To Solve Its Skills Shortage, Web3 Must Speak to Developers in a Language They Understand

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Jeff Horseman
Jeff Horseman
Jeff Horseman got into journalism because he liked to write and stunk at math. He grew up in Vermont and he honed his interviewing skills as a supermarket cashier by asking Bernie Sanders “Paper or plastic?” After graduating from Syracuse University in 1999, Jeff began his journalistic odyssey at The Watertown Daily Times in upstate New York, where he impressed then-U.S. Senate candidate Hillary Clinton so much she called him “John” at the end of an interview. From there, he went to Annapolis, Maryland, where he covered city, county and state government at The Capital newspaper. Today, Jeff writes about anything and everything. Along the way, Jeff has covered wildfires, a tropical storm, 9/11 and the Dec. 2 terror attack in San Bernardino. If you have a question or story idea about politics or the inner workings of government, please let Jeff know. He’ll do his best to answer, even if it involves a little math.

It’s often stated that Web3 technologies such as blockchain, cryptocurrency, NFTs, and smart contracts will revolutionize just about every industry on the planet, but for all of the belief, there is little sign that this will happen soon. One of the major obstacles in the path of glory for Web3 is the distinct lack of skilled developers to build out the decentralized applications and services that will change the world. 

The Web3 developer shortage has been widely publicized. A 2022 report from McKinsey & Co. found that while the metaverse alone – just a subset of Web3 – has the potential to create $5 trillion in value by the end of the decade, it will only do so if it’s able to recruit more developers. But Web3 developers are an extremely rare breed, with McKinsey saying they make up just 1% of all coders globally. 

Clearly, there’s an urgent demand for many more developers to build out the Web3 ecosystem. The problem is that it’s not easy to encourage existing developers to take the plunge into what remains very unfamiliar territory for many. Developers must commit hours of their time to educate themselves about the decentralized industry. That’s because it’s plagued by a lack of accessible programming languages, frameworks, and tools. This problem is a big obstacle in the way of getting more developers involved. 

The Web3 Education Barrier

One of the most significant concerns for developers is the lack of formal education and training resources that are focused on Web3 technologies. A survey of 1,056 developers by Versatus found that 32% of respondents decided to stop working in Web3 due to a lack of resources and support tools available. Another 14% cited their unfamiliarity with blockchain coding languages, while 7% complained that their existing toolset is not compatible with Web3. 

That said, Versatus’ survey found that almost two-thirds of those developers are willing to consider building in Web3 in the future, even with their existing concerns around a lack of tooling. 

The size of the Web3 skills gap became all too apparent in Stack Overflow’s 2022 developer survey, when just 1.45% of respondents said they are familiar with the Solidity programming language associated with Ethereum, the most popular blockchain platform. The finding shows that Solidity is about as far from being mainstream as it’s possible to be. On the other hand, 65% of developers said they’re familiar with and able to work in JavaScript, one of the most widely used languages for Web2 development. 

The results of these studies are overwhelming evidence that the lack of familiarity with Web3’s coding languages creates a massive hurdle for developers who are otherwise intrigued by the possibilities of decentralized applications. The fact is that Web3 significantly raises the bar, as developers who are accustomed to the seamless tooling within Web2 are forced to contend with an ecosystem that’s not only more complex but far less mature. 

Easing Access To Web3

The Web3 industry needs to recognize this dilemma and come up with an alternative solution to onboarding developers, one that doesn’t ask them to dedicate numerous unpaid hours to learning it. Luckily, there are some projects that have already realized this and are actively working on ways to enable developers to enter the space using their existing skills, without learning anything new. 

Versatus is a decentralized compute stack, where developers can create applications in any programming language they desire, for any blockchain. It does this through the use of an innovative technology called Unikernels, which combines app-specific runtimes and virtual machine monitors to create a powerful “compute agent” that abstracts away the process in which applications are built and run. In this way, developers can use the programming languages and tools they’re most familiar with to build an unlimited array of decentralized applications that can be hosted on any blockchain. 

By enabling such a seamless experience for Web2 developers in the Web3 world, Versatus believes it can potentially emerge as the most popular compute layer for decentralized applications. It aims to ignite a “Cambrian explosion” within the world of Web3 development, not only by simplifying the learning process but by nurturing fresh ideas and facilitating smoother connectivity across the entire Web3 ecosystem. 

The responses in Versatus’ survey support these statements, with more than 39% of developers signaling they would be more likely to build in Web3 if they could easily utilize the programming languages, tools, and technology stacks they’re already familiar with. 

Following In The Footsteps Of AI

There is a precedent for what Versatus is trying to achieve in the artificial intelligence industry that has, in 2023, emerged as the biggest buzzword in technology. It was only a few years ago, less than a decade in fact, that AI development was restricted to a limited number of domain experts. 

AI development became more accessible with the emergence of open-source frameworks such as TensorFlow, PyTorch, and OpenCV. Then, we saw the rise of AI model repositories such as Hugging Face and MidJourney, followed this year by companies such as OpenAI and Anthropic, unleashing the power of their pre-trained generative AI models that can easily be customized on proprietary datasets. 

With the prevalence of these tools and services, suddenly it has become much easier for developers to create sophisticated applications that leverage the capabilities of incredibly powerful AI models. With its simple API, OpenAI has opened the doors to a flood of AI-capable applications and Versatus is now looking to do the same for Web3. By eliminating the barriers to Web3 development, in the same way the likes of Hugging Face and OpenAI did with AI, Versatus believes it can make the industry accessible to thousands of new developers. 

Keep It Simple & The Developers Will Come

A strong developer community will be necessary to accelerate the Web3 ecosystem. By establishing a thriving community, the industry will be much better placed to attract yet more talent as it will be able to provide the essential support and resources that newcomers require. 

There’s a precedent here too in the well-established communities around programming languages such as JavaScript. Those who are new to JavaScript can access extensive resources including tutorials, code samples, and even mentorship from more experienced coders via online platforms. By building up a similar community, the Web3 industry will be able to help its own newcomers navigate its evolving technology landscape. Moreover, a strong community results in more partnerships and collaboration that can address the skill shortages at individual organizations. 

Web3 wants to become the next iteration of the internet and onboard billions of users. For this to happen, more developers are required, and that will only occur if the onboarding process becomes much simpler than it is today. Web3 can do this by speaking to Web2 developers in the language they understand, initiating the dialogue that’s necessary to get the industry to where it wants to go.

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