Blockstack PBC has been focused on developer traction since the launch of Stacks blockchain 1.0 in late 2018. As a result of that work, 2019 saw the number of apps built on the Blockstack network grow from 46 to more than 360. In the second half of 2019, we also started efforts to expose this growing number of Blockstack apps to a broader audience and experimented with various distribution channels and use cases.
These experiments were designed to help seed the initial user base for apps on the network while collecting useful insights we could pass on to independent developers looking to grow their apps. As Blockstack is an open-source ecosystem, we expect these individual apps to be the primary sources of future user growth while Blockstack PBC continues to be primarily focused on developer tools.
In this post, we’ll summarize some previous user growth efforts and outline interesting potential areas of future growth.
First some background information:
Measuring User Growth
Internet privacy is a core value for our ecosystem; apps on our network generally do not include user tracking software. Privacy-preserving user analytics is an on-going area of research. All this makes measuring user growth less straightforward than with centralized services, but we can still approximate overall growth by looking at raw username registrations.
Username registrations on the network are public by definition and a registered username, the owner’s STX address, and any associated profile information can be viewed through the Stacks blockchain and associated additional data in peer networks. The profile information can be public or private.
Username Growth in 2019
In 2019, we saw considerable growth in the number of username registrations on the network (see explorer.blockstack.org). Third-party analytics websites like theblockstats.com were not able to keep up with this growth and are currently under maintenance (see tweet and help contribute!).
Below are some of the specific drivers of username growth that we observed in 2019, along with some interesting broader trends:
- Blockchain.com partnership: Blockstack PBC partnered with Blockchain.com, a leading provider of cryptocurrency products. Blockchain.com has over 40M wallet accounts. In the first phase of this partnership, 300K+ new STX holders were on-boarded on our network with Blockstack IDs and got exposure to Blockstack apps. These users went through full KYC.
- Crypto distribution: In addition to the Blockchain.com partnership, we directly experimented with distribution channels where verified users were incentivized to register for Blockstack IDs and get exposure to apps. We found Twilio verification of phone numbers to be a good indicator of whether a user is a human or bot, especially when filtering to specific carriers and countries. Our data shows that Twilio verifications were more accurate and scalable than social verifications on Twitter, Github, Hacker News, Facebook etc. This topic deserves a separate blog post!
- Chat applications: Decentralized, private chat has always been an interesting use case on Blockstack. Recently, apps like Dmails and Mumble have been popular in our community. A subset of users of mature privacy chat apps like Firechat have been registered on the Blockstack network as well. The Blockstack network can be useful to any chat app that is looking to (a) reduce server costs or (b) improve user privacy. Further, there have seen public requests to build Path 2.0 on Blockstack! (Dave Morin, founder of Path, joined Blockstack PBC as an advisor.)
- Privacy applications: While decentralized chat might be a more obvious use case, the general category of privacy applications has many potential verticals. In 2019, we saw a variety of applications that took existing centralized apps and turned them into more private, secure versions. Examples include NoteRiot and BlockSurvey. The category of privacy applications has been slowly but steadily getting user adoption on the Blockstack network.
- Raising awareness: Blockstack PBC engaged in various marketing campaigns to raise awareness around internet privacy and educate people about decentralized applications. Our marketing campaigns targeted at university students were especially interesting; data collected from these campaigns suggests that university students may be an interesting initial community where decentralized apps and Blockstack ID use takes off.
An analogy for the Blockstack ecosystem is the early Android ecosystem. Blockstack PBC currently focuses on building the core protocols and developer tools while independent developers build apps using these developer tools. We expect that, like the Android ecosystem, the main driver for future growth will be high-quality applications built on Blockstack that provide real utility to users.
Here is a subset of use cases we’re excited about and think may have potential:
- Enterprise login and authentication: Security is increasingly becoming a major concern for large enterprises. Businesses that protect their employees’ and customers’ data while keeping operations running smoothly can lower costs and rise to the top. Decentralized technology is not just for consumer apps but enterprises can build more secure systems and reduce their risk of security breaches. The Japanese internet giant Recruit’s participation in the Blockstack ecosystem was partially driven by such potential use cases in enterprise authentication.
- Decentralized social networks: Centralized social media platforms didn’t do anything to earn people’s trust the past few years and people are aware of just how much they are giving up for these ‘free services’. Decentralized alternatives are getting more attention with existing players like Facebook launching Libra and Twitter launching Blue Sky. We believe that a truly decentralized network can break into the mainstream.
- Data access control: We’ve already seen smart contracts provide transparency and user control for financial transactions in DeFi use cases. We believe that Clarity smart contracts and Blockstack’s unique architecture for data ownership can enable new use cases around data co-ops, automated payments for data access, and the ability for content creators to directly monetize their creations.
The above is a shortlist of near-future use cases. Apps on Blockstack are only limited by the imagination of developers. Most centralized apps could now be built in a private, decentralized manner, not only offering ownership and freedom to users, but also opening up entirely new use-cases, features, and models.
While it’s early days for crypto and Blockstack, we’ve made tremendous progress over the past year at the foundational layer and initial use cases. Brick by brick, we’re getting closer to a world where the balance of power on the internet shifts from large tech monopolies to individual users.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has qualified the offering statement that we have filed with the SEC under Regulation A for our offering of certain of our Stacks Tokens. The information in that offering statement is more complete than the information we are providing now, and could differ in important ways. You must read the documents filed with the SEC before investing. The offering is being made only by means of its offering statement. This document shall not constitute an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy, nor shall there be any sale of these securities in any state or jurisdiction in which such offer, solicitation or sale would be unlawful prior to registration or qualification under the securities laws of any such state or jurisdiction.
An indication of interest involves no obligation or commitment of any kind. Any person interested in investing in any offering of Stacks Tokens should review our disclosures and the publicly filed offering statement and the final offering circular that is part of that offering statement here. Blockstack is not registered, licensed or supervised as a broker-dealer or investment adviser by the SEC, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) or any other financial regulatory authority or licensed to provide any financial advice or services.
This communication contains forward-looking statements that are based on our beliefs and assumptions and on information currently available to us. In some cases, you can identify forward-looking statements by the following words: “will,” “expect,” “would,” “intend,” “believe,” or other comparable terminology. Forward-looking statements in this document include, but are not limited to, statements about potential future user growth, our Clarity smart contracting language, and potential use cases of decentralized applications. These statements involve risks, uncertainties, assumptions and other factors that may cause actual results or performance to be materially different. More information on the factors, risks and uncertainties that could cause or contribute to such differences is included in our filings with the SEC, including in the “Risk Factors” and “Management’s Discussion & Analysis” sections of our offering statement on Form 1-A. We cannot assure you that the forward-looking statements will prove to be accurate. These forward-looking statements speak only as of the date hereof. We disclaim any obligation to update these forward-looking statements.