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What are Dapps (Decentralized Applications)?

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Decentralized applications (Dapps) continue to change the world around us in remarkable ways. These new-age programs provide users with more functionality and security than ever. Additionally, these applications feature a robust design that is meant to leverage the decentralized nature of blockchain technology. As such, these programs run on a blockchain or P2P network of computers instead of a single computer.

Dapps are Decentralized

When you think of a traditional software program like MSWord, it’s important to understand that the protocol resides on a single computer system. Even if you are using the online version, the actual software is operated by a central organization, in this case, Microsoft. Consequently, Microsoft has full control over the application and its use.

This control provides the group with full authority over the app. Importantly, centralized apps, such as Facebook, require this style of structuring to function correctly. The organization plays a pivotal role in these software systems. If it was attacked, damaged, or removed for any reason, the system would fail to operate.

This is why Dapps are decentralized.

Dapp Characteristics

While Dapps can come in all shapes and sizes, they all share some common factors. Firstly, all Dapps are decentralized. Decentralization implies that all the application’s operations must be stored on a public blockchain. Next, Dapps incentivize users to participate in their network. In most instances, these incentives include payment via some form of cryptocurrency. It’s very common for the application to create a native utility token to facilitate this process.

Dapps Create New Business Opportunities

Dapps Create New Business Opportunities

Paramountly, Dapps utilize some form of a consensus mechanism to ensure the validity of the network. In a consensus mechanism, the network’s participants act as validators. They are also known as nodes or miners because they receive a reward for their efforts, like mining for gold. Nodes are who validates new transactions. Additionally, one of the nodes eventually is who gets to add the next “block” to the “chain” of transactions.  Ideally, a Dapp will also feature an open-source protocol.

Dapps and P2P Networks

All Dapps run on either a P2P network or a blockchain network. A P2P network is a network that allows users to exchange data and services directly.  In the case of websites, you can think of streaming websites such as Popcorn Time. When users enter the Popcorn Time P2P Tor network they receive access to a variety of other users who are offering downloads. The user then chooses which user to download the data from and a direct connection is established between the two parties.

Blockchain P2P

In a blockchain network, there is no central point of control. There is no company that ensures the blockchain is running correctly. Instead, every computer on the network works together to secure the network.  In most instances, the software is open source. Open-source software is generally more secure because it allows the community o test its capabilities. In this way, blockchain technology creates a truly decentralized experience for participants.

Dapps vs. Regular Apps

To put the power of Dapps in perspective, let’s imagine that you just placed a post for your new political book on Facebook. However, when you go back to check on the stats for your post just a few hours later, you realize the post was removed because your book’s content violated Facebook’s new terms of service.

In its centralized network, Facebook is the entity in control of the network. In other words, they are the king of the content provided. If they deem that what you have to say doesn’t fit into their narrative, they have every right to kick you out of the platform. The same way you could ask someone to leave your home if you disapproved of their conduct.

Dapps function much differently. If Facebook is like your home, think of Dapps as a public park. There is no central governing authority to tell you that your post must go. In fact, due to the immutable nature of blockchain technology, your post about your book will never come down.

Dapps Current Applications

The first Dapp to enter the market with success was Bitcoin. As such, Bitcoin is a self-sustaining public ledger. It is immutable and decentralized. Even more important, is the fact that Bitcoin entered the market as a direct response to the centralization experienced within the traditional financial sector.

Ethereum Changed the Game

If Bitcoin lit the Dapp candle, Ethereum poured gas on it. Ethereum’s whitepaper states that this cryptocurrency is a “protocol for building decentralized applications.” Every aspect of Ethereum’s network focuses on reducing development time, improving security, and ensuring scalability.

Ethereum Whitepaper

Ethereum Whitepaper

Ethereum changed the Dapp game forever. This unique platform introduced a new programming language specifically to simplify Dapp programming. Additionally, Ethereum developers can utilize the Turing-complete Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) to create smart contracts in minutes.

Brave New Browser

Today Ethereum Dapps dominate the market. Applications such as the Brave New Browser utilize ERC-20 compliant tokens to accomplish some amazing things. In the case of the next-generation browser Brave, users receive BAT tokens for their participation. Brave users actually receive payment for their data. Additionally, they gain far more control over their information. Users can decide who, when, and what to share. In this way, the Dapp Brave is revolutionizing what it means to surf the net.

STORJ

In another perfect example of the added capabilities that Dapps bring to the market, the platform STORJ allows users to rent out their unused computer space. The application helps users and those seeking more storage meet up and exchange services. In the end, one party receives computer storage capabilities at a fraction of the normal market costs, while the other party earns cryptocurrency for providing the space.

Summary – Dapps Potential

The future potential for Dapps is undeniable. Every week, new and exciting projects emerge in the market. As such, you should expect to continue to see these protocols integrated into every business sector over the coming years.

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David Hamilton is a full-time journalist and a long-time bitcoinist. He specializes in writing articles on the blockchain. His articles have been published in multiple bitcoin publications including Bitcoinlightning.com

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