We learned last week that the US Treasury wants to regulate crypto wallets like bank accounts. On the surface, one can understand that temptation. If people store, send, receive, and sell crypto assets in crypto wallets, then surely they should be regulated like bank accounts.
Except that is only one use case for a crypto wallet. It happens to be the primary use of crypto wallets right now but it is not likely to be the primary use of crypto wallets in a decade.
Regulators need to think of crypto wallets like web browsers. They are software applications that open up access to the decentralized internet and over time they will reduce our reliance on applications like Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc. But only if they are allowed to exist without crushing regulation, like we treated the web broswer when it came out in the mid 90s.
Brian Armstrong, the founder and CEO of Coinbase, pointed this out in a series of tweets last week and these two are particularly good examples of ways that crypto wallets are used that are not like bank accounts:
These are just early use cases for crypto wallets that don’t resemble bank accounts. There will be many many more soon if we don’t strangle crypto wallets with suffocating regulation.
Crypto will eventually lead to a decentralized internet but the first industry it is decentralizing is finance. It reminds me of the web browser that started in media. The issue with decentralizing finance first is that regulators are tempted to regulate crypto like it is just finance and that could not be more wrong. And it will take everything the industry has to push back on this temptation.