Whether you’re looking to lend assets on a decentralized finance (DeFi) protocol, create your first non-fungible token (NFT) or buy and transfer Ethereum-based tokens, you’ll need to download compatible crypto-wallet software.
MetaMask is by far the most popular crypto-wallet software with over 21 million monthly active users — up by 38 times since 2020. The following discussion examines how MetaMask works and the cryptocurrencies it supports.
What is MetaMask?
MetaMask is a software crypto wallet that comes as a browser extension and is available for Chrome, Firefox, Brave and Edge. In terms of mobile application, it doesn’t matter what type of device you are using — MetaMask is available for both Android and Apple devices.
MetaMask performs two main functions.
Unlike what most beginners believe, cryptocurrency isn’t actually stored on MetaMask because cryptocurrencies can only reside in a blockchain network, and there, they can’t be withdrawn from it. As a result, MetaMask stores your private key and public key –– vital data regarding your cryptocurrency that resides in its parent blockchain networks.
The public key can be interpreted as your bank account number whereas the private key is similar to the pin for your debit card and bank account; both are created when you sign up for a new wallet with MetaMask. The private key is needed to sign and approve all transactions using MetaMask. This means that if someone gets your private key, they can get access or spend your crypto.
The second function of MetaMask is making interactions with decentralized applications (dApps). This action can be accomplished with a click of button — most dApps will immediately prompt the user to connect their MetaMask upon arrival. Users will be able to interact with blockchain-based games like Decentraland, token swap applications like Uniswap or purchase an NFT from many supported NFT marketplaces like Rarible or OpenSea. You should only connect your wallet to reputable websites to protect your crypto from being hacked.
Which Networks Does Metamask Support?
The default network for all MetaMask wallets is the Ethereum Mainnet. The implication is that MetaMask only supports the Ethereum Network and non-Ethereum networks that are Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) compatible. A blockchain network is considered to be EVM compatible if smart contracts deployed on the Ethereum network can be easily deployed on the network.
Non-Ethereum networks that are EVM compatible (also referred to as custom networks) can be interpreted as siblings or relatives of Ethereum. They share many of the same characteristics but differ in some key ways.
In terms of similarities, they both execute smart contracts in a similar manner. However, they differ in terms of their consensus (agreement between the different nodes) and how much data can be placed in their blockchain’s block.
Nonetheless, if you want to use a custom network, you need to manually add the network into your MetaMask based on the documentation given by each network. Other blockchain networks that are supported by MetaMask include:
- Binance Smart Chain
- Harmony ONE
It is important to highlight that MetaMask does not support the Solana, Algorand, Terra, Cosmos or Tron networks. For example, if you would like to deposit tokens via the Terra network, you will need to consider an alternative wallet like Terra Station Wallet.
However, despite not being able to operate on other blockchain networks, MetaMask works perfectly for cryptocurrency holders interested in ETH-based coins. More specifically, leading crypto assets on other chains can be conveniently transferred to the Binance Smart Chain or Ethereum Network in the form of pegged BEP20 or ERC20 tokens.
ERC20 is the standard for creating tokens on Ethereum, while BEP20 is the standard for creating tokens on Binance Smart Chain (a non-Ethereum EVM-compatible network). Both allow users to deploy fungible tokens or cryptocurrencies on their respective blockchains.
The catch, however, is that tokens and coins are two types of digital assets. The key difference between tokens and coins is that tokens are built on top of an existing blockchain whereas coins are built into the underlying blockchain. For example, ERC20 tokens are built on top of the Ethereum network, whilst Ether is the native asset of the Ethereum network.
Is MetaMask Safe to Use?
MetaMask has considerable security features that make it a reasonable choice for a crypto software wallet. MetaMask never stores your wallet information on any of its remote servers or locally on your browser. Essentially, remote servers can be hacked, and therefore keys can be exposed, and that’s exactly what MetaMask is trying to avoid. On the other hand, the idea of storing keys locally on your web browser is risky too, given that skilled hackers could find the encrypted file on your side.
As a result, to eliminate both risks, MetaMask leaves the security of their keys to the users. Each user is solely responsible for protecting their private key and avoiding phishing attacks from their browsers. Nonetheless, MetaMask guarantees the security of your digital assets if you can keep your keys safe.
There a few basic steps that can help you keep your cryptos secure, these include:
- Never type your seed phrase into anything other than the real MetaMask.
- Never export your private key while screen sharing with anyone.
- Do not connect to suspicious websites.
- Use a secure password that is difficult to guess.
While MetaMask is the most popular crypto software wallet, many alternatives are available. Trust Wallet is a popular wallet that supports Bitcoin and blockchains from the Ethereum ecosystem and can be accessed from your desktop or through the mobile app.
On the other hand, if you want to add SOL tokens, Solana-network specific wallets such as Raydium or Phantom enable you to interact with Solana dApps.
Software Wallets vs. Hardware Wallets
Software wallets like MetaMask and Trust Wallet are online and allow for easy transactions and interactions with DeFi platforms. On the other hand, hardware wallets aren’t connected to the internet and therefore can’t be hacked or accessed remotely. Most investors will use both types of wallets to benefit from each of their strengths. A hardware wallet can be used to store most of a user’s portfolio whereas a hot wallet can be used to store crypto that facilitates day-to-day transactions.
In terms of a hardware wallet, the Ledger Nano S is a great choice for securing, buying and growing your crypto assets in a secure environment.
Will MetaMask Make a Cryptocurrency?
As MetaMask continues to grow in popularity, many wonder whether the team will launch its own token. According to ConsenSys CEO Joseph Lubin, MetaMask officially plans to launch a token in the near future in addition to a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) for funding the wallet’s growth.
So far, little has been revealed about the token; however, users speculate that it will unfold like the Uniswap token, which was airdropped to early users of the project. However, it is important to note that MetaMask’s head of operations confirmed last month that the token will not be designed as a cash grab.
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