If you’ve ever tried to use a DeFi application through a web browser, you’ve likely come across Metamask. For those unfamiliar, Metamask is a non-custodial Ethereum wallet taking form as a browser extension.
Metamask provides access to web3 applications using popular web browsers like Google Chrome. The wallet emphasizes security, self-custody, and ease-of-use among other things that we’ll touch on towards the latter half of this article.
As a ConsenSys spoke company, Metamask has been one of the more successful applications in bringing Ethereum and Web3 closer to mass adoption. The wallet boasts a significant amount of active users and transaction volume since its inception a few years ago.
For the most part, Metamask transactions are primarily initiated by dApps rather than the actual users. This means that typical Metamask users are using the wallet for interacting with web3 applications, like Compound or MakerDAO instead of sending and receiving ETH and ERC-20 between each other.
It can almost go without saying that Metamask is one of the more prominent wallets benefiting from the proliferation of DeFi. If you don’t have Metamask yet, you can currently install it on Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Brave by visiting the official website.
Generally speaking, Metamask is rather well-received by the crypto community at large. The Google Chrome extension currently has a 4-star rating based on over 1,600 reviews with over 1M+ downloads.
Metamask simplifies Ethereum transactions across the board. Users can easily send and receive transactions with a few clicks of a button along with leveraging accessibility features like scanning QR codes. For more seasoned users, Metamask allows you to tap into more advanced features if need be, such as setting your own gas prices.
Since the wallet is non-custodial, all users benefit from storing their own private keys as Metamask never has access to them in the first place. This is the most secure way of storing your crypto assets, however, you are responsible for safeguarding the private keys. If your keys are lost, the funds are likely unrecoverable.
With MetaMask, users can securely store ETH, ERC20 tokens (like Dai) and ERC721 tokens. Similarly, users can see tokens in the wallet by importing the contract address.
Instead of relying on an encrypted private key full of random numbers and letters, Metamask allows you to store your private key in the form of a mnemonic phrase. This means that your private keys comes in the form of a 12-word human-readable phrase. This makes it substantially easier to remember or simply write down on a piece of paper.
Adjustable Gas Fees
Unlike Argent Wallet and other non-custodial wallets that look to abstract user complexities (like gas fees) to the highest degree, Metamask gives users intuitive options to set fees based on the urgency of the transactions. The wallet also offers the ability to dive into advanced features and set gas fees and prices on a more granular level.
While only limited to Ethereum, users can interact with a variety of the Ethereum networks including the Main Ethereum Network (i.e. Main-net), Ropsten Test Network, Kovan Test Network, Rinkeby Test Network, Goerli Test Network, along with the ability to integrate with a local node or a custom RPC. As such, this feature is more developer-facing rather than end-user facing and is largely not needed for the majority of Metamask users.
Hardware Wallet Integrations
If you end up accumulating a significant amount of capital on your Metamask wallet and want to increase your security, Metamask currently offers support for multiple industry-leading hardware wallets, including Ledger and Trezor.
While Metamask is one of the leading wallets in the space, they do currently lack some important features that could drastically improve user experience and accessibility.
No Native Meta Transactions: Meta transactions are one of the rising accessibility features for many up and coming wallets. For those unfamiliar, meta transactions allow for gasless transactions where the end-user does not have to pay a gas fee. Ultimately, this allows users to instantly interact with DeFi and other web3 applications without having to worry about loading up their account with Ether to pay transaction fees.
No Usernames: As we saw with Coinbase Wallet, abstracting the complexities of public addresses is something we can begin to look for with many non-custodial wallets. This allows users to no longer have to rely on cryptic addresses and instead to send and receive transactions with usernames, similar to existing banking solutions like Venmo. However, it is important to note that Metamask does support ENS addresses, which is beginning to see more popularity in recent months.
Only Supports Ethereum-based Assets: Since Metamask is only offered on Ethereum, users cannot store other prominent crypto assets, like Bitcoin. With that said, users still have access to wBTC and most stablecoins, which are beginning to emerge as one of the killer applications for Ethereum and a core aspect of DeFi.
Looking forward: MetaMask mobile
In recent months, Metamask has constantly been expanding its product offering. Most notably, Metamask introduced Metamask Mobile, a non-custodial mobile wallet with the mission to act as a bridge to the decentralized web, with a dapp-centric browsing experience, intuitive on-boarding, and features that sync with your desktop MetaMask accounts.
The mobile application is currently available in beta on iOS and Android. With this new mobile wallet, users can benefit from a myriad of accessibility features and other benefits. As an example, the wallet will feature new user-friendly onboarding with the ability to create a wallet in seconds, go through a brief tutorial if they’re new to web3, and browse a handful of popular applications.
As outlined above, one of the biggest drawbacks of the current Metamask extension in the requirement to pay gas fees and slow transaction processing speeds. With Metamask mobile, users can now use the feature, Instapay and benefit with instant free transactions with the use of payment channels via Connext (a layer 2 scaling solution using state channels). In addition, users will be able to purchase crypto directly from the wallet through any of the Metamask supported exchanges.
These are just some of the core upcoming features for Metamask Mobile. Here are some other features you can expect from the mobile wallet.
- Improved Transaction history, now we’re able to show what’s each transaction about (Sent tokens, deployed contracts, sent or received ETH)
- Simplified gas controls
- Ability to send assets in Fiat or Crypto amount
- Web3 Browser functions
- WalletConnect support for Mobile (use dapps from safari / chrome)
- Favorite dApps — (available through spotlight in iOS)
- Ability to open multiple tabs, bookmark pages, and share urls
- ENS-> IPFS — you can access .eth websites hosted in IPFS through the browser.
- Biometrics support — TouchID, FaceID and Passcode on iOS, Fingerprint / PIN on Android
- Privacy mode enabled by default- EIP-1102
- Seed phrase backup
Metamask is one of the leading non-custodial wallets on the market today. With the upcoming release of Metamask Mobile, we can assume that the wallet provider will continue to garner support from the crypto community.
If you’re exploring the use of DeFi applications on Ethereum, we highly recommend using Metamask as your go-to non-custodial wallet. With this, you can support any range of Ethereum-based assets, easily interact with emerging DeFi applications directly through your everyday browser, and more importantly, custody your own assets by storing your private keys yourself rather than relying on a centralized intermediary.