MetaMask Girds for Crypto Winter by Drawing Lessons From the Last One
In this Exclusive Column, MetaMask's Co-Founders Reflect on Six Years of Building Their Crypto Wallet VentureExclusive
From our humble beginnings as a pair of starry-eyed techies eager to make a mark in a brand-new industry, it’s hard to believe how far MetaMask has come over the last six years. While this anniversary is worth celebrating, we also want to reflect on MetaMask’s growth and how our journey has shaped the ethos of this project.
Our shared history goes back to 2013 when we both worked on an open source project called VoxelJS. We then worked at a startup called MochaLeaf, which was acquired by Apple. We bonded over a project called VoxelJS. It was a software engine that allows you to create Minecraft-type browser games. Over the next few years, we dabbled in other areas, including peer-to-peer networking, and came up with a whole bunch of crazy, ambitious ideas for changing the world.
We were both drawn to many of the concepts swirling around the crypto space, particularly at the convergence of technology, politics, and data sovereignty. Ideas like creating more effective and participatory systems of governance and being able to democratize the distribution of wealth seemed daring and intriguing.
2016-2020 – The Bootstrapped Years
By the time Ethereum launched in 2015, giving rise to ideas like DAOs and alternative currencies, we knew we wanted to dive in headfirst, but none of the infrastructure was in place to support our vision. And so the idea of MetaMask, as a kind of account manager run in your browser, was born.
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We knew that the realization of this novel concept of web3 would be contingent on having infrastructure that was built in a sustainable and well-governed way. It had to be distributed and resilient, as well as open and participatory.
Aaron put together the first version, which was a fairly sophisticated “browser-in-browser” tool, only to have Dan come along and strip the entire thing back to a simple web extension. What we ended up with after several rounds of back and forth was just about good enough to start getting developers to notice us at events and hackathons. And so MetaMask was born in 2016.
Bullish sentiments quickly evaporated after the market highs around the 2017 holiday season. Like many other founders, we took the opportunity to hunker down during crypto winter and focus on building our platform.
Within a year, we had hired our first couple of developers, but it wasn’t enough to handle the torrent of demand we saw during the ICO boom in 2017. As enthusiastic users rushed in to try out this new platform, we were pulling all-nighters and the infrastructure and security assumptions of the platform were constantly strained.
Of course, the bullish sentiments quickly evaporated after the market highs around the 2017 holiday season. Like many other founders, we took the opportunity to hunker down during crypto winter and focus on building our platform.
In 2018, we held a retreat and started discussing scaling MetaMask by allowing users to add networks other than Ethereum. By 2019, the Snaps project was underway, providing developers with the opportunity to safely expand the capabilities of MetaMask for their dApps.
At this point, we weren’t really a revenue-generating project. We survived financially thanks to the support of ConsenSys and Joe Lubin, who believed in our vision and motivation as founders, and on the will of the community to participate in what we were trying to build.
So when March 2020 hit and the bottom fell out of the crypto market, we feared running out of runway. Times were hard for the ecosystem. We buckled down, kept on building, and later that year, we shipped the Swaps feature. With this launch, we finally had a sustainable revenue model that would allow the company to start to grow with increased focus on serving users.
2020-2022 – Expanding Utility, Stellar Growth
As things turned out, 2020 was a year of epic highs as well as crippling lows. Over the summer, the seeds of the DeFi sector sown over the past two years started to bear fruit.
Compound launching its COMP token propelled the DAO movement, and for the last two years, the pace of growth in the entire crypto sector has been almost relentlessly breakneck.
Having an established product that solved a number of key requirements for the ecosystem at the start of the DeFi summer positioned MetaMask as the primary gateway to the exploding market in decentralized yield-generating platforms. The rise of NFTs and play-to-earn blockchain gaming in 2021 made MetaMask valuable to a new global group of users.
By August 2021, we’d surpassed ten million monthly active users, making MetaMask the world’s number one non-custodial cryptocurrency wallet. Now in 2022, with the potential of web3 and the metaverse still in their nascency, we’ve already surpassed 30 million monthly active users.
We have steadfastly focused on strategically growing our team, and as a result we have never been better organized to systematically address our roadmap and user needs.
There are countless exciting integrations along the way for MetaMask users, but we have been really careful not to tailor our efforts to primarily serve one crop of dapps or use cases. Our mission is to best serve the vast wealth of potential ideas that devs and users are going to build and engage with as the tools get easier and better.
Our roadmap is probably as ambitious as can be at this point — and maybe some of our goals might end up being a stretch too zealous — but the versatility of a wallet for the distributed internet of value has never been clearer.
Bear Markets and Beyond
Having survived and thrived through more than one market cycle, we’re feeling pretty undeterred by the bear market of 2022, particularly given the epic leaps forward we’ve seen in the last six years or even the last two.
Just like the crypto winter of 2018 and 2019, the new generation of web3 developers are building, and we’re seeing previews of how the landscape will change over the next cycle, bringing improvements in privacy, interoperability, safety, and user experience.
Furthermore, as web3 develops and gains adoption we believe that the market cycles of crypto-assets will become less disruptive for our many use cases. It’s evident that even during this bear market, plenty of users continue to rely on MetaMask for purposes unrelated to investing or finance, such as gaming, social media, identity, art, cooperation, or other types of transactions.
So, as relative elders of the crypto community, we remain highly optimistic about the future. The bear market may sustain for awhile, but people have had a taste of owning their own digital contracts and assets, and that momentum isn’t going anywhere, and neither is MetaMask.
Here’s to another six years of building the foundational infrastructure that we hope will continue to enable society to leverage the power of distributed cryptographic systems. And thank you to the millions of passionate people across the world who have made all of this possible by going on this journey with us.
Aaron Davis and Dan Finlay are the co-founders of MetaMask.