The Road to Mass Adoption Starts With the Wallet

Christian Montoya
14 min readDec 7, 2023

This is a transcription of my keynote presentation from the Autonomous Arcade & Mass Adoption event at DevConnect Istanbul 2023. You can watch the keynote in the livestream recording here but the slides are hard to see so I decided to convert it to an article format instead.

We recently launched MetaMask Snaps on September 12, so we are about 2 months in, but the talk I am giving today is not specific to MetaMask. It’s actually something that I hope is useful for anyone building products in this space, so let’s dive in.

So what I’m going to be talking about is how to onboard the next billion users through the wallet. We’re going to talk about why the wallet matters, what we all get wrong about wallets, the way forward, and how you can get involved.

So first of all, why is the wallet so important?

The wallet is your gateway to everything that you do in web3. In everything that you interact with, whether it’s dapps, assets, NFTs, exploring the decentralized web, interacting with other users, or even building your own products, you probably interact using the wallet in some way. So your wallet is your connector to everything that you do in the ecosystem, and it’s probably also the way you build, and interact, and communicate with others.

And so, the path to the next Billion users starts with making the wallet better. So I think that one way that we can make web3 accessible to everyone is by improving the wallet experience. And I’m going talk about how I think we can do that.

First of all I have to set some ground rules about what I think we all get wrong. So I’m going to share some insights here.

So first of all, most wallets have money. When we think of a wallet, it’s basically a key manager, a password manager, and it has all of your assets. And when you look for wallet designs and you look for examples of wallets and you look at all the different wallets that exist today, primarily what you see is an interface that shows you some amount of financial assets that you have. And maybe it has a rollup and it basically says you have the equivalent of $2,000 or 2,000 Euros or 20 Euros or whatever that amount is. But whatever it is that you have in your wallet, primarily your wallet is about money.

But the truth is that wallets are about a lot more than just money. And money is not necessarily the most important thing that you have in your wallet.

So I wanted to take a little bit of a real world example here and talk about what we all carry around in our wallets. It took me a while to find a good picture of a wallet that has lots of different things in it but this is a really good example. I want to first ask you, what is the least interesting thing in this picture? This is a picture of the contents of someone’s wallet. What is the least interesting thing that you see here? (From the crowd: money.) The money is not interesting! Everything else tells us way more about this person than the fact that they have money in their wallet. They are a student at a university, they have some membership cards, they shop at Safeway, they have a picture of their significant other, maybe their kid or a nephew, they carry a Starbucks card, that’s where they like to go get coffee, they have an old movie stub, that’s a movie they really enjoyed, The Pursuit of Happyness, they have some gift cards, they have a debit card, maybe they don’t want a credit card, maybe they prefer to use debit, but that all tells us way more about this person. And they have some identity information: a driver’s license, a medical card, and that all represents who he is and information about himself.

And so the way forward for the wallet, I think we have to think about what do we actually use our wallets for, what is in our wallets, and what should they represent to us when we look at them?

So I first want to think of the wallet as a digital companion in a digital world. Your wallet is an assistant. It’s a tool that helps you as you navigate the decentralized web. And it is something that enables you to do things. So, at MetaMask we often think about: your wallet is a way that you manage your authority, and you exercise your authority in web3, so it allows you to do things with your assets but also with your accounts, your keys. Things that you have the ability to do, your wallet enables you to do those things. So it’s an enabling technology.

And as we look at the past waves of The Internet and what fueled these different cycles, which I know many people call them “Web1,” “Web2,” I don’t really like that terminology but there are some useful things we can look at here. Every wave of The Internet was fueled by personalization. It was propelled by the opportunity for the user to do something with The Internet that represented themselves. So I have some examples here. These might be funny or a little weird. The first one is GeoCities. I don’t know how many of you remember GeoCities. Who here remembers GeoCities? (A few in the crowd raise their hands.) OK, you’ve officially aged yourselves just like me. For those of you that don’t, it was amazing, I’m sorry you missed that time. I’m sorry you never got to make a GeoCities page. I also have MySpace. Does anyone remember MySpace? Anyone here? Yes, that’s back when the Internet was cool. It’s super boring now, and I apologize for that, but we have an opportunity to make it less boring.

