“I am telling this story today because just when you think there are things you can count on, you quickly find that the sky is purple. When this happens, it usually does no good to keep arguing that the sky is blue. You just have to get on and deal with the fact that it’s going to look like Barney for a while.”
— ‘The Hard Thing About Hard Things’, Ben Horowitz
This is the story of MyEtherWallet, and how this has led us down the path to MyCrypto. It is long because I hope it gives you insight into who we were, who we are, and who we aim to be in 2018 and beyond. Or, more likely, I am not a concise person and this is catharsis.
If you don’t care about the “why” or “how,” skip to 2018: The New Beginning. There are some big changes happening in 2018 to ensure our longevity in the blockchain space. We will do our best to ensure everything happens smoothly and transparently. Thank you for your time.
2015: The Beginning
MyEtherWallet started with just two people, kvhnuke and tayvano (me!). It was a simple interface that provided a simple solution to a problem: when Ethereum first launched, the only way to send your Ether was via command line. Our very first Reddit post reflects our short-term expectations of this project: “Ether Wallet Generator (for now)”.
Unlike the work we did for our day-jobs, MEW didn’t have deadlines or tedious rounds of feedback from stakeholders. We could work on it when we wanted to…or not work on it at all. It was simply our baby.
The Ethereum community was small, tight-knit, and optimistic about the future. Whenever we made a post about a new feature, I had the chance to interact directly with the handful of folks using our product. Interacting with these people has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. I quickly fell in love with talking to people, understanding the different ways they used our product, eliminating misconceptions, and improving the product based on what they shared.
I never saw MEW as being “infrastructure” or “tooling” and certainly did not expect it to become such an integral part of the Ethereum ecosystem. It wouldn’t be until a year later that I realized building a product for people is infinitely more difficult and time-consuming than building a product for a company.
2016: The Middle
Throughout 2015 and 2016, the time we spent on the site was mostly short, sweet, and spontaneous. We were both still working our “day jobs” and MEW was our baby side project.
2016 was the year of the DAO and subsequent hard fork. The community was still small and tight-knit. It was an incredibly hopeful time… until it wasn’t. While the aftermath of the DAO was a painful experience, MEW was front-and-center to help pick up the pieces. We built the feature that people still use (somehow!) to this day: the DAO withdrawal interface.
My key takeaways, according to my journal in December 2016, weren’t surrounding the DAO, price of Ether, or the network attacks. They were my love for the community, the potential of the blockchain, and the hope for the future.
More specifically, I loved exploring accessibility and user experience in a way I never had before. The decisions I made could help people finally interact with the blockchain safely. I loved improving accessibility not because the style guides told me to, but because I had blind users contacting me. I loved that I could make that person’s experience better with an afternoon’s worth of work. I hated that a wrong choice, even a flippant one, could lose someone’s money.
Q1-Q2 2017: The Climax
The year started off great with a steady, manageable flow of new users. It was still just the two of us. The servers cost a whopping $40/month. We got around 20 support-type messages on a busy day.
When the price skyrocketed, ICOs and noobs came zooming in on the promise of getting rich. We suddenly had a real user base and real servers that we had to learn to scale. The phishing sites appeared and the work and expertise to be secure in this space climbed steadily. Our daily messages doubled, and then doubled again… and again… and again. Our headcount increased 50% when my husband, Kevin, started helping out.
It didn’t stop — especially not with the Ethereum Name Service on the horizon. With new features come new problems, and suddenly we were receiving time-sensitive requests that we couldn’t answer in a time-sensitive manner. We weren’t ready. We were used to “what’s a private key?” but we now found ourselves dealing with “I can’t reveal this bid and if I don’t reveal it within 24 hours I lose 100 ETH.”
My friends, family, and especially husband saw the toll this responsibility was having on my mental health and urged me to stop letting it destroy me. My husband answered as many support tickets as he could each day, cooked dinner each evening, and carried me to bed at 4am… then 5am… then 7am when I fell asleep typing at the computer. I consistently chose “trying to help one more person” over “a few more moments of sleep”. And there was always one more person.
Initial Coin Offerings increased in May and June. Each ICO dwarfed the last. The Status Token Event had us broadcasting 100,000 transactions per hour. A year previously we had 100,000 unique visitors per month. 20 messages a day became 1,000. The value of Ethereum increased exponentially and so did the stakes. Every potential bug or help query became “the most urgent thing ever.” Every monumental task finished meant another monumental task started.
And you can’t hire a support staff by the dozen in this space. Finding trustworthy people with specialized knowledge who aren’t building their own product or launching their own ICO was (and is) a challenge. Dealing with the passionate, involved, but not necessarily experienced userbase requires a kind heart, a thick skin, an attention to detail, and a stringent adherence to security and best practices.
I learned a lot upon reflection, but in the moment it was simply chaos. It was unhealthy. All emotions are intensified by lack of sleep, and I too often attributed to malice what could have been attributed to any number of other things. My journal entries stopped in May and didn’t start again until November. I had to prioritize my mental health (and marriage) again.
Q3-Q4 2017: Building…and Rebuilding
Once the madness had subsided a bit, I took steps to ensure MEW, as a product and a company, was secure and reliable in the long-term. I never wanted to be ill-prepared for rapid growth again. I read startup books, biographies of great founders, and researched the fatal mistakes of other wallets with the hope I could learn from others mistakes instead of making my own.
I had begun hiring people to help with support and development and our new team was re-writing the entire codebase together, as a team. By fall, their roles were much larger and they were fully committed to the company and product. I wanted to ensure the company and product were committed to them as well.
