Metamask is one of the most popular Ethereum wallets, used by over a million cryptocurrency enthusiasts. Unlike many wallets, Metamask allows you to interact directly with the Ethereum blockchain and even run a dApp yourself. In this guide, we’ll cover all you need to know about Metamask, including how to get up and running as a user.
What is Metamask?
Metamask is a wallet that’s embedded into your web browser and works directly with the Ethereum mainnet, along with the several Ethereum testnets in operation. Why is this important? Well, when you use a web browser, you’re interacting with one of the many centralized web servers around the globe. Each time you call up a website, the site information you want to see is retrieved from the server and delivered to your browser.
If you’re familiar with blockchain, then you’ll know that it works on a decentralized infrastructure. A network of nodes maintains the blockchain, keeping records of all cryptocurrency transactions that have taken place between users. In the case of Ethereum, nodes also maintain smart contract transactions.
Metamask serves as a kind of bridge between the centralized web and the decentralized Ethereum blockchain. It doesn’t require that you run a full node to interact with Ethereum, but Metamask connects to an Ethereum node called Infura, allowing you to run smart contracts via proxy.
In short, you can use Metamask to interact directly with all kinds of Ethereum dApps, straight from your web browser. You can swap assets on Uniswap, take out a collateralized loan in Dai stablecoins, or invest tokens in Yearn Vaults.
How Does Metamask work
Metamask is available as a browser extension for Chrome, Firefox, Brave, or Edge. You can access any of them from the Metamask homepage.
Once you’ve downloaded the extension, you’ll go to a page where you can set up your wallet. If you’re not automatically redirected, look for a fox icon in the corner of your browser window. Click “Get Started.”
Assuming you don’t already have a wallet, click on “Create a wallet.”
You can choose whether or not you want to send your data as developer feedback.
Set up a password. Make sure you follow strong password rules like using a mixture of alphanumeric characters and symbols. Once you’re done, click “Next.”
You’ll then be asked to confirm your secret seed phrase. This is the essential piece of information you will need to back up your funds and recover them if you forget your password. Metamask will give you twelve words, which you’ll need to write down and keep somewhere safe. Don’t ever store them unencrypted on your computer or phone as they can easily be stolen.
After you’ve written down your seed phrase, you can confirm it, after which you’ll see this message.
That’s it! You’re all ready to start using Metamask. Until you deposit tokens, your balance will show as zero. You can either deposit ETH or other Ethereum-based tokens from another wallet. Metamask also allows you to buy ETH using a debit card via the Wyre service.
If you want to use your new Metamask wallet to interact with dApps, go to the dApp homepage. Once you’re there, you’ll usually see a button saying “Connect Wallet,” where you’ll be invited to connect by entering your Metamask password into the browser.
You can also interact with the various Ethereum testnets, such as the Ropsten testnet, by getting some funds from a faucet. Be aware that testnet funds are not real ether, only “play” money that you can use for testing dApps in test mode.
What Are The Advantages using Metamask?
Metamask has several advantages over other wallets.
Low Entry Barriers
Firstly, it’s straightforward to use with low barriers to entry, even for beginners. The interface is intuitive and clean. It integrates with popular browsers that most people will already have installed on their computers. Private keys are stored on your browser, meaning they’re accessible, and you don’t depend on the servers of a third-party provider to keep your funds safe.
Users have complete custody over their funds, as Metamask gives users their seed phrase to act as a backup.
Open-Source & Easy to Access
Metamask is developed with funding from ConsenSys and has a highly active open-source developer and user community. Therefore, you can be sure that it will remain well-maintained. It also has a detailed FAQ and support page in case users run into any issues.
The built-in purchasing feature makes it easy to add funds to your wallet, even if you’re new to cryptocurrency.
Cons of Metamask
There are only a few drawbacks of using Metamask. If you want a wallet that holds Bitcoin and other non-Ethereum assets, then you’ll need a different wallet as it only supports ETH and assets issued on the Ethereum blockchain.
For the more privacy-centric users, the fact that the wallet is embedded in your browser may be an issue as web browsers tend to collect information on their users. This is particularly true of Google (Chrome) and Mozilla (Firefox,) although Metamask also works with Brave, which is known for being a privacy-focused browser. Rest assured that your browser operator cannot access your private keys, but they may collect data about your usage of Metamask and interactions with dApp websites.
It is a Hot Wallet
Finally, be aware that Metamask is a “hot” or online wallet, making it more vulnerable to attacks than offline cold storage wallets. For this reason, it doesn’t make sense to rely on it as the only wallet in which to store all of your cryptocurrency holdings. It makes more sense to use it for smaller amounts or only move funds into it when you want to interact with dApps.
Why Do I need a Cold wallet? Head over to Hot Wallet v.s. Cold Wallet
None of these cons should be a showstopper for using Metamask, which is an ideal wallet for when you want to participate in Ethereum’s buzzing dApp ecosystem.