So what these things did is they gave everyone a way to represent themselves and make a page that was them. It was, “I made my MySpace, and that was about me, and that’s why I wanted to show it to other people.” So I first just want to say Rest In Peace to these amazing technologies that are unfortunately behind us.

But what can we learn from this?

Technology becomes interesting when it becomes an extension of ourselves. The mobile phone was cool. It did a lot of cool things. But when it gave you the opportunity to personalize it and make it something that represents you and who you are, then it became interesting.

And I want to tell you a little story about this.

So I once interviewed for a job with the founder of a photo app company. He told me something really profound which was shocking to me at the time. He said, “Instagram is not a photo app. It’s a messaging app. It’s an app for communication.” I said, “that sounds crazy. Obviously it’s a photo app. I take photos and I share them.” And he said “that’s not the purpose of why people use Instagram. They use photos to communicate with other people. They use it to start a conversation with their friends. It is a messaging app and the photo is the way to start the conversation. And the photos are the way for them to share with their friends and their families ‘what I am doing in my life. Here’s what I’m up to. Here I am, here’s what I’m eating, here’s what I’m wearing today.’ It’s all about communication. And that’s what made Instagram different from any other photo app before it. That’s what made it so successful.” [Note: I didn’t get the job. But that conversation stuck with me to this day!]

Likewise, I once worked on an app called Draw Something. I was the game designer of this app. Anyone here remember Draw Something? Like 10 years ago? It was a game you could play on your phone. Maybe a couple of you remember it.

So Draw Something was essentially like Pictionary. You would get a prompt and you had to draw it and your friend had to guess what it was. But what made Draw Something interesting was that, first of all, it wasn’t really a game. It wasn’t really competitive and it wasn’t really about trying to get the best score. But what made it interesting was that, not everyone is an artist, not everyone is good at making art, but when you are drawing with someone that you know, the things that you draw are actually relevant to you and the other person. So people would draw things, and what they would draw, like if I would draw ‘ape,’ and if you would draw ‘ape,’ we would both draw something different. Maybe I would draw a Bored Ape, and you would draw an ape like one you would see at the zoo. This person drew a scene from Planet of the Apes. So the person that they are drawing for probably knows what that is, and maybe they both like that movie. There’s probably some personal reason why they came up with that. Likewise, this one of Eminem shows you some things about him, I assume this person has seen the movie 8 Mile, and they drew some M&Ms because that’s an easy way to think of the name Eminem. So there’s something very personal about what they drew, and it’s a representation of what that person likes, what they think about, and what they know that the other person thinks about too. So that’s part of what made [the game] so successful.

Likewise, I imagine all of you are familiar with Minecraft. Minecraft was actually an inspiration for me when I was designing Draw Something. And a big part of Minecraft was the fact that you could make whatever you wanted. And so people enjoyed sharing their creations. They would go into creative mode, they didn’t even have to play the game, they would just go and share all the cool things that they had built.

And I’ll even talk about how at one point there was this meme online, many years ago, where people would share a picture of their home screen. A picture of their iPhone home screen. Even on a platform that doesn’t give you very much customization, we like to customize and change what we can do and how we represent our main interface. If I look at my iPhone and you look at your iPhone, if we were to all put our iPhones and Android phones on the table, we probably have different apps on our home screens. And those apps say something about what we do with our phones. Maybe some of us have Uber or a taxi app, maybe you have AirBNB, maybe you like to travel. Maybe you have the Starbucks app because you like Starbucks. Or maybe you have an app like Canva, or some kind of art app. Maybe you are an artist. Whatever we have on our phones tells a lot about who we are. We customize things. And so these images tell me a lot about who these people are. I imagine the one on the left likes summer, spring. The one next to that likes cyberpunk stuff. Maybe they are really into technology. With the next one I think that person is very cozy. Then I look at the next one and I see the color coding and I think this person might be a psychopath and maybe I should be concerned about this person. Maybe I don’t talk to this person.

But I say all of this because this is part of something that I’ve been working on at MetaMask. And I did this op-ed in The Defiant a while back that’s called Making the Wallet Personal. I would definitely recommend that you read this, it’s related to what I’m talking about today. It’s about my vision of how a wallet can be personal and it can adapt to what people want, and how that actually makes it more relevant to people and will fuel this next wave of adoption.

