In the current state of Ethereum, there are many complicated issues. The technical challenges faced are vast and numerous, yet the community’s ability to troubleshoot and act decisively in the face of all these challenges is a testament to their resolve. For those just entering this space, it may seem daunting trying to play catch-up with all the tech advancements. Developers are building decentralized applications called Dapps, which offer the promise of a decentralized future with limitless potential. ICO's are the new crowdfunding venture in the crypto-verse and are pushing the boundaries of securitization, by raising millions of dollars in minutes.
For the everyday person, as they enter this tech amusement park, it's easy to get lost in a sea of technical jargon and mind dizzying crypto-vernacular. It’s easy to lose focus of the smaller, moving pieces that are crucial for widespread Ethereum adoption.
In reality, the vast majority of everyday internet users are people who have never heard of the blockchain and who might confuse Ethereum with the 2013 Sci-Fi movie featuring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster, "Elysium did you say?” Which is why the tools designed for accessing and utilizing the Ethereum blockchain in a painless and seamless manner are the ones that are the most exciting to those outside of the niche Ethereum industry.
MetaMask, a Google Chrome plugin "that allows you to run Ethereum Dapps right in your browser without running a full Ethereum node," is one of the user-friendly tools that’s bridging the gap between Ethereum users and the everyday internet users.
Dan Finlay, lead developer for MetaMask, explained:
"With MetaMask you have control of your account in your browser. You are not asking for permission from a server whose whereabouts are unknown to authenticate you. You can visit websites that are Ethereum enabled, and you'll be able to interact with the blockchain through that website's user interface. It gives you a self-sovereign identity and decentralized power."
In other words, MetaMask turns your Google Chrome browser into an Ethereum access point. It acts like a key that unlocks Ethereum websites and allows access to the Ethereum blockchain, all through a download of a Chrome extension.
Finlay also pointed out:
"Once you flip this identity paradigm in the browser and give the user control of their identity, you can build websites that don't need to manage their user accounts and instead can focus on just implementing the logic required to render the page. All the business logic can live on the blockchain as trustless, immutable and auditable."
Web sites are currently not auditable. You can't crack them open to see what's inside. The internet, today, requires blind trust in remote servers. Cookies are collected and used against the user by advertisers and publishers who wish to extract every piece of data they can to pilfer dollars from a user’s wallet at a later date (retargeting). Like it or not, this is the internet of today. Despite this, developers in the decentralized space are working hard to build the internet of tomorrow–a decentralized, Ethereum-based internet revolving around transparency.
Finlay mirrors this by saying:
"In a decentralized web things are out in the open. If it’s unencrypted then it’s there for everyone to see. If it's encrypted, then you know exactly who it’s encrypted for. This is a turn for the web that I think has a lot of potential. MetaMask enables that kind of web in a normal browser, so it's not a Dapp in itself, but it allows user interfaces for Dapps to be possible."
It's important to note that MetaMask is still in beta mode until a security expert audits their browser. But the implications of MetaMask signals a clear path in the right direction for building a more open, decentralized web. An auditable web experience coupled with sovereign identity management tools, all backed by a trustless and immutable blockchain is precisely the kind of internet landscape Ethereum is striving to create.
While the Ethereum Foundation is busy laying down the building blocks for the future of the internet, otherwise known as Web 3.0, products like MetaMask are what will ultimately bridge the gap to mainstream adoption and make Ethereum more palatable to the everyday internet user. Tools that provide ways to manage the complexity of this new technology and turn it into something simpler and easier to access are ultimately what’s going to be the catalyst for widespread Ethereum use.