Metamask — what is it?
We used to call Metamask a wallet, but is it really a wallet? Does it store our funds, or maybe it is a little misleading?
Is the language shaping us, or maybe we are the ones shaping the language?
Can language influence the way we think?
Can it change our perception of the world?
According to the theory of linguistic relativity — yes, it can.
We will get a little bit theoretical here, but I will get to the point soon, I promise.
Each of us lives our own life. Everyday routines, people we meet, things we experience, the music we listen to, the food we eat, the culture that surrounds us, or even the way our apartment is set up. Every little detail impacts our lives in some way. Everything we encounter or decide to avoid shapes us as humans.
Considering all of the above, if I would like you to tell me exactly, with every detail and association, what comes to your mind when you think of, e.g. snow? I bet your idea will differ from other people’s answers, maybe not a lot, but it will not be the same thoughts they had. Even a common thing such as a car will show us how differently we perceive and think about the world, looking through the lenses of individual experiences and knowledge.
The language is a tool we use to describe the world around us.
Over the course of centuries, languages have evolved and were shaped to suit the needs of societies. The tribes in the far North have multiple words describing snow, while the tribes living in tropical forests have none or close to none.
Necessity is the mother of invention, as the famous proverb says. The languages evolve according to the needs of societies using them. The example of snow can clearly show the need, or its lack, to come up with words to describe the world around us as accurately as possible.
An example as simple as that can be extrapolated to different niches, showing us how divergent the languages are.
If it is still hard to wrap your mind around it, let me give the example that will resonate with you. The English language is very straightforward in addressing other people as there are no obligatory honorifics involved. In contrast, Japanese is full of hierarchical honorifics you will have to use while addressing other people, even as simple as kun, san, dono, or sensei. Once again, societal needs and values are easily seen while dissecting languages and focusing on the differences between them.
While writing a story, we might even not know the gender of the main character if we decide to write the sentences in a certain way. Such a thing will be impossible in some languages as those have different flexion in e.g. verbs. What it means is you will use a different ending in a verb when the activity is performed by a man and a different one if it is done by a woman. To make things even more complicated, let us have different endings if those are plural. In fact, that’s also the case.
Pardon me for the lengthy introduction since I could not resist scratching a little bit of the linguistic surface I find fascinating. The way in which languages have been shaped and evolved over the course of centuries and how the same languages shape our societies today.
And now, let us dive into the main topic of this article — the wallet.
*Ohhh finally — they sigh*
The passage of time and the evolution of technology can be seen even in everyday objects like wallets. The leather rectangles we used to carry in our pockets became obsolete. While the ones who value the traditional approach to money are still carrying their wallets, the youth does not seem to be bothered to carry any wallets whatsoever. The only wallet young people seem to care about is their digital wallet since paying with phones and other gadgets became prevalent.
So what IS a wallet today?
What is its function?
If someone from the distant future asked us what was that thing we called a wallet, how would we answer?
A wallet might be described as an object people used to carry their paper money and coins in. It was also used to store credit cards, photos of kids, and other things like business cards or coupons.
But how did we end up with the word wallet? What is its story? To answer this question let us dive a little into the etymology of the word wallet itself.
late 14c., “bag, knapsack,” of uncertain origin, probably from an unrecorded Old North French *walet “roll, knapsack,” or similar Germanic word in Anglo-French or Old French, from Proto-Germanic *wall- “roll,” from PIE root *wel- (3) “to turn, revolve.” Meaning “flat case for carrying paper money” is first recorded in 1834, American English.
As we see, the meaning contains a use case — to carry paper money. Not much has changed since then, as we use it mostly to hold our fiat money. However, things are going to change dramatically in the years to come as we are approaching the era of CBDCs, digital money and a cashless society. The era of modern slavery, one might say.
Now the question arises… What happens to wallets once we become a cashless society?
Are we still going to carry wallets with us?
What about the domain of cryptocurrencies and their wallets?
We have multiple projects we refer to as wallets, for the lack of a better word, but are those really wallets?
For the sake of making the following example easier to digest, we will stick to the Metamask wallet since it is the most prominent one in the whole crypto world.
One can say, Metamask is a wallet because we store our funds, like Ether, inside. Well… not exactly. Those founds of yours are not in your Metamask wallet per se. Those funds are on the Ethereum blockchain.
So what is Metamask doing? What is it?
In short, Metamask is the application which allows you to store your private keys leading to the part of the Ethereum blockchain where your funds are. It is as if we went to a bank, and the clerk gave us a note with the amount of funds we have at our disposal and a set of words (seed phrase) being our private key to access those funds.
Can you call such a note a wallet then?
We might have reached the time when we are using something like Metamask but still haven’t come up with a proper name for it.
The Use Case
Let us dive into the most common use cases of the Metamask to see what it really is.
- The Storage
- The Authentication
- The Identity
The most common usage of the Metamask is the storage utility. In other words, we are using it to store our funds in it, or as you already know, to store keys to access our funds. There is not much to be said here as the purpose is obvious and similar to the old-fashioned leather wallet.
The additional use case of Metamask is authentication. What does it mean? It means you can access certain sites or engage in different activities like DAO voting, with the use of a crypto wallet, by signing a transaction, providing you are eligible to cast a vote or access certain pages. The closest analogy from the real world will be using Metamask as an ID card, proving our identity with all the privileges and entitlements in the digital world.
The last use case of Metamask is manifesting your identity and personality. Along with the NFT hype in the recent bull run, we came closer to the Metaverse, where having a digital identity will be as important as having one in the real world.
Let us imagine having a backpack with lots of pins and badges or seeing a car with lots of stickers varying from the purely artistic ones to those manifesting our beliefs, interests and even events we have been to. On the basis of such pins and stickers only, we can tell a lot about people by looking at the manifestation of their identities and personalities to the outside world. Having seen someone wearing a T-shirt with a Sharingan print, I might offer such a person a cup of coffee. However, upon seeing someone wearing a hoodie with the “I ❤ king Joffrey” text on it, with a certain probability, I would prefer to not have anything in common with that individual.
With the idea of Soulbound tokens swiftly approaching the crypto space, we will see the advent of digital identities being more and more personalized, creating the foundations for the upcoming evolution and shift towards the world of Metaverse and Augmented Reality.
The Final Thoughts
After discussing all the ways in which we can use Metamask, we can see the following analogies.
- The Storage — The Wallet
- The Authentication — The ID card
- The Identity — The Sticker
The question remains open as to whether we should call Metamask a wallet or maybe come up with something new. Do not get me wrong. I do not mind referring to various crypto wallets as wallets. I just find it somewhat misleading to the newcomers since they see Metamask as a storage, similar to the old-fashioned wallet we used to carry.
In the future world where the Internet we know today will merge with blockchain technology and Augmented Reality, creating the Metaverse, individual avatars will be a must-have. Having a personal inventory of various badges, stickers, items, and membership cards will be as obvious as having a personalized social media profile today.
Till next time,