After taking a TREZOR hardware wallet for a spin, we were very impressed with the quality and ingenuity of the product. That is why we decided to send Satoshi Labs an email interview to find out more about what makes the first bitcoin hardware wallet so great. Bach Nguyen, Satoshi Labs’ Community Manager kindly answered our questions. The answers shed a new light on all the work the developers at Satoshi Labs do and how they do it. We even got some information about Satoshi Labs’ next product development. Here is the transcript of the interview.
Interview with Bach Nguyen, Community Manager at Satoshi Labs
Bitcoin Chaser: What was the inspiration behind TREZOR and why did you engineer the product?
Bach Nguyen: The inspiration behind TREZOR was actually a security hack, during which someone stole money from Slush Pool. Instead of concealing the hack, Slush paid out the loss from its savings and started thinking about a project to secure private keys on an individual level. This eventually led to the birth of TREZOR, which, in the beginning, was supposed to serve as an isolated storage and a working environment with private keys. Today, we have gone further than that. Our blog post on this topic has more detailed information about this.
TREZOR Hardware Wallets in the Market
BC: How does demand for the TREZOR wallet look like around the world? Which are the leading regions or countries in terms of demand for TREZOR wallets?
BN: Biggest demand is definitely in US, Europe and Japan, but other markets are quickly catching up.
BC: Where is demand for TREZOR wallets growing the fastest?
BN: I would say currently Japan.
BC: How do you expect demand for TREZOR wallets to fluctuate over the following 2 to 3 years?
BN: Bitcoin is still new for plenty of people so it might look like some markets are saturated already, but that is not true. More TREZOR owners in one country means more reviews and references for new potential customers. We are also constantly developing new features, which opens more possibilities and naturally attracts new groups of customers. We would be happy if the demand grew at least as fast as now.
Demand for TREZOR Hardware Wallets and Cryptocurrency Markets
BC: Do bitcoin prices affect demand for TREZOR wallets? How so?
BN: When bitcoin value increases, so does the interest in it and thus the demand (which then increases bitcoin’s value). When people start holding more of their assets in bitcoin, they are likely to search for a safe way to store it. Therefore, they will look into hardware wallets as arguably the safest kind of storage for bitcoin keys. TREZOR, as the first hardware wallet in the world, has an advantage in this area.
BC: TREZOR supports Bitcoin, Litecoin, Dogecoin, Dash, Namecoin and Testnet. Of those, apart from bitcoin only one coin is in the top 5 in terms of market cap and only 2 are in the top 10. Will you be adding more top 5 or top 10 coins like Ether or Monero? Why or why not?
BN: Ethereum was added in update 1.4.0 and can be used today with MyEtherWallet. Other coins can be added and supported, however they need to meet certain conditions first, one of them is the market cap. Other condition is that the code is written by the coin developers or their community, as we do not have the resources to implement support for each coin into TREZOR. We actually welcome integration, however we would recommend the developers to contact us first and coordinate the efforts with us, so that the work would not go to waste.
The Future of TREZOR in Blockchain Powered Economies
BC: Some central banks around the world are considering blockchain solutions to demonetize the economies of their countries. In a hypothetical cashless world with blockchain-powered national currencies, how will TREZOR adapt?
BN: In a hypothetical cashless world based on blockchain, TREZOR would be the safest and most reliable storage for your cryptocoins and currencies. This is assuming that central banks would convert national currencies to cryptocurrencies, using the same technology and structure for sending and receiving money (i.e. private-public key cryptography).
BC: What would you say to anyone who is on the fence about buying a TREZOR wallet?
BN: You do not own your bitcoins, or any other cryptocurrencies, if you do not control the private keys to spend them. You can store them on your computer, yes, but these too are susceptible to hacking. Backdoors, viruses, they attack general purpose PCs the most. The only safe way is to store the keys offline. You may interject, well, I can use a paper wallet! But paper wallets are difficult to spend from, monitor, and, in general, work with.
TREZOR combines all the positives of the wallet options above. You control your private keys, stored in the device, making you the only person that can use the coins. The single-purpose of the hardware wallet ensures that the development focus always stays with security. Your private keys never leave the device and are safely isolated from anyone with malicious intent, waiting for you on the other side of internet.
The Future of TREZOR and Satoshi Labs’ Products
BC: The market for cold storage/hardware wallets has grown significantly. How do you keep the edge in this niche?
BN: Competition in bitcoin is good, decentralization is important after all. On the other hand, this does not mean that we are satisfied where we are now. While TREZOR is the world’s first hardware wallet, we have to continuously strive to be on the top, in order not to lose our head-start advantage. Expanding coin support is important, but so are the other security features. There is so much you can do with hierarchically deterministic keys, and we use this technology to further increase the security of our users. For instance, we offer a Password Manager or second factor authentication with U2F. For more advanced users, there is SSH login and more. Development is always continuing, as we want to offer secure, yet easy-to-use solutions to our customers.
BC: How do you see your products evolving in the coming years? Are there any new products that would surprise your customers coming up?
BN: The development of the original TREZOR will continue with the features mentioned above, as well as security updates, but it would primarily remain as a hardware wallet for bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
However, most of our time is used to develop the next generation, the TREZOR 2 and the underlying Core development environment. Our vision is to present the TREZOR 2 as a secure platform, on top of which users and enterprises can build their own secure application. This means that the extensibility of our product will be greatly improved. Cryptocurrencies, blockchain companies, or even security services could develop their own applications, which would work on the TREZOR 2 hardware.
We presented our idea behind TREZOR 2 in Buenos Aires in November 2016. You can check out our post summarizing the presentation on our blog.