MetaMask is one of the most useful wallets in the crypto space, allowing you to access Ethereum’s vast ecosystem. Why wouldn’t you, with all the interest that Ethereum is stirring?
NFT sales are going through the roof, and corporations are releasing their own. You may be wondering how to partake in this new ecosystem between digital artists and buyers of speculative assets. Even more, you may have heard of DeFi protocols and want to become a yield farmer for a steady passive income.
These are but just a few reasons to get up and ready with a good wallet. This guide to MetaMask will teach you the fastest way to access those services.
In this guide:
- Behind the scene — why would you need MetaMask?
Before we begin with a guide to MetaMask, it is important to understand what you are accessing with it. When blockchain technology first birthed bitcoin in 2009, its blockchain was narrow-focused, with the goal being a peer-to-peer payment system. As you know, the cryptocurrency is stateless, borderless, deflationary, and open money vs. the controlled, centralized, and inflationary fiat money.
Over time, Bitcoin development diverged into two specializations — bitcoin cash (BCH) for fast, cheap daily transactions and bitcoin (BTC) akin to digital gold that has more expensive transactions. Meanwhile, thousands of other altcoins arrived, trying to ape the cryptocurrency’s success. Among them, ethereum (ETH) had an entirely different development philosophy.
The Ethereum blockchain had a general-purpose use case in mind at the time of conception, instead of just facilitating cryptocurrency. By having smart contracts running within its data blocks, it extended its flexibility far beyond a simple payment system. This allows digital and automated forms of legal or financial contracts, with decentralized and security features from blockchain technology.
In essence, Ethereum created Decentralized Finance or DeFi. It primarily involves a series of smart contracts that collectively form a decentralized application or dApp.
These dApps make it possible to digitize every banking service you could think of — lending, borrowing — without the banking system itself. Not only that, but marketplaces and games can also run on Ethereum’s back. They all use Ethereum’s native cryptocurrency — ETH — to pay for various fees. Additionally, they may exchange ETH for the dApps’ tokens.
What is MetaMask then?
MetaMask is a crypto wallet that supports ETH-based tokens, ERC-20 or ERC-721, besides ETH itself. Moreover, you will see in this guide to MetaMask that it seamlessly connects to any Ethereum-based dApp once you install it as a browser extension. Therefore, when you visit any dApp, such as NFT marketplaces or yield farming protocols, you will be able to connect your MetaMask wallet to it, fluidly moving funds how you see fit.
This integration with your web browser — Edge, Chrome, Firefox, or Brave — makes it extremely convenient and popular, as you can see from these rapidly growing adoption numbers.
The integration between web browsing, blockchain, and DeFi represents Web 3.0, a new kind of internet in which both financial services and information is decentralized. In other words, Ethereum is the tech platform for finance 2.0, and MetaMask is the gateway into this exciting ecosystem.
How to install MetaMask — a step-by-step guide
The first step to gaining access to Ethereum’s rich ecosystem of dApps is to download the MetaMask extension from the official website. You will see support for all three major operating systems — Windows, iOS, and Android. Correspondingly, depending on your platform, MetaMask can either be desktop or mobile.
Once you have installed MetaMask into your favorite browser, click on the “get started” prompt in order to “Create a Wallet.”
This is the critical part of the installation, in which you will create a private key to access your funds. After all, crypto wallets are not fund holders, just containers for private keys which grant access to blockchains. Then, each time you access them with private keys, your transaction is recorded on the digital ledger.
Seed phrase as your wallet restoration point
After clicking on the “Create a Wallet,” you will be asked to create a password for the MetaMask app itself. The most important part comes after when you are asked to create a backup phrase. Also called seed phrase, this 12-word safety guard allows you to recover your wallet even if your device is lost.
As you can see, you have two options — Import wallet and Create a Wallet. If you had already lost your device and all data on it, you would then recover your crypto assets by selecting the “Import wallet” with your seed phrase.
