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Developing for MetaMask

MetaMask enables your website to read from the blockchain and propose transactions to the current user. To enjoy these benefits, you have to first check if the user has an Ethereum-compatible browser like MetaMask.

Detecting MetaMask

Metamask/Mist currently inject their interface into page as global web3 object.

window.addEventListener('load', function() {

  // Checking if Web3 has been injected by the browser (Mist/MetaMask)
  if (typeof web3 !== 'undefined') {

    // Use the browser's ethereum provider
    var provider = web3.currentProvider

  } else {
    console.log('No web3? You should consider trying MetaMask!')


The provider object is a low-level object with just one supported method: provider.sendAsync(options, callback).

The options object has several useful fields: method (the method name), from (the sender address), params (an array of parameters to send to that method).

These methods all correspond directly to the options in the RPC provider spec.

To see if the injected provider is from MetaMask, you can check web3.currentProvider.isMetaMask.

Installing Web3.js

Because default web3 API is not very user friendly, most developers will import a convenience library like Web3.js or EthJS using the bundler of their choice.

The Web3.js library has a guide for importing with different bundlers.

Installing EthJS

EthJS can be installed via NPM with npm or yarn by running npm install.

Using a Convenience Library

Once you've detected an Ethereum browser, and imported a convenience library, you can initialize that library using the detected web3.currentProvider object. For web3 with browserify, this might look like this:

var Web3 = require('web3')
var localWeb3 = new Web3(web3.currentProvider)

Initializing an EthJS instance looks similar:

const Eth = require('ethjs');
const eth = new Eth(web3.currentProvider);

Deprecation of Global Web3.js

Originally (and maybe still), Ethereum browsers injected an instance of the Web3.js convenience library as a global window.web3 object. This created difficulties for many users, because this convenience library's API changed often and casually, and so it was not a stable API surface to build a web app on top of.

To avoid this confusion in the future, the Ethereum browser developers (Mist & MetaMask) agreed on a smaller API surface to inject it instead. This object, the Ethereum Provider, has always actually been the data source for web3, but formalizing it as the global API instead of web3 forces developers to choose the convenience library version they prefer, and allows their code to rely on that API without breaking.

On May 23, 2017, the Mist browser announced they would eventually be deprecating the global web3 object. MetaMask voiced their support for this deprecation, but the replacement API was not declared in that post. It even suggested that eventually web3.currentProvider would be deprecated, but to ensure backwards compatibility, MetaMask is going to continue to inject the ethereum provider as web3.currentProvider for the foreseeable future.

The safest move forward for developers at the moment is to use the web3.currentProvider object, and using it to initialize convenience libraries if desired.