It’s Still Early Days for Crypto

Summary: I talk about the mental game of investing, particularly as it applies to crypto markets. Subscribe here and follow me to get weekly updates.

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First things first: we now have a new video walking you through how to connect your MetaMask digital wallet to Bitcoin Market Journal.

If you’re a Premium member, or have been at any time in the past, you’ll definitely want to connect your wallet before December 31. (If not, here’s how to join.)

This project has been such a learning experience. We have hundreds of Premium members, past and present, so there have been many tech support questions from people as they hook up MetaMask.

Hence the walkthrough video.

The takeaway is that crypto products are still not user-friendly enough. Even MetaMask, which is an industry standard.

I am certain, however, that more user-friendly crypto products will come. Because I’ve seen this movie before.

google search engine
Fun fact: early websites were displayed on gray backgrounds.

The Early Days of the Web

The year is 1995. I am huddled over a keyboard in my cubicle, trying to figure out why my new personal website is returning error messages.

On one side of my screen, I have a Unix command window, black and foreboding. I do not know Unix.

On the other, I have a a primitive Web browser, probably the recently-released Netscape 1.0. Similar to MetaMask, Netscape was far better than anything that came before it, but that’s not saying much.

I have spent hours creating this new website – learning HTML and GIFs, writing all the text, creating graphics – and I cannot wait to release my creation to the world. The website works perfectly on my local computer, but when I upload it, the PERMISSION DENIED error message that is driving. Me. Insane.

Literally, I spend days troubleshooting my first website. I’ve had some technical challenges in my life, but I can still feel the frustration of this one, over 25 years later.

You have to understand, the Web was tiny. You couldn’t Google the answer: there was no Google. There were no explainers on how to set up a website, no Stack Exchange, no YouTube. It was just your wits against the Wild West Web.

I don’t remember how I found the solution – probably some friendly Unix admin at my workplace – but I still remember the command, which is seared into my memory:

chmod -R 777

The file permissions on my Web pages were not set to be publicly viewable, so trying to access them would give PERMISSION DENIED. The chmod command did the trick: “777” meant public viewing permission for everyone, and “-R” did it recursively, through all your subdirectories.

file permissions
Here’s the solution on the TechTarget website, only 25 years too late.

You can imagine the joy and relief that flooded my soul as I finally saw my website, on the Web, for the first time. It was truly a high point of my life.

You might think that’s the end of the story, but I can’t tell you how many times I ran into the chmod problem in the years that followed. Every time you uploaded a file, you had to run chmod – and you would constantly forget.

In the years that followed, people would turn to me when they were trying to set up their own websites. “chmod -R 777” I would respond, without thinking.

The chmod problem is symbolic to me of early technologies. As one of the first users, you’ve got to be really patient – or really stubborn – to work your way through the chmod problem.

Working with MetaMask has helped me understand we’re not in the 2001 phase of crypto, as I thought. We’re still in 1995.

We’re not in a time where the tech-savvy are all using crypto products, and only a few laggards remain. We’re still early days.

The good news is, developers finally figured out how to hide the chmod problem once and for all. And the same will happen for crypto products.

wix interface
Compare the Wix interface to the Unix interface above.

Making Crypto More User-Friendly

Today, anyone can publish on the web without even being aware of chmod. Dozens of platforms let you create a website without a line of HTML. Wix (pictured above) lets you drag, drop, and publish. No chmod needed.

We call this abstraction: hiding all the messy code, all the tedious server admin, behind an intuitive user interface. Abstraction = user-friendliness.

For Web builders, this abstraction came gradually, as new tools and services were released. There were web editors, which automated HTML creation. Web hosting companies, which automated server admin.

Eventually everything moved to the cloud. Websites became apps. We got payment rails in place. Now, launching a website is just a couple of hours and a monthly subscription.

Sometimes, it’s even free. Back in the day, it would cost thousands of dollars and take twelve weeks to create a web form survey. Now it takes three minutes via Google Forms, and it costs nothing.

These layers of abstraction — this user-friendliness — will eventually come to crypto. The crypto wallet will be baked into the browser, just like credit card technology is baked into browsers today. All this nonsense about private keys and wallet addresses will be simplified into your fingerprint.

It’s easy to ask, however, whether we want these layers of abstraction. Today we see everyone glued to their phones, afraid of face-to-face human contact, and it’s easy to ask: was it a good thing to make the Web so accessible?

Was a user-friendly Web a good thing?

matt roller tweet

Onboarding the Next Million Investors

Anyone who asks if the Web was a good thing does not remember the world before the Web. You wanted a fact, you had to go to a library. You wanted a how-to, you had to find someone who could show you. You wanted to buy an audio cable, you had to find a RadioShack.

The Web has altered the human experience so radically that it’s hard to get an appreciation for it. Remember, we’re still in the middle of the Technology Revolution, or whatever historians will call it. Crypto is just the latest iteration of this technology: there’s a reason we call it Web3.

Crypto will evolve like those early days of the Web: maybe not exactly, but the user-friendliness will come. For those of us getting started in these early days, it’s a wide-open prairie, with unlimited potential and possibilities.

Photo of a raccoon in a funny hat. (Generated via DALL·E 2)

As investors, we always remind ourselves to keep a long-term horizon. Adjust your expectations. Not “get rich quick,” but “get rich and make it stick.” Remember that progress is progress, however slow it may feel.

Those innovating and building in this space must remember the same thing: when you’re early, you’ve got to figure out all the chmod problems yourself. But you get the satisfaction of becoming an expert before anyone else – and helping onboard many, many people to come.

That’s what we’re ultimately excited about: our new MetaMask wallet integration will help onboard hundreds – and we hope, ultimately, millions – of people to Web3. It will be the on-ramp for crypto investing, and that has the potential to change the world … just like the Web.

Hook up your MetaMask wallet. Early adopters will be rewarded.

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