Popular Dapp CryptoKitties crashed the Ethereum blockchain with 1.3 million transactions in December 2017. But since then, user numbers have dwindled into the hundreds. For many users, Dapps are just too difficult to use. Could MetaMask help lower the barrier of entry to the wonderful world of apps? We find out.

What is MetaMask?

MetaMask is a browser plugin that serves as an Ethereum wallet. It allows users to store Ether and other ERC-20 tokens. By connecting to Ethereum-based Dapps, users can spend their coins in games, gambling applications and trade them on decentralized exchanges.

How do you use it?

To use it, you will need either Chrome, Firefox, Opera or the Brave browser.

It is installed like any regular plugin. Once it is installed, transactions can be made to any Ethereum address.

Dapps automatically connect to MetaMask, simplifying the connection process. Within the Dapp, if payment is required, a pop-up window will appear asking to confirm the transaction from the MetaMask account.

What advantages does it have?

  • 😻 Popular - it is commonly used so users only need one plugin to access a wide range of Dapps.

  • 🕐 Simple - Instead of managing private keys, users just need to remember a list of words and transactions are signed on their behalf.

  • 💽 Saves space - Users don’t have to download the Ethereum blockchain as it sends requests to nodes outside of the user’s computer.

  • 🔗 Integrated - Dapps are designed to work with it, so it becomes much easier to send Ether in and out.

What disadvantages does it have?

  • 👪 Third party - MetaMask holds private keys within the user’s browser. This is less safe than a hardware or paper wallet. It is a reasonable compromise for the ease-of-use.

  • 🖥️ External nodes - Instead of being a full node, it relies on external nodes which sometimes have downtime that can cause MetaMask to stop working.

What alternatives are there?

  • Parity - Another browser-based wallet that provides access to Dapps and Ethereum transactions.

  • Mist browser - A browser designed to access Dapps which works with Mist wallet, a full node Ethereum wallet.

  • MyEtherWallet - A similarly popular online wallet which is based on Ethereum coins and tokens. It allows you to make transactions without needing to download the Ethereum blockchain but doesn’t integrate into Dapps in the same way.

Did you know?

MetaMask integrated with hardware wallet TREZOR so users can use the service while keeping their crypto on a hardware wallet.

The future:

Thousands of developers are building on decentralized applications and hackathons are celebrating and encouraging this. It’s likely that they will get better and better and user numbers will start to pick up. MetaMask is likely to continue to be an easy access point for all these decentralized services.