For the first few years after the arrival of Bitcoin there were only a handful of other nascent cryptocurrencies, mostly limited to digital payments and settlement.
Then came Ethereum, the first smart contracts platform in the space, and the potential of crypto opened up exponentially. Decentralized applications with all kinds of use cases could be built on top of the platform, with other similar projects to follow. But in order to interact with this Cambrian explosion of dApps, cryptocurrency browser extensions were needed.
In this article, we’ll explain what a crypto browser extension is, list some of the most popular browser extensions on different blockchains, and talk about where they might be headed in the future.
What is a crypto browser extension?
To put it simply, a crypto browser extension is software that runs on your web browser, (like Chrome or Brave) usually taking the form of a non-custodial cryptocurrency wallet; meaning that once you create a wallet, only you have access to it. Nobody else can access your funds!
Once you have created an account on the application and funded it with cryptocurrency, you can then use the crypto browser to interact with other dApps on that blockchain.
You might for example visit a decentralized exchange, connect your browser application to the DEX, and then make a trade. A small fee will be taken from your balance, and the tokens you have bought will appear in the wallet.
You might also use the same browser extension to stake funds into a liquidity pool and earn yield, buy an NFT from an NFT marketplace, lock that NFT into a DeFi application and then borrow funds against it, and so on and so on. The possibilities are endless, and browser extensions are a vital tool for unlocking the power of the crypto industry.
Top browser extensions from layer 1 blockchains
Layer 1 blockchains are the base layer of all crypto. They have teams of open-source developers that are helping to build the core infrastructure of the space, and they almost all offer some kind of crypto browser extension.
Metamask, developed by blockchain software company ConsenSys in 2016, is the original decentralized browser extension. It allows users to interact with the 3000+ dApps that are built on the Ethereum blockchain. These dApps include DeFi cornerstones like MakerDAO, Curve, and Aave. You can store any Ethereum-based, ERC-20-compatible asset in Metamask.
Phantom is the equivalent of Metamask on the Solana blockchain, and the crypto wallet extension saw a huge increase in users in 2021. Crypto users were drawn to Solana as it offers super high-speed and low cost transactions, making it the perfect chain for DeFi applications. No more worrying about expensive Ethereum gas fees! Solana also has a growing number of NFT marketplaces like Magic Eden.
A few other layer 1 blockchain platforms have captured a core group of users and they too offer their own browser wallet extensions. The Terra blockchain, famous for innovative dApps like Anchor protocol (one of the few DeFi projects to offer fixed interest rates) has Terra Station. Polkadot, a quickly growing platform known for its ability to connect to other blockchains and parachain auctions, offers Polkadot.js. And Stacks, which brings DeFi and NFTs to the Bitcoin blockchain, uses Hiro wallet.
Finally, the Brave Browser is an alternative to Safari and Chrome, which automatically blocks intrusive ads and stops web 2 companies from being able to track you across the internet. Brave is the first web 3 / blockchain company to build a secure crypto wallet right in the browser. You don’t even need to add it as an extension!
Future of crypto browser extensions is multi-chain
All of these tools are super useful for crypto users, but the best is yet to come.
At the moment, crypto enthusiasts who want to interact with these blockchains need to add or download multiple applications. Metamask has started to add support for layer 2 “scaling” blockchains like Polygon and Moonriver, but most L1 blockchains in the space are still separate and siloed.
In the future, crypto users will be able to access one single application that allows them to interact with any blockchain, without boundaries. Money will be put to work seamlessly without even registering the difference between platforms or recognizing national boundaries.
In-game NFT items will be usable in multiple play-to-earn worlds, and NFT avatars will wander unimpeded, able to leave one Metaverse to freely explore the next.
And, knowing how fast innovation is happening in the world of crypto, this single, seamless platform will become a reality in the very near future.
This content is for informational purposes only and is not investment advice. You should consult a qualified licensed advisor before engaging in any transaction.