- A MetaMask wallet is one of the most popular and widely integrated cryptocurrency wallets for the Ethereum ecosystem.
- The MetaMask browser extension allows users to interact with websites and decentralized applications that integrate or interact with Ethereum.
- MetaMask is available on Chrome, Firefox, Edge and the Brave Browser.
- You can integrate hardware wallets with the MetaMask extension to conduct transactions with an added layer of security.
When it comes to the world of smart contracts and decentralized applications (DApps), Ethereum is the most widely used and adopted blockchain network and the current front runner for establishing Web 3.0.
In order for users to interact with an internet that operates on top of a blockchain network, a MetaMask wallet is all that is required to begin engaging with decentralized finance (DeFi), GameFi, and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) or simply make a payment using crypto.
Here’s a brief introduction to MetaMask, one of the most popular “hot” web-based wallets in the cryptocurrency ecosystem, and a basic guide on how to set it up so that you can begin transacting on the Ethereum network.
What is MetaMask?
MetaMask is an open-source software cryptocurrency wallet that was originally designed to interact with the Ethereum blockchain and support Ethereum-based tokens. Over time the wallet has added support for a variety of Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) compatible networks such as BNB Smart Chain, Fantom, Avalanche and Polygon, but its main focus continues to be on facilitating transactions and interoperability with Ethereum.
MetaMask allows users to generate a new wallet address and private key or import already established wallets in a quick and simple process. Once a wallet is created, the MetaMask browser extension can interface with websites and DApps that have the capability to connect.
Due to its popularity and first mover advantage, the vast majority of Web 3.0 websites and applications that connect to Ethereum have a MetaMask integration. Keep reading to find out how metamask works, how to set up metamask, and how to create a new wallet.
How Does MetaMask Work?
A MetaMask wallet remains vastly popular due to its versatility and key tools. What is MetaMask used for? In short, it gives crypto users all that they need to interact with the Ethereum blockchain and overall ecosystem.
First, MetaMask’s crypto wallet permits easy and secure storage of ERC-20 and ERC-721 tokens while allowing for the creation of multiple wallet addresses. A MetaMask browser extension helps users safely secure wallet passwords and maintain better control over public and private keys.
Additionally, MetaMask users can rely on the wallet to execute direct peer-to-peer token swaps instead of routing transactions through a third-party. MetaMask swaps aggregate data from a wide range of decentralized exchanges, aggregators, and AMMs to give crypto traders the most favorable conditions. As a result, slippage and costs are mitigated since users do not have to interact with multiple platforms (and pay their fees).
Finally, those relying on MetaMask can directly use the tool to engage with a vast range of dApps, Ethereum-based games, NFTs, and other crypto-focused products. Users can spend, store, and stake crypto within Ethereum’s ecosystem from the wallet itself. DeFi can be challenging for many, and MetaMask has cultivated a reputation for its usefulness in helping crypto users enter into decentralized finance and other cutting-edge crypto protocols from the same starting point.
In 2020, MetaMask allowed integration with the popular Binance Smart Chain (BSC). This added functionality lets users seamlessly swap between Ethereum and Binance wallets, trade on either network, and enjoy dApps built on both platforms.
All users have to do is head to their Networks menu within MetaMask to manually add the BSC testnet and/or mainnet to start harnessing the power of both blockchains. Integration was heralded as a notable step towards blockchain interoperability, the further development of both networks, and the gradual emergence of a dynamic and connected worldwide Web3 ecosystem.
MetaMask offers a browser extension on Google Chrome, Firefox, Edge and the Brave Browser for easy installation. The company also provides an app for iOS and Android devices, but for the purposes of this explainer, we will focus on the browser-based interface.
The official download page can be found here. Once the proper browser is selected, you will be redirected to the proper web store or add-on site to download and install the MetaMask software.
You will be asked to grant some permissions and are encouraged to read these over carefully to make sure you are content with the level of access it will have to your browser.
How to Create a New MetaMask Wallet
Fortunately, creating a new MetaMask wallet is pretty simple. However, if you are looking to import an existing wallet upon installation, you can input your wallet with its 12-word seed phrase to get up and running in a few clicks.
If you are looking to create a new MetaMask wallet, you should select the ‘Yes, let’s get set up!” button on the “New To MetaMask?” page to start the process. You will have the opportunity to help the MetaMask team by sending your usage data to the protocol to “better understand how our users interact with the extension.” This process is optional and you can either select ‘I Agree’ or ‘No Thanks.’
Next, it’s time for password creation. Like with any financial tool, it’s vitally important to create a strong password that is not able to be easily guessed. Hackers are always on the prowl looking to exploit MetaMask accounts to try and steal funds.
