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A Beginner’s Guide to MetaMask: What Is It and How Does It Work?

In learning about the crypto space and the Web 3.0 as a whole, it’s likely that you’ve seen reference to ‘MetaMask’. Aside from being a necessary security tool for navigating the crypto space safely, MetaMask also hosts one of the most commonly used crypto wallets in the emerging decentralized economy.

However, despite its growing popularity, not many people understand precisely what MetaMask is, beyond being associated with cryptocurrency. Hence, this article will serve as a guide for those looking to learn about Metamask; what it means; how it works; and how to use it. Before diving straight into the subject matter, let’s take a brief look at the history of MetaMask.

A Brief History of MetaMask

MetaMask is the brainchild of ConsenSys, a blockchain technology solutions company recognized for developing and deploying next-generation apps, financial infrastructure, and offering gateway solutions for companies that are based off-blockchain.

MetaMask itself was founded by Aaron Davis in 2016, and was initially built as an API solution. While it has been around for almost half of a decade, it only recently came to prominence as a result of the spike in interest in the NFT market and dApps. 

In the last year alone, the Ethereum-based wallet has seen a massive boost in its adoption, recording 30 million active users globally. Prior to reaching this milestone, MetaMask had barely surpassed one million users during its previous four years on the market. 

In fact, the firm announced its first million active users in October 2020, and later announced that it had exceeded 5 million active users in April 2021—a significant leap in a short period.

To put this in context, the number of MetaMask users grew more than 125% to hit 1 million active users in October 2020, at around the same time as it started gaining traction in the NFT sector. The company’s user base has further increased, swelling by more than 500% between April 2021 and March 2022 to reach its most recent milestone of over 30 million global active users. 

The platform was originally only available as a desktop application (i.e. browser extension), but was subsequently released as a mobile application for both iOS and Android devices in September 2020, just before it took off. Coincidence? That being said, what is MetaMask?

Understanding MetaMask

MetaMask is a cryptocurrency e-wallet hosted on the Ethereum blockchain network that can be installed on any web browser as an extension, or downloaded as a mobile application. 

The blockchain-based crypto wallet, which also functions as an application programming interface (API), is suitable for, and can be connected to any Ethereum-based decentralized application (dApp). 

The add-on solution features a secure identity vault (SIV), while also providing an easy to use interface for managing user identities on different sites, and for signing blockchain transactions. 

The MetaMask wallet is remarkable for a number of reasons, including the platform’s outstanding security and user experience/interface. In terms of security, MetaMask offers a one-of-a-kind smart encryption solution—dubbed SIV—which allows users to safely store data such as passwords and private keys on their devices, rather than on-chain.

Furthermore, the wallet allows users to synchronize multiple wallets, while enabling them to switch between the Ethereum mainnet and others, such as the Binance Smart Chain mainnet, where it is mostly applicable.

Understanding How MetaMask Payments Work

To begin with, MetaMask is a free web/mobile crypto wallet that requires no additional fees when signing-up and installing on a web browser or mobile device. Likewise, there are no fees when integrating the platform with third-party decentralized applications. However, that’s not to say that transactions on the platform are free as well.

The amount charged varies depending on the type of transaction being made, with swaps being the most common. MetaMask largely makes money from swap fees which typically range from 0.3% to 0.87% when users compare or swap Ethereum-based tokens. 

Payment fees also vary across the board depending on which platform MetaMask is being integrated with. This is due to variance in many aspects including, but not limited to, underlying blockchain infrastructure, computational requirements, and transaction fees, among other things.

Generally, to make a payment with MetaMask, users must have the application installed on a mobile device, or as a browser extension on a desktop. Thereafter, users are free to choose whether to use it independently, or to integrate with a third-party dApp that requires the use of an external crypto wallet service.

Once installed, MetaMask allows users to store Ether and other ERC-20 tokens and process payments to any Ethereum address. In case you’re unclear as to how to get the app up and running, the following outline will serve as a guide for how to install and use MetaMask.

