Every journey into the new Internet starts with a “wallet.” It is really more of a “keychain” that helps you get into any web3 application. Whatever the analogy, the wallet is a key tool.
You will use your wallet to
So in order to start exploring web3, you will need to create a wallet. The great thing about most wallets is that they are free to use!
The custodial crypto wallet is the closest relative of a bank account. It is created and custodied for you by a centralized entity, such as a cryptoexchange (e.g. Coinbase, Kraken) or an NFT marketplace (e.g. Nifty’s, Niftygateway, ). The benefit of such a wallet is that you never have to worry about keeping your cryptographic keys safe; the custodian does that for you. That same feature is the disadvantage of this type of wallet, because the exchange may shut down or get hacked, and unlike a bank, there is no FDIC to insure your assets. That said, for a crypto beginner, a custodial wallet is an intuitive and protected environment. There are plenty of reputable exchanges that have done the hard work of creating secure vaults to protect your assets. Another aspect of dealing with a custodian is that you will need to go through a typical KYC process. You will be asked to present a government ID and state your legal name and address. On the bright side, your custodian may prepare the forms pertaining to your crypto assets for the tax season for you.
Realistically, as you get more and more experience, you will mostly use custodial wallets for the purposes of exchange from and to fiat money (regular currencies such as USD, EUR, GBP, etc.).
Most applications that we will talk about below will require a self-custody wallet to access them.
You may have heard your crypto friends say, “Not your keys, not your crypto.” What they are referring to are the cryptographic keys that allow you to access the assets on a blockchain and the importance of owning them. Self-custody is one of the foundations of a full crypto experience.
Imagine a bank that doesn’t have holidays or business hours (well, that’s easy, you say, I have an app), and, most importantly, just does what you say immediately (no pending transactions for days) and doesn’t ask you questions (you don’t have to justify why you’re sending money or receiving it). Oh, and it can’t go bankrupt, because it’s not really a bank, it’s your own digital wallet. That is what self-custody gives you. No middlemen. You make transactions yourself.
Oh, and by the way, you don’t need to show your ID or wait three days for the account to register. You don’t even need to share your email - none of your personal information to create a wallet. You can remain completely anonymous.
Check out and test some of the most popular wallet options below. They are all free. And remember, if you know your secret phrase, you can import your keys (access to assets) into a different app with no problem as long as it serves that blockchain. You are not attached to any particular app, you are your own master. As long as you own your keys.
The one tricky part is that, like with your real-life wallet with cash, the safety and security of your non-custodial wallet are fully on you. You have to learn how to keep your assets safe from hackers and phishing scammers. Here are some security tips.
MetaMask is the most popular Ethereum ecosystem wallet that works as a browser extension and a mobile app. Here’s how to get started with Metamask. You will be using this wallet to connect with web3 applications. You can buy crypto using a credit card or PayPal straight into your wallet. You can also swap tokens for other Ethereum tokens right inside your wallet without having to go to an exchange.
Phantom started within the Solana ecosystem but has grown to be a multichain wallet and now works on Solana, Ethereum, and Polygon. Like Metamask, it’s a browser extension and mobile app. Here’s how to create a new Phantom wallet.
Trust is a mobile-first multichain wallet. It’s one of the more versatile apps that allows you to interact with a wide range of blockchains (Ethereum, Solana, BNB Chain, Polygon, Aptos, Avalanche). It also has a broad range of financial tools, such as cross-chain swaps and staking, available within the app. The wallet also prides itself on being a dApp browser, you can find and access applications right from inside the Trust wallet app without having to install them separately on your phone. Here’s how to set up a new Trust wallet.
Coinbase self-custodial wallet comes from the Coinbase exchange but is its own thing. It is easily integrated with other Coinbase products - such as cb.id (more below) and the exchange itself. It works both as a browser extension and a mobile app, works with all major blockchains, and allows users to bridge and swap assets across chains.
WalletConnect is a user-friendly bridge between your digital wallet and decentralized applications (dApps). Sometimes you will come across a dApp that will not have your preferred wallet listed, that’s when you will connect using WalletConnect.
As you go deeper into the weeds of web3 you will find yourself managing multiple wallets and various assets, it’s easy to lose track of things. Zerion is a wallet, but it’s also a dashboard for all of your wallets. It’s a platform that acts as a one-stop shop for managing and tracking your assets across multiple wallets and blockchains.
Blockchain technology has, for the first time, made ownership of digital assets possible. That means that you can own networks, platforms, accounts, assets, content, followers, algorithms, but first and foremost, your digital identity. And this is another reason self-custody is very important. You want to make sure that elements of your identity cannot be taken away from you or lost due to the negligence of a third party. If this seems vague, don’t worry, we’re about to get into it in this below, and you get to try it.
Who you are, the ways you express and present yourself in various life situations - identity is a complex and multifaceted category. But what is web3 identity? Web3 identity is a way to verify who you are (or aspects of who you are) independent of any entity.
Think of your government ID, your passport, your driver's license - all of those documents serve to verify who you are, yet they can be taken away from you. You don’t really own them.
Think of your professional life. How much of your resume or LinkedIn page is verifiable? How many people lie on their resumes, including people in the highest offices? You don’t really know what’s true.
Think of your financial life. How many times have you had to present your pay stubs and bank statements to complete strangers who are supposedly keeping the information safe and private? You don’t really control your privacy.
Think of your online presence. You have to fight for your blue checkmark, jumping through a million hoops, and even if you get it - it can be taken away if you don’t comply with some rules. You don’t really own it.
These are just some examples of how vulnerable your identity is.
