#235: The Super-apps are Coming for Web3

PLUS: 📚 A web3 growth and a web3 case study canon

Over the past week, there were 3 headlines that caught my attention and many others:

On an individual basis, these are noteworthy on their own. When announced in the same week, possibly due to the larger spotlight of the conference scene, it makes me wonder:

At minimum, it’s worth keeping an eye on: Super-apps are integrating crypto and web3 capabilities. And in the case of Metamask, web3 native apps with super-sized user bases are becoming super-apps themselves.

Before we continue, let’s talk about super-apps. What the hell are they and why are they interesting? According to the Harvard Business Review:

A super-app is a single application, accessible by mobile device or web browser, that offers multiple diversified services for everyday personal or commercial life, relies on a common financial transaction platform, leverages intra-app data to tailor offerings, and is widely adopted.

The best examples of this are in Asia, most notably China. Two of these super-apps are Alipay and WeChat. What can you do on each?

Actually before that, the fact that I typed ‘AliPay’ and Grammarly corrected me shows that they’re a big deal 😂

Some things you can do on each with payments at the core:

  • Payments for all types of services in or outside of the app, including in-store, online, rideshare, food delivery, gifts, utility bills, ticketing, etc.

  • Financial services such as investments, insurance, credit lines, and business banking

  • Integration of ’Mini Programs’, or mini-apps within the app, such as Didi (Uber of China) Dianping (Yelp of China), and Hellobike (bikeshare)

  • Other services like booking medical appointments, filing taxes, and managing packages

  • Exploring blockchain tech within their regulatory bounds

  • I’m not separating out the capabilities of each, but if you want to dig in more check out this 2017 post and the updated 2023 version of it.

You can do almost anything and everything with one of these apps.

A sample of WeChat features

In the US, we don’t quite have super-apps, possibly due to a more established regulatory framework, a tech oligarchy that wants to control market share, and consumer preferences. From Forbes (emphasis mine):

According to Insider Intelligence, the super app model in Asia took off thanks to two factors: 1) unbanked populations jumping to mobile payments, and 2) strict app marketplace regulations. As the report points out:

“The Google Play Store isn’t available in China, Apple is limited in what it can include on its App Store, and even Huawei’s AppGallery lacks many major apps. To plug the gaps, apps like WeChat and Alipay allowed third-party developers to integrate mini-programs for other services, transforming them into super apps.”

Neither of these factors is present in the US.

What is present in the US, however, are data privacy and security concerns. Although the US has yet to take the regulatory actions that other countries have, those days appear to be nearing, as one US regulator is looking into Apple’s use of consumer data regarding its announced buy now, pay later service.

Another factor present in the US is the economic structure of the country’s major industries, many of which are dominated by oligopolies—three to four really large firms that control 60% to 80% (or more) of an industry’s market share.

A super app wannabe will meet resistance from the oligopolies who may see themselves as potential super app creators.

What the US does have is ‘verticalized’ versions of super-apps. Simple example of this is Uber. What was a simple taxi substitute is now:

  • Rideshare (what Uber was originally)

  • Package delivery

  • Rental cars

  • Micromobility (scooters, bikes)

  • Charter services for larger groups

  • Food and grocery delivery via Uber Eats

Because the foundation of something like Uber is around transportation, they can go deep, and to a certain extent broad, but is limited in crossing verticals. With that said, let’s look at each of these super-apps that are integrating crypto and web3 capabilities.

Grab: The super-app

Grab was initially a rideshare company, but has since expanded to many other services surrounding payments and transportation, and has 32 million MAU.

One of the first use cases for Grab’s web3 wallet was redeeming F1 NFTs as discount vouchers at partner merchants, timing the use case with the F1 Singapore event that happened this past weekend (side note: F1 is deep in web3 and vice versa, fun to observe).

Telegram: An emerging super-app?

Anyone in crypto or web3 is aware of Telegram and its importance as a messaging app of choice. For some, it is strongly preferred over Discord and X.

So what’s going on with the TON (The Open Network) Space wallet?

  • The self-custody wallet will be available globally to Telegram users in November. Certain geos will be excluded from accessing it (like the cough US cough)

  • The feature is an extension to the Telegram wallet, which has 3 million registered users

  • TON Space is a third-party mini app integrated into Telegram, allowing for more features to be built on top of the wallet

It’s clear we’re seeing Telegram evolve from a messaging app to a messaging app super-app that is expanding into payments, which will enable a richer, stickier, and more capable ecosystem.

With 800 million MAU, and many based outside the US (top countries for downloads are India, Russia, and Indonesia), their web3 developments are worth following.

Metamask: An emerging super-extension?

Metamask, a self-custody wallet browser extension (they have a mobile app as well), is taking its first steps in becoming a super-app in its own right as well with Snaps.

With 30 million MAU, Metamask is making the prospect of only needing one wallet for all blockchain activity a reality.

Putting it all together

Looking at these ecosystems side-by-side, I can’t help but be optimistic at the growing number of ways mainstream adoption might look in the coming months and years:

Let the super-app to web3 onboarding begin!

Two web3 canons

This week, there were two resources that crossed my radar that I thought would be great to share with y’all:

The Web3 Growth Canon 2023 by Safary: This list highlights 70 resources on web3 growth.

The Ultimate Web3 Case Study Canon by The Marketing DAO: This list of 58 (and growing) deep dives covers various B2C projects across the industry.

I’m grateful that both these resources have featured some of my work. More importantly, these lists highlight a lot of other great content from others. After all, it takes a village. Go check them out 💪

See you next Thursday!

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