We are aware that not everyone has the time to listen to podcasts and some prefer to read concise articles that briefly summarize a sometimes lengthy, yet interesting podcast episode. With our series, ‘Podcast Gems’, we want to provide everyone who’s a bit short on time, yet does not want to miss out on any great podcast episode, with a content format that fits their busy schedule. ‘Podcast Gems’ is dedicated to reviewing and encapsulating the best, most informative podcasts about blockchain, crypto, and other related subjects.
Today we have a special episode from the Solana Podcast for you. This one was recorded during the BreakPoint conference in 2021, where the community discussed current affairs, trends, and the future of the project. It’s a conference for blockchain specialists, founders, developers, and users to learn about every aspect of the Solana network. Many great talks happened during BreakPoint 2021, and this article is about one of them.
This episode was moderated by Ali Yahya from a16z. The guests included Brandon Millman (Phantom), Filip Dragoslavic (Solflare), and Maria Phillips (Slope Finance). Each one of the debaters had a lot of unique insights about blockchain-related education, custody, user-controlled layers, and wallets.
Before we proceed with the full review of the podcast, we would like to summarize the crucial points discussed during the event. This way, you will know exactly what the guests talked about and what the main themes were:
Are you fired up after the summary? Read on then, as we dive deeper into this Podcast Gems!
Ali, the host, started by introducing himself and the main topics he wanted to talk about. To quote: “(...) the user control layer. So, everything that has to do with UX, interfaces, wallets, how people use their private keys to interact with blockchains, and how all of that plays into web 3.0, and the things that are being built in DeFi, NFTs, et cetera.”
The guests said a few words about their projects. Filip represented Solflare, the first GUI wallet for Solana. Brandon, the CEO of Phantom, a popular Solana wallet, decided to thank the audience for their 1 million user mark. Maria from Slope Finance also mentioned the success of their wallet.
After this short opening, Ali asked the first question about the nature of users’ interactions within blockchains. Crypto professionals wonder if the keys should be held by users, or if an intermediary should be involved. Basically, he wanted to know what the panelists thought about the trade-offs between custodial and noncustodial offerings.
Filip started by noting how the noncustodial model is true to the initial idea behind crypto. Decentralized, user-based, where one truly controls their finances. He mentioned Algeria and said that for many people around the world, it’s super important to keep their money safe and without external control.
However, he wasn’t totally close to the custodial model. He said it can be convenient for users, as they are used to not having full responsibility for their assets and transactions. It’s a matter of education, and probably not everyone will move to noncustodial models whatsoever. Crypto fans are early adopters, and they understand why the custodial approach is better, but these two will have to co-exist.
Brandon said that his company is actually helping crypto users that are not as experienced to take advantage of blockchain easily and safely. He thinks that there can be more options than the full custodial or noncustodial model. He compared blockchain to a sports car, where not every user wants that kind of power, and they need help taming it. That’s what crypto companies are for.
Maria also had an interesting insight. She said that such intermediaries as her company are needed as a gateway between Web 2.0 and Web 3.0, where decentralized activities can be linked together for a seamless user experience. A lower entry barrier also means that more people will get into the world of crypto.
Filip underlined the importance of education once more and said that Solflare cares deeply about it. Their goal is to help people not get scammed and turn against all crypto projects. Ali agreed and presented his views on the subject. He said that in the community there are two philosophies. One is focused on teaching people how different crypto is from what we know until now and what possibilities it brings. The other is more pragmatic. It approaches crypto like any other Web 2.0 product and focuses on adoption. In the future, when people get used to it, it can help them shift to Web 3.0.
Filip’s conclusion led to this: crypto users don’t have to know everything, but they should be aware of how the whole concept works and what the basic terms really mean. This will be enough for them to do standard DeFi transactions for example.
Brandon had an interesting point about Web 3.0. He said that people like him and other guests of the event are the minority, the early adopters of innovative technologies. We can’t predict what it will look like in the future, but he also mentioned the crucial role of support to help people avoid scams and unreliable projects. This way, they won’t get lost and rather pick the options that are trustworthy and safe. He also mentioned a proper infrastructure that would help users find themselves in the sometimes complicated blockchain industry. Maria added that the state of financial literacy is not so great either.
She continued to elaborate on the subject. Introducing crypto to the daily activities we know and love, like online shopping, could change the way the majority of people think about the community. If they could pay with coins and receive a physical item, that would be proof that it actually works and can be used for a variety of money-related operations.
