MetaMask is a free browser extension that is popular in the Ethereum community. (Browser extensions are simply pieces of software that let your web browser do more things.)
Think of MetaMask as a tool that lets you access and enjoy the most exciting aspects of Ethereum such as accessing dApps. Without MetaMask, you’d find it difficult to appreciate what dApps are and how Ethereum works.
Below, we introduce you to MetaMask. After reading this resource, you’ll have a good grasp of the following:
- What MetaMask is
- How MetaMask acts as a gateway to Ethereum and dApps
- Installing and setting up MetaMask
- MetaMask’s ability to interact with your crypto hardware wallet
- The MetaMask mobile app
What Is MetaMask?
You can download MetaMask as an extension on most popular web browsers. This includes Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge and Brave.
The MetaMask browser extension does many things. It is a crypto wallet that keeps your data and private keys secure. It is also a gateway that connects you to dApps. (When we say ‘key’, think of it as a log-in. You can use MetaMask to log in to certain dApps.)
In addition to being a crypto wallet itself, MetaMask supports crypto hardware wallets such as Ledger and Trezor hardware wallets.
The fact MetaMask supports crypto hardware wallets is reassuring because crypto hardware wallets are widely considered the most secure form of crypto wallet. If MetaMask had no support for hardware wallets, you’d likely be more prone to losing your cryptocurrency to cybercriminals.
How Can You Use MetaMask?
MetaMask can be used as a standalone crypto web wallet. Alternatively, MetaMask can be used to interact with your Ledger Nano S wallet or Trezor Model T wallet, for example.
You can’t send bitcoin (BTC) to your MetaMask wallet. That’s because MetaMask is designed for Ethereum, so you can send ether (ETH) and ERC-20 tokens to MetaMask.
Because MetaMask lets you interact with the Ethereum ecosystem, you can use it to trade crypto collectibles and access decentralised exchanges (DEXes) as well as various dApps.
You can also use MetaMask as a way to identify yourself. Many dApps require you to log in with MetaMask. You don’t need cryptocurrency in your MetaMask wallet to do this. All you need to do is click a button when you load a dApp in your browser.
Installing & Using MetaMask
Installing MetaMask is quick and easy. All you need to do is head to the extension marketplace on the web browser you use—assuming you use a web browser that supports MetaMask. You can normally access your browser’s extension marketplace through the main menu of your browser.
If you use Google Chrome—or another web browser which uses the Chromium framework such as Brave—you’ll be able to download MetaMask on the Chrome Web Store. If you use Mozilla’s Firefox browser, you can download MetaMask on Firefox Add-ons.
Once you’ve installed the MetaMask extension, you’ll see a small icon of the orange MetaMask fox in the top right-hand corner of your browser.
After installing the MetaMask extension, you can either import your existing crypto wallet or setup a new wallet. If you’re configuring a new wallet, you’ll need to create a password which secures your wallet. (Ensure you choose a strong password with at least 8 characters using numbers, letters and symbols.)
MetaMask seed phrase
Once you’ve set up your MetaMask password, you’ll be able to copy your seed phrase. With MetaMask, your seed phrase is 12 words in length.
Your seed phrase is there to back up and recover your MetaMask wallet. This is the case with regular crypto hardware wallets. If you have a Ledger or Trezor wallet, for example, you would’ve been asked to write down your seed phrase when you were setting up your device.
Make sure the seed phrase is stored in a secure place or places. MetaMask will ask you to confirm your seed phrase to make sure you’ve written it down correctly. It’s important to take note of MetaMask’s guidelines for protecting your seed phrase.
MetaMask & Crypto Hardware Wallets
MetaMask can connect to your Ledger or Trezor hardware wallet. This is beneficial because it means you don’t have to keep your cryptocurrency in your MetaMask wallet itself. (MetaMask is a web wallet. Web wallets are typically less secure than hardware wallets.)
To connect your Ledger or Trezor hardware wallet to your MetaMask account, you need to make sure of the following:
- You have the most up-to-date firmware on your Ledger or Trezor wallet.
- You have the latest version of your web browser.
- You have enabled ‘browser support’ on your hardware wallet device.
- Your hardware wallet device is plugged in via USB—not via Bluetooth.
- If connecting your Ledger, you have the Ledger Live app closed.
- If necessary, you have enabled ‘contract data’ on your hardware wallet device.
Keeping your ETH and Ethereum-based ERC-20 tokens on your hardware wallet is important for security purposes. (ERC-20 refers to a commonly adopted standard that Ethereum-based tokens can follow. Most of the popular Ethereum-based tokens are ERC-20 tokens.)
The fact that MetaMask can effectively serve as a middleman between your cryptocurrency and the internet is a powerful feature. In this sense, MetaMask is much like the swipe card you use to access your workplace or local gym.
Can I Download MetaMask Mobile?
The MetaMask Mobile app has recently launched for iOS and Android. If you already have a MetaMask account on your desktop, you can sync it with MetaMask Mobile within seconds.
The app helps you to connect to the Ethereum ecosystem on the go. It lets you access all the same features as the browser extension, such as being a wallet for your cryptocurrencies and accessing dApps.