Let's talk Web 3: Metamask Product Review
As the crypto and web 3 scene continues to expand, the grading of each new product is still unknown. This means that for the average person, we’re more so pushed towards the most popular products in the market right now. Whether it’s an application or protocol, this entire space continues to develop and we have the opportunity to define the new landscape.
This series aims to dive into the most popular crypto & web 3 products to:
break down the ‘why’ behind its popularity
uncover the benefits & challenges
question the design
introduce the competitors
talk shop at the developer’s corner
provide recommendations and peek into trending news
This is our opportunity to set the bar, so join me through this article as we tackle Metamask.
What is Metamask?
Metamask - an application that you most likely have heard of everywhere, especially when someone attempts to teach you how to get into crypto. In the simplest terms, it’s a crypto wallet available on your favorite browser (i.e. Chrome, Firefox, etc.) and recently a mobile application, but only supporting Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) networks. It provides access to decentralized applications (dApps), placing itself as the bridge to web 3.
With over 30 million active monthly users and 9 million daily users, Metamask is the perfect product to kick start the series. As you scroll through each section, I’d love for you to question your personal experiences using the product and relate it back to your typical bank ‘wallet’. Does it serve all your needs? What improvements should it make? Was there enough support for the challenges you’ve faced?
Web 2 Product Review
Product hunt - 4.1/5, BitDegree - 7.8/10
Browser extension, Multiple features (i.e. Token Exchange, multiple accounts), Easy-to-use and simple UI
Coinbase Wallet, TrustWallet, Gnosis Safe, etc.
Web 3 Product Review - Similar to a typical product review, but with additional factors to consider.
Hot wallet - web-based wallet, Private keys kept on the browser, Phishing attacks
Ethereum Provider API, ether.js
Debunking the Popularity
Behind all the hype of the product, it’s also important to see if investors see the potential in the product/company and this is where MetaMask checks the box. Developed by New-York based Consensys, a blockchain development company valued at USD $3.2 billion has raised $200 million in November 2021.
Remember the 30 million active monthly users mentioned above? This is quite an important factor because this was a 38x increase since 2020 and its reach stretches out to over 3700 dApps across NFT marketplaces, DAOs, DeFi applications, and many more. Of course, the ConsenSys ecosystem expands much further with its access to 370,000 developers via Infura.
With the simplicity to add this application to the browser, it becomes exponentially easier for anyone to enter the decentralized world and its numerous features have allowed beginners to experts to continue to remain engaged with the product.
User Experience & User Interface
MetaMask has become one of the most popular crypto wallets and continued to retain this title due to its simplistic user interface applicable to the wide range of its user base from beginners to advanced. Whether it’s the first time getting onboarded versus the 10th time opening up the application this past hour, it’s a simple process to interact with the decentralized web.
It works similar to any other browser extension with a popup at the top corner of the browser. Once the account is created, the user will have access to a crypto wallet with a unique address and a seed phrase. Unlike a typical bank account, it’s important to keep track of the password and the seed phrase as it’ll be the only method of entry into the account.
Once logged in, the wallet will display a view (in large) of the total amount of cryptocurrency in the wallet and two options between assets & activity. Assets indicating the various tokens and activity referring to the transactions - provides gas fee, base fee, priority fee, and links directly to etherscan for verification on the blockchain.
As mentioned above, the wallet acts as the bridge to the decentralized world with access to numerous possibilities but at the core, the wallet specializes in five features. These include holding of assets/private keys, transfer of assets, purchasing of assets, swapping of assets between accounts or tokens, and verification to dApps.
A notable feature is the swap functionality that has allowed over USD $10 billion in P2P token exchange. The Metamask swap feature has allowed its users to swap tokens directly from their wallets leveraging consolidated data from multiple decentralized exchanges.
A few other additional features include:
Multiple account creation which includes multiple addresses using one wallet
Import an existing account using a private key string or a private key JSON file
Connect to a hardware wallet (i.e. Ledger)
Pivot between different blockchain networks (i.e. Ethereum Mainnet, Polygon Mainnet, Rinkby Mainnet, etc.)
These multiple features included in one wallet ensure that the user does not need a prior financial or technical background to jump right in.
