Metamask: Bringing Ethereum to your Browser

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Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 16 seconds

Metamask is a browser extension that allows you to interact with the Ethereum blockchain, all without downloading the entire data-filled blockchain. It’s a simple tool that allows you to use your cryptocurrency, all in your regular web browser. This will help more people access and use Ethereum dApps, without the technical know-how or need to download the whole blockchain and run a full node.

Metamask also functions as a web-based software wallet, so you can store your crypto here, but be aware that it is a ‘hot wallet‘ and it is risky to keep it here (read more about software wallets on our essential guide page).

Our video runs through the Metamask browser extension, and shows you how to set up and use certain features. So check it out, and follow along with our written summary below, if that suits you more! Be aware, if you read below, you will miss out on some of the visual walk-throughs we do to show you how it all works!

Now that there’s a couple dApps up and running on the Ethereum Network, a lot of people ask me,
How can I interact with these dApps?
My answer is Metamask!

What is Metamask?

Metamask is a Chrome browser extension that allows you to interact with the blockchain, all without downloading the entire data filled blockchain. It’s a simple tool that allows you to use your cryptocurrency, all in your regular web browser. Without getting too technical it basically converts dApps, or decentralized applications, into a HTML language that creates a traditional “web page,” the source of that page is just the blockchain. (Learn more about what a blockchain is here.)

This is a really useful tool, considering the alternative. Downloading the entire history of a blockchain is long and takes up a good amount of space. Metamask acts as your bridge to the blockchain, without acting as a full node. Its goal is simple. Give as many people access to the Ethereum blockchain in the easiest way possible.

The extension is specifically designed to be used with the Ethereum blockchain, so your account can be loaded up with ether, and only ether. Several ICO’s have opted to allow this method of payment, and the popular dApp “Cryptokitties” also allows you to buy a digital feline friend using Metamask.

So where can I use it & how does it work?

Initially, Metamask was only available for the Google Chrome browser. However, it has since been added to Firefox as well.

Upon install, you’ll be prompted to enter a password, which is how you will access your Metamask plugin in the future, so make sure the password is secure, and make sure you don’t forget it! You will also be given a seed phrase, which will allow you to recover your account in case you lose your password or any other unfortunate thing happens. So be sure to keep that in a safe and secure place as well!

Metamask happens to have a lot of test networks. That we don’t really have to dive into… but you do need to make sure that you are on the Ethereum main net in order to interact with the Ethereum blockchain. This option is found in the drop down menu on the upper left of the Metamask display.

metamask demo

See circled area for your drop down menu, with various options, such as to ensure you are on the Ethereum main net

Some features and functionalities

An interesting thing about Metamask is that you’re able to have multiple accounts or addresses. It’s great to be able to generate an account for a very secure transaction. To keep them organized you can customize the name of each account (in the same area as the drop down menu highlighted in the image above).

Metamask is one of the best ways to conduct transactions on the Ethereum network by simply using your browser. Let’s run through an example; and what better example to use than one of our favorite dApps, Cryptokitties.

Once you’ve browsed and selected your kitty, you click purchase, and lo and behold, a transaciton box comes up for the exact amount you have to pay. Of course, there are a couple more details you have to fill out, like the gas price and gas limit. For more information on those, check out our Eth Gas Station review and demo.

metamask cryptokitties

What the Metamask interface for the Cryptokitties dApp looks like when you are “checking out.”

For a quick rundown of the gas concepts, gas is what is used to power the Ethereum network, or EVM more specifically. Gas price determines the speed of getting into the next block. The higher the gas price, the more likely and fast your transaction will be confirmed by miners. Gas limit is how much gas you’re willing to expend to complete the transaction. If you set your limits too low, your transaction will fail. You don’t lose your ether if the transaction fails. You’ll simply have to try again. So it’s not the end of the world, more of a minor inconvenience.

Metamask will show once your transaction has been confirmed. And that’s it, you have your Cryptokitty or other asset!

Really a lot of people in this space have the goal of mass adoption. Metamask is really just going to make that goal more achievable and a quicker reality. It’s simply an easy and accessible way to use the blockchain. It’s a great tool that’s not so hard to use, and will hopefully make the Ethereum blockchain more accessible for everyone.

To learn more about the Ethereum blockchain and other dApps, check out our resource page, where you can find a wealth of information and resources. 

You can find out more about Metamask from their website, and also get the extension from there! 


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