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Exploring Wallets

because how else are we going to get people on-chain?

I'm pretty sure this is the year (smart)wallets really break through. I already said it here.

I think it's important we get those, because we're never going to on-board the world on-chain using Seed Phrases and Ledgers. They're scary and they're clunky to use.

I want everyone to move off of exchanges and to a self-custodial model.

I also believe that if we did manage to give everyone a key-pair we could unlock crypto's latent potential. There's the obvious $ aspect, but it would also allow everyone to have an identity (Sign In With Ethereum, Lens,...), vote on Snapshot proposals (direct democracy?), use encrypted messaging without overlords (xmtp), get NFTs of everything,...

But today I have a very hard time recommending anything to anyone because I understand the shortcomings of most solutions and I know people won't be very happy with what's available.

Here's what I'd like to see vs what I'm seeing and where the trade-offs are. I'll keep documenting as time goes by.

What I'd like to see

Summary of the list below:

  • No seed-phrase

  • Understanding what happens if the provider goes "poof"

  • Easy transactions

  • Readable transactions, attack protection

  • Mobile-first

  • Start simple and grow with me

  • Support multiple addresses / accounts

  • Customisable signing

  • Cross-chain

  • Social

  • No-brainer on-off ramp

  • (more) Useful stuff built in so I don't have to think about it too much

  • Bonus: rewarding & opens channel to a CEX

More or less in order of importance

  • No seed-phrase

    • That's #1. If a wallet requires a Seed Phrase I can't recommend it. It takes over 3 hours to explain what it is and how to keep it safe. Total non-starter. Everything else is somewhat negotiable, but this really isn't.

  • Understanding what happens if the provider goes "poof"

    • With seed phrases, if your wallet provider ends service for whatever reason, you just put those 12 words in any other wallet and you're back. That's a nice model. But since no one knows how to secure those 12 words, it's only nice in theory.

    • With smart contract wallets or MPC solutions, you're not that independent. Which is reassuring but means you need to understand what happens if you trusted sidekick disappears.

      • For example, this is how Argent does it. This is ZenGo.

  • Easy transactions

    • This means that you can pay for "gas" in whatever token you happen to have. Most people don't start by getting gas tokens. Nor should they. This really needs to be abstracted away.

    • Transaction should be batched, you shouldn't have to worry about nonces,...I know this means it will have to be a smart wallet / account abstraction wallet, and that's fine.

  • Readable transactions, attack protections

    • No one understands what's written in Metamask, so it needs to be turned readable ( and are interesting) and the legitimacy of the transaction should be checked ('s RPC solution is interesting).

    • - like feature or just "closing channels" so you're not long-term exposed to SC risk.

  • Mobile first

    • Wallet Connect is for the web

  • Start simple and grow with me

    • It's likely someone's first interaction with Crypto is going to be fairly "basic". They're going to buy or get gifted 20€ worth of something in crypto, or receive a POAP for attending a thing, or get an NFT with a "real life" purchase, or play a game and get an item, or get a Web3 social or Reddit profile. For that they need something real simple.

    • Then their (Web3) online presence will grow, they'll get more items, move more money on chain, go interchain,... and they would ideally like to keep that same "wallet" and not move everything over to someplace else. They should be able to go to the settings and "power up" their wallet.

  • Support for multiple addresses / accounts (at least 3)

    • Signing is always risky, and you don't want to keep all your eggs in one basket.

    • Nobody wants to easily broadcast their crypto net-worth to the world 100% of the time.

  • Customisable signing

    • If I'm sending 10€ to Gitcoin Grants from my "everyday" account, I can probably just approve with the Biometrics on my phone. But if I'm moving an NFT worth 20K€ from my vault, I probably want 2FA and a friend to validate from a remote location.

  • Cross-chain

    • Ideally, it supports all the chains, everywhere. Because you never know where people want to go, and you really don't want them to be asking themselves the "custody" question more than once.

    • Since the 'ideal' seems to be really far off, an acceptable trade-off would be to have Bitcoin + all the EVM chains. Further "trading-off", I'd accept BTC+Ethereum+Ethereum Layer 2's. Yes, this leaves a lot of cool options off the table, but it does cover a pretty large swath of the crypto market and places where there's actually something to do.

      • Everyone who starts in crypto wants to buy some Bitcoin.

      • Crypto is risky enough, I'm not going to suggest wBTC or tBTC instead of BTC. I can't quite see why you'd want to add a layer of risk if you don't have to.

  • Social

    • It might very soon be the best reason to open your wallet daily. Your wallet can show you the latest on Lens and Farcaster and allow you to send DMs over XMTP.

