Since their introduction in late 2017, decentralized applications (Dapps) have been synonymous with blockchain.
Because both have been defined by the use of open-source backed code operating on decentralized blockchain networks like Ethereum or EOS.
From just a handful of them in early 2018 to hundreds within a year, most were initially built as games using Ethereum smart contracts. Among the most well-known was CryptoKitties, an Ethereum Dapp that demonstrated how blockchain technology could be used to provide transparency and fairness in a game.
Featuring a new type of protocol called ERC-721, so-called “Non-Fungible Tokens” (NFT), unique characteristics of each CryptoKitty are able to be represented as their own individual NFT. Since then ERC-721 tokens have become the Ethereum blockchain’s standard for proof of ownership and verifiable scarcity for collectibles.
Today, Dapp development is active on many more blockchain platforms like Algorand, EOS, TRON. Each of them is utilizing varying levels of smart contract development to bring about even more use cases to add to established ones like gaming and collectibles. State of the Dapps lists thousands of Dapps across 15 different platforms in the sectors of finance, media, wallets, governance, security, identity, energy, and health, among many others.
Is decentralized better for applications?
Just as many IT technologies have an application layer that brings in users and, therefore, adoption, Dapps are increasingly seen as the application layer whose development and success will help determine if blockchain technology will achieve the mainstream adoption it craves.
For this to happen, the burden is on Dapp development to prove that the concepts of transparency and immutability enabled by blockchain are indeed useful as a replacement to traditional applications. These concepts have certainly proven to be true in the case of collectibles and gaming. The provably fair concept in gambling Dapps, for instance, uses blockchain-based hash techniques that allow players to verify for themselves the fairness of random outcomes. This is an important feature that traditional gambling applications are still unable to provide, relying on third-party verifiers instead to prove their software is fair.
The operation of Dapps is transparently and irrevocably recorded on a public ledger, with users typically allowed more control of the ownership of all their rights to data and assets.
However, Dapps are not as user-friendly as traditional apps yet. Because many require additional technical knowledge in order to use blockchain-based wallets and smart contracts, they involve additional barriers that the casual user may not be able to overcome. Another unfortunate outcome of the open nature of Dapps is the number of scam or fake Dapps that are available, waiting to snare unsuspecting users into executing malicious smart contracts that drain funds or hack into victims’ accounts.
Teething Problems, Bright Future
An objective view of the Dapp industry suggests that growth, beyond gaming and gambling, could take a while to happen. Several underlying issues need to be addressed first, scalability being the obvious one that most platforms are now addressing (Ethereum being in the midst of an infrastructure overhaul, for example).
Dapp providers and developers must also find a way to keep users safe from fake or malicious Dapps — much like the way Apple App Store or Google Play verifies applications before allowing them to be listed. Because Dapps are decentralized, the way to do this could be to have multiple independent sources that verify Dapps and to direct more resources towards awareness-building and education for users so that they can self-verify.
Blockchain infrastructure in 2021 has vastly improved since the initial stages of Dapp development, and there are already a host of great content and ideas that have helped propel Dapp popularity. The year 2020 belonged to decentralized finance (DeFi) and that was the perfect example of Dapp viability and success through proof of use.
Unlike regular applications, Dapps never shut down and don’t have downtimes (albeit with current scalability issues), are much less vulnerable to traditional means of cyberattacks, and are freely available to anyone without qualifying factors like location or income.
Once industries and users begin to see the benefits and advantages of Dapps compared to apps, and once developers produce more feature-rich Dapps that are as easy and friendly to use as traditional apps, it won’t be long before switching to Dapps becomes a logical choice.
At AIKON, we understand just how important the user experience is for wider blockchain adoption, including Dapp use. This is why a user-friendly experience is at the center of our ORE ID product, which lets our clients’ customers access Dapps easily on the web with a simple yet secure universal authentication and authorization platform. Users don’t need a password, just access from what they are already comfortable and familiar with: emails, socials, or phone.