It’s all about Ethereum and access to the Ethereum network using a standard PC connection. Metamask is one of the best blockchain platform gateways around, although it is not the only one, it is a leader in the pack due to its simplicity.
So, what is MetaMask? And why is this plugin so important for any ERC token traders?
Before I answer those questions, you need to understand that MetaMask is a wallet, and for those that don’t know what a wallet is, here is a basic cryptocurrency 101 for wallets
What is a Wallet?
A cryptocurrency wallet is basically a database of the various bitcoin, altcoins, and tokens you own.
Essentially, a coin or token is a bit of code with that is given two unique identifiers, these are public and private keys, that are linked to a wallet. This is what gives you control over your digital assets. So, a digital wallet is an address with two keys. The coin and token are bits of code that are associated with a wallet.
The public key is like your e-mail address; this is what you give to other people to send or receive assets. The private key is a digital password that encrypts the address. This is what makes your wallet so secure. A private key is an identifier that proves you own the assets.
The wallet itself is like a safe box, and these wallets are essential for keeping information safe and secure, and they come in a number of forms. Taken note that wallets sit within a blockchain, and blockchains can negotiate with each other, which means you can trade in bitcoin, altcoin, and tokens from either an individual wallet that handles multiple currencies and platforms or an individual wallet in each specific blockchain environment.
Today, it is popular to own a number of wallets, that spread your assets, providing higher security from theft.
For more information about the wallet types, check out my Cryptocurrency 101 article that gives a more detailed explanation about wallets.
What is MetaMask?
Metamask is a cryptocurrency wallet. This is a gateway platform that connects the PC environment to the Ethereum network. Metamask uses a browser extension plug-in for Chrome, Firefox, and Brave browsers.
The Ethereum blockchain network is a self-contained network of nodes (users computers), and developers create apps called dApps that are specifically designed for use in the Ethereum network. The main cryptocurrency of Ethereum is Ether, but it is not the only currency in this environment.
The Ethereum blockchain network uses tokens called ERC-20 (and now there are newer protocols such as 223, 777 and 820) that only work in the Ethereum blockchain environment, follow developer protocols for security, and trading.
Bottom line, MetaMask is an Ethereum wallet that is used as a platform that stores keys for Ether and ERC20 tokens and can be used on three different web browsers.
Now let’s take a look at MetaMask as a dApp and deliberate its good and bad points.
- Open Source Code
Open source means that you can edit the source code and personalize it for features that are not available in the original version. Since this is open source, you will share your code and modifications with other, so that everyone will benefit from the additions and modifications you added.
- HD settings
Hierarchical deterministic settings are the method by which you back up and secure your data. HD is a process that uses “seed phrase” these are a list of disconnected words that when placed in the correct order will act as a password and recover your data.
- Built-in coin trading & Contracts
MetaMask is linked to Coinbase and Shapeshift, which are two exchanges. You can immediately trade in Ether or ERC tokens with this wallet. Smart contracts that create new tokens can be deployed through MetaMask.
- Customer support & Test Nodes
MetaMask provides a comprehensive customer support service, including tutorials and videos, You also get to use different nodes, such as testing nodes (Ropstein) among many.
- Easy to Understand GUI
You don’t need to know Ethereum, blockchains or tokens, you just connect the extension to your browser, and you create a wallet account which will serve you for all your online explorations and activities.
- Local Key Storage
MetaMask stores your keys on your PC, so you don’t have to worry about it being on some server (cloud). You set the level of your PC’s security with the various anti-virus, firewalls and other cybersecurity features yourself.
- MetaMask Comunity
There is a very large active MetaMask community of over a million active users, with a very active twitter following too.
Since MetaMask does not store your information, all your keys are protected only by the security precautions you have in your PC. This means that if your PC is compromised, you are in danger of losing your wallet or giving someone access to your information.
Another issue is that Google and Mozilla like to gather information about your internet habits, something that blockchain enthusiasts are not so keen about. After all, the blockchain was designed to be a decentralized system that supports anonymity without controls.
