Initial website strategies for the blockchain webolution

Get your coffee, this is going to be a long one. If you already understand blockchain, the decentralized web, blockchain domains, and why they are important to your business, skip to the end for completely out-of-context blockchain website strategy recommendations.

When my dad passed away in 2001, I was appalled at the astronomical prices of caskets at the funeral home. They had you (and your loved one) in a tough spot – emotionally vulnerable, nowhere else to shop, and needing to make a fairly fast, must-purchase decision.  The cheapest caskets were several thousand dollars and looked like spray-painted tin cans – not the final image you want to be left with of your loved one’s resting place. You almost had to spend $3K-$5K to purchase something respectable at their showroom. I mean, who drives around town shopping caskets at different funeral homes?

Remember, in 2001, the Internet was still a novelty for most businesses. If they had anything on the web at all, most company webpages were little more than business cards. Very few brick-and-mortar companies past big retail brands had the foresight and funding to invest in online operations. Amazon was an “experiment”. At that time, non-e-commerce agency designed and developed websites were running in the six figures. Who could afford to play in that game?

Yet, what most people and funeral homes didn’t know in 2001 was the Bates Casket Company started selling online beautiful wood caskets for under $1K delivered anywhere in the United States within the week. As the project manager for the Air Force ROTC website build at the time, the Internet was a natural place for me to turn to find a nice, reasonably priced casket for my dad. When I told my mom we were going to order his casket online, she mildly freaked out. Regardless, with little trepidation, I ordered a gorgeous birch casket from Bates which, sure enough, was delivered right in time for the funeral. Among the nice things said about my dad by his friends at the funeral, I received several compliments on the online ordered casket and questions about where I purchased it. Maybe they were planning ahead?

Blockchain arrives—a disruptive force as powerful as the Internet

Fast forward a decade and let me say one word—blockchain. Oh, and about that same time I should mutter cryptocurrency. I’ll also slip in bitcoin in the years that followed. Now say them to yourself over and over blockchain, cryptocurrency, bitcoin. Saying those three words in the mid-2000 teens was like saying Internet, websites, e-commerce in 2001. Or smartphone, iPhone, apps in 2007.  You didn’t understand the implications, but it felt like a seismic shift in technology that would impact business and life in a forceful way. Now let’s jump forward again to March 2021. I’m speaking with my mother’s 85-year-old friend. She mentions her grandson who invested heavily and early in “some Internet coins” (bitcoin) and no longer needs to work for a living. Noted, I thought.

And now we are almost up to April 2021, but not quite. On March 11, 2021, digital artist Beeple sold an NFT at Christie’s for $69 million. This news caught my attention, as it may have yours, not only because of the sale price and the fact it was digital art, but also because my mother is a professional artist. In her entire career, we’ve never sold any of her work for over $20K. I thought, “What is an NFT anyway?” Despite being startled at first, then confused, this event briefly fell off my radar until…

My son, Noah, a somewhat recent college graduate with a journalism degree now working at an Amazon distribution center, calls to tell me he read the same article about Beeple and is going to take his $1400 government-provided COVID stimulus check and buy some NFTs. “OK,” I say, “tell me how that goes. By the way, you do remember you are getting married in two months and weddings are expensive! But speculate away on some highly unknown and risky collectible!” I was beginning to understand how my mother felt when I told her I was going to order a casket online and have it delivered before my dad’s funeral.

A week later Noah calls me and tells me he just made $15K in 24 hours selling a single NFT. Now THAT got my attention. To be fair, he bought a particular NFT on the Tweeted advice of Gary Vaynerchuk, so I chalked it up to being at the right place at the right time. Still, I was forced to stop and take notice of this whole new digital art realm of NFTs tied to blockchains. (Note: Noah is doing quite well since that sale, not quit-your-day-job well, but moving in that direction. He has become an early practitioner in NFT collecting investing. He puts out a newsletter with his NFT picks. Let me know if you want on his list).

Why am I telling you all this? And what does this have to do with your website strategy?

I don’t want your business to end up buried by a technological sea change like funeral homes were with online casket ordering back in 2001. They didn’t know they had lost their monopoly on caskets. Customers now had a choice outside the funeral home gallery which was going to increase competition, lower prices, etc. So, here’s what you need to remember:

Everything is blockchain. Or at least everything that can be built on it in the digital space and possibly the physical space, will be eventually be blockchain connected.

The first major blockchain disruption was in the currency realm, as bitcoin capitalized on this new technology. This disruption and adoption allowed a young twenty-something grandson I mentioned before to retire very early. Next, NFTs on the blockchain are upending the stuffy, ridged, walled world of art. Now come other collectibles like baseball cards (I couldn’t even get the Topps Series 1 NFT pack that “dropped” because websites crashed from too much demand). Maybe journalism is next. Then banks. Then governments. THEN THE INTERNET ITSELF. Okay, I get carried away—but not really. Let’s get back to blockchain and your website strategy.

