WTF is MetaMask!?

Hmmm… At decentralized exchange sounds kind of cool, I mean.. Bitcoin is so popular because it’s decentralized..

Is it easy to sign up though.. ? *clicks*

“Connect an Ethereum wallet to get started.” *clicks*

“Download MetaMask” – idk what meta mask is.. that sounds complicated.. maybe some day

WTF is MetaMask anyways? It’s usually the top option when using any decentralized application, so you’re bound to come across it while venturing through Web 3.0.

To convince you to keep reading, here’s a spoiler: It’s easier to use than a Facebook account.

How to set up MetaMask

The one caveat to setting up MetaMask is that you can’t be using the Edge or Safari web browser. The best MetaMask compatible alternatives are Brave, Chrome, Opera and Firefox. After you have the browser, the steps are pretty univesal.

  1. Search “MetaMask download “your browser” (or click links to browsers above, they link to MetaMask extensions)
  2. Download the MetaMask plug-in from your browsers’ website
  3. Authorize your browser to install MetaMask
  4. MetaMask will pop up and ask you to create a password
  5. Next, you will write down the 12 word phrase that it gives you
  6. You’re done. Excellent skill.

The password will allow you to access your wallet from where you installed it, and the 12 word phrase allows you to access it from any other computer or program. Losing this phrase would mean that you will never be able to recover your funds or virtual identity if the device is compromised.

Crypto storage feature

MetaMask plays two important roles in the Web 3.0 environment. Since it’s called a “wallet,” the most obvious use is that it can store your crypto. This wallet is more niche than others because it can only store ERC-20 compatible crypto, which means no Bitcoin.

The niche MetaMask fulfills is being very accessible to decentralized applications (dApps) built on the Ethereum network. Most widely used decentralized applications run are built on Ethereum because it is the most popular blockchain network that supports smart contracts. Smart contracts allow developers to build applications.

Right now, the most popular dApps with tangible use cases involve decentralized finance (DeFi). DeFi includes trading, lending, borrowing, and generally, managing assets in a decentralized manner. The DeFi ecosystem doesn’t involve much Bitcoin because of incompatibility. There are ways to “wrap” Bitcoin, essentially making an ERC-20 token with the value of Bitcoin, but most big dApps don’t use it.

So, MetaMask focuses on storing the things that dApps do use, which is all related to Ethereum.

MetaMask Identification

The ability for MetaMask to act as identification is way more cool and interesting than its storage capacity. Simply put, it replaces the traditional experience of signing in when using a dApp.

One dApp in particular, peepeth, acts as a decentralized twitter built on Ethereum. Instead of signing up with a username and password, you can use your MetaMask signature. If Web 3.0 grows in the future, this will in theory replace the signing in process and make your online accounts as secure as your crypto wallet.

A downside is that in order for you to sign in on new devices, you will need the 12 word keyphrase to recover your wallet. So if you signed into peepeth on your friends phone, they could snatch it out of your hands and have full access to your crypto wallet. This could be solved by having separate key phrases for identity and storage, or by opting for a traditional username/password sign in.

Summary

MetaMask is a wallet with traditional storage features that can also prove your identity to the Ethereum network. It has many of capabilities within the Ethereum network, but essentailly none outside of it.

In order for MetaMask to stick around, Ethereum’s plans to be able to scale and stay secure with a proof-of-stake update need to come to fruition. If this update is successful, it will be less costly and more time effective to build and transact in Ethereum. This will theoretically bring more developers and users onto the network, where Web 3.0 will be built.

This wallet is the leading solution to interact with Ethereum, but it Ethereum’s future is not certain. Projects like Telegram’s TON, TRON, Elrond and many others are all aiming to be the blockchain network that people will build the future of the web on. In the meantime, those who do want to explore Ethereum are in good hands with MetaMask.

WTF is Web 3.0!?

WTF! How are we at Web 3.0 already!? I didn’t even know there was a 2nd web..

This concept is thankfully much easier to understand than zk-SNARKs and decentralized stable-coins. Web 3.0, just like Web 2.0 and Web 1.0 are things that everyone on the internet associates with every day.

In order to understand what Web 3.0 is, you should first know that a website being decentralized means that nobody has full control over it. Another helpful and interesting tool for a full understanding is to know what Web 1.0 and 2.0 are.

Web 1.0

Web 1.0 brands

The internet originally consisted of pages of text linking to other pages of text. Multimedia content existed in the early stages of the web, but it could only be provided by whoever created the site.

What Web 1.0 did well was opening the floodgates of information to anyone who could access the internet. Reportedly, CERN was the first website to ever be created and the original page full of hyperlinks still exists today. CERN called the page the “World Wide Web project” and it had hyperlinks to all kinds of information related to the growing web.

You might think that Wikipedia is a living example of Web 1.0, as it is comprised of text and links that lead to more information. The reason that this isn’t the case is because users can contribute to Wikipedia pages. This also puts in perspective how difficult it was to create a valuable information database in the Web 1.0 era. All information on a site had to be written by only those who have access to the code, and one company can’t really compete with a world full of contributors when it comes to general information.

