Augur: The World’s Most Embarrassing & Promising DApp

As Reid Hoffman once put it,

If you‘re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.

Augur is pretty embarrassing at this point, but I’m not too worried. Remember what Amazon looked like back in the day?

The real question is how quickly it can improve. So it’s good to see the Augur team releasing new versions on a weekly, sometimes daily basis and responding to community requests.

With a working DApp on Mainnet, Augur is way ahead of the curve compared to the vast crowd of projects built on Ethereum. That also subjects it to more criticism, since only something that actually exists can have a bad UX and an anemic user base.

Yes, the UX needs to get a lot better. But the biggest UX issues i.e., costly, slow transactions are broader issues with Ethereum scaling, not Augur itself. And while UX is key in the long run, it’s probably the least important thing to get out right out of the gate. The musts are security, stability and a reliable oracle. It’s easy to take this stuff for granted, but there’s a world of game theory and machinery under the hood that lets this run smoothly.

The sparse user base is no surprise given the state of the UX and the chicken-and-egg quandary: traders only want to trade in markets where others are trading. And a bear crypto market plus sky-high gas prices don’t help. Liquidity begets liquidity and until we see broader catalysts, things will be slow.

What will the broader catalysts be? Probably better Ethereum scaling first and foremost with things like sharding and plasma, broader ecosystem advances like stablecoins and offchain exchange, and likely the return to a bull market in the crypto world. All combined, this could take a couple years.

This is not to give a free pass to team Augur. They need to do a lot better when it comes to making the product more intuitive and user-friendly. And they need to do this fast or else users might flock to another DPM.

But keep the big picture in mind. World-changing technologies like currency, automobiles and mobile phones are always clumsy in their first iterations. Ethereum and decentralized prediction markets will be looked back on as no exception if they end up succeeding. And I wouldn’t bet against it.

I was inspired to write this post after reading Coindesk’s downcast article on Augur earlier today and some gripes on the UX I’ve seen lately.

Just keep perspective folks, these are crack-of-dawn early days. If you are too busy lamenting how dark it is outside, you might miss the sunrise.

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