“Managing One’s Own Bank; Managing One’s Own Security”: Reactions to UnChained Podcast on 10-Year Anniversary of Bitcoin White Paper

alan warms

I am avid listener of the UnChained podcast, hosted by Laura Shin.  Not only are there lively informative discussions every week, but the guests always give context and history of how the industry got here.  Last week, Laura hosted Nathaniel Popper and Paul Vigna, reporters who cover Bitcoin and crypto for The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, respectively, to provide reflections on the 10-year anniversary of the Bitcoin white paper.  It was a terrific podcast and I recommend you listen to it in its entirety – but there were several comments within the podcast about current issues on useability and security in Crypto today, that I found incredibly relevant to ChainFront.

Laura Shin said, after mentioning the Equifax hack among other centralized breaches, said, “on the other hand, decentralized services are not easy… people have to …become their own bank, manage their own security, and so far people have been pretty happy to sign away their rights for convenience.  [To what extent] do you think [breaches such as Equifax] will help drive adoption of these decentralized services?”

Nathaniel Popper replied, “I don’t think it will matter at all. It will not help Bitcoin at all.  People want services that work.  If you’re service doesn’t work, doesn’t work better than the competitor, I don’t think privacy is going to be the deciding factor, other than for 0.5% of the population…the people who want to use Signal….it’s amazing how even in the privacy community people can’t get other people encrypted mail sent to them.  There is an audience for that – its tiny…  Other than that, if you don’t have a better product, you’re not going to win…”

Paul Vigna replied :  “You’re absolutely right-  it comes down to “define better.” To most people, better is going to mean faster, easier, more intuitive, fun…If you want to build a better Facebook- make it  better in terms of privacy AND better in terms of useability. It has to be both those things.  Something more private….but SUCKS in terms of user experience, no one is going to use it.

And this small vignette in this podcast really cements to us the issue with digital crypto wallets – be them on mobile or in browsers.  They force users to “manage their own bank” and “manage their own security.”  There’s a reason people were happy to take cash from underneath their mattresses and give them to banks – they could sleep at night and they earned some  income.  It’s hard to manage your own security – especially over a LIFECYCLE of use – new phones, new computers, changing protocols.  How do you transfer assets from wallet to wallet without exposing private keys?  It cannot be done.

Additionally, using a digital wallet, which is an extra step in the use case, is harder. It’s not easier to do.  At best, it is equivalent to an multi-factor authentication – but often can be harder to use than that. And if one is talking about multiple entities needing to sign transactions the need for actual wallets makes everything harder to use.

Nathaniel Popper and Paul Vigna hit on one of the main reasons we launched ChainFront – eliminate the barriers to adopt crypto and execute transactions. ChainFront breaks the compromise between usability and security.  Using ChainFront.io’s APIs, developers can make crypto transactions invisible to the end user.  Private keys are created within a secure area and never are transmitted; and transactions are also signed within that secure area.  As long as users are authenticated using either MFA or implicitly, transactions are executed, and only signed transactions or public keys leave the secure area.  So crypto applications, that all require transaction signing, can be MUCH easier to use *without* forcing end users to “manage their own bank” or “manage their own security.”


Also published on Medium.

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