MetaMask’s mobile browser is a glimpse into Ethereum’s future

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Ethereum wallet MetaMask released a private beta version of its upcoming mobile browser yesterday, giving developers a chance to provide feedback. The mobile browser will let users access the Ethereum blockchain, store funds and use decentralized applications, or dapps.

This is a mobile version of the desktop MetaMask wallet, which similarly allows users to interact with the Ethereum blockchain. Currently the desktop version has more than 1.3 million users and recorded 1 million transactions in April 2019 alone. But critics of the browser–and Ethereum–often point to slow transactions and high expense-especially when doing large numbers of transactions. While not unique to MetaMask, it has lead to lower dapp usage across the network, prompting Ethereum developers to begin a 5-10 year path towards creating a more scalable network. But MetaMask thinks it has a solution.

As pointed out by product researcher Eric Conner on Twitter, MetaMask’s mobile browser will use Connext Network’s Dai Card to offer a service called InstaPay—for fast and free transactions.

Connext Network is what’s called second layer infrastructure, and is designed to make Ethereum more scalable without changing the underlying code of the network. It uses state channels to make faster and cheaper transactions, similar to how Lightning works for the Bitcoin network. (Spankchain is another example of state channels working in practice).

InstaPay will run using the Connext Network’s payment channels. The payments will be instant—especially compared to the 14 seconds it takes for transactions on Ethereum to complete—and will be free. The money will be held in DAI, a stablecoin pegged to the U.S. dollar but backed by reserves of ether. In the same way that MetaMask works, users will have control over their private keys, therefore having control over their own money.

Transfers can be made to other DAI addresses, including anyone who is also using MetaMask’s mobile browser, or the DAI card (what the standalone service is called). At the moment, the DAI card and IntsaPay only allow a maximum holding of $30 and maximum payment value of $10–these will be raised once it comes out of testing mode. But there’s a slight snag.

Connext Network is a non-custodial wallet, which means you control the keys to your own funds, but it is not yet decentralized. While Connext is operating the only public node, making it difficult for the company to make fake transactions, it can censor them.

While it’s not perfect, it does provide a glimpse of how Ethereum might work in the near future: The main blockchain serves as a secure layer for large transactions while smaller payments, handled by companies like InstaPay, will sit on layer two. This would reduce the load on an already struggling main blockchain, while opening the door to decentralized finance, or DeFi, applications. That is, if anything makes it out of beta mode.


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