Crypto Super App

May 18, 2024

If you're in crypto or spend time on platforms like Farcaster, you might've heard folks talk about the idea of a crypto super app -- the industry's (hypothetical) equivalent of a WeChat-like app that contains a bunch of mini programs that the user can use without leaving the super app. This app's "user profile" would be a wallet(or collection of wallets), social graphs would be automatically imported from protocols like Farcaster or Lens, and crypto-enabled features would just feel built in(copy an action from your group chat, connect your wallet anywhere, tip crypto in a livestream, mint a NFT, etc). However, there's one big problem with this idea: everyone wants it but nobody is building it.

Super Apps

Super apps in general are part of the past decade's "SaaS Bundling", where companies try to build business in multiple verticals that are inter-connected and capture as much value as they can from their customers. In essence, it's each company's attempt at not only expanding their businesses, but also at creating a walled garden that makes their customers' time(and information) with their services more valuable.

Uber on iOS, a great example of a super app

A great example of this is Uber expanding from just ride services to food deliveries, cargo deliveries, bike rentals, and many other services that now make the homepage of Uber look like a super app. Other great examples include Meta expanding across multiple verticals(especially through acquisitions of apps like Instagram and WhatsApp), and more.

A diagram of WeChat use cases

But overall, no true "super app" has stuck in the US the way that WeChat has a stronghold in countries such as China. For quick comparison, it's worth noting what WeChat does well. WeChat users can text, shop, pay, share, and more -- all in one app and through one account. It's as if the majority of the apps we use on our phone(payments, social media, messaging, browsing etc) were built into one app and accessible as mini apps. While there could be a larger discussion as to why this hasn't happened in the US or if a super app would even work well in the US, it's worth noting that building a super app has been the goal of so many companies for a while, and it definitely seems to have inspired this shift in apps/businesses increasing their offerings.

Why crypto wants one

Especially in consumer crypto, the reason there has been so much talk about a super app is because everything is scattered and everyone is looking for a landscape/marketplace where they can grab user's attention(and hopefully onboard new folks to crypto as well). There have also been discussions on/around Farcaster about super apps for two main reasons: Warpcast's feed are starting to make the feed become a place where users can take actions(mint with warps, frames, cast actions, etc), and the social/interest graphs are starting to converge around trends even more.

An example of Mint with Warps in Warpcast

There has also been a focus on crypto-focused browsers, apps/features that inherently have to have enough functionality to become your de-facto homepage in crypto. I think it's exciting to see, and there are some big problems this solves in the short term like stale wallet connections between your browser and wallet apps. I'm also excited because a handful of the teams are doing some very high quality(and net new) work, especially Roam's new browser, Family's in-app browser, and Rainbow's in-app browser.

Roam browser iOS beta

But other than a few of the browser teams which are inherently trying to make their apps "crypto super apps"(to an extent at least), a lot of the focus has been away from crypto super apps despite that topic staying part of the common rhetoric. However I think most builders(at least in the Farcaster ecosystem, which has been my main focus) have still been benefitting from the space's increasing composability, and that Farcaster's composability will remove the need for an individual "super app".

Why I don't see this happening... yet

As I alluded to at the end of the last section, I think Farcaster's continued composability will remove the need for any one crypto super app, and instead will make an ecosystem of interoperable tools with specific functions. There's also a case to be made that certain edge case functions want dedicated interfaces as opposed to everything being simplified in one interface, like crypto traders who use detailed apps or certain NFT creators who want the pro tooling of a creator-first minting app.

A great example of Farcaster specific composability in a recent mint from 0xdesigner

But where I think there will be a real opportunity for a super app much further down the line is when the composability of Farcaster starts to encompass more web2 actions. In a world where composability could help create a super account that connect all of your web2 and web3 credentials and AI will allow us to generate any type of interface on the fly, I could see there being a whole new class of interfaces and/or the ability for a super app/interface that makes it dead simple to do things across all of your apps.

In essence, the dream of a crypto super app might remain just that—a dream. Instead, the future seems to lie in the ever-increasing composability of platforms like Farcaster, where a multitude of specialized, interoperable tools can offer a more tailored and flexible user experience. This decentralized approach could be the key to unlocking the full potential of the crypto ecosystem further down the line, providing a rich landscape of possibilities without the need for a single, all-encompassing app.