So you’ve heard developers talking about Web3 and Blockchain development! The tech community, especially on Twitter, is currently very active, but it can quickly feel very overwhelming for beginners, even for folks with a technical background. This then is probably the guide if you would like to take your first 12 steps and start doing things instead of just reading and researching (and it’s not only valuable to software developers).
Many people think about scams and fraud when dealing with blockchains for the first time. Don’t worry: Nothing you’ll do during this guide has any real money involved.
1. Learn what the Blockchain actually is
This is somewhat mandatory before you even start in the field. Having a basic understanding of blockchain technology will help you to get started with the following steps. I recommend this video, but probably hundreds of other resources are available.
2. Understand Ethereum and Web3 concepts
For Web3 developers, one of the most interesting current blockchains (can change in the future!) is Ethereum because it enables the deployment of smart contracts, small applications that “live” on the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM), instead of just handling currency interactions. This is where it gets interesting for software developers and where Web3 development starts. Applications that are built "on" the blockchain or/and interact with smart contracts are usually called dApps (decentralized apps).
3. Understand the concept of tokens
Tokens are a fundamental concept in Web3. There are fungible tokens and non-fungible tokens (NFTs). For instance, payment and/or utility tokens like Bitcoins and Ether, or governance tokens like MKR are a kind of fungible token.
Ever heard of Bored Apes and CryptoPunks? Because each NFT is uniquely identifiable (in contrast to fungible tokens), they are often used as speculative assets. NFTs are mostly associated with digital files such as photos, videos, and graphical art. Sometimes they are used as an "entry ticket" to online communities.
4. Set up your wallet
Getting into Web3 development does not require buying any real cryptocurrency (e.g. Ether) in the first place, as long as you stay in a local development environment or (even easier) on a so-called "testnet". Testnets behave like the "real" Ethereum mainnet, but work with "worthless" ETH that you can use to pay so-called gas fees needed for interacting with smart contracts.
But where should you store this "fake" ETH? For this, you’ll need a software crypto wallet and the most widely used is Metamask, which you can add as a browser extension for free. Setting up an account is easy and anonym but beware: Always store your passphrase safely, especially if you want to deal with non-testnet ETH at a later date. Make sure you select one of Ethereum’s testnets (e.g. Rinkeby) after creating your wallet and copy your wallet’s public key (looks something like 0x03....172a6559), it will be needed in the next step.
5. “Purchase” your first ETH
Remember: You’ll mostly stay on the Ethereum testnet for this tutorial, so you don’t buy real Ether. Obtaining testnet Ether cannot be done via cryptocurrency exchanges, like Coinbase or Binance. Those are the places where you would exchange $, €, etc. to "real" BTC, ETH, or any other coin. In our case, you’ll need to use a faucet. Enter your wallet’s public key and how many testnet Ether you’d like to receive on this page - wait, and see your ETH added to your Metamask.
6. Swap your ETH for another Coin
One of the most famous cryptocurrency exchanges is Uniswap, and it works totally fine on testnets! Go to app.uniswap.org and swap some of your ETH into (e.g.) UNI and add them to your wallet. Transactions like this require gas fees, but since you stay on testnet this action is - again - for free (and fun).
7. Mint your first NFT
An NFT comes into existence during the process of so-called minting. This means it is “uploaded” to the blockchain initially. NFTs are often part of a collection that is accompanied by lots of marketing and community building. For demonstration purposes (and again, for free) you can mint your first NFT at my testnet NFT collection, which I have set up here. Once you have minted one of the NFTs from the collection you are the one and only owner of it, and the NFT visibly appears at OpenSea (the worldwide biggest NFT marketplace). Of course, selling your NFT to other interested people is possible.
8. Mint your own NFT
So you minted your first NFT from another artist’s collection! Maybe it’s time to publish and mint your own NFT now. It’s supereasy with testnets.opensea.io as well. Just pick an artwork, made by (preferably) yourself, in a compelling image format, connect your wallet, and click on “Create”. After adding some metadata your NFT will be put up for auction or immediate selling.
9. “Purchase” your first NFT
Again, you don’t need to pay $284,515 (this was the price of the cheapest Bored Ape today) to get a feeling for the NFT buying process. Just stay on the OpenSea testnet and buy any (trashy) testnet NFT you can get for “fake” ETH.
10. Join a DAO
A DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization) is an online community, operating on top of smart contracts, which is owned and controlled by its members. They make it possible for an online group to pool capital and hard-code rules for how that capital will be managed or spent. Those rules are subsequently enforced by the underlying blockchain. Finding a DAO of your liking and committing to it, can be an intimidating step, so I created a testnet DAO (”Hagrid’s Hut”) [Coming soon], where you can become a member and vote on testnet ETH. Happy DAOing!
11. Store your assets decentrally
Have you ever used a peer-to-peer-based network for sharing data? Blockchain-based decentralized storage systems function in almost the same way: Unlike a centralized server operated by a single company, they consist of a network of user-operators who hold a portion of the overall data. Storing data upon decentralized storage will (almost) make sure, it can never be deleted and will stay online forever. If you want to try out how this works I can recommend using Fleek (based on the Filecoin network).
12. Register your ENS Domain
Recall that your wallet's public key lets people send assets (e.g., NFTs) to you. Unfortunately, the long string of characters (e.g., 0xa5d1b…) is hard to remember. For this, the ENS Domain system was invented: By registering a domain like superduperhero.eth and matching it to your public key, means sending NFTs or coins to another person’s wallet gets a bit easier. Furthermore, ENS allows you to store additional info about yourself such as bio, avatar, or Twitter profile (see app.ens.domains/name/brantly.eth/details as an example). And yes, also this popular procedure can be done on any testnet as well! Go to https://app.ens.domains to get started.
If you followed me up to this point, you have tried out quite a few of the typical use cases in the Web3 space. Check out my Web3 resources collection, to explore further with a focus on Web3 development.