Filip mentioned how he and Brandon contributed to support. They tried multiple ways of giving it to the users in need, like Discord and Telegram, but some people still got scammed. He said that industry professionals should remember that every person that got into a situation like that requires an anonymous, safe space to get the help they need.
Ali seamlessly moved to another subject, connecting education with the way wallets and other crypto apps are created. Some products don’t give any guidelines on what can be developed on top of them. That provides chaos and makes it hard to understand which products are secure and can be used with minimal risks. However, there are responsible companies that share opinions about integrating their product with other DeFi apps. Also, some providers can give developers their own tool stack, so the creators will know exactly how they can build extensions for crypto wallets. Such a structure can ensure a positive user experience and adaptability.
Brandon once again underlined the fact that “(...) we're in this mass experimentation phase where a lot of things are still being figured out”. Additionally, he suggested that it’s impossible right now to get rid of permissionless, decentralized apps because they are now the most popular on the market. However, that can change very soon.
Filip shared his views on that, saying that direct integrations with wallets can be better for the UX and security, especially for new users that can see the world of permissionless apps as the “Wild West”. However, it can also provide a risk of gatekeeping the product and a lack of transparency between parties that integrate it. One platform shutting down would be a problem for the users that use multiple dApps connected together.
He then added that an educated community wouldn’t be so prone to mistakes and could participate in the permissionless platforms because they would know what’s what. Right now, many users want to quickly do operations without proper knowledge. Filip agreed with Brandon that it’s an early stage and figuring out which approach is the best will take time. The best solution at the moment would be giving users a choice: centralized or decentralized wallets that can be based on trust, identity, and more.
Maria joined the conversation, saying that Slope Wallet integrates with over 80 dApps, and thanks to 35 engineers on board, they can set standard rules for their partners. She underlined the fact that in such collaborations both parties are working together towards common goals. Ali used her insight to ask another question, this time about user control layers, and what the elements are that have to be present in a well-designed wallet.
Brandon started with a remark that a crypto wallet has a very complicated structure with many functionalities. It has to handle a lot of things that appear in our rapidly growing world, for example, NFTs, non-fungible tokens, token swaps, etc. Filip quickly compared what he said to Chinese WeChat, which is an umbrella app that consists of many multipurpose features. Then, he quickly countered it with the concept that a wallet could be a single app that interacts with many services. He said that it only makes sense if they are not too heavy and complex, otherwise, the wallet wouldn’t be able to handle them and could slow down, especially on mobile.
Maria interjected with a claim that her company goes for the “super-app” approach because they like to keep their users within the internal environment. It’s also good for the statistics, as everything can be found within one platform.
Ali’s next question revolved around Web 3.0 and crypto usage patterns. Will users prefer desktop or mobile? How will they use keys when interacting with dApps?
Brandon began with a statement that Web 3.0 had a tough start on mobile. He then explained, that at first, blockchain-related apps were built with prosumers in mind. Now, many users, such as the ones focused on NFTs, use crypto products more casually. This indicates that a mobile-first approach would be more expected. Scalability and lower fees also contribute to this paradigm shift. Maria agreed and said that their product is definitely mobile-first.
Filip had a different opinion. He said it will be mixed between complicated operations on desktop and casual on mobile. He also noted that mobile apps will be great for logging in to crypto products, as it’s secure and always available. The convenience factor is essential because people want to check their assets, buy, and sell sitting on their couch or after waking up.
Towards the end of the 20-minute discussion, Ali commented that Web 3.0 starts to “intersect more with a consumer world”, which means the dominance of mobile over desktop in that area. Filip replied that it’s true, especially for NFTs. He underlined mobile games as an example because more and more of them will turn to microtransactions based on NFTs and every gamer will require a wallet to keep their purchased items. Game creators could handle that on their own, but they will likely turn to other providers because building and maintaining secure wallets can be very difficult.
That was the moment when Ali wrapped up the conversation and thanked everyone for participating. Probably the main conclusion from this panel is that education is key for the better future of blockchains, as well as that the industry has to listen to user feedback and adjust accordingly.
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Please note that none of this is to be considered financial nor investment advice. We highly advise you to always do your own research (’DYOR’) before interacting with any of the projects or tools we write about. Crypto is a highly dynamic and fast paced environment with lots of moving parts that can quickly change.