TLDR: one centralized party creates and controls a page that anyone can access to read. Use cases were solely to gather and distribute content.

Web 2.0

Web 2.0 brands

 

Many new standards are required to fit the Web 2.0 category. Ironically, Wikipedia has a good summary for those characteristics:

“Web 2.0 refers to websites that emphasize user-generated content, ease of use, participatory culture and interoperability for end users.”

User generated content is the biggest highlight of the Web 2.0 era because it meant that information wasn’t controlled by those capable of running websites. This added a somewhat democratic aspect to what people saw on their screens.

This version of the web is expressed with the ability to upload on YouTube, create a blog on Tumblr and share everything you can think of on Twitter. A slight distinction here is that a forum might be considered Web 1.0 because users aren’t creating a part of the web that is under their control. A blog or Twitter page is a URL people go to for a specific users’ content.

The second version of the web brought the ability for casual users to rent their owns space on the internet. What makes people yearn for more is that their content and data is subject to the changing opinions of the platforms they post on. People want ownership and this is where Web 3.0 comes in.

Web 3.0

Web 3.0 Brands

Right now, in order for a web page to be considered Web 3.0, it needs to not be controlled by anyone.

Surprisingly, this idea didn’t begin with the blockchain movement. In 2001, inventor of the web, Tim Berners-Lee, wrote an article called The Semantic web.

“A new form of Web content that is meaningful to computers will unleash a revolution of new possibilities”

His idea was that web pages and software would be able to communicate without engineers telling them to. It seemed he was a bit ahead of his time though, progress slowed down by 2006 and the vision never came to fruition.

Enter blockchain technology. Concepts that allow Bitcoin to exist without a company can be applied to web pages. Some blockchain networks are complex enough to have code written within them and create a tangible ecosystem. A person builds a protocol that exists by utilizing participating computers rather than a central server.

Examples of Web 3.0 sites

DLive TV is a streaming site running on a blockchain network. It has a very familiar feeling to Twitch but all data is stored on nodes running the blockchain. There is a currency on this website, just like on Twitch, except they have the capability to grow in value and be exchanged for USD like any cryptocurrency. DLive isn’t truly decentralized though as there are authority figures who are trusted to maintain rules.

Steemit is basically the decentralized Reddit. Like DLive, Seemit also has a currency that can be exchanged on sites like Binance. Reddit only allows authors to be gifted exclusive benefits on the site from viewers, but on DLive, people can exchange straight up cash. Even commenters can be paid through the same method. Once again, all data on the site is handled by miners and people running nodes.

Peepeth is Twitter built on the Ethereum network. This one is a bit harder to access as users first need an Ethereum compatible wallet to create and sign into your account. Like other Web 3 platforms, you are able to donate money to authors, but this time any ERC 20 compatible coin. ERC 20 is any coin that has been built on-top of the Ethereum network or was made to be compatible. There aren’t really rules to this site, but anything posted will be public and permanent on the Ethereum blockchain forever, which is supposed to encourage positive contribution.

How Web 3.0 can be more private

When Mark Zuckerberg was questioned by Congress, much of the time was spent asking about what he does with users data. This is because the primary money maker for social media sites right now is running ads. In order to make ads more profitable, companies need to know who to present their products to which means they need your data.

Creating economic opportunities besides running ads goes is where blockchain networks excel. In order for blockchain creators to make money, they “tokenize” the value of their product. Developers do this by creating a Bitcoin-like asset that has functions within the site. They each take a portion of those tokens before the product is launched and then as the platform becomes used, tokens increase in value. The concept of tokenization creates incentives for developers to upgrade the website and it also keeps them away from your data.

How can it give users more control?

Other frustrations users have with centralized websites is that they have little control over rules & changes. Lets say, in the future, a blockchain version of Facebook is created and the code is publicly available. As people start using the platform and realize there are rules or features that they really don’t like, someone may copy, paste the code but edit the parts that are being complained about. In the blockchain world, this would be considered a “fork.”

If the fork was in demand, users would easily be able to adopt an entirely familiar platform with a few minor details changed. Then, developers of the original platform would either be pressured to give into the mass or be left behind. Right now, there are so many copyrights involved in the code of a website that it’s impossible to make something identical but better.

When will Web 3.0 come to fruition? 

People are fleshing out ideas which is a necessary part of the process, but Tim fleshed out ideas for years. The most widely adopted use cases for a decentralized web right now lies in finance.

The reason why decentralization has become popular recently is because of blockchain technology. Early Bitcoin investors liked the trust-less nature of moving Bitcoin but they still had to buy it with fiat in a centralized manner. When Ethereum came along, it became alot easier to exchange crypto for other crypto in a decentralized manner. First the Decentralized Exchange was created, then lending and borrowing platforms, and iterations of all of the above.

Blockchain technology still has a ways to go before Web 3.0 platforms hit the masses, but this time, applications are coming from existing tech rather than being chase after.