What are Dapps? The Future of Decentralized Awesomeness
“Everything that can be decentralized, will be decentralized.”
You may be wondering, ‘What’s a dapp? Is that some kind of typo or something?’ No, we haven’t misspelled the word ‘app’. And yes, you’ve read that right. Dapps, or decentralized applications, introduce a new wave of innovation that is sweeping the world at the moment. And rumor has it, they are going to turn into a powerhouse in the future.
Blockchain dapps are an entirely novel breed of open source applications that are not controlled by anyone, are shut down proof and can’t have downtime. Does this sound surreal? Here’s a quick crash course on what dapps are, how it all started, and why so many believe they are the future.
On the hook
Back in the day when the internet had just been invented, people were hopeful about the promise of freedom and goodwill that went with it. To our deepest disappointment, the web has soon been hijacked by tech giants and social media platforms. It turns out that we don’t fully own and control the information we share. The Googles and Facebooks of the world have grabbed hold of our data and started using it for their own benefit. Nothing is private anymore, and users are the ones left with the consequences, should a disaster strike.
A rising tide of concern has pushed innovators to seek solutions that will make our life less dependent on cloud titans.
Is there life without Google?
Blockchain enthusiasts often talk about “decentralization”. The concept sprang out as a counteraction against global centralized systems that store user data on the server operated by a single organization. We love using Gmail and Instagram, but all these centralized applications are not without their issues:
- lack of transparency
- a single point of failure
- proneness to hacks
- zero resistance to censorship.
Decentralization means ultra-private, free and not controlled by any central power. Unlike their centralized counterparts, decentralized applications give control back into the hands of users. People themselves take ownership of their data and decide how they want it to be used. Blockchain dapps are free from intermediaries and fees. And while there’s no authority to regulate operations, it’s a well-run system with an added layer of transparency and security.
A new beginning
We snatched a sneak peek into the decentralized future in the form of Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency that made the world wiser to the possibilities of blockchain. Bitcoin laid the first stone in the much-needed paradigm shift of how people stored their money and exchanged assets. Its shared ledger, peer-to-peer nature and cryptographically stored records provided the building blocks to the next step in the blockchain evolution – the creation of an entirely different type of software.
After blockchain’s debut as the backbone of Bitcoin, it wasn’t long before a new model for building autonomous, self-governing applications was born. The meteoric rise of the Ethereum platform opened up the opportunity for coders to develop their own blockchain-based software. Hundreds of Ethereum dapps have been launched since then, now counting almost 2,000.
What’s a Dapp
While there might not be a single definition of what dapps are, we’ll give you the juice of the concept. To qualify as a decentralized application, a piece of software must be all of these things:
A Dapp must operate autonomously, without any authority controlling it. Its source code is visible to the public and freely shared among the developers so that anyone can contribute. All participants can keep track of the happenings on the network and have a say in decision-making. So, changes are decided through the consensus, or the majority of the Dapp stakeholders.
All data and records should be stored on a decentralized public blockchain, protected by cryptography. This ensures that there is no central failure point, because the backend code runs on a distributed network of multiple computers.
Decentralized applications need to be fueled by crypto tokens rewarded to miners for their contribution to the network. The incentive-based system encourages users to participate to ensure the continuity of the chain. Tokens are also essential for accessing the application.
Blockchain dapps use consensus mechanisms to regulate interactions between their users. Proof-of-Work and Proof-of-Stake are the two common algorithms for establishing consensus. With POW, changes are made based on how much a miner contributes to the dapp’s operation. POS, on the other hand, is used to make decisions based on the percentage of ownership a stakeholder has over the platform.
Exploring the underexplored
Now that we are done with the technical side of things, we’ll look at the BENEFITS you get with decentralized applications. While dapps are on everyone’s lips, most people may still wonder why build a blockchain dapp, if it doesn’t look and feel any different from a traditional app. Let’s unpack!
Say goodbye to third parties
Because dapps connect buyers and sellers directly, they establish a way to remove middlemen, cut costs and save time along the way.
