Coinbase Wallet users can now send instant messages to each other using their Ethereum identities, according to a July 12 blog post from Coinbase. The new feature relies on the Extensible Message Transport Protocol (XMTP), an instant messaging system that allows users to communicate using blockchain addresses. XMTP is also used by decentralized social media network Lens.
According to Coinbase’s post, select wallet users can now send messages to each other’s cb.id, .eth, or Lens usernames. The feature is being rolled out first to all users who scan a QR code from the blog post or who own Lens profiles, with all users gaining access at some point in the future. Messages are end-to-end encrypted to ensure privacy, and users can block addresses they don’t want to see messages from.
Coinbase stated that one of the motivations for releasing the feature was to cut down on fraud in the crypto community. Since users can now send messages directly to the owner of a wallet address, they won’t need to rely on a separate platform for messaging where the recipient’s Web3 identity may not be verifiable. Coinbase said this may “eliminate unnecessary risk and potential losses.”
Currently, the most often used chat apps for crypto users are Twitter, Discord, and Telegram, none of which presently allow users to verify their Web3 identities.
The company also argued that using XMTP for messaging reduces centralization. If Coinbase stops offering its wallet or ceases to exist as a company, users can still keep their XMTP chat histories and view them using other XMTP apps such as Lenster or OrbApp. “Your chats will transfer automatically, so you can focus on connecting,” Coinbase stated.
According to the XMTP documents, the messaging protocol runs on a network whose nodes are 100% owned by its developer, XMTP Labs. However, the documents also say the company is “working toward a phased decentralization of the network.”
In a conversation with Cointelegraph, XMTP co-founder Shane Mac reiterated this point about the value of decentralization. He emphasized that XMTP is not a social media or instant messaging app. Instead, it is a protocol that other applications like Coinbase Wallet and Lens can use. In his view, this allows users to choose which app they want to use without having to give up their identities or chat histories if they change apps.
“To really have a network that is interoperable and decentralized, developers have to want to build on top of it. So we have over 400 developers building on top of XMTP[…]You really have to incentivize developers to build with you, not to build a closed-walled silo.”
Coinbase Wallet has been part of a growing movement to increase adoption of Web3 usernames. It offered free cb.id usernames to all users in September, which helped to create a surge in registrations as the year came to a close. Web3 usernames allow users to send crypto to a human-readable name instead of the long strings of characters that make up a crypto address.
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