MetaMask is is an extension which makes it rasier to work with the blockchain-based decentralized Internet. Websites and web apps (short: dapps) are function using Ethereum can’t be fully run using just your normal browser, In order to access them you need to have an Ethereum identity that the website can recognize and interact with. MetaMask adds here a gap and adds several things to your Browser to easier access dapps.
The official Website gives you (currently) two options, you can download Brave Browser which integrates it or you can install the external Chrome, Opera or Firefox extension. MetaMask extension extension adds the following to your Browser or compliments internal mechanism:
- MetaMask is a wallet that stores any Ethereum you send to it. These information are encrypted locally.
- It checks the sites you visit to see if it’s Ethereum enabled or not. In case the page you visit uses blockchain it activates a dialog to give you a bunch of possibilities.
- After the extension is ‘active’ MetaMask acts as a security barrier between you and the site (dapp). Every transfer permission shows a dialog, so nothing happens behind your back.
- It also allows to handle your Ethereum identities. This allows you to import and switch between several different Ethereum addresses.
- You can buy Ethereum via MetaMask using your existing Coinbase account or you can convert and send some other cryptocurrency using Shapeshift.
Keep in mind that such extensions/addons are more or less useful, it’s depending if you have problems working with the Ethereum based pages or not and if you have a need for such a extension. However, this not only affects MetaMask, it’s in general questionable if you need it, an expert might use other CLI programs in order to access/transfer something – but this is maybe not what the ‘normal’ user is looking for.
MetaMask doesn’t sell your data but the extension collects a little bit of some data.
- Network information regarding transactions
- Your first wallet address created through the MetaMask plugin becomes publicly known to us. We receive only the public address and the address is sent to our server. We do not receive information from subsequent wallet creations through the Service.
- We may receive network information from you as a result of your interaction with our Service.
- Our service requires the highest level of browser permissions that could potentially lead to procurement of more personal information. For information on how we use these permissions for a limited purpose, and why this is necessary, can be found in paragraph 3 below.
- Your interactions with the Site are documented via Google Analytics and that information is processed by Google.
Except the Google part I see this as non critical, some data are send in order to improve the product which is okay, the last point which is mentioned is sadly a minus in m opinion. But you could block this locally via a HOSTS/DNS entry in order to avoid getting fingerprinted by Google. However, this seems quite ‘normal’ these days since every page is connected to Google to get into search rank etc. An integrated button/toggle to opt-out would be a workaround but there is sadly (currently) no option.
The setup process is easy, you get some kind of ‘first usage Wizard’ which helps you to login into the service or create a vault. You can transfer something within the given options or manage your vault how you like (vault is encrypted).
The program is user-friendly and MetaMask is currently a very good choice and option for anybody looking to play around with the new Web which brings more and more the focus to decentralized Websites, wallets etc. As with all cryptocurrency activities, don’t put in more than you’re comfortable losing because the cryptocurrency bubble might can burst at any time.
The extension gets my recommendation even if the ToS is something I not really like, however the developer could adjust this so it’s nothing what could’t be fixed. Another weakness is that not all cryptocurrencies are supported but that’s another story and might no possible or not so easily since there is no universal ‘store’ which works for everyone in order to trade or buy coins. The idea behind the extension/service is neat and it can help you or your friends to work with cryptocurrency, however most hobbyists right now work with it since the need of it still seems limited. Some services still refuse to use Coins due several reasons and the market can (is) unstable, but that’s already well-known and isn’t really relevant while using this extension/service.
If you like to review the source code of MetaMask, it’s on GitHub.