Become censorship free
Since there’s no single entity owning and controlling a public network, decentralized applications are fully trusted, transparent and immune to censorship. This means no one can ban you, remove your comments or benefit by selling your data in a Facebookish kind of way. No government authorities can block or shut a dapp down, as it doesn’t lie on any central server. Transactions on blockchains are public and so easily verifiable. You can always access a record and check its status. Transparency and resistance to manipulations are key to building confidence and trust among the participants.
Don’t lose your sleep over security
Instead of relying on one central node (read ‘point of failure’), users of blockchain dapps can enjoy their sleep with a more distributed approach. The dapp’s network is spread across multiple independent devices, making it a whole lot harder for malicious actors to take the dapp down. If one point fails, it doesn’t affect other computers, and the system is immediately stabilized by them. The odds of hacking all of the nodes on the blockchain are practically close to zero. Too much of a burden to go through.
Get more uptime
As the blockchain grows in size, it becomes even more secure and responsive. This is in stark contrast to traditional systems, where a single central server suffers from poor speed and performance, as the network becomes larger.
With every new participant, a peer-to-peer network gets stronger, faster and safer. Multiple data copies residing on many different computers ensure speedy information transfer, protect users from data losses, and prevent the dapp downtime. If your project is one of those that can’t afford to be down, decentralized applications might be just the thing you’re looking for.
Immune your network from outages
Dapps are fault tolerant to all kinds of physical malfunctions, because they aren’t powered from a single data center that accumulates information. This ensures the system works seamlessly without downtime and protects users from server crashes and power outages.
A Glimpse into Awesome Tomorrow
So, what will the world running on blockchain dapps look like? The truth is our minds can’t fully envision the beauty and power of decentralization. Not yet. What we do know now is that dapps can make you some decent money or help you save up while you are playing a game of golf, hanging out with friends or unwind on your couch.
Imagine your car racing across the city, picking up commuters, taking tourists places and charging money for the ride. And it’s all without you on board. You’re chilling, remember? Meanwhile, your computer is ‘selling’ its spare processing power and has someone pay you for it. A simple dapp on your smartphone manages your old house sale. The moment someone hits ‘buy’ on the dapp, you receive 100% of your asking price, without any hassle or middlemen fees. You’re still chilling.
With blockchain dapps, you no longer use services of expensive mobile providers. You purchase connectivity from your peers instead – at a fraction of the cost of monopolistic mobile network operators. Did we mention you can make dinner from the comfort of your office? While still at work, you enter the instructions and the dapp connecting with your kitchen devices will do the rest of the job. You come home and voila! Dinner’s ready!
Now hold on, you know what they say: if something seems too good to be true, it probably is! Decentralized applications may be the future that is just around the corner, however, today numbers speak a different language.
Let numbers do the talking
Here’s a little bit of reality check. The ICO frenzy in the past couple of years resulted in at least 2,000 dapps on the market today. However, none of them has been able to make it big so far, or rather only a few got some exposure, but most of them faded into the unknown.
Blockchain dapps are now witnessing a massive traffic decline after boom. According to Dapp Radar, even the top dapps, including CryptoKitties, have only hundreds of daily users. That’s nothing compared to centralized apps like Facebook with its 1.52 billion active users.
So, what’s holding dapps back? Any new concept takes time to make its way to the mainstream. Some people and businesses are simply unaware of the tangible benefits of blockchain. Others are already experimenting with the tech, but to use it themselves still seems too much of a leap of faith. And who would blame them? Meanwhile, many industry leaders, such as Microsoft and Oracle, are rushing to secure a spot in the blockchain space.
To dapp or not to dapp
We are now watching the trailer to an awesome movie called ‘The Decentralized Future’. As more blockchain dapps and use cases emerge, a greater picture will unfold of how transparent and fair our world could become. For decentralized applications to gain the adoption they deserve, one of them will have to become a breakout success. Could it be yours? Who knows.