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What is MetaMask? How to Use the Top Ethereum Wallet

MetaMask is a cryptocurrency wallet that enables users to access the Web 3 ecosystem of decentralized applications (dapps).

6 min read

In brief

  • MetaMask is a cryptocurrency wallet that enables users to store Ether and other ERC-20 tokens.
  • The wallet can also be used to interact with decentralized applications, or dapps.

Web 3, the decentralized internet, is built on a foundation of cryptocurrencies and decentralized applications (dapps). But in order to use them, you need a user-friendly interface.

MetaMask is one of the leading crypto wallets, and aims to be the gateway to the world of Web 3, decentralized finance (DeFi) and NFTs.

Here's how it works, and how to get started with it.

What is MetaMask?

MetaMask is a browser plugin that serves as an Ethereum wallet, and is installed like any regular plugin. Once it's installed, it allows users to store Ether and other ERC-20 tokens, enabling them to make transactions to any Ethereum address.

By connecting to Ethereum-based dapps, users can spend their coins in games, stake tokens in gambling applications and trade them on decentralized exchanges (DEXs). It also provides users with an entry point into the emerging world of decentralized finance, or DeFi, providing a way to access DeFi apps such as Compound and PoolTogether.

How to get started using MetaMask

Though it might seem complicated from the outset, MetaMask is one of the simpler Ethereum wallets and dapp browsers to use, and can be set up in a couple of minutes in most cases.

To use MetaMask, you will need either Chrome, a Chromium-based browser such as Brave, or Firefox.

First, you’ll need to download and install the official Metamask extension/addon for your browser; either the Google Chrome extension or the Firefox addon depending on your browser. For our guide, we’ll be using the Firefox version, but the steps are nearly identical for other browsers.

Once installed, you should see the below splash screen. Click the ‘Get Started’ button to begin creating your Ethereum wallet using MetaMask.

On the next step, click the ‘Create a Wallet’ button.

You’ll then be asked if you want to help improve MetaMask. Click ‘No Thanks’ if this doesn’t interest you, otherwise click ‘I agree’.

Pick a password on the next step. This needs to be at least 8 characters long. We recommend using a completely unique password that hasn’t been used anywhere else, and one which contains a mixture of upper and lower case letters, symbols, and numbers.

Read and accept the Terms of Use, and click ‘Create’ once your password has been set.

MetaMask will then present you with your 12-word backup phrase. You’ll need to write this down in the same order displayed on your screen. This will be needed to recover your wallet should you ever lose access to your computer, and should be kept stored somewhere safe. Anybody who has access to your 12-word backup phrase will have access to the funds in your MetaMask wallet, so keep it private.

Click ‘Next’ once you’ve written this down.

Confirm your backup phrase on the next screen by entering the words in the same order saved previously. Click ‘Confirm’ once done.

You have now almost completed the MetaMask setup process. Just click ‘All Done’ on the final page, and you will be automatically logged in to MetaMask. If you ever get logged out, you’ll be able to log back in again by clicking the MetaMask icon added to your web browser (usually found next to the URL bar).

You will then be able to access your list of assets in the ‘Assets’ tab and view your transaction history in the ‘Activity’ tab.

Sending crypto is as simple as clicking the ‘Send’ button, entering the recipient address and amount to send, and selecting a transaction fee. You can also manually adjust the transaction fee using the ‘Advanced Options’ button, using information from ETH Gas Station or similar platforms to choose a more suitable gas price.

After clicking ‘Next’, you will then be able to either confirm or reject the transaction on the subsequent page.

To use MetaMask to interact with a dapp or smart contract, you’ll usually need to find a ‘Connect to Wallet’ button or similar on the platform you are trying to use. After clicking this, you should then see a prompt asking whether you want to let the dapp connect to your wallet.

The below example shows the decentralized exchange Uniswap, but a similar process should be observed for other dapps. Simply connecting with a dapp means it can view your addresses—it cannot access your funds.

Once connected, you'll then be able to interact with the dapp and use its features.

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 MetaMask 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 MetaMask, 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 secure than a hardware or paper wallet, but is a reasonable compromise for the ease-of-use.

What are the alternatives to MetaMask?

  • Coinbase Wallet - A self-custody wallet developed by crypto exchange Coinbase.
  • Brave Wallet - a wallet developed by crypto-powered browser Brave and integrated directly into the browser.
  • MyEtherWallet - A popular online wallet which enables you to use Ethereum coins and ERC-20 tokens.

Did you know?

MetaMask has integrated with hardware wallets including Trezor and Ledger so that users can use the service while keeping their crypto on a hardware wallet.

The future of MetaMask

Since its launch, MetaMask has provided an easy access point for the growing dapp space. As new dapp products and services have launched, user numbers have picked up, hitting 30 million users in March 2022.

In September 2020, MetaMask launched MetaMask Mobile for Android and iPhone, its first smartphone app.

The smartphone app enables users to create new accounts or log in with their existing MetaMask account, and provides much the same functionality as the browser-based version. Users get a token wallet, key vault, and login so they can manage digital assets and access dapps such as the Uniswap DEX and NFT marketplace OpenSea.

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