MetaMask – A Beginner’s Guide

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The internet is evolving, and blockchain, with its cryptocurrencies, has added a new layer of complexity and possible interactions. To stay competitive, we must understand how to use this new internet safely. That’s why today we will learn what a MetaMask browser wallet is.

This article contextualizes the MetaMask crypto wallet and discusses DApps and Web 3. You will also understand how this wallet works and how you can safely use it.

At the end of this article, you will have an overall understanding of the new decentralized internet and how you can access it with the help of MetaMask.

What is MetaMask?

MetaMask is primarily a crypto wallet in the Ethereum ecosystem. It works and performs the same functions as any other crypto wallet. And it should be pointed out that the user is solely responsible for the security and content of the wallet.

But MetaMask differs in that it is an extension installed in the web browser. Integrating a wallet into the browser lets us use decentralized applications (DApps) and have general access to Web 3.

In this context, a MetaMask browser wallet is not just a way to store cryptocurrencies and other crypto assets. It becomes a tool for managing digital identity in interactions with blockchain ecosystems. All of this will become clearer in the following paragraphs.

What are DApps and Web 3?

DApps, i.e., decentralized applications, are web applications linked to the blockchain through smart contracts. They work differently from previous applications because they borrow from the functions and properties of the blockchain.

A smart contract is an autonomous program that runs when certain conditions are met. And when such a contract runs on the Ethereum network, it becomes decentralized. Once put into operation, it can no longer be controlled by anyone and will execute exactly as it was designed.

These DAPPs are not hosted on the blockchain but only regulate certain functions through smart contracts such as possession and digital identity. For example, in a game where you can win NFTs, you will need to log in through MetaMask for the game to be sure that it sends the winnings to the right person.

And Web 3 is a new way to create and interact with applications based on these decentralization principles. Apart from blockchain and cryptocurrencies, decentralized information storage solutions are also needed to avoid centralized servers. This prevents DApps for being blocked or shut down.

But the most important thing to understand is that the basis of Web 3 is digital privacy. Centralized applications come at the cost of publishing our personal data. Data that can be stolen or used against us according to the model of surveillance capitalism. In Web 3, users will manage personal data as they please, eliminating perhaps the biggest problem of the current internet.

How does MetaMask work?

Although MetaMask also exists as a smartphone app, we will focus on the browser version on your computer. To be able to use this crypto wallet, you will need to install browsers such as Firefox or Chrome first.

Then from the MetaMask website, you can download and install the browser extension. It will appear in the top bar of the browser as seen in the graphics above

Once you have installed the extension, you must create a new wallet or activate an old one. In addition, you will need to set a wallet access password in your browser. After going through this process, you will have access to several options as required.

A MetaMask browser wallet offers:

  • Storing and managing keys
  • Making transactions
  • Authentication of transactions
  • Account authentication with MetaMask, similar to Facebook or Google.

Let’s take the previous example of the game where you can win NFTs. You will be able to create an account with the help of MetaMask. This process will make your wallet the user that connects to the game. And each time you return to the game, you will use the option of “Sign In with MetaMask”.

Interactions with the Ethereum blockchain have an associated transaction cost, and some of the in-game actions will actually be transactions. Thus, when required  to pay for a transaction, MetaMask creates a notification for you to accept or decline the transaction.

How can you use MetaMask safely?

You need more care in the context of a crypto wallet integrated into the browser than with a regular wallet. This use has three major components: private key safety, computer security, and user attention.

Private key safety.

Like any other crypto wallet, the user is directly responsible for securing access to the wallet. As a result, you have to make a secure copy of the private keys or seed phrase to get access to the wallet.

Losing these keys or seed words results in losing access to the wallet. And their theft results in the loss of stored assets because you cannot reverse transactions once the funds are stolen.

Computer security.

All types of wallets are vulnerable to a compromised computer, especially MetaMask, which is always online.

Pirated programs, or even correctly installed ones, can have different back doors that can compromise the security of your computer. We recommend creating a separate partition to work with MetaMask and crypto to minimize this risk. The most secure operating system is Linux, and we recommend installing the strictly necessary to work with crypto.

The attention of the user.

Because MetaMask can create transaction notifications that you can accept, maximum attention is needed. There have been reported cases where users believed they were authenticating a transaction to receive an airdrop but accepted the transfer of NFTs from their personal wallets.

We recommend that you do not accept suspicious transactions or access shady links.

In conclusion, a MetaMask browser wallet is a powerful tool for interaction with the new decentralized internet. But all the benefits of privacy and possession of crypto assets are counterbalanced by the responsibility that users bear.

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