Nearly every major Web3 project has recently been getting bombarded with questions like “Wen token?” Token drops from platforms such as Uniswap and Ethereum Name Service have turned crypto platform users into part owners—with lucrative assets to their name.
But MetaMask, the largest Ethereum wallet with more than 30 million reported monthly users, has thus far resisted the siren call.
“We believe really deeply in progressive decentralization and doing it over time and doing it in ways that are meaningful—and doing it in ways that are not a cash grab,” MetaMask lead of operations Jacob Cantele told Decrypt at ETHDenver. (Disclosure: ConsenSys provides funding to both MetaMask and an editorially independent Decrypt.)
While Cantele said that a token will be “an important aspect” of being “community-owned,” he sought to temper expectations around when that would happen and what it would mean for people’s pocketbooks.
“It’s not something that we’re going to wing and it’s also not something where we’re going to put our project in jeopardy of either regulators or give governance to ‘airdrop farmers’ or something like that,” he said, referring to a process by which people or companies (including venture capital firms) create multiple wallets to maximize gains before new tokens are given out to users.
Many cryptocurrency projects are, by necessity, centralized ventures at their outset, with a core team shepherding the protocol until it gains traction. Once enough people use the product, the team can then choose to hand off responsibilities to users in return for compensation via a governance token. That token is used to vote on protocol changes and decisions about treasury allocations.
Decentralized exchange Uniswap had one of the earliest token drops for a Web3 token when, in September 2020, it gave out 400 UNI tokens to anyone who had previously used the protocol. At the time, UNI was trading for $3 on exchanges. In May 2021, it hit an all-time high of $44.97, according to CoinMarketCap. That means that anyone who had ever swapped Ethereum for an Ethereum-based token on the DEX—even just one time—could have cashed out for $18,000.
So, one could see why people would be clamoring for a MetaMask token. But the ConsenSys-born project is for now busy adding to its product, including the acquisition of Ethereum wallet MyCrypto at the beginning of February. MyCrypto founder and CEO Taylor Monahan has often highlighted the risks of decentralized finance, a sector that MetaMask and Uniswap have helped make usable. She doesn’t want to see MetaMask sullied by a cash grab either.
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She told Decrypt at the time of the acquisition: “The ecosystem I want is one that is actually really decentralized. It is actually about empowering people. Not about greed, not about quickly making money.”
And to empower the entire cryptocurrency ecosystem, you have to start with the wallet used to hold those crypto assets.
Said Cantele: “It’s important that this wallet be owned by all of us.”