MetaMask’s Blockchain Mobile App Opens Doors For Next-Level Web

Photographer: Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg

While the Ethereum blockchain has exploded into a $53 billion market, its promise of allowing greater user privacy and control on the World Wide Web has been slower to materialize. That could begin to change this week as a mobile version of the MetaMask wallet is made public through the app stores owned by Apple Inc. and Google.

MetaMask, founded in 2016, has so far been a browser extension that allows people to connect their cryptocurrency wallets to websites that require access to the Ethereum network. Its new mobile version will allow users to limit the information and payment methods they share with websites. For example, rather than providing a checking account number every time, a user could create different Ethereum accounts to use at various sites to cut down on tracking, said Dan Finlay, a MetaMask lead developer.

“It feels like a natural and critical step in the road to making these tools available to people around the world,” Finlay, a former engineer at Apple, said in an interview.

MetaMask and other wallet hybrids like Status are hoping to help usher in an era of what’s known as Web 3, where internet-based services are decentralized and give users more control over data collection and privacy than the current web, known as Web 2. In the current model, user data such as login frequency, location and searches is tracked across hundreds of sites, collected and sold without consent, said Jacob Cantele, head of product at MetaMask.

Next Web

Web 2 developed this way because there isn’t a money layer embedded in its underlying structure, such as a way to make micro-payments, Cantele said. That meant user data became the valuable item that is bought and sold. MetaMask users will be able to control what types of data they leave behind, he said.