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Does a tool like metamask, which connects your browser to a public ethereum node to simplify running DApps, put the basic idea of decentralization and trustless blockchain verification in danger?

Is a decentralized app running through metamask still to be considered decentalized?

How is the ethereum node chosen, which hosts the nodes and how can a user trust it?

2 Answers 2

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With tools like Metamask and other "lightwallet"-based infrastructure (wallets-in-the-browser), you are simply trusting that the browser environment keeps the keys safe.

In terms of writing information:
The centralized component in this architecture is that the remote RPC node that Metamask points to, accepts the raw signed transactions to inject into the network. Afaik, Metamask will also you to choose your own local RPC node if you don't trust the remote one. Just to clarify, the remote node won't be involved in any signing activity, it simply propagates an already signed transaction. So, the centralization concerns are very small in this regard.

In terms of reading information:
One has to trust the remote node won't send back false information about the state of the network. However, as mentioned above. If you feel that is an issue you will be able to replace it with your own node as well (to read from).

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The proper answer is yes.

ConsenSys is a commercial US based company, their core business is developing software services and applications for the Ehterium Network.

Metamask is created and owned by ConsenSys.

By default Metamask connects via the Infura NPC

Infura is hosted and owned by ConsenSys.

Metamask does not allow you to change the RPC address for the built in Etherium Mainnet connection.

While you can certainly add a different RPC Node by adding a network, but for the majority of users, that might be too tech savvy, I would say most people use the defaults and connect via Infura.

So let's say the US government wants to block certain countries from making financial transactions. They can issue orders to do so to banks and centralized exchanges. Many however believed this could not be done in a decentralized Web3 world.

However if you follow the headlines, turns out that it was possible, and this is because of all the above, Infura needed to comply to such an order.

Knowing all this and connecting the dots it is my oppinion that there is more centralization going on then most people in the space are realizing, and this recent news has been an eye opener for some.

Not to fud that metamask, infura or consensys, but no single company should be able to control who can or cannot use the network. If they can there is an element of centralization there. If decentralization is a core value for you, make sure that you use a wallet and an RPC node that is not controlled by a registered company. There are options, I won't recommend any, because if different people find different solutions, that diversification contributes to the decentralization of it all.

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