Blockchain allows you to take ownership of your identity in the digital realm. You own your digital ID that's secure, private, completely under your control, and cannot be taken away from you. You can prove who you are without needing a middleman like a social media platform or email provider. This gives you more privacy and power over your personal information.
Imagine universities issuing certificates on the blockchain (already happening in USA, Israel and South Korea). Imagine getting your car registration verified on chain (currently in California) and being able to present that as part of your verified financial identity. Imagine being able to prove your identity and vote in an election… (some day).
By now, you have probably created your self-custodial wallet, and you can see that the address is long and hard to memorize. What you can do is you can purchase an ENS (Ethereum Name Service) domain name and link your wallet to your .eth domain, but that’s not free (even though relatively inexpensive.)
We have a free option for you! Coinbase ID is built on top of ENS infrastructure (it’s essentially a subdomain) and is a unique username that also automatically forwards web users to that username's web3 profile.
With this domain name, next time a friend wants to send you an NFT, or a POAP (see below), or your client wants to send you a payment in tokens, you don’t have to go back to your wallet and copy and paste the address, you can just tell them your .cb.id address, like “iworkfortokens.cb.id” or “yourname.cb.id.”
One of the flaws of ENS service of course is that it doesn’t really verify who you are. The challenge of proving that you are actually you online is not solved by that service. There are several protocols that are working on that problem. One of them is Proof of Humanity.
One of the things that we got accustomed to in web2 is renting digital space (and paying for it with our privacy and data). If you think about it, when you say, “my Twitter account,” “my Instagram followers,” or “my Facebook posts,” you can never be sure that your social media presence is actually yours to have full control over. You, of course, create your own accounts and content, but Twitter can deplatform you, Instagram will not allow you to even download a list of your followers, let alone transfer them to your TikTok, and Facebook algorithm can make your posts invisible to your followers without you or them knowing that.
Decentralized social media aims to give the ownership and control of data back to the users. It solves some of these problems by allowing you to actually own your account, your content, and your social graph (your following). With the rise of decentralized social media, the user becomes the center of social media and not the platform.
One of the benefits of the open infrastructure is that developers can build various applications that interact with the underlying protocol. In the early days of social media, platforms allowed it too, but now they prefer to protect their space from builders. Web3 platforms invite innovation and allow developers to use their structure to build tools and applications on top.
Lens Protocol allows developers to build various applications around users' social graph (a structure that shows interconnections among people and groups in a social network). Imagine being able to bring your Twitter users to TikTok with you. Lens allows anyone to create their own social media platform for whatever use they desire. There is a number of applications out there that you can use and move across with your followers: Lenster, Orb.
The Lens accounts are free but are currently not easy to come by. You can either wait a few months for Lens to open the next cohort of accounts, or you could follow them on social media or attend one of their IRL events and get your handle.
Farcaster is another protocol for building decentralized social applications. Developers use Farcaster to build social networks, letting the protocol deal with managing user identities and data. One of the applications is Warpcast (a sort of decentralized Twitter). Like most decentralzed social platforms, Farcaster is currently free for users, but in the spirit of web3 and with the goal of avoiding having to monetize users' data (by selling it to advertisers), the founders plan to eventually implement a subscription fee for usage.
How to get a Farcaster account? Psst, rumor has it, you can just DM Dan Romero on Twitter.
Once you get going on all these platforms you can also get yourself set up on Yup, which is a cross-protocol posting app for web3. You can post to Farcaster, Lens, Mirror, NFTs, and Twitter all at once.
Steemit is another web3 social media website. Users can earn a token, STEEM, for publishing and curating content.
Nostr is a censorship-resistant social media protocol built on Bitcoin Lightning Network. Like other social media protocols, Nostr is home to multiple apps: Coracle (Web), Damus (iOS), Gossip (Desktop), Nostros (Android). One of the valuable features is that you can transfer some of your Twitter following to Nostr.
Communication is another area where we as users gave up a lot of agency in the last 20 years. We know most of our email communication is not exactly private, even though Google doesn’t read them anymore. In addition to that, many of us have entrusted our social logins for various websites to “login with Gmail or Facebook.” We have touched on the importance of owning your identity. Owning your communication is another part of self-sovereignty.
Mailchain is a “web3 native email.” It guarantees privacy and freedom of communication while maintaining a familiar and intuitive interface of email. Mailchain cannot read your encrypted emails. And while we emphasized above that blockchain is fully transparent, the way Mailchain works is that in addition to encrypting the contents of the message, it also encrypts the metadata, so nobody can know who you message, where, and how big are the messages. You can claim your free account here.
Nftychat is a communication platform that is, according to the creators, “Safe from bots and fraud, yet full of fun.” Nftychat is currently free to use. You can chat with other users directly, and you don’t even need to create a new account. Your wallet is your identity. In addition to regular messaging, the app allows you to create token-gated chat rooms.
Mirror.xyz is a publishing platform that leverages blockchain technology. It can be used by creators not only to create and share their work but also to fund it. The platform includes a web3-powered post editor. It also allows users to collect blog posts as NFTs and subscribe to your posts with their wallets. As a creator, you can share the revenue with your co-authors directly through the platform in a transparent way.
Paragraph allows users to write Web3-powered newsletters. Paragraph combines elements of web3 with the functionality of web2. Creators can token-gate their content. Readers don’t have to have a wallet to subscribe, a simple email will work. Paragraph has a fast page load time as well as permanent and uncensorable storage.
You are now equipped and ready to dive into NFTs and other assets that you can own and manage on-chain. We hope you have enjoyed your first steps on your web3 journey! Stay tuned for the future WebFree posts!