WHAT’S A DApp?
On the surface, decentralized applications or DApps (pronounced “Dee-Apps”) are similar to any web-based application. The major difference is that DApps run on a blockchain network.
To realize the full capabilities of decentralized applications, it’s crucial to understand how blockchain technology functions. Briefly, a blockchain is a transparent, unalterable and continuously updated record of transactions that are stored on numerous devices connected to the network. Every time a new exchange occurs, it must be verified by all participants before it is added to the blockchain. This creates what is known as a decentralized network.
In a decentralized network, no central authority is needed to facilitate the transfer of digital assets or information. In contrast, any app, from your banking app to Facebook, requires a central administrator to grant special access and act as custodian to everyone’s personal information. It means that the same services that are provided in a centralized manner can now be run on a decentralized blockchain network. These are known as decentralized applications or DApps.
The implications of the “decentralized” aspect of these applications are vast. DApps allow people the ability to anonymously exchange information or digital assets with each other in a trust-less way. Imagine the complex services and functions of apps like Uber or Spotify being decentralized. In this case, the driver and rider, or listener and musician can exchange with each other directly, rather than paying fees to intermediaries for facilitating the transaction.
The distributed network is what establishes trust between these parties and mandates the transaction so that both parties are protected. Thus, in broader terms, DApps provide a way to unlock the real potential of blockchain technology.
There are some very important features of DApps that make them revolutionary:
- All DApps are open source, meaning anyone can view and contribute to the underlying code. This allows DApps to adopt an ever-evolving characteristic, where common shortfalls or issues with the code can be fixed or changed accordingly.
- The decentralized aspect of DApps allows them to be used in a wide range of applications like monetizing the items in a video game or renting a house.
- Using a decentralized network also makes DApps very robust against hacking attempts.
It is important to note that the showcased features of DApps are primarily due to the underlying blockchain technology.
- The power of the blockchain creates an opportunity for users of DApps to exchange information securely. The distributed and immutable aspects of blockchain alone make DApps a possibility for securely exchanging information.
- Cryptographically masking personal information makes it possible to verify transactions in a secure way through network consensus. This allows for the complex exchange of personal information, since the sensitive content is encrypted as it gets verified over the network.
WEB Apps VS. DApps
Comparing DApps to traditional web-based applications that we use daily can help us understand the real potential of DApps. For web apps, a sign-up or registration is often required for special access to the services. Then a central administrator validates transactions and acts as custodian to every participant’s personal information. It is a real dilemma of web-based applications — the fact that all the data is being held at a single point, or in the case of giants like Google or Amazon, across a few servers. This single point of authorization can also be a single point of failure.
This is where the beauty of decentralized applications comes in. When it comes to DApps, from the user’s perspective, all aspects of the application look very similar to a web-based application. While even the functionality of the app will feel the same, the back-end network that supports the information exchange required for the app to function is very different. The back-end network, or distributed blockchain network as we have learned, allows all information to be transferred over a secure network that has no single point of failure, making it virtually unhackable.
There are many exciting examples of DApps that use the invaluable security features of blockchain technology. This includes games, such as EOS Knights, where items earned in the game can be traded for EOS on a marketplace. With the demand for and volume of in-game purchases breaking records each year, it’s no wonder that the secure exchange of valuable crypto can allow for a much more immersive experience. Items and digital assets earned in games can have direct real-world implications.
Besides recreational applications, this technology has been put towards a lot of different uses. For instance, applications, like Golem, have launched projects to allow sharing and purchasing of the pooled excess computing power of its users. DApps, like Augur, are also worth mentioning, as they use a decentralized network to produce forecasting results for different events. Tokens earned on such apps can then be taken to an exchange such as Radex to exchange for a more transferable currency, like Ethereum.
Ultimately, DApps are a way to unlock the potential behind the security and distributed nature of blockchain ledgers. By facilitating the transfer of information over a decentralized network, these applications cut out the middlemen. It is notably beneficial regarding user privacy, decreased transaction costs and overcoming legal obstacles. Not only can two parties settle on complex terms without the need of lawyers, but with the power of DApps, they can also send information without their data being collected by a conspicuous middleman like Facebook.