The many practical blockchain solutions that tackle these global problems are, in my opinion, the real killer apps. Therefore they will really have the global impact that everyone is really waiting for.

Jan Scheele is active in the web3 (blockchain, crypto, NFTs, DeFi) industry since 2013. Besides (former) CEO of a web3 scaleup and founder of an advisory boutique (working for governments, family offices and several multinationals), he is Digital Leader at the World Economic Forum and Board Member at the Blockchain Netherlands Foundation (BCNL). He is writing, consulting, speaking and training regularly about everything web3, all over the world. Furthermore, he is currently finalizing his book about the rise and global impact of blockchain technology.