Balance Manager Beta

A web-based tool to help you manage your tokens

Richard Burton
Apr 30, 2018 · 6 min read

tl;dr go to:

Today we are excited to launch the public beta of Balance Manager. This is a web-based tool that helps you interact with the Ethereum protocol through your wallet. Today, Manager connects to the MetaMask browser wallet and the Ledger hardware wallet. We are working hard on support for the Trezor hardware wallet and mobile wallets supporting the WalletConnect standard. After connecting Manager to your wallet, you will be able to view, send and receive tokens.

⛏ Token Tooling

The most popular distributed application on the Ethereum protocol today is the ERC-20 token. This piece of code has made it easy for anyone to create a scarce digital asset and share it with the world. Lots of tokens have interesting use cases like governance, staking, incentivising or funding.

Every protocol is used and abused. HTTP gave rise to sites and phishing, SMTP gave rise to email and spam, ETH gave rise to tokens and shitcoins. Many tokens are ridiculous and represent hot air and dishonesty. Well-engineered tokens have the potential to create new economic systems.

If tokens are going to eat the world, we need new tools. Creating, managing, and interacting with tokens should be easier. We want to create an interface to these open financial protocols.

⛓ Protocol Powered

Over the last two years, Balance has been developing products powered by closed source Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). We spent a year building a macOS menubar app on top of a banking data API. A month before we launched, Intuit pulled the plug on lots of their bank data feeds and it affected our product massively. People were complaining about missing transactions, incorrect balances, and account connection issues. We never received a complaint about the software. It was all about the data.

We then made the same mistake again. We adapted our original product for crypto-currencies by connecting it to exchange APIs. The quality of the data from these APIs is pretty poor. This is understandable. Exchanges have to focus on security, banking, support and executing trades. Developing slick APIs for their data must be low down their priority list.

These two products had some response from customers but it was pretty minimal. We spent two years building things that people kind of liked. We were building on top of closed systems where we depended on other teams to do great work. We have learnt our lesson: building on top of closed systems is risky. There are so few partners you can trust to deliver world-class data in a timely fashion. Banks and exchanges are not trustworthy.

Balance is making products that help people benefit from open economic protocols. We want to help everyone use the open financial system. We will use APIs when we have to, but our goal is to improve open source tools, not closed source ones.

🗄Beta Data

Today, Balance Manager is still powered by several closed source APIs. This time we have a plan to switch them out for open alternatives. We are grateful to Etherscan, Ethplorer, CryptoCompare and Eth Gas Station for their amazing work. In the short term, we hope that the data they provide will come from Open Protocol Interfaces (OPIs).

We will remove the Beta tag from Balance Manager when we have reliable sources of data. The ideal system would be an open protocol which ingests Ethereum’s blockchain data. It will then expose useful metadata through a set of easy-to-use developer interfaces. Developers could pay for this data using a stable token. Miners of the data could stake the protocol’s token to earn more of this revenue stream. This would be a work token model like the one proposed by the Keep Protocol.

Several teams are working on something like this and have reached out to us. We look forward to their public announcements. These are huge problems in the ecosystem. The token economy is very immature. We are happy to punt on blockchain-based pipe dreams. We are undervaluing important protocol infrastructure.

I am excited to see the infrastructure around these new protocols improve. We need to justify the eye-watering valuations by making them useful to normal people. That starts with the developers.

🚀 Token Velocity

The token economy is just getting started. Today, it is easier to send normal money than it is to send a token. We have tried to make the process of sending a token as simple as possible. The open financial system should be better than the closed financial system. This is the easiest interface we could construct and we hope you enjoy using it.

🔁 Interaction Transactions

Ethereum is a blockchain of state transitions. Every transition is a transaction. Transactions can represent the movement of Ether or a token. They can also represent an interaction with a smart contract. The interactions have no economic value outside the cost of the transaction itself. For example, when you want to make a trade on Radar Relay, you need to *wrap* your Ether inside a special smart contract. If you want to sign in to the dapp from the Bloom protocol, you need to sign a special kind of transaction.

We call these transactions interactions. We are trying to categorise them and split them apart. We view transactions as times where you are sending value from one address to another. We think this distinction will become more important as more people use dapps. You will want to browse your interaction history as much as your transaction history. This will help you understand what you have done with different dapps in the past. Our categorisation system is very basic right now. If you want to help us improve it, please help us by reporting any issues that you see.

🤓 Source Opening

Scammers will scam. We have no idea what goes on in the mind of a scammer, but we are trying to understand them. They will create clones of our product and put them up on different domains.

We thought that one way to mitigate this would be to keep our user interface closed source. We could open source the backend for audit. After a great discussion with the community on Twitter, we have decided to open our source. You can read the debate here:

We are asking you to trust us to help you manage your money. This is a huge responsibility. We recognise that in the world of protocols, all of the value is in the community and reputation of the project. We value the Balance brand a lot more than the codebase. The people who work on our software matter a lot more than the software itself.

We are going to learn from the other wallet providers and do our best to mitigate scammers. We will never win every battle, but we are ready to go to war for our customers.

If you are an engineer or security researcher, we would really appreciate any help. We will do our best to respond to every filed issue and pull request as quickly as possible.

🔑 Major Key

The most important thing to know about Balance Manager is that it never has access to your private keys. The tool is communicating with the wallet that you use to store them. You will always have to confirm a transaction on the software or hardware before it goes through. It interacts with these wallets using their standard developer interfaces. This massively reduces the security scope for our web application. There are always ways to attack systems. For example, a malicious dapp could trick you into thinking you are sending money to a friend. There are so many ways that you can be tricked. We just wanted to be clear about the current threat model for Manager. It is not a wallet, it is a tool to manage your existing wallet.

If you find a vulnerability in our software, please email me on richard at balance dot io.

👩🏽‍💻 Community Support

As a tiny team with limited resources, we have been debating the best ways to manage support. We will all be doing our part to respond to support requests using Intercom and Twitter. Our friends at MetaMask and MyCrypto have told us how hard this is going to be. We will do our best to be there for everyone who contacts us.

💌 Thank You

We have been through a lot together as a team. We would like to thank our early supporters, crowd funders, beta testers, and Twitter followers for their encouragement and support. We are excited about our new direction and working hard to ship great products.

Go to:

Team Balance ❤️


Interfaces for the open source financial system.

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