Users should never mention any personal information, like names, birthdays, and other user names in their passwords, as some of these details can be publicly available. Best password practices also include integrating numbers, letters, and symbols into long passwords, staying away from dictionary words, and avoiding patterns. Password generators are a commonly-used tool for the security minded to come up with highly-secure login details.
It’s then time to back up your seed phrase. Since MetaMask is a non-custodial service, you and you alone are the only one that knows the seed phrase and private key to the wallet and can access the funds held within. The password required by MetaMask is there to help guard access in the event of loss, destruction or theft, but it's the seed phrase that allows you to rebuild the wallet on another device in order to regain access.
Thus, it is imperative that you write down your secret backup phrase, preferably in multiple secure locations, to ensure that you will always be able to access your wallet. To see your secret phrase, click on the gray box with a lock symbol on the “Secret Backup Phrase” page. As you create a MetaMask wallet, properly noting your seed phrase is the most important step.
To help ensure that you accurately recorded your seed phrase, MetaMask will prompt you to confirm the phrase before proceeding to the next and final step. Once confirmed, select All Done and your MetaMask wallet is ready to be used.
Now you have learned how to set up MetaMask and are ready to use the tool.
How to Use MetaMask
Ready to get started? Start by clicking the small MetaMask Fox icon located in the extension section of your browser to open the MetaMask application. At the top, you will see the MetaMask logo on the left, a drop-down menu for networks in the center, and an icon on the left that takes you to a ‘My Accounts’ and settings page.
The Networks drop-down menu is where you can add additional EVM-compatible networks that are supported by MetaMask. Once they have been added, this menu is where you will go to toggle between the different networks in order to conduct transactions.
On the accounts and settings page, you can create or import another wallet that will be accessible through this MetaMask account as well as connect with a Hardware wallet. If you have questions or need assistance, the support button on the accounts page will redirect you to the MetaMask Support Zendesk page where you can find additional information.
The settings tab on the accounts page allows you to modify the particulars of your MetaMask app and account as well as access your recovery phrase, set up alerts, add additional networks and try out experimental features.
Engaging With MyEtherWallet
MyEtherWallet (MEW) is a free, Ethereum-focused open-source interface. The tool makes it easy for users to see and manage various ERC-20 tokens. MetaMask users can directly exchange info with MEW so they can harness both tools through MetaMask itself. While heavy MEW users will need to visit the wallet directly to harness full functionality, the ease of switching between MEW and MetaMask makes it worthwhile for MetaMask users to connect.
Connecting a Hardware Wallet
To connect a hardware wallet with your MetaMask extension, click on the icon, open up the ‘My Accounts’ page and click on the ‘Connect Hardware Device’ button.
This will redirect you to a webpage where you will be asked to “Connect a hardware wallet” by first selecting the proper one from the list provided. Once the correct wallet is chosen, you will be prompted to connect the wallet to begin the process of importing your private key(s).
Follow the on-screen instructions and enter your pin or password to access the private keys held in the hardware wallet. Once approved, you will be redirected back to the MetaMask page where you will select which account(s) you wish to import. Tick the box next to the accounts you wish to be able to access with MetaMask and click ‘Unlock’.
You have now successfully connected your Hardware wallet with MetaMask and can use the interface to conduct transactions in conjunction with the hardware device.
You may be wondering why you should connect a hardware wallet if they are already using MetaMask. Hardware wallets are one of the safest ways to store crypto as they remain offline, feature additional security measures like an extra PIN, and foster self-custody of crypto and other private details.
Crypto users looking to invest in a hardware wallet should first make sure their tool is compatible with Ethereum-based digital assets. Buyers should only purchase hardware wallets from authorized retailers and not on third-party sites like Amazon or eBay.
In 2018, CoinBureau wrote about an eBay Trezor hardware wallet scam where the device was sent with a seed word phrase card covered in foil. Unfortunately, since the buyer set up the Ledger with a fraudulent ‘pre-set seed phrase,’ a scammer was able to come in and rely on the recovery seed to steal thousands in crypto.
MetaMask wallet users can also rely on tools like Aave to lend and borrow Ethereum through MetaMask. Aave is a dApp that requires MetaMask connection and for the tool to be unlocked and open. Aave functions by packaging Ethereum into a smart contract loan based on ERC-20 token collateral. Loans are repaid with interest and borrowers have the right to collect the collateral if there’s a default.
Other dApps like CryptoKitties allow MetaMask wallet users to have fun raising, breeding, buying, and selling cute digital cats. In December 2017, the platform was so popular that it led to fears the Ethereum network would completely stop functioning due to the massive amount of transactions.
While there’s many more dApps within Ethereum’s ecosystem (and countless more popular than CryptoKitties,) the platform’s success exemplifies the popularity and usefulness of gamified blockchain experiences.