MetaMask is one of the more popular crypto wallets out there — how exactly does it work?
What Is MetaMask?
MetaMask is a popular and established browser extension which functions as a cryptocurrency wallet that connects to the Ethereum blockchain. MetaMask allows users to interact with the Ethereum ecosystem, which hosts a vast universe of decentralized applications (Dapps), without having to download the entire blockchain on their device. As such, it’s the one of the best Ethereum wallet solutions for easy access to decentralized exchanges (DEX), gaming platforms, gambling sites and many other applications.
The wallet is compatible with the most widely adopted browsers such as Chrome, Firefox, Brave and Microsoft Edge. Apart from storing Ethereum’s native currency, ETH, MetaMask also holds tokens that are built on the protocol’s ERC-20 and ERC-721 standards.
MetaMask was founded by Aaron Davis and the blockchain company ConsenSys.
MetaMask: A Brief History and Key Features
MetaMask acquired 400,000 users between the wallet’s creation in 2016 and September 2020. Last October, it hit one million monthly active users. Prior to 2019, the Ethereum online wallet was only available as a desktop browser plugin for Firefox and Chrome. In September 2020, ConsenSys released the first official MetaMask mobile application for Android and iOS-powered mobile devices.
According to an independent audit by Least Authority, a security company, the Ethereum online wallet provides top-of-the-line features and functionalities in terms of security and design.
A feature that makes MetaMask a top Ethereum wallet is its outstanding encryption technology, which securely stores passwords and private keys in each user’s device. Moreover, it allows users to connect multiple wallets and switch between the Ethereum mainnet, major testnets, and even the Binance Smart Chain mainnet.
MetaMask vs Trust Wallet
Another wallet compatible with the Ethereum blockchain is Trust Wallet, which has some fundamental differences with MetaMask. For instance, while MetaMask is both a browser and mobile-based wallet, Trust Wallet is only available on mobile. Additionally, Trust Wallet supports more than just Ethereum and its assets. Users can store a wider range of digital currencies, including ETH, Bitcoin (BTC), Litecoin (LTC), and Ripple (XRP).
Other functionalities of Trust Wallet include the ability to buy BTC, earn interest on stored funds, interact with the non-fungible token (NFT) ecosystem, track crypto prices and act as a cryptocurrency exchange.
How to Install and Use MetaMask
To start using the wallet, you need to install the correct browser plugin. The setup process and usage are almost similar regardless of the browser you are using.
After a successful installation, click the “Get Started” button on the dialog box that appears. This will lead to the “Create a Wallet” option.
On the next dialog box, you can either agree or disagree to help “Improve MetaMask.”
Next, you will be prompted to create a password. MetaMask considers a strong password to have a minimum of eight characters including letters, numbers, and symbols. Hit “Create,” and then write down the seed backup phrase, which contains 12 words.
It is recommended that you always write a seed phrase down and keep it somewhere safe from other parties. Also, it is highly advisable to never keep a digital copy of your backup phrase, also called a seed recovery. If anybody gains access to it, they can and will likely clean out your wallet by importing the seed to another wallet and gaining full access to your funds.
The backup phrase will be your only way to recover your wallet in the event that you forget your password, your device gets damaged, or if you want to open MetaMask on another device. Clicking the “Next” button takes you to the “secret Backup Phrase” confirmation page.
Here, you need to enter the phrase in precisely the same order it was presented. After which, hit “Confirm.”
After a successful confirmation, the setup process takes you to the last page, where you click “All Done” to complete the setup process. Consequently, you’ll be automatically logged in, ready to interface with the Ethereum ecosystem.
When logged out, click the MetaMask icon on your browser and use the login credentials to access the wallet again. Note that the icon usually appears in the upper right corner of the browser.
Inside the wallet, you can access your funds on the “Assets” tab and track your activity on the “Activity” section.
A transaction on MetaMask starts with the “Send” option that lets you fill in the receiver’s Ethereum address, the amount you’d like to send, and the gas cost you are willing to pay.
To use MetaMask on Android or iOS, you need to download the MetaMask mobile application on either Google Play Store for Android or App Store for iOS and follow the prompts.
Notably, the mobile version provides the same functionalities as the desktop browser-based extensions. As such, it provides secure logins, key vaults, accounts and allows users to browse Ethereum-based DApps. Despite being a hot wallet, meaning it is connected to the Internet, MetaMask makes it easy to connect with cold wallets like Ledger, CoolWallet, KeepKey and Trezor.
What Are the MetaMask Fees?
MetaMask provides a default gas fee for every transaction, depending on the status of the Ethereum network. In addition, users are given the option to alter the gas fees and gas limits through an advanced tab that allows parameter customization.
The difference between fees and limits is that fees are the cost of processing transactions, while gas limits are the highest transaction costs a user is willing to bet on a single transaction.
Note that transaction fees determine the transaction processing speed on the second-largest decentralized blockchain. The higher the prices, the faster the confirmation time and vice versa. MetaMask divides gas fee options into “Fastest, Fast, and Slow.”
Gas fees depend on the congestion on the Ethereum blockchain, which has been a major problem in 2021 to date and a major obstacle for the smart contract network to solve. Note that if you set your gas fees too low relative to the default fee provided by MetaMask, there is a strong possibility that your transaction may get stuck and never get confirmed.
MetaMask’s online nature limits its security level compared to cold storage offline wallets like Trezor and Ledger; however, it beats other wallets in terms of ease of access with the Ethereum DApp world, thanks to its easy setup and availability on both desktop and mobile platforms. In fact, it’s hard to imagine how the DeFi sector would have proliferated to this extent if it weren’t for the MetaMask browser extension.
Additionally, the wallet’s option to set the gas limit above or below the average fees gives users the freedom to choose how fast their transactions are processed and how much they have to pay in fees; a functionality unavailable in most crypto wallets.