One of the most popular wallets for storing Ethereum and ERC-20 tokens has been MyEtherWallet (MEW), however the project recently split into two different projects and to different development teams.
The split has caused a good deal of controversy and questions among users of the MyEtherWallet. The split also resulted in a new wallet service named MyCrypto, which was a fork of the original MyEtherWallet.
MyEtherWallet was co-founded in 2015 by Taylor Monahan and Kosala Hemachandra. It quickly gained popularity as it was the only way to access Ethereum in a GUI rather than command line at the time. It has continued gaining popularity as it is well known to be streamlined and an easy way to store and transfer most of your ERC-20 tokens in one convenient wallet.
While the MyEtherWallet project seemed to be functioning well, in the background there was some disagreement between the co-founders, which came to a head on February 8, 2018 when Monahan announced she was leaving MyEtherWallet and founding a new platform to be known as MyCrypto.
At that time MyCrypto was nothing more than a fork of the existing MyEtherWallet codebase, which was developed primarily by Hemachandra. Monahan also took most of the MyEtherWallet developers along with her, and had plans to create an enhanced version of MyEtherWallet, which was completed and announced on May 15, 2018.
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A “New Beginning” for MyEtherWallet
Back in February Monahan released a statement indicating the reason for the split, which highlighted the growing needs of the business, and the difference between the early days when MyEtherWallet was simply a fun side-project. You can see the full statement here.
“MyEtherWallet LLC was sufficient for the early stages of growth. MyCrypto is designed with next-level scaling in mind from the beginning. The team assembled over the past 9 months and Taylor will now be building, providing support, educating, and ensuring the security of https://mycrypto.com and all future products. According to Monahan
We are confident this will contribute greatly to the entire ecosystem in the long-term.
In response, Hemachandra has stated that he remains committed to MyEtherWallet, its development and improvement.
MyEtherWallet will continue to be online until it, for whatever reason, is not online. As we do for a number of products in this space, if we at any point determine the domain to be compromised, serving malicious code, or otherwise detrimental to the community, we will do what we can to warn the community and prevent use of that codebase and website.
MyEtherWallet users were surprised and shocked by the seemingly sudden split, and there was quite a bit of confusion in the Ethereum community immediately following the announcements. MyEtherWallet is a critical service for anyone holding Ethereum and many of the ERC-20 tokens, and when combined with hardware wallets has provided indispensible security in keeping cryptocurrencies safe from hackers.
Is MyEtherWallet Still Safe?
Because of the compatibility with a large number of ERC-20 tokens, not to mention the fact it was made for the second largest market cap cryptocurrency, MyEtherWallet has played a critical role in the explosive adoption of Ethereum and the huge growth in the ICO ecosystem.
Of course this has also made MyEtherWallet a prime target of hacker and other bad actors who are bent on stealing cryptocurrencies from others rather than acquiring them legitimately like most users. Some months ago there was an iOS app released to the Apple store that made it to the #3 spot in the finance category, despite being a fake app. Needless to say this started the security concerns around MyEtherWallet.
Security concerns deepened during the split-off of MyCrypto as Monahan surprisingly took control of the MyEtherWallet Twitter account and changed the name to MyCrypto without any prior notice to users, or even to her co-founder! The move understandably drew criticism from the crytpocurrency community, and Hemachandra even suggested early on that the takeover of the account may have been unlawful.
MyCrypto Twitter Change. Source: Change.org petition
Subsequently the account was returned to MyEtherWallet, and Monahan clarified further by indicating that all MyEtherWallet assets and accounts had been turned over to Hemachandra. The damage was done to some extent, however the greatest damage may have been done to Monahan’s reputation, as the sudden changes being made cast her in an untrustworthy light. Suddenly changing the handle of the largest and most popular Ethereum wallet was likely not the most professional or trustworthy move.
MyEtherWallet has continued to see DNS attacks and phishing attacks, but by in large user funds remain safe, so long as they don’t compromise their own wallets. It’s quite a testimony to the dedication to security from Hemachandra and his new team of developers.
Why Did Monahan Split?
There were no statements from Monahan outlining any interpersonal issues causing the split. Instead she provided an extensive history of MyEtherWallet, and events that contributed to the need for a fresh start.
Monahan’s statement regarding the split referred to an extensive negative impact on her mental health, sleep patterns and quality of life.
The value of Ethereum increased exponentially and so did the stakes. Every potential bug or help query became “the most urgent thing ever.” Every monumental task finished meant another monumental task started.
There were also hints that she had been doing the bulk of the work on the project over the past year, with the following image from the GitHub Contributions page as proof:
Monahan Contributions to Github
Most specifically, Monahan’s announcement dove into the increasing need for MyEtherWallet to be run as a business. A greater need for professionalism, increased funding, and setting up for growth were among the themes in the “explanation” for the split to the MyCrypto project.
The Future of MyCrypto
While there was talk of venture capital support during the initial transition to the MyCrypto platform, there hasn’t been any official announcement of funding. Of course that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened anyway. MyCrypto has a team of 20 individuals, and accomplished a great deal in three months time. Many of the critics of the split pointed to the likelihood of a financial incentive for Monahan to strike out on her own, and that wouldn’t be surprising if it were true.
MyCrypto Team. Source: Mycrypto
Since its inception, the MyCrypto team has outlined a commitment to developing a platform that delivers a “safety, control, ease-of-use, privacy, decentralization, and trustlessness”, with a focus on remaining true to MyEtherWallet’s “ open-source, privacy-minded, transparency-focused, and client-side root”.
As far as I can tell, and based on online comments, the team at MyCrypto has been doing exactly what they’ve committed to do. I think that MyCrypto was certainly as secure as MyEtherWallet when the split occurred in February. After all, at that time it was the same software.
That’s no longer the case, as the MyCrypto team rolled out significant changes to the codebase on May 15, 2018. While the user interface remains the same, there have been many notable changes to the features and functionality versus MyEtherWallet. These include all of the following:
- Mobile Parity Signer (Turn your phone into a hardware wallet!)
- Scheduled Transactions (Worry about missing ICOs no longer!)
- Token Scanner
- Gas Price Slider (with gas price recommendations)
- Payment Requests (w/ EIP-681)
- Mnemonic Phrase Generation
- “View Address” History
- Updated Knowledge Base
- A LOT more
As you can see, there has been a lot accomplished by the MyCrypto team. And so far everything remains just as safe and secure as MyEtherWallet has ever been.
Initially, MyCrypto and MyEtherWallet were exactly the same code, with all the same features and the same security. Since then MyCrypto has expanded its feature set fairly significantly, but doesn’t seem to have compromised on security.
I know there were some in the cryptocurrency community who called for the complete avoidance of MyCrypto, due to the way Taylor Monahan handled the transition, and because some felt she was simply selling the project out.
I don’t know all the details behind the split, and I’m guessing you don’t either. Yes, Monahan could have handled the transition far more professionally, but we’ve all made errors and that doesn’t make us all bad or untrustworthy. And let’s also remember that the MyCrypto project is 20 individuals, not just Monahan.
Change can be difficult to handle, but it can also be good. I think users who want to remain with MyEtherWallet can do so confident that Hemachandra is running it in the safest and most secure manner.
I also think that Monahan and her team are doing well at MyCrypto, and there’s no need to worry about your coins disappearing over there. So, both are good choices, but it seems like if you want more changes and features going forward, then MyCrypto is the better choice.
Featured Image via Fotolia, MyCrypto and MEW