Accordingly, try to keep the 12-word seed phrase as a separate item, safely stored on a piece of paper or a hardware password manager.
You will see this screen on token swapping after you safely store your seed phrase.
As mentioned previously, MetaMask wallet allows you to exchange between ETH and dozens of DeFi tokens. You can see ETH as the master cryptocurrency for the whole DeFi ecosystem. Protocols like Uniswap or 1inch are mini-ecosystems, each one having a token for governance and network fees.
How to add funds to your MetaMask wallet
However, before you can start token swapping or anything else with MetaMask wallet, you have to have funds. This means that you must convert fiat currency to ETH first. MetaMask wallet gives you two options — Wyre payment processor or transfer using a blockchain address.
Not many people have Wyre, and most buy cryptocurrencies from exchanges, so the second option is the most convenient. Of course, this means that you would have to have an account on a crypto exchange to buy some ETH. Coinbase, Binance, StormGain are just some of the most popular crypto exchanges from which you can easily buy cryptocurrencies once you complete your KYC (Know-Your-Customer) procedure.
If you already have an account with some ETH, deposit it into MetaMask in the Send/Receive section. You will see the section when you click on Wallet:
- Copy the receive address of your MetaMask wallet
- Paste this receive address into your exchange’s send textbox
- Execute the transfer of ETH from your crypto exchange (send) to the MetaMask wallet (receive)
Keep in mind that your crypto exchange account is also a wallet, but you don’t own your private key. Therefore, such a wallet is custodial. In contrast, MetaMask is a non-custodial wallet, with which you own your private key. You can, at any time, access and export your private key if you click on “Account details.”
Keep your private key safe
You will then see the “Export Private Key” option, to both view it on Etherscan or export it. Of course, if someone gains access to your private key, they would also gain access to all of your crypto assets. This is what crypto exchange hacks are all about.
For the convenience of using an exchange, it safeguards your private key, but if hackers pilfer them, they also steal all the exchange’s funds. This is why you should always use a non-custodial wallet, preferably a hardware one.
Fortunately, MetaMask supports the most popular hardware wallets — Trezor and Ledger.
With the ETH funds in your wallet, the next step is using it to access dApps.
How to connect your MetaMask wallet to dApps
Remember, dApps themselves are smart contracts running on Ethereum (others like BSC, Cardano, or Solana have their own dApps). The surface level of dApps is their web interface. This is what you see when you connect to Uniswap — one of the most popular decentralized exchanges used for yield farming.
When you go to Uniswap, you will see “Connect to a wallet” in the top-right corner.
With MetaMask installed, a confirmation notification will appear asking to connect your account and the corresponding dApp.
Once you click on “Next,” the dApp will have access to your wallet’s funds. You can then use them for staking in a liquidity pool for token pairs. When traders use that pool to exchange tokens, you get a cut. This is called yield farming. In Uniswap, it will be the upper left option, just next to Swap.
To get the most advantage of yield farming and maximize your returns, it would be best to read this yield-farming guide first. In the same manner, as you connect to Uniswap, you will also be able to connect to NFT marketplaces and blockchain games, effectively all dApps running on Ethereum.
The matter is quite straightforward, even if it is your first time with MetaMask. After clicking the wallet icon in the top-right, you’ll see a list of wallets with direct download links. For example, this is how OpenSea, the top NFT marketplace, offers its web wallet connection.
Likewise, Rarible.com, the second-largest NFT marketplace, will have it in the same upper-right corner.
How else can you take advantage of MetaMask?
Lastly, if you want a more gamified dApp experience, Axie Infinity is a compelling choice. Since July, it has generated $485 million in revenue. Axie Infinity is a yield farming adventure where you evolve your fantasy creatures, complete quests, manage kingdoms, and trade NFTs.
If this pokemon-like venture interests you, we already have a comprehensive guide on Axie Infinity. Many people use the game as a source of passive income, so it is worth learning how it all works. Now that you can use MetaMask, you’ll have access to myriad opportunities of the growing Ethereum dApp ecosystem.