When you think of blockchain, think of a decentralized, very secure (at least up to this point) way of tracking assets and ownership. Governments generally “own” their currency and control it with monetary policies and armies among other means. Cryptocurrency on blockchain technology makes you the sole owner of your currency, and its value and security are held by the blockchain which no one owns or controls. Like cryptocurrency, NFT’s (non-fungible tokens) run on blockchain technology, and they store additional information allowing one to assign, transfer, and track unique, one-of-a-kind ownership to digital assets. Let’s not dive any deeper into the technical aspects because I wouldn’t have any idea what I’m talking about!

What I do know is that everything will be blockchained—attached to it, riding on it, using it, and dancing with it in some way. Its use and applications will be as ubiquitous as the Internet and mobile and smartphones and apps and…websites. This includes your website that you currently have on the “traditional” word wide web and the one you don’t yet have but need on the coming “decentralized” world wide web. But how, you ask? Well…

The blockchain-based decentralized web is currently in its infancy and you can do some basic stuff like reserve a blockchain domain and build a rudimentary website with basic tools. When Tim Berners-Lee invented the world wide web in 1989, he envisioned it to be decentralized and free. That’s not what the world wide web is today. For example, Internet domain names are held and controlled by centralized companies like Verisign (a for-profit that manages .com domains) and monitored/coordinated by entities like ICANN (a non-profit). These entities serve as gatekeepers, profiteers and organizers much like governments and banks and international monetary organizations do for traditional currency. Registrars, like GoDaddy, charge you yearly fees to register and host traditional domain names on their name servers (the things that link your domain name to your Internet Protocol address). You don’t really own your domain name, you just “rent” it. Blockchain-based domain names upend this centralized gatekeeper-renting equation.

With a blockchain domain, you own the domain, and it is registered on the blockchain. You pay once to register, then the domain name is yours and yours alone until you decide to transfer it to someone else. No GoDaddy, no ICANN, no Verisign to ever charge you renewal fees or tell you what you can and can’t do with or on your domain. Just you and your blockchain domain. With your blockchain domain, you can build a website, accept cryptocurrency directly (important to the future of e-commerce), and many more things to come. Your blockchain domain can’t be taken away, can’t be transferred, can’t be censored without your permission. This is the heart of and power of the decentralized world wide web and a hopeful fulfillment of Tim Berners-Lee’s original vision.

Back to reality. What should I worry about now with website strategy and blockchains?

Now here is where things get tricky-er. Currently, you need a different browser or an extension/changes to existing browsers to see your blockchain domain and website on the decentralized web. Google also doesn’t yet index the decentralized web, so you’ll also need a different search engine to find stuff. Plus, applications to build websites on the decentralized web and your blockchain domain are very limited.

There are also multiple blockchains. There are multiple domain extensions (.eth, .crypto, .zil, .whateverelse) built on those blockchains by different companies. We’re early in the roll-out of this technology, so it is hard to tell what domain is going to become as popular as or the next .com dominate domain if there even will be a “winner”. Are we thoroughly lost in the rabbit hole yet? Let’s get unlost.

Here are my initial thoughts on a conservative website strategy on the decentralized web:

  1. Regardless of your organization’s size or purpose, you need to become familiar right now with blockchains and the technology applications that run on them. Don’t leave this to your web person or IT guy. You, the CEO or C-whatever need to understand this technology and keep abreast of how it is evolving in applications. Blockchain is as significant as the Internet was 20 years ago when I bought that casket online. It’s going to eventually touch every area from art to music to design to retail to non-profits to professional services.
  2. The decentralized web is coming and cannot be stopped. You’ll either adapt as an organization or be left behind. This process will take 10 to 15 years to mature, but you can bank on it. Mirroring your existing website’s content and functionality on the decentralized web will become a competitive advantage. You will not be able to completely replicate your site now on the decentralized web, but you should start.
  3. You don’t need to invest in speculative blockchain domain names outside your sphere of operation. You should, however, consider buying niche blockchain domain names relevant to your market space that would be useful branding tools or longer-term resale investments. Most of the easy-to-think-of one-word domains like hotel.crypto or lawyers.cryto are already purchased. You’ll need to get specific to your organization’s niche. If you already have an important domain in a .com, you should try to purchase that same domain in a blockchain domain. You should also invest in your own company and personal name blockchain domain. The cost is around $40 for a .crypto domain through Unstoppable Domains. Once you own it, it is yours forever with no renewals. You’ll then need to “claim” it on the blockchain (for another $40). It appears the .crypto extension has a lot of steam so start there, then consider purchasing .zil and .eth domain extensions later.
  4. Once you have blockchain domain, what should do with it? At the very least, I recommend using Unstoppable’s templates and page building tool to create a single, simple informational web page and connect it to a crypto “wallet” of your choice. Now you can let your clients know you have a .crypto address where they can send cryptocurrency directly for their next invoice payment or receive money from you million dollar NFT sale.

I’ll be covering more on this topic of blockchain and website strategy in the coming weeks, but I hope this article has enlightened you, and sparked a desire for further learning and some concrete, actionable steps.

If this blockchain website strategy is too complex, but you want your organization to get ahead of the blockchain game, reach out to me for some consulting.

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