MetaMask, a non-custodial crypto wallet, grew 1,800% in terms of monthly active users this past year, with 20% of its 10 million user base coming from the Philippines.
The surge in Filipino users is buoyed by the popularity of NFT (non-fungible token)-based online video game Axie Infinity, which allows players to earn cryptocurrency.
A cryptocurrency (or “crypto”) is a digital currency that can be used to buy goods and services. Cryptos, which include Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Binance Coin, use an online ledger to secure online transactions.
Crypto users can either keep their cryptos on a crypto exchange (similar to keeping one’s stocks with a stock broker), or in crypto wallets (see sidebar).
“Users who hold funds in MetaMask can do much more than hold those funds as an investment. They can use those funds to interact with countless numbers of decentralized protocols and smart contracts,” said Jacob Cantele, MetaMask’s lead of operations, in an e-mail to BusinessWorld.
“They also have custody over their funds. Self-custody is an important step towards freedom, security, and censorship-resistance,” he added.
MetaMask is both a mobile app and a browser extension that functions as a crypto wallet for the Ethereum blockchain as well as any Ethereum-compatible network like Polygon, Arbitrum, and Optimism.
The company’s growth — from 545,080 monthly active users in July 2020 to 10,354,279 in August 2021 — has tracked closely with that of Ethereum, which supports a decentralized finance (DeFi) ecosystem with over $80 billion in assets under management.
MetaMask is run by ConsenSys, a global Ethereum software company, and was founded in 2015 with the aim of making Ethereum usable through web applications.
The “meta” part of the company name, Mr. Cantele shared, refers to how the wallet allows people to access the decentralized web and control their data and funds. The “mask” part, meanwhile, refers to how the wallet allows users to control which sites can control which accounts, making access to the decentralized web safer.
In the Philippines, the popularity of the crypto wallet is due to the rise of play-to-earn games like Axie Infinity.
Per a B-Side episode in July, the play-to-earn movement helps meet the demands of an unemployed or underemployed player base. Players collect rewards in the form of NFTs within a game, and convert these to real cash.
MetaMask, however, isn’t confined to a single game or a single use case.
“It lets players access thousands of games, to collect art, to engage in commerce, and so much more,” said Mr. Cantele. “MetaMask allows gamers to carry their accounts and NFTs across thousands of applications and sites. A gamer can earn an NFT in one game, and then carry that NFT over to another video game or sell it on an online marketplace.”
SIDEBAR | Custodial wallets versus non-custodial wallets
Custodial wallets are crypto wallets in which the private keys are held by a third-party custodian. Operating like digital banks, these custodians have full control over user funds, with users only able to give permission to send or receive payments. Examples include Coinbase, Voyager, and KuCoin.