MetaMask: a Simple Way to use the Ethereum Blockchain

This introduction to MetaMask was originally published at Bruno’s Bitfalls website, and is reproduced here with permission.

In this article, we’ll explain what MetaMask is, what it’s used for, and how to use it.


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Introduction to MetaMask

MetaMask is a Google Chrome, Vivaldi, Opera and Firefox extension for the browser which makes it easy for web applications to communicate with the Ethereum blockchain. In other words, MetaMask is a wallet for your browser.

You can download it from the official website or you can get the Brave browser which is a fork of Google Chrome and comes with some very cryptocurrency-friendly features (a built-in MetaMask among others).

Immediately before installing it, MetaMask will request some rather liberal permissions:

MetaMask permissions

It wants full control over copy-paste commands, permission to talk to external resources (websites and nodes of the blockchain), and the option to look at and modify the contents of every website you visit. In other words, it wants everything. For as long as a reputable company is behind it, this is nothing to worry about. Still, these permissions are worth keeping in mind; it wouldn’t be the first time a malicious actor got hold of a popular extension and wreaked havoc.

Setup

After installing, the extension’s icon will become available in the toolbar. Clicking it will reveal the popup with the user interface. The first screen will warn us that we’re dealing with beta software and that the address we generate and use with MetaMask is visible to every page we visit, unless we sign out of MetaMask before visiting it.

MetaMask beta

The following screen warns us about Terms of Service and the fact that MetaMask is not to be blamed for anything bad that happens, should something bad happen.

MetaMask terms of service

Scrolling the text to the bottom will make the Accept option available. We then proceed to the password selection screen.

MetaMask password

The password will, just like with Mist, encrypt the JSON file that gets generated which contains information about our wallet. The password will be required of the user every time the user signs into MetaMask.

After inputting the password, MetaMask will show a seed — a list of words from which generated addresses can be regenerated if we lose access to the browser or the wallet files due to a hardware or software error.

MetaMask seed

The list should be printed and stored in a safe location if you intend to keep using these wallets. Consider it a paper wallet.

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