What Is MetaMask?
There are several different methods for managing and storing your Ethereum and ERC20 tokens, including mobile wallets, hardware wallets, and desktop wallets. But one piece of software lets you not only store and manage your tokens, but also interact with Ethereum-powered DApps directly in your browser – that tool is called MetaMask.
A Closer Look at MetaMask
MetaMask is a web browser extension that functions as an Ethereum wallet. It is compatible with the Firefox, Google Chrome, and Opera browsers. Since it’s an extension, you can install it like a typical Google or Firefox add-on.
Aside from using MetaMask as a wallet, users can sign smart contracts and interface with distributed Ethereum-based applications or DApps with it. All of these functions work without users having to run a full Ethereum node. And like other types of Ethereum wallets, MetaMask can store other Ethereum-related data, such as private keys and public addresses. Most importantly, MetaMask enables websites that have Ethereum-based DApps to interact with the Ethereum blockchain.
In a way, MetaMask transforms your ordinary browser into an Ethereum browser. The biggest advantage is that it saves time and effort: you do not have to run all your Ethereum software because MetaMask runs all the software on their servers.
MetaMask and DApps
As mentioned above, MetaMask interacts with Ethereum-based DApps. And what – you may be asking – are DApps? The name refers to “decentralized applications” – meaning, they are apps, but there is no central entity that controls them.
The term “decentralized” implies that all the records of the applications’ activities and operation are available to the public. In addition, DApps connect businesses and consumers directly, instead of relying on a middleman. This direct communication makes decision-making easier for both parties, and waiting times shorter.
Two of the most popular DApps these days that interact with MetaMask are CryptoKitties and ETHLand.
Let us take a look at these DApps and see where MetaMask comes in.
CryptoKitties is an Ethereum-based game that allows users to buy, raise, breed, and trade their digital cats. Since it is Ethereum-based, all of these transactions happen using Ether instead of fiat money. From time to time, when the market is right, certain unique breeds can command a very high price. The game needs MetaMask to communicate with the blockchain.
ETHLend is a smart-contract based platform on which users can easily borrow or lend Ethereum. Users on the platform place their Ether in a smart contract loan, offering several ERC-20 tokens as collateral. If the borrower successfully repays the loan, the lender earns interest along with the Ether that was lent. However, if the borrower fails to pay, the lender can claim all of the collateral put up for the loan.
ETHLend currently works using an online DApp that is only accessible through MetaMask. If you try to open the DApp without MetaMask, you will get an error screen.
Installing and Using MetaMask
After you sign up, you will be given 12 seed words that you need to copy and store offline. These are the words you will need to use if you ever have to restore your MetaMask accounts. After doing that, click the “I’ve Copied It Somewhere Safe” button, and you are all set.
To find out what your MetaMask public wallet address is, click the MetaMask plugin located at the top right of your browser. A drop-down menu will appear; click the three dots beside your “Account Name,” then click “Copy Address to Clipboard.”
Sending and receiving Ether on MetaMask is also fairly easy. To receive Ether, go to your account dashboard and click the three dots on the upper right side corner. Get the QR code and address – you can give this anyone who wants to send you some Ether.
Meanwhile, if you want to send Ether, click the “Send” button. Then fill out the fields that ask for the recipient’s public wallet address and the amount you want to send.
What About ERC-20 Tokens?
Although MetaMask is compatible with ERC-20 tokens, it does not support them by default. In other words, you have to add the types of ERC-20 tokens manually. Fortunately, this is an easy task.
On your MetaMask dashboard, click “Add Token,” after which you will have to add the token details, such as the token contract address and the token symbol. Then click “Submit” and “Add.” You will know if you successfully added the token because your wallet will show your balance for that particular token.
MetaMask has proven to be a secure and helpful tool for storing your Ethereum and ERC-20 assets. It has a clean record for security: there have been no security breaches that resulted in the loss of assets on the platform. MetaMask uses a type of security system that encrypts all local keys, preventing any exploits or malicious DApps from gaining access to the system. Despite this, you still have to be careful in giving out your private keys because there are a lot of cybercriminals waiting to prey on you.