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MetaMask has launched a new “Smart Transactions” feature to help users address the negative effects of front-running on the Ethereum network.

The feature allows users to submit transactions to a “virtual mempool” before they are finalized on-chain. This virtual mempool will protect against certain MEV strategies and run simulations to help users obtain lower transaction fees.

MEV (maximal extractable value) refers to the excess value that blockchain operators can extract by previewing or reordering transactions. MEVs have a significant impact on Ethereum’s operations, given how it can lead to higher prices for users, slower transaction speeds, and even failed transactions under specific network conditions.

Jason Linehan, director of Consensys’ Special Mechanisms Group, estimates that around $400 million is wasted annually on reverting transactions, stuck transactions, as well as predatory MEV practices.

“From a user experience perspective, the idea that you pay for a transaction that does nothing, that’s, like, nonsensical,” Linehan said in an exclusive interview which first appeared on CoinDesk.

MetaMask’s virtual mempool solution is similar to private mempools, which operate to ensure transaction privacy and protect against MEV. Consensys, the firm backing MetaMask’s development, claims that the new virtual mempool is different and necessary to address Ethereum’s substantial hidden costs.

A key difference here is how private mempool services often ignore fundamental values in the Ethereum ecosystem, such as exposing transactions with third-party risks to decentralization.

The Smart Transactions feature leverages builders and searchers, the same operators that power Ethereum’s public mempool, to run its virtual mempool. Unlike the public mempool, builders and searchers in the virtual mempool will face financial penalties if they fail to execute transactions at the prices quoted by MetaMask to users.

Linehan claims that 95% of Ethereum’s current builders and searchers have already opted into MetaMask’s virtual mempool program.

In addition to ensuring better prices for users, the Smart Transactions feature will also make it easier for users to track their transactions’ progress directly within MetaMask, eliminating the need to visit separate block explorers or tracking websites.

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