The community plays a vital role in crypto projects as it not only ensures the primary traction but supports its ability to sustain the popularity as it continues to scale. In web 3, everyone has skin in the game and collectively works together to go through a continuous interactive process to develop the best products.
Similar to any other open-source and crypto project, Metamask is heavily dependent on its community which surely does not disappoint. As it’s used amongst various decentralized applications as the primary wallet, the community is heavily active.
Metamask Support - The technical help center powered by Zendesk is a virtual system that provides extensive coverage of common questions, community support via a discourse page, articles highlighting specific topics, and a chatbot for unanswered questions. You’ll always be able to find further detailed information on their Medium articles discussing several topics. With a strong social media presence on Twitter (600K+ followers), the Metamask team is well engaged with the challenges and concerns of the community.
When dealing with data and financials of any sort, security should always be at the top of the list and this is no exception. To date, Metamask has not encountered any major* attacks, however, there will always be speculation regarding the security of any application. As a crypto wallet, Metamask had many factors to consider in order to win over the mass population - let’s go over them.
Hot wallet - A software/virtual currency wallet accessible via the internet/browser. An important security challenge is that the private keys are kept on the browser which can be prone to attacks (i.e. common phishing attacks). Though there are advanced security and encryption layers integrated, cold wallets are the most secure for long-term holdings.
Browser application - Though no sensitive data is stored on Metamask specifically, using a browser-based application that tracks personal information can be prone to attacks via the browser.
Decentralized applications - Metamask/software wallet is often used as a gate to decentralized applications. For sign-in purposes, it is often required to connect via a software wallet. As many dApps are continuously being developed and often not cleared for security, there is a possibility to be connecting to a security risk.
On behalf of many developers, Metamask has been a great tool to use when building decentralized applications. As mentioned above, it makes it easy for users and developers to use ETH, ERC-20 tokens, or simply connect to decentralized applications without running an entire node or writing a line of additional code.
Taking a step back, we can observe that the technology stack used to create Metamask was a combination of web-development tools/frameworks (i.e. React, jQuery, etc.) and of course, connecting to external nodes (Infura). The reliance on external nodes is essential to the entire concept of a software wallet as it allows the user to connect directly to the blockchain through each transaction without any actions from their end.
For development purposes, Metamask provides the ‘Ethereum Provider API’ which acts as the gate for decentralized applications. This API enables basic functionalities to recognize the Ethereum account, Ethereum provider, and the Ethereum network used by the user. An alternative is to leverage the ethers.js library that will provide an abstraction to using a detailed API.
Interested to develop dApps or play around with Metamask? Here are a few of the best resources:
Alternatives & Competition
For a beginner in this space, MetaMask may be the first option that you find or recommended to use. But why? Simply because it’s the most popular wallet and integrates seamlessly with many other decentralized applications. These are definitely two great reasons, but let’s introduce you to a few other options:
Coinbase Wallet - Coinbase being the second-largest cryptocurrency exchange platform provides its users an entire ecosystem through their platform. Leveraging their own exchange and features on their crypto wallet, the user is able to access various networks without restrictions and limited issues.
Gnosis Safe - This wallet provides similar features to Metamask, but specializes in security specifically offering multi-signature authentication and advanced recovery methods - not only relying on the seed phrase but alternative methods.
Trust Wallet - Unlike Metamask’s limitation to EVM networks, this wallet supports up to 33 blockchain networks, supports mobile (iOS and Android), and provides additional features (staking, NFT support, etc.).
Harmony Wallet - At this date, the wallet is under construction and expected to upgrade to the 1wallet with improved security features. A notable differentiation is the ability to view the NFT (display images) via the wallet.
Phantom Wallet - Primarily focused on the Solana ecosystem, it provides similar features such as holding, swapping, and more. It is projected to support the Ethereum blockchain in the coming months.
Though all these options are available, you’ll easily recognize that Metamask is the most popular wallet and continues to adapt as its user base exponentially grows.
Recommendations & News
As web 3 continues to become more popular, Metamask will inevitability do the same. Though it’s a great platform right now, here are a few recommendations:
NFT Display - Develop a feature to display the NFT (image, audio, link, etc.) via the wallet.
2 Factor Authentication - Enable 2FA for large purchases ensuring there is additional security.
On the news, this is what you may see: