[Interview by Mart]
David is working as a software engineer for the IOTA foundation. Currently, he is in the Firefly team.
Tangleverse Times: What separates Firefly from other wallets out there?
David De Troch: Three things make Firefly stand out from other wallets. The first one is our dedication to a superb experience for our users. We have the opportunity to work with amazing designers and ping-pong between what is technically feasible and what is optimal for the user. Whenever we think about a new feature, we start with regular design discussions to find a solution that looks and feels good. The back and forth continues throughout the whole development phase which results in a well-designed UI/UX.
The second differentiator is the unique features that come with the IOTA protocol. At Firefly, we believe you can have the best network, but without a good wallet, there won’t be any real-world adoption. And what is the point of developing all these cool features if nobody uses them?
The last part is our commitment to usable security. Critics of the crypto industry often point out that it is cumbersome to interact with digital ledgers due to the technical knowledge required to keep everything secure. We aim to provide a digital wallet that doesn’t compromise on its security but still allows its user to take advantage of these new technologies in a frictionless manner.
TT: Do you see yourself as a competitor to Metamask and other wallets in the long run, or do you think Firefly will have its own niche?
DDT: Not exactly. Metamask is a tool for very basic things, namely signing transactions that trigger asset transfers or interact with smart contracts. It isn’t good at interpreting the data itself, and we are not a big fan of its security model. The main issue is that phishing websites can trick people into giving up their private keys since they are stored in browser storage. Firefly lives in a sandboxed application which enhances its security.
In my eyes, our competitors would be more like Ledger Live or Exodus, which provide a comprehensive way of interpreting the data and a lot of functionality for the different networks. Firefly is exploring options to both connect with dApps in the browser as well as integrating dApps directly in the wallet, but of course, these need to be done in a secure manner. Part of the solution could be to develop a browser extension that communicates with Firefly but provides a similar in-browser experience to MetaMask.
TT: Do you plan to support more cryptos than the ones from the Iota Shimmer Assembly ecosystem in the future?
DDT: Firefly is an IOTA/Shimmer wallet first and foremost. There are very few wallets in the IOTA ecosystem, and the barrier to entry is high due to the unique technology of IOTA. It would of course be amazing to extend the UI/UX we carefully designed and implement other chains and it would be a great way to attract users from other ecosystems, but it is not a priority at the moment.
TT: What are some features that need to be added to Firefly in your opinion?
DDT: I am very excited about the new opportunities that will present themselves for Firefly once the protocol removes the Coordinator. In the long term, I think that most digital wallets at the moment underestimate the potential digital identities offer. There are a myriad of use cases (digital identities, IAM services, password managers, …) that make a lot of sense to have in Firefly. The fact that most people carry their identities in their physical wallets supports this intuition.
In the immediate future, I am excited about the Stardust integration of IOTA into Firefly Shimmer. From a technical view, the quickest option to develop Firefly Shimmer was having two apps. Now that Stardust is coming to IOTA, we will start to design the incorporation of two networks into one app.
Additionally, There are a couple of smaller features that we have pushed down the line for far too long that would enhance the functionality of Firefly. These include an address book, a fiat on-off ramp, and more extensive developer suites. The address book is the easiest to develop, so personally, I hope we might squeeze it in sometime soon.
TT: According to Charlie the spinoff will be finished early 2023. Are there already plans to expand the team? If so, how much or fast do you plan to expand?
DDT: There are plans to expand the team. Initially, we want to hire senior developers with expertise in security, quality assurance, and devops, as well as a talented product designer to help design all the new features we have planned. Luckily we are well-equipped for our general software development tasks. A bigger team would also allow us to contribute more to the Rust libraries that the IF is developing.
However, the team mustn’t grow too fast, since that leads to a high burn rate. It is also necessary to spend sufficient time on the new hires. We need to integrate them into the team and give them enough training/supervision initially so that we are all aligned with our mission.
TT: NFT support in Firefly is in Alpha. Governance proposal support is an important feature which may follow soon after. What will the team focus on after that?
DDT: The two big milestones for Q1/Q2 are enabling full EVM support for the Shimmer EVM and the integration of IOTA into Firefly Shimmer. Since the release of Firefly Shimmer, we have been able to work on a couple of features in parallel due to the enhanced modularity of the new application. I expect this to continue throughout this year.
From a business development perspective, this year will be full of new challenges that come with becoming a separate entity. I expect that some team members will set some time aside to work out the practical things around making Firefly successful as a business.
TT: Is it possible that multi-signature capabilities could be integrated into Firefly or will this require a separate app, like (formerly Gnosis) Safe?
DDT: At the moment, there are a lot of roads that lead to multi-signature capabilities. Once we have EVM support, supporting the Gnosis multi-signature smart contract would be straightforward. In my opinion, it’s too early to think about a secure multi-party computation feature since that space is changing very fast, and it’s not clear yet which approach will consolidate. For our target audience, a hardware wallet still provides optimal security.
TT: Are there any specific things that Firefly can learn from other ecosystems’ wallets?
DDT: Definitely! I like the way Metamask has structured its code. Ledger Live has a very convenient way of showing the different dApps it supports. Frame has an interesting way of connecting to the browser through a companion, and Exodus has a nice overview of how different chains are supported. I think each project has something valuable, but it’s difficult to keep track of all the progress that’s happening around the whole space. We regularly use alternative wallets to see how they tackle similar UI/UX problems.
TT: What are some possible real-world use cases for Firefly in your opinion? Is there anything that the community didn’t think of yet?
DDT: At the moment, most Firefly features target the Web3 space. But Web2 isn’t going to go away anytime soon. So I think it makes sense to revisit some of those original use cases and incorporate Web3 technologies to improve trust assumptions. I would like to see some Web2 use cases such as a `Login with Firefly` on external web pages or signing documents in an unforgeable way with a Firefly identity.
TT: Let’s finish with our obligatory degen question: Will it be possible for the community to invest into the firefly spinoff?
DDT: At the moment we are looking for a small number of high-profile investors to help us grow into a full-fledged company. We want to move quickly and this is the best way of doing so. However we would love to be able to support investment in Firefly from the community in the future.