Coinbase on Tuesday announced changes to its decentralized Wallet product aimed at making the service more streamlined and easy to use. The most significant of these is a new feature that lets Wallet users send funds by means of a simple text message through Telegram or WhatsApp—or any other platform that can transmit a link.
The texting feature is part of a broader effort by the crypto giant to make Coinbase Wallet—a decentralized product distinct from the custodial “wallet” people use on its exchange—more useful to a broader base of people.
In an interview with Fortune, the head of Coinbase Wallet, Chintan Turakhia, said the ability to send money by text was part of the company’s vision of “economic freedom.” This also includes letting users send the USDC stablecoin to each other at no cost.
While customers can already send USDC (which Coinbase jointly owns with Circle) on Coinbase Wallet for no charge, they must know the name of the recipient’s wallet address. The new texting feature eliminates that requirement and, for practical purposes, makes it much easier to add money when texting a friend or family member in another country.
For those receiving the USDC by text, the link opens directly in Coinbase Wallet and, if the person doesn’t have one, they receive a one-click prompt to install the app and receive their money (if they don’t open it in two weeks, the funds revert to the sender). Below is an image of the service in action—you can watch it step-by-step on a company blog post:
One notable feature about Coinbase Wallet is that, since it’s a piece of software that places control over private keys (passwords to unlock the wallet) with the user, there is no “know your customer” process that must be completed before using it.
While this sounds like it could spell regulatory trouble, Coinbase says it is the users, not the company who have ultimate control, over the funds—meaning the activity is outside of the scope of its responsibility. Coinbase added its primary approach to bad actors in this context is to block Coinbase Wallet usage in regions under sanction by the Treasury Department.
Meanwhile, the company has also rolled out a “simple mode” for Coinbase Wallet that strips the service down to its core functions of sending and receiving money.
In addition to USDC, Coinbase Wallet users will also be able to use the new messaging feature to send Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. But doing so will oblige customers to pay network fees that in some cases can exceed the value of the transaction, or else transact on a so-called layer-2 blockchain, which introduces additional complexity.
Coinbase also stated that it now supports fiat onramps—banking services that let users move money in and out of the crypto ecosystem—in over 130 countries. The combination of this access along with the easy-to-use messaging service could help increase the popularity of crypto as a rapid cross-border payment solution—a long-time aspiration of Coinbase and the crypto industry that has been slow to take off in practice.
The new Coinbase Wallet features will start rolling out on Tuesday and be available to everyone by the end of the week.