Think Bigger: Wallets as Profiles
thoughts rebranding crypto to web3, NFT backlash, and embracing wallets as profiles
Feedback and iteration are two of the most important components of any new technology or product. Build something for someone to use, listen to them, improve the product, repeat ad infinitum. The crypto ecosystem has gone through many of these feedback loops (more efficiently than anything in the past, a feature of open source) to reach where we are today. More recently, the narrative and rebranding has been the iteration of choice as we’ve seen cryptocurrencies shift to digital assets, BTC to store of value, ETH to a modular blockchain, and the most recent - crypto to Web3. Practical or not, the story and narrative behind some underlying asset is just as, if not more, important as the utility. The next narrative change or rebranding focus I think we’ll see is a focus on a shift of “wallets” to one of a “Web3 profile, identity, bio, digital inventory, etc.” Before diving into the future of the Web3 profile, as what wallets can enable is massively increasing, I’ll touch on the importance of rebranding crypto to Web3, which reached escape velocity when five influential executives (including Stellar?) testified before Congress on the future of the industry and unknowingly solidifying the Web3 branding. The below string of tweets was compiled during the House Financial Services Committee hearing and highlight the transformation of a narrative in real time.
I’ve noted multiple times over the past few weeks that there was an observable, positive narrative building around the crypto industry when referenced as Web3. Chris Dixon and Packy McCormick were two of the spearheads of this movement (Gavin Wood originated the term while helping to develop the Ethereum white paper) as the former posts thoughtful threads and the latter’s Not Boring newsletter have continued to push the education and broad application Web3 could entail. I think this is a key part of the acceptance of Web3 compared to that of crypto as it’s easy to imagine what a new version of the web would look like. There are direct corollaries to the previous expansion, world building, and wealth creation that Web2.0 allowed which can be expanded upon and reformed with tokens adopted from the new Web3 architect. Comparison and imagination are two of the most powerful mental models we rely on and Web3 embraces that tendency while “crypto” was previously interpreted as a vague, daunting term.
After the hearing, there were many tweets reinforcing what was established that day with one of the best being from Sara Mauskopf. Web3 is not only here to stay, but enlarges the surface area of crypto enabled possibilities through comparison to familiar web2 concepts for those outside of the industry.
The engagement metrics tell the story, we’re beyond skepticism regarding crypto and imagining the broad impact Web3 can make. I think this same rebranding will eventually be necessary with wallets through their transformation to Web3 Profiles (identities, browsers, bios, etc.). It’s easy to imagine the tweet that would say “it went from wallets and opaque private keys” to “profiles and a consistent login across Web3 to manage/safeguard digital assets” (obviously this is dependent upon future wallet developments around security, interoperability, ZK-tech, social recovery, key management, etc.).
Decentralized app stores, profiles, browsers, identities — something will stick — will be the jumping off point for the next wave of adoption, creation, and interoperability. Once you realize the vast potential that crypto and NFTs have, our traditional idea of wallets should be obsolete. Additionally, the concept of wallets is overtly financial and the transition to Web3 profiles could help alleviate potential backlash that the financialization of most things in today’s climate receive. The great loomdart echoed this point on a recent The Block podcast. Paraphrasing, he said that we’ve reached a point were the conception of anything involving money is bad and is liable to be framed as the 99% vs. the 1%. Unfortunately, I think this plays a major role in the current backlash against NFTs (of course mixed with insane environmental FUD). Mewny, CL, and plenty of others on CT have mentioned that it’s not hard to rationalize the hate for NFTs when there’s constant sales bots of six and seven figure sales populating people’s timeline on a daily basis. It’s easy to stumble across a quote tweet of a sale on that magnitude and think that none of this makes sense and blindly have animosity towards everything NFTs encompass. Unfortunately, the backlash and engagement companies receive when embracing NFTs may have potentially crossed the chasm and become irreparable. What could possibly alleviate some of that hostility is highlighting the broad application NFTs can have (again, similar to what Web3 did for crypto) in empowering creators, athletes, musicians, companies, and individuals through a Web3 profile that signals support, allows ownership of personal data, and fosters communities through NFTs and social tokens.
The rebranding of wallets to profiles could further highlight and reinforce the power of crypto (sorry, Web3) realized through tokens, both fungible and non-fungible. The same imagination and comparison factors that pushed the Web3 narrative can easily support the transformation of wallets to profiles. Thinking back to a Facebook (Meta) profile is the easiest comparison. Interests and likes are transformed to NFTs that represent your support for art, songs, and DAOs. Best friends are now social tokens that show your belief in people. Farmville and gaming assets/experiences in web2 once attached to your profile of old are now ownable, portable, and transferable represented through NFTs and in-game economy tokens. Accomplishments, eventual on-chain reputation, schools attended, and certifications are now verifiable through on-chain NFTs and tokens, provable through the meritocracy of the blockchain. Communities and groups you belonged to are now accessible through NFTs and tokens that immediately transport you to a social media of sorts, gated to only those holding specific tokens to limit spam and increase the skin-in-the-game aspect. The framing of a wallet is disingenuous to the broad utilization your profile will enable Web3.
As more applications are built out, infrastructure is improved, and there are more ways to capture the value and data that was previously siphoned by the behemoths of web2, it will become necessary to broaden the value and scope wallets provide. TwoBitIdiot mentioned this in his invaluable yearly crypto thesis saying that, “the backbone of the Web3 economy and wild world of DAOs are your personal wallets, which are sort of like your personal data vaults…in five years, people might look at the current wallet landscape and sneer at how primitive we were, but some solutions show how we’re getting closer to a time when our wallets can double as universal identifiers and data managers…and the crypto wallets getting built today, will be as integral to your life’s operating system as your cell phone.”
We’re at the beginning of this new transformation and building blocks are starting to assemble, so let’s not limit the imagination of what a wallet can do and focus on what a Web3 profile can enable. Create the applications that empower users against the incumbents through tokens and NFTs and shift the narrative of what your Web3 profile can enable. In a blog post titled New Internet Logic, John Palmer wrote, “the Internet is now a place where everyone has an inventory. The existence of programmable, interoperable digital objects will fundamentally change the logic of the Internet.” Fundamentally changing the logic of the Internet is not properly represented by “wallets”, and instead we should highlight the broad application and utility of what a digital profile will come to represent and enable.