Mist Browser

What Was the Mist Browser?

The Mist browser was intended to be an integral part of the Ethereum network's dApps (decentralized applications) ecosystem. It was the first graphical user interface that enabled users to access the blockchain at a time when you could only access it via the command line. Its developers wanted to offer a one-stop-shop for running and executing various Ethereum applications and projects.

Unfortunately, the technical requirements of a fully decentralized dApp browser system were too far beyond what the technology allowed at the time. As a result, the Mist browser project was abandoned, and the software was taken out of circulation in March of 2019. Learn more about the Mist browser and what its developers set out to accomplish.

Key Takeaways

  • The Mist browser was a decentralized app on the Ethereum network from 2015 to 2019.
  • Mist was the first browser that allowed users to browse dApps, and it had an Ethereum wallet built in. It was also the first desktop crypto wallet with a graphical user interface (GUI).
  • Mist was deprecated in March 2019 after developers decided other browser developers and wallet makers were better able to create products for this quickly evolving space.

Understanding the Mist Browser

The Mist browser was an Ethereum interface intended to allow users to access the various dApps available on the Ethereum network. It was also known as the Ethereum dApp Browser. Ethereum is a popular blockchain optimized for smart contracts and other decentralized applications.

As a dApp browser, Mist was a standalone application with a graphical user interface (GUI) that allowed users to sync to the blockchain. It also provided an easy way for users to create their own dApps and deploy tokens and other smart contracts in a non-technical way. The Mist Ethereum wallet itself would run on a user’s computer, which meant it had to be downloaded, installed, and run locally.

The Mist browser was intended to allow users access to decentralized apps available on the Ethereum network, similar to the way Chrome, Firefox, or Internet Explorer enables users to access websites.

The browser was built on Alphabet's open-source Chromium platform, and some tasks you could perform with it included:

  • Generating user-selected smart contracts
  • Enabling users to pool tokens, replicating a trustless, decentralized crowdfunding solution
  • Sharing information with a select group of participants

The idea was to allow people to “do” things right from the browser by offering ready-made templates, build configurations and customizations, and perform necessary actions rather than acting as only an app or a web browser. Unfortunately, the Mist browser ran into several issues that ultimately led to its failure.

Reasons the Mist Browser Failed

Security

The Mist browser was based on Electron, an open-source project that aims to ease the creation of cross-platform applications using JavaScript. Electron, in turn, is based on the Chromium open-source browser developed by Google in 2009.

Because Mist was effectively two layers away from updates pushed to Chromium browsers, it was also farther away from fixes to Chromium vulnerabilities that needed crucial security patches. The layer between Mist and Chromium (i.e., Electron) was not updated frequently enough to keep up to date with Chromium, leading to an increased potential for attacks or data leakage over time.

Because Chromium is the framework for Chrome and a test bed for the official browser, it lacks an automatic update mechanism, which exacerbates security issues for users.

Alex Van de Sande, the lead developer on Mist browser, wrote in a blog post announcing the deactivation and deprecation of the browser:

We received notice of a few very serious bugs: ones that would allow an attacker to take control of your computer (and your crypto keys) by simply visiting an untrusted website...We released a fixed version immediately, but then other similar attacks were revealed and at some point, our own internal security team recommended that we not allow the user to navigate to untrusted websites—which is the whole point of a browser.

Synching Node

Another problem with the browser was the inherent difficulty of the fully decentralized dApp approach, which required users to run a full blockchain node to interact with the Ethereum network.

In its pure form, Mist needed to be constantly synced to the Ethereum blockchain. That operation required massive amounts of hard-disk space, a lot of processing power, and a high-speed connection to the Internet. Simply syncing a new installation to the current state of the network may take days, and keeping the node up-to-date required 24-hour Internet access and significantly strained users' hardware.

What Happened to Ethereum Mist?

The Mist browser was too resource intentive to be used in practice.

What Is a Mist Browser?

The Mist browser was an attempt to develop a graphical user interface for the Ethereum blockchain and virtual machine. It was sunsetted in 2019.

What Replaced the Mist Browser?

Mist browser was essentially a wallet, so it was replaced by many other wallets that allow you to access cryptocurrency, blockchains, dApps, and even trade on a cryptocurrency exchange.

Investing in cryptocurrencies and other Initial Coin Offerings (“ICOs”) is highly risky and speculative, and this article is not a recommendation by Investopedia or the writer to invest in cryptocurrencies or other ICOs. Since each individual's situation is unique, a qualified professional should always be consulted before making any financial decisions. Investopedia makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy or timeliness of the information contained herein.

Article Sources
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  1. Alex Van de Sande. "Sunsetting Mist."

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