What is MetaMask? An explainer. Image source: Getty

What Is MetaMask And How Does This Crypto Wallet Work?

4 min read

This article is for general information purposes only and isn’t intended to be financial product advice. You should always obtain your own independent advice before making any financial decisions. The Chainsaw and its contributors aren’t liable for any decisions based on this content.



Picture this: it’s summer 2021. COVID-19 forced the world into a lockdown. So, what came out of collective boredom was a strange little thing called NFTs.

For those who have dabbled into NFTs, the name MetaMask has surely come around at some point. MetaMask remains one of the most popular brands in the NFT space. So what exactly is MetaMask? And what’s all the buzz about?

In this explainer, we’ll dive into what MetaMask is, how it works, and why users like the wallet.

What is MetaMask?

MetaMask is a crypto wallet that lets users store or access crypto, NFTs, a variety of other Web3 and DeFi products, and decentralised applications (“DApps”). It was created in September 2016 by Dan Finlay and Aaron Davis and is currently owned by blockchain technology company ConsenSys Software Inc.

MetaMask is a non-custodial wallet. This means that there is no central organisation looking after a user’s wallet, and the user themself is fully responsible for managing their wallet. As a crypto wallet MetaMask supports a variety of blockchain networks including Ethereum, Polygon, Arbitrum and Optimism.

In August 2021 MetaMask surpassed 10 million daily active users (DAUs). In September 2021, around the height of the Web3 boom, MetaMask surpassed 20 million DAUs. 

Fast forward two years. MetaMask was recently named the most popular crypto wallet by crypto price tracker CoinGecko. According to CoinGecko’s report, MetaMask has reached a total of 22.66 million instals as of August 1, 2023.

Ranking behind MetaMask is crypto exchange Coinbase’s crypto wallet with 11 million downloads.

Popular 2023 Crypto wallets  to understand what is metamask
Number of installations and users of hot wallets. Source

How does MetaMask work?

MetaMask is available as both a mobile app and a browser extension. To use it on either platform, users have to install it via iOS, Google Play or Google Chrome’s Web Store.

Think of MetaMask as a digital version of your physical wallet: you’re able to load up your MetaMask wallet with different cryptocurrencies. To do so, you can either transfer fiat currency from your bank account, or transfer crypto from your existing crypto exchange account.

You’re also able to convert between different crypto – think of it as converting USD to AUD in real life. Users are also able to store NFTs on MetaMask and are able to view them at any time.

How to download MetaMask

MetaMask is available on both the iOS and Android App Store for free. Of course, if you load your wallet with crypto, that money will have to come from your own pocket.

As with any smartphone app, head over to the iOS or Android App Store, search for the app’s name — in this case, MetaMask — and hit download.

The digital crypto wallet is also available on your desktop as a browser extension. The browser extension works for Chrome, Firefox, Brave, Edge, and Opera. Simply head to the wallet’s official website, scroll down until you see a blue “Install MetaMask for [browser name]” button. Click on it to start downloading the extension.


How to set up MetaMask

Once you’ve downloaded the crypto wallet on your phone or browser, you can start creating an account. Here, we’ll teach you how to set up an account with the app. First, tap on the app on your phone. Tap on “Create Account”, and proceed following the instructions.

Self-custody crypto wallet alternatives

If you don’t like the crypto wallet, here are a few other alternatives to the crypto wallet.

1. Coinbase Wallet

Coincase wallet  to understand what is metamask
Coinbase crypto wallet. Source

Developed by crypto exchange Coinbase, Coinbase Wallet is a self-custody crypto wallet that launched in March 2023.

Coinbase says that as a self-custody wallet, the exchange doesn’t store a user’s password. Instead, the private keys are “stored directly on your mobile device”.

2. Trust Wallet

Crypto wallets  to understand what is metamask
Trust Wallet. Source

Trust Wallet is a self-custody crypto wallet that specialises in storing tokens powered by the Ethereum blockchain, including tokens built on ERC-20 and ERC-721 protocols. 

Trust Wallet is also compatible with other crypto including Solana, Cardano and Polygon. As of 2023, Trust Wallet says it has over 60 million users worldwide.

3. Phantom Wallet

Phantom wallet to understand what is metamask
Phantom Wallet. Source

Phantom Wallet was developed in 2021 by software engineers Brandon Millman, Francesco Agosti and Chris Kalani. Like other crypto wallets in the list, Phantom is a self-custody wallet, but it focuses on the Solana blockchain network.