MetaMask is an online wallet, which means that all your data is stored in their system. This means that you rely on their cybersecurity to assure all transactions are not breached.
While your information is started on your PC, every time you log into Metamask your data is open to hacking, remember, your keys are stored on your PC, but your coins are stored in the wallet online. Now, MetaMask has not yet been breached, and it has a very secure HD backup system that secures it. Also, being an open source system, thousands of programmers work individually and in teams to help maintain the integrity of the system.
What is an issue, but is not only partially MetaMask issue, is phishing. These attacks are personalized, they focus on the individual, and come in all kinds of tricky variations. One of these can be a popup that claims your contract did not work, so you need to login to manage it. The login is not from the popup, only from the MetaMask interface. For some, this is not so obvious, and they end up giving someone else their account information.
What MetaMask is doing is creating patches that detect a phishing attack and will try to counter it in some manner.
The bottom line is that MetaMask is safe, but it is only as safe as the security measures you use while operating the system.
To set up MetaMask, you need one of the following browsers.”
Step 1. Download
- Visit the MetaMask.io site, and add the extension to your browser.
Step 2. Activate
- After you have added it, close the browser and re-open it.
- A Metamask icon will appear in the top left corner of your browser screen.
- Click on the fox icon to open the app.
Step 3. Create an Account
- Click on Create New Vault.
- Input a strong password.
- MetaMask will show you a screenshot of twelve seed phrases. Make sure to copy these, either write them down, or take a screenshot, or take a photo of them with your mobile device, or even print them as a PDF.
- Now press “I’ve copied it somewhere safe.”
That’s it; you are now a MetaMask wallet owner and cans tart exploring the Ethereum network using this interface.
- Sending Tokens
You can send tokens by pressing the send button, you then enter the address to whom you want to send your tokens too. After which you press “accept” to confirm the transaction.
- Buying Tokens
You choose either Coinbase or Shapeshift to buy tokens, or if you want, you can go to another wallet such as MyEtherWallet or CEX.io and buy through them and use your MetaMask wallet address.
Use MetaMask to explore the Ethereum Network
Exploring all the dApps with MetaMask provides you with the comfort of your PC and browser, allowing you to enjoy all the complexities of the blockchain from the convenience and comfort of a standard browser.
MyEtherWallet is one such dApp that is a perfect MetaMask companion. You can use MyEtherWallet to perform smart contracts, create contracts and interact with just about every ERC token there is.
CryptoKitties is another dApp that has taken a foothold into the digital insanity of inane, useless sites that waste time. This is an Ethereum Kitty drawing game, where you can design CryptoKitties and show it off in the network, you can even trade in kitties and get paid in Ether or tokens. What a glorious waste of time, but oh, so much fun you can have.
In fact, digital art is a lucrative business, and if you know how to wade through the mire of digital creativity, you could become quite rich, after all, a blockchain digital design cannot be copied (unique), unlike an analog design.
Blockchain Arcades and MMPORGS
Many multiplayer games, and also arcades are starting to use tokens as the coin of choice, and this is an interesting issue since some of the tokens have value in real hard currency. This converts playing a game into a business, where you collect (and can lose) real money.
The casino’s obviously trade in tokens, so if you want to play an online casino, do it at your own risk. Just to help you out, here is a tip from someone that programmed online gaming sites. The bank always wins. This is because online (digital) casinos use a standard weighted algorithm that sets winning as a 70:30 (30 for the bank). Which means for every 1 dollar you play; the bank takes 30 cents. So, when thousands play, the bank will allow winners, but it will always take its percentage of cut.
MetaMask is a leading dApp in the Ethereum network. This app is growing in power and popularity because it is simple. On no the biggest issues with the blockchain network are that it is still a programmers playground and not really suited for anyone that doesn’t have basic programming skills.
MetaMask does not really compete with other wallets; it complements them. As I mentioned in my Cryptocurrency 101 article, the more wallets you have, the more security you gain. So, MetaMask is a mandatory wallet to have, and a real time saver for many applications.