Blockchain is now – more rapidly than ever – ascending to the throne that rules our technology today. We can already see several ways in which the Blockchain is set to replace the internet from the peripheral systems, to the more deeply rooted frameworks that control how we interact with the internet, such as B-CDNs: a switch up on the framework that governs how content on the web is delivered to us from across the globe, seamlessly (Read More).
Mobile Apps, since Apple released it’s first 500 apps on the Apple Play Store in 2008, have taken the world by storm. Everyday, people are using all sort of apps to manage different aspects of their lives, and use it several times a day. It is simply the norm right now, with over 2.7 billion smartphone users around the world a projection of over 258 billion app downloads expected in 2022. The blockchain – specifically that offered by Ethereum – is now working it’s way into mainstream development to (maybe) replace all our apps, as we currently know them to be, with a newer, blockchain-ier revamp: This is the rise of the DApps. Will DApps replace our apps?
What is a DApp?
DApp stands for Decentralised-Application. Given that this concept is still relatively new (with Ethereum boasting only around 2,600 DApps off its blockchain at the moment), DApps haven’t been defined clearly – however they do have two main characteristics at the moment. DApps are (ideally) open-source and as they operate on the blockchain, they do not have a single point of failure (i.e they’re decentralised). Essentially, there’s no middle man in between to manage anything – it could be like sending an email/message directly to a friend and not through WhatsApp or Gmail.
Features of DApps
- Security – Unlike apps that operate by connecting to a central point in the network through an API and thus have a central point of failure, DApps are decentralised and operate over the the blockchain, with data distributed across the blocks of the blockchain – making it much less vulnerable, more secured and impractical to hack into.
- Accountability and Permanence – Apps are subject to having the data being altered and misused by central organisations, and we’ve seen a lot of that recently. Given the immutability of the blocks on the blockchain, it is impossible to alter data. Blocks on the blockchain cannot be altered, a block can only be appended onto the blockchain. This provides a sense of accountability and transparency, as well as ensures a permanent record of all transactions that occurred to ensure that data is much more trusted. This, however, removes the ability for users to have control over their chat history and what messages stay on, especially the private ones.
- DApps cost money to use – Given that way blockchains operate, DApps have a small transaction fee that is charged each time the DApp executes across the nodes around the world. This fee is for the miners (and soon validators on Serenity) that are working to verify the block and append it to the network.
- DApps can store value (Ether) – DApps have the ability to store actually value in them in the form of Ether (the cryptocurrency of the Ethereum blockchain). This can lead to new models of working with mobile finance, for example – a system that rewards the 1000th user that downloaded the app with some reward money.
- DApps are slow – Currently, the Ethereum network can handle about 15 transactions per second. This means that for DApps that expect to have many users interacting all at once, there are going to be some seriously noticeable limitations in the performance. However, with the promise of improved performance and scalability of Ethereum 2.0, this issue may soon be a thing of the past.
Given the aforementioned, it is obvious that the features that DApps espouse are especially useful in certain scenarios that would benefit from the blockchain, such as the maintenance of one’s health records. Most DApps are currently operating as hybrids of centralised and decentralised systems. As released in a whitepaper by ethereum, there are currently 3 types of use cases for DApps right now:
- DApps that involve some sort of money management system
- DApps where money and some other data/information is involved (e.g Insurance)
- and then the more ambitious “Other” Category. This includes DAO’s (Decentralised Autonomous Organisations) and can be used for cases such as voting systems, or games. The guiding question to DAO’s could be understood as “if bitcoin and remove the need for financial institutions, can it be done with organisations and companies?”
The potential of DApps is limited by both the blockchain that it is created on and the ability of the developer to derive a model for using DApps in the given situation. As of now, it seems that both the Ethereum blockchain and the mainstream understanding of this new model would require much more progress before we can see it rise up to meet the popularity of Mobile Apps.