Before, everything had been about the next day. Now, I needed to think about tomorrow and the years to come. Failure now would hurt the community and the livelihoods of friends who had quit their jobs, dropped out of school, or otherwise completely dedicated themselves to our project.
This adventure needed to transform from “fun side project” to “a real company” …and fast.
Building a product, a company, and a team is really fucking hard and requires more time and energy than you think you have. I was never prepared for the next onslaught of traffic, the different types of people starting to use our product, the phishers, the needs of the community, and the needs of our team. Exponential growth requires exponential effort. It’s easier to give up, but I wouldn’t be the person I am today without this experience.
Someone once asked me, “if you’re so stressed, then why don’t you just stop doing it?” At the time, the thought had never crossed my mind. But now I’ve had time to think about it and here’s what I know:
- Quitting is not an option.
- No amount of temporary setbacks or headaches could make this experience not worth it.
- I would regret giving up for the rest of my life.
- It’s fun to imagine a world where I stopped building MEW and moved to a deserted island without internet. It’s not fun to stop building MEW and imagine a world where I kept at it.
- We are a team of 19 badass rock stars who make my life easier and the product better each and every single day. They do everything I used to do, but heaps better than I ever did.
- If I survived ICO-hell during the initial ENS launch with only my husband by my side, I can survive just about anything Ethereum throws at us with the team we’ve built (and my husband by my side).
- This space will revolutionize the world.
I have accomplished things I never thought possible. I love that. It’s hard, but without it I would have no idea of what I’m truly capable of.
2018: The New Beginning
2017 saw the end of the side-project. 2018 will ensure we have a solid foundation for the product, the company, and the team. It is this solid foundation that ensures our long-term stability and success, in 2018 and beyond.
- Make choices that are the best for Ethereum, the community, and the larger blockchain space.
- Create the best product we can to empower people to interact with the blockchain.
- Find the balance between safety, control, ease-of-use, privacy, decentralization, and trustlessness.
- Ensure our users understand the risks of the blockchain and can make an informed choice between our product and alternatives (e.g. hosted wallets, exchanges).
- Take the people who use our product and provide feedback to heart and carry their feedback with us; they are why we are here. Listen to them, regardless of their technical abilities or communication skills.
- Stay true to our free, open-source, privacy-minded, transparency-focused, and client-side roots.
What We Need To Achieve Our Goals
- A company and culture that allows us to work together efficiently and rewards us for our efforts, in both financial and non-financial ways.
- A company structure that protects us legally, reduces our risk, and ensures we are around tomorrow.
- A financial situation that allows us to focus on the above goals in the long-term, not whether or not we can pay bills next month.
- A network of individuals, teams, peers, mentors, naysayers, and, generally, humans who will provide us with guidance, expertise, recommendations, advice, and feedback to help us be best possible version of ourselves.
- The skills, expertise, and willingness to do this. The desire, drive, and confidence to keep doing this. The grit, perseverance, and support to never stop doing this.
- The modesty, fear, and gratitude to fully realize that what we did yesterday does not ensure we will be able to continue doing it tomorrow.
Which Leads To…
MyEtherWallet LLC was sufficient for the early stages of growth. MyCrypto is designed with next-level scaling in mind from the beginning. The team I have assembled over the past 9 months and I will now be be building, providing support, educating, and ensuring the security of https://mycrypto.com and all future products.
We are confident this will contribute greatly to the entire ecosystem in the long-term.
Kvhnuke remains in control of the MEW github repository, the MEW domain, the AWS instances, and the MyEtherWallet social media accounts.
I was terrified — am terrified — at the potential harm this change will have on myself, the team, and/or the Ethereum community but ultimately, the risks created by continuing down the road we were on are greater than the risks of splitting to a new brand, new company, new name, and new domain. While contemplating this decision, I began to see that my inaction would be the only thing that guaranteed my failure.
What This Means For You
We will continue to do our best to help folks who have questions and need help, regardless of the product they are using, even if those products are not technically what the MyCrypto support box was designed for. Just as we have always attempted to answer questions and give guidance about specific tokens, other exchanges, other wallets, we will continue doing so for MEW.
The people who have helped you over the years via email or Twitter or Facebook or Skype or Slack or Reddit or Github will remain the same. However, these people will now be reachable via https://support.mycrypto.com/, firstname.lastname@example.org and the new social media platforms:
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/mycrypto
- Medium: https://medium.com/@mycrypto
- Github: https://github.com/MyCryptoHQ
- Help & Support: https://support.mycrypto.com
- Reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/MyCrypto
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MyCryptoHQ
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/mycrypto
The new react & typescript codebase has been audited. Pending a few minor updates, public beta testing will commence in the coming weeks. This codebase will eventually serve live to https://mycrypto.com. We aim to launch desktop apps and then mobile apps in the coming months.
Until we are confident in the stability & usability of the new codebase, a forked version of the current version of MEW will continue to be maintained and improved on https://mycrypto.com.
MyEtherWallet will continue to be online until it, for whatever reason, is not online. As we do for a number of products in this space, if we at any point determine the domain to be compromised, serving malicious code, or otherwise detrimental to the community, we will do what we can to warn the community and prevent use of that codebase and website. However, we wish the best for MyEtherWallet and hope it continues to be a viable product in this space.
Most of all, we will continue to do what is best for the Ethereum & blockchain community.
As always, thank you for those who have supported us and those who continue to support us. I’ve said it a million times, but we literally wouldn’t be here without you by our sides, helping us reach new heights and pushing us to be better. This is especially true today. If you have any questions, comments, or feedback, good or bad, please share them with us in the comments here. If you’d like to talk to me personally, I’ll do my best to respond in a timely manner: email@example.com.
PS: We have new stickers. You can get some by sending your mailing address to firstname.lastname@example.org.