How to Use MetaMask: Installation and Usage

Luckily for us, unlike some crypto related services out there, using MetaMask isn’t rocket science,and can be easily understood by anyone, regardless of your level of expertise in the crypto space. Moreover, the platform boasts an easy-to-navigate user interface which makes the onboarding process a seamless experience.

Part of the ease of use is that both installation and use of the software across different browsers is practically identical. That said, the following is a quick guide to setting up a MetaMask account—in this case on desktop. The following screenshots were taken from a Google Chrome browser:

To get started, search for MetaMask on your desktop web browser, or click the following link which will take you directly to the MetaMask homepage https://metamask.io/ .

Step 2: On the homepage, scroll down and look for “get started”, then click on the button that says “Download MetaMask Today.”

Step 3: Once you have clicked “Download MetaMask Today”, you will be redirected to a page which offers options for installing the program on your choice of hardware, be it an iOS or Android device, or a web browser. Since we’re covering MetaMask’s setup on a desktop browser, we’ll use the option that says “Install MetaMask for [your current browser]”—In our case it’s “Install MetaMask for Chrome”.

Step 4: By clicking “Install MetaMask for Chrome”, you will be redirected to another page, where you will receive a prompt that reads “Add extension”. Proceed by adding the software as an extension.

Once you have successfully added MetaMask as a chrome extension, you can click on “Get started”, as seen in the image below.

Step 5:  Once you have added the extension, you will have two choices; the first is “import wallet”, while the second is “create a wallet.” The first option lets you access an existing cryptocurrency wallet you may have by entering a secret recovery phrase.

On the other hand, the second option will allow you to create a new crypto wallet entirely, which will suit the purposes of this guide. 

Step 6: If you choose to create a new wallet, you will be required to create a MetaMask password to secure your MetaMask plugin.

Step 7: After setting up a password for your MetaMask plugin, you will be required to copy the secret backup phrase which appears on your screen (as seen below). This will be unique to you, and It is vital that you write and store this in a secure location that you will always have access to.

Keep in mind that this backup phrase is a user’s only way to recover a wallet if they forget their password. As a result, we advise that you keep it in various secure locations that only you will have access to, for security reasons. 

Once you click “Next”, you will be directed to the “Confirm your Secret Recovery Phrase” confirmation page.

Here you will need to enter each word provided accordingly, and click “Confirm”, after which you will be redirected to the final page. Click “All Done” to finalize the setup process.

You will now be logged in and ready to start interfacing with various Ethereum wallets and the Ethereum ecosystem as a whole.

How to use MetaMask

Once you have set up your MetaMask account, there are two things left to do: the first is to sync your account with an Ethereum-based network, such as an NFT marketplace or other dApp that requires crypto wallet integration.

To achieve this, go to the top right corner of your account and click on the option that reads “Ethereum Mainnet”. 

From here, choose “Add Network”. This will take you to the page seen below. From here, you can add the information for the ethereum-based protocol you want to integrate.

The second way to utilize MetaMask is to use it as an independent wallet. In this case, there are three main features you can make use of: “Buy”, “Send”, and “Swap”.

As seen above, you can easily see at a glance the total amount of assets you have in your wallet. Likewise, you can check your “Activity” to see a full history of the amount that has been sent, received, and swapped using the account.

You can further configure your wallet by going to the top-right corner of your account and clicking on your identicon, an avatar-like image.

By clicking on the account identicon, you will be able to access other options for “Create Account”, “Import Account”, “Connect Hardware Wallet”, and some more general “Settings” which will allow you to further customize your account, such as by setting your primary currency to ETH or fiat currency. 

Finally, you can also change your default language, modify your account identicon, hide your balance, change notification settings, and more. 

This article is for information purposes only and should not be considered trading or investment advice. Nothing herein shall be construed to be financial legal or tax advice. Trading Forex, cryptocurrencies, and CFDs poses a considerable risk of loss

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