    • Push protocol for native notifications from everything you care about on-chain

    • Your "daily wallet" should come with an ENS subdomain (like Argent's and Coinbase's)

      • Argent's personal page with the ENS is genius, and this should be more broadly implemented

    • Daily wallet also comes with a free NFT PfP

  • No-Brainer on/off ramp

    • I actually think MtPellerin currently has the best on-ramp experience in Crypto (haven't tried off-ramping yet). I feel this is actually solved. It should just be natively integrated into the wallet.

  • (more) Useful stuff Built in so I don't have to think about it too much

    • Swaps and "table-stakes" DeFi protocols should be easily accessible from within the app (Liquid stake, lend, borrow)

    • Bridging to L2 and sidechains, and a "gas top-up" à-la-rabby"

    • so Vault never signs, Wallet Connect to connect to everything, Easy DCA with MtPellerin & Mean_Fi

    • CO2 offset with Klima

    • Gitcoin Grants integration

  • Bonus Points

    • Rewarding: uses MEV-Share so the user and the wallet both make money on their transactions when it's possible.

    • Never custodial again: on the off-chance that DeFi can't satisfy all your needs, you should be able to open a "channel" from your wallet to an exchange (Kraken, Coinbase, Binance or whatever). You would then be able to trade on the exchange and they could "simply" take the money out of your wallet as needed and deposit as needed. No need to actually "deposit" or "withdraw" from the exchange.

What exists, and how it compares

Only focusing on the ones without seed phrases. Because I'm thinking about what I'd recommend to my mum.

  • . The OG, my favourite so far, I've been using it since 2020. This is the only Ethereum/EVM wallet (aside from a Ledger) I have ever recommended.

    • No seed phrase, access to ZKSync, good protection, mobile first, a lot of good things easily accessible, very smooth (as in, by far one of the most stable and pleasant app to use in Crypto).

    • But only has one account, relatively expensive to deploy on Ethereum, only Ethereum and ZKsync (for now), suffers from being a smart contract (it's not their fault, but for example there is no XMTP integration with SC wallets and other protocols also don't support SCW)

    • I know the roadmap is full of interesting things and will keep watching closely, but I also think there are some things (like Polygon PoS) they will likely never support.

      • I don't want my mum to accidentally give out her ETH address to someone sending tokens on Polygon or call me asking why she can't connect to "The Smurfs Society" game so I'm not putting it in the hands of people as a "general purpose" wallet. I'll tell them to use it in very specific circumstances and not try to have it do anything else.

  • Obvious! It's got a seed-phrase but it's also got seedless recovery, so I'll allow it because it feels kind of "seedless".

    • there's no BTC, but it does support a remarkable number of EVM chains. Since it's still seed-based, there's no reason why they couldn't add Bitcoin.

    • But since it's seed-based, once could reuse the seed with TrustWallet or Exodus to get in on the Bitcoin action. I'm not as worried about seed phrase security as I am about recovery, so that could be an option. Not for my mum, but a somewhat tech savvy friend.

  • Sequence: sign up as you would on Web2, supports quite a few EVM chains (Ethereum, Polygon, Arbitrum 1 & Nova, Optimism, Avalanche, and BNB Smart Chain) with more to come. It has quite a lot to like (switches network by itself, for example) but feels a lot less "noob friendly" than Argent. And I can't find what happens if they go bankrupt.

  • built on top of safe, it's interesting. it's mobile-first and on 3 chains. But it doesn't have swaps, and no wallet-connect. So it's really just kind of a dumb safe for now. But I like where it's going.

  • Ambire .

    • Supports quite a few EVM chain

    • Web app is not intuitive to use, signup flow is weird, and there's no mobile offering. The $Wallet token feels like an unnecessary (but obtrusive) gimmick.

  • Keeping my eye on

    • . It still uses a seed-phrase (but I'm not sure why) but shouldn't for much longer. I find it clunky, the app is a little buggy, but it's promising and the thing they're building on (etherspot) is definitely interesting.

    • Braavos. Only on Starknet, but lots of cool ideas.

    • ZenGo . There are no seed-phrases and it supports quite a few chains, but no ETH L2s.

    • Solana Saga & ethOS because if we actually could use the "secure element" in our phones to hold and use the private keys, most of these problems would be solved already.

    • Exodus and TrustWallet: they're pretty good wallets, but they require managing seed phrases. If they could improve in the direction of "Obvious", or be used in conjunction with a seed managed by "Obvious".

    • Avocado by Instadapp, because the concept of "gas abstraction" and "chain abstraction" is really interesting.

So, which wallet is my mum getting?

None. Because nothing really satisfies it all. And there is really nothing for her to do on-chain right now anyways.

To everyone else, I'll keep recommending one - or several - of the above, but making sure they undersand the caveats.

And I'll keep my eyes peeled for something better. The tech primitives are here so it shouldn't take very long 🤞.

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