What’s in your wallet? – Protocol


Good morning! Everyone wants a lock on the “wallet” metaphor. But with Amazon, Google, Apple, Meta, and countless others all having their own wallets, we’re reaching digital wallet saturation point. And that doesn’t even count the wallet in your pocket.

Attack of the killer wallets

I bought a new wallet the other day on Amazon after fruitlessly searching store after store for what I wanted. I am happy with my purchase; it has an exterior cover for my boarding pass, a clear window for my ID, and even a money clip instead of an interior bill pocket. I have no idea who did it.

The thing is, I don’t really need my wallet most of the time. I haven’t for years. The Starbucks app gives me a caffeine fix after a walk on the beach. Apple Pay handles the trip to the grocery store, and Apple Wallet also stores a virtual version of my Clipper card for the bus. Soon our IDs will also be digital. Cash? Eh, I’m just fanning you.

Everyone wants to be a wallet. The wallet metaphor is powerful: a storehouse of both identity and value. Who in tech wouldn’t want a lock on that?

  • The idea of ​​an online tool that stores a credit card for use goes back decades. (I like to say things like that because I’m old.) PayPal still leads the category, especially in traditional e-commerce.
  • Apple Pay and Google Pay are popular for mobile wallets, although they still don’t have much use compared to physical cards.
  • There’s also Amazon Pay and even Meta Pay, although the wallet formerly known as Facebook Pay is mostly useful for Instagram and Facebook marketplaces and Shopify. Shopify has its own Shop Pay wallet. Even Walmart and Safeway have wallets in their apps. Still confused?

Crypto has more complicated issues. Sending or receiving crypto requires a wallet, although a cryptowallet is really just an address on a shared ledger. Yet the crypto and NFT craze gave the wallet metaphor even more power.

  • Robinhood reinvigorated users by promising a crypto wallet, though the timing was poor, as interest in crypto trading plummeted along with the price of bitcoin this year.
  • Want to buy an NFT? You need a wallet, preferably MetaMask, which is more or less recommended by OpenSea.
  • However, the strange thing about crypto wallets is that they are public and transparent: anyone can see the transactions. And anyone can send them stuff, which means celebrities get spammed with shitcoins and junky NFTs. A crypto wallet is less like a wallet in your pocket or purse, more like a mailbox on the side of the road that any nosy neighbor can peek into or fill with flyers.
  • Here’s a sign that the wallet trend may be jumping the shark: Adam Neumann’s Flow, which just raised $350 million from crypto-enthusiast Andreessen Horowitz, is reportedly developing a wallet for tenants of its residential properties. It won’t be used to make rent payments using crypto — that would be too useful — but could be used for “tokenized” rewards, a company spokesperson told Forbes.

How many wallets are too many? In the real world, we usually only have one. And that’s where the metaphor really fails.

  • Randi Zuckerberg, who has found a new phase in his career in crypto marketing, says the problem is short-sighted corporate greed. Wallets will not “advance” Web3 development, he said in a speech at the Global Supertrends conference on Wednesday. “You leave the house with one wallet,” he noted. “And you need to see the same behavior online as well.”
  • Maybe he could talk to his younger brother about this? When announcing that Facebook Pay was becoming Meta Pay, Mark Zuckerberg promised a “digital wallet in the metaverse” but admitted that there is a “long way to go.” And it’s far from clear that Meta’s competitors or even users want Meta to be that one digital wallet. Regulators may have thoughts here as well.

If we’re really going to use this wallet metaphor, maybe the best wallet is the one you don’t have to think about. Apple and Google may have an edge here, as their built-in wallets increasingly integrate with the everyday functions of iPhone and Android. But they’re still much harder to use than the physical tool they aim to replace. When I got my new physical wallet, I just transferred my cards, which was much less painful than restoring multiple digital wallets when my phone died.

And this is the contradiction at the heart of this trend: a truly interoperable wallet is maximally useful to consumers, but a worthless commodity to the company providing it. If a tech company doesn’t try to pick it, is it really a wallet?

– Owen Thomas (e-mail | twitter)

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Proximity bias is real. Here’s how Prezi fixes it. – Nat Rubio-Licht

  • In a survey of more than 1,000 employees at hybrid companies, 66% said their company culture has proximity bias. Jim Szafranski, CEO of Prezi, spoke to Protocol about how improving virtual meetings could overcome proximity bias.

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