So let’s talk about what I’m working on and how that’s relevant to all this. MetaMask Snaps is a platform that allows developers to build apps that run on MetaMask, and then users can install these Snaps into their wallets and customize their web3 experience. So they can actually install all of these different applications and get a completely different experience within MetaMask and can therefore tailor MetaMask to what they want to do.

Now we have as of today a variety of features enabled by Snaps, and we are working on new APIs that will continue to enable more features. But the idea here is that it gives you a way to optionally add features that you want. You can actually customize your wallet with these Snaps. And so if you are someone who likes to explore different blockchains, you can install Snaps that add support for other blockchains. Now we have Snaps that support Bitcoin, Solana, Cosmos, Arweave, etc. There’s a Snap for Tezos. Whatever kind of blockchain you want to explore. There are Snaps that now enable you to do that with MetaMask.

Or maybe you are into communication. There are Snaps that provide chat functionality, there’s messaging, notifications, there’s security applications (which I think everyone should install… I don’t think that’s something that’s specific to one type of user). There’s privacy-enabling tools. There’s identity providers, so we actually have decentralized identity Snaps now, that enable you to store credentials within your wallet, and there’s Snaps that assist with authorization, like logging into XMTP dapps. But this is just a smattering of what we currently have available and we are going to be enabling more use cases as we go.

But let me talk about why this is so important, how you can personalize your wallet with Snaps.

So your MetaMask wallet is yours. It’s self-custodial. You install it on your device, you have your data, we don’t have access to any of that information. This is a tool that you can use to manage your accounts and interact in web3.

Likewise, when you install a Snap, it installs onto your device, into your MetaMask instance. The data is your data. This runs inside of MetaMask and modifies your MetaMask experience and expands it with new features.

So when you install a Snap, it’s not necessarily tied to your accounts. It can live within your wallet. Some of them can connect to your accounts, or can provide new types of accounts for other blockchains or even for future types of account management solutions, or some of them have nothing to do with accounts at all, and they provide other features that are not even necessarily specific to a blockchain.

So what you install is completely up to you. You can install Snaps for all kinds of features that you want access to. You can even install different Snaps on different devices, different instances of MetaMask.

So let me talk about what this means and how you can get started building Snaps.

So we have an official directory. If you go to snaps.metamask.io, you can see all of the different Snaps that are currently available.

And when you click on any one of these, you can see information about the audit reports, support URLs, documentation, knowledge base, and so forth, and the websites that leverage that Snap.

Likewise, you can also find Snaps across the web. So any Snap that’s in our allowlist, that’s currently available, can be installed from any website that connects to that Snap. So I have examples here for Wallet Guard and ShapeShift. ShapeShift has a multichain Snap that provides support for a huge variety of blockchains, including Bitcoin, Dogecoin, and Cosmos.

When you install Snaps they appear in a menu in the extension, and you can also get notifications from Snaps which appear in a new menu just for notifications powered by Snaps.

You can also have transaction insight Snaps that appear in the transaction flow, and in the future, if they suspect a malicious transaction they will be able to warn you and help prevent you from making that transaction.

Now you can get started building Snaps. We have documentation. If you scan this QR code, it will take you to a page with all of these links where you can go check out these resources and get started building Snaps.

And I also want to recommend that we have a brand new developer portal that you can check out. This just launched yesterday. There’s tutorials and a lot of information there about Snaps but also how you can get started using the MetaMask SDK, Linea, and all the other tools that are available from Consensys.

But to wrap up:

  • If you are going to build software, we should make it personal. Now, Snaps is just a very early example of what we’re doing at MetaMask to start making the wallet something that’s totally modular, that can be customized, and can grow into something that is not just specific to blockchain accounts but is essentially your digital identity manager and the way you interact in the decentralized web. And so Snaps is one example of what we’re doing in this space, and it’s the first step toward making that possible, making something that users can fully customize and adapt MetaMask to their needs.
  • The wallet should be an extension of the self. When I open my wallet, I should see information about me and what I’m doing.
  • It’s one way that we are making the wallet personal and I want you to be inspired to get started building with us right now.
  • You can try out Snaps and give us your feedback. You can also get started as a builder. Build your own Snaps and help shape how we are building this platform.

That’s my talk! You can learn more at metamask.io/snaps and follow us on X (which used to be called Twitter) for any updates. Thank you!

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Christian Montoya

Views expressed here do not represent those of my employer.