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I want to host a site to interact with Web3 clients (MetaMask, etc.). I want my site to be able to send transactions, etc. to the clients through the Web3 API for educational purposes.

I don't care if the transactions don't go through, but does my site actually need to have a local blockchain instance running to allow me to produce transactions for people using MetaMask?

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MetaMask connects to ethereum nodes automatically, without the user having to host one.

Also, if the user has MetaMask installed, your application will have the web3 object injected automatically in the page and it will be able to use it out of the box.

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Infura is the default Ethereum provider for MetaMask. MetaMask currently injects Web3 version 0.20.3.

From Truffle documentation:

Infura is a hosted Ethereum node cluster that lets your users run your application without requiring them to set up their own Ethereum node or wallet. You may not be familiar with Infura by name, but if you've used MetaMask then you've used Infura, as it is the Ethereum provider that powers MetaMask.

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