Decentralized finance, or DeFi, is one of the hottest stories in crypto right now, as industry pros get rich trading tokens on exotic exchanges. But a user experience that can feel intimidating or outright baffling means DeFi remains out of reach from many mainstream crypto fans. That's one reason Coinbase is taking steps to make its Wallet app—one of several tools that can be used to navigate DeFi—easier to use with a Chrome browser plug-in.
Coinbase Wallet, which the company describes as a decentralized sibling to its more familiar exchange app, has been around since 2018 but has required users to access dapps (decentralized applications) such as Uniswap from within the Wallet app on their phones. In 2019, the company added a feature that lets users access desktop sites by scanning a QR code—a process Coinbase itself acknowledged to be "tedious" in a blog post describing the new Chrome integration.
"The new extension allows for instant access to dapps on desktop—after linking your Wallet account to the extension once, you are free to browse all dapps with one click. This includes accessing thousands of cryptocurrencies, trading on decentralized exchanges (DEXes), earning interest and collecting NFTs," said the blog post.
In an interview with Decrypt, Coinbase senior product manage Sid Coelhu-Prabho explained that Wallet users can now use a one-time set-up to access a variety of dapps via Chrome. But he added users will also receive a notification to their phone asking them to verify the transaction—an important security feature given the risks that come with storing private keys in a browser plug-in. (Unlike Coinbase's main app, Coinbase Wallet is a self-custody service.)
Coelho-Prabhu added that the Chrome extension is part of the company's larger goal of making DeFi more accessible to ordinary users. "DeFi" is a catch-call term used to described a variety of peer-to-peer financial products, mostly on the Ethereum network, that enable services such as borrowing, lending, and trading crypto all without the need for third-party intermediaries. Coelho-Prabhu acknowledged that that the current DeFi experience is "not mainstream ready"and compared it to the dial-up internet services, but predicted this will change significantly in coming months.
Coinbase Wallet already has 1 million users, said Coelho-Prabhu, and noted that recent interest in decentralized applications has been spurred by opportunities to trade new tokens and earn interest, as well as by the recent NFT boom. He added that Coinbase will be expanding its educational resources to help users learn about Coinbase Wallet and DeFi.
While Coinbase's primary app has been an effective tool to steer users towards Coinbase Wallet, it still lags behind the most popular dapp navigator, MetaMask, which has a Chrome extension of its own. Meanwhile, up-and-coming competitors include My Ethereum Wallet (now known as MEW) and Rainbow.