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DApps Guide: Understanding Decentralized Applications

DApp evangelists say that the technology behind distributed applications will turn the internet upside down. Critics, on the other hand, point to the fact that most of the DApps on the market today have confusing interfaces and tiny user bases.

According to DApp Radar, only around 10,000 people a day use DApps. That number pales in comparison to Facebook, which boasts 1.47 billion daily active users. Nevertheless, futurists like The Next Web contributor Matt Ward believe that blockchain-powered DApps could pose a threat to Facebook and other internet giants over the long haul.

Read on to find out how DApps work and why some believe that they might represent the future of the internet.

What Are DApps?

DApps (distributed applications) are internet applications that are not controlled by any single company. Rather than depending on a small number of powerful servers, DApps run on large distributed networks. The decentralized nature of DApps provides a number of advantages over ordinary centralized applications.

Today’s most recognizable internet platforms (Google, Uber, etc.) are centralized. They are owned by private companies. These companies can be infiltrated by hackers or shutdown by governments. Another downside of centralized platforms is that they can arbitrarily decide to increase the price of their services or implement unfair policies if their leaders decide that it’s profitable or advantageous to do so.

In contrast, DApps run on large distributed computer networks made up of many different nodes. Since no single entity owns a DApp, any revenue generated by the DApp gets distributed amongst the networks’ users, nodes and stakeholders. Any changes to the way the DApp works have to go through a democratic approval process. In addition, Dapps are more stable because there is no single point of failure. This means that they are less vulnerable to hacks and censorship.

DApp Implementations

DApps have an extremely wide range of use cases. In fact, the official Ethereum Github states that “any good, service, governance or economic activity can be decentralized, tokenized with and transacted via Ethereum.”

Because almost all cryptocurrency platforms take advantage of the power of distributed networks, any activity that has anything to do with the exchange of money can be decentralized.

Moreover, anything related to governance frameworks (in other words, the delineation of management roles and resource distribution within an organization) can also be decentralized through the implementation of smart contracts. Smart contracts are computer protocols that facilitate the performance of credible transactions without the need for oversight.

Even though the concepts behind DApp technology can seem like something out of a science fiction novel, many interesting new projects are taking advantage of the benefits of decentralization.  

Notable DApps

DApps have a wide range of applications, from science and energy to governance to video games. Here’s a quick look at some interesting DApp projects.

E-commerce marketplaces

These brand new decentralized online marketplaces are attempting to improve on what Amazon, eBay and other similar sites already do by offering reduced fees and less censorship and control.

CanYa

The developers of CanYa aim to create a service-oriented, e-commerce ecosystem. DApps that are in development now include a new version of UpWork called CANServices, an Ebay-style auction site called CANBid, a lodgings finder called CANStay and a jobs site for babysitters called CANSit. A number of apps are already accessible on the CanYa website.

“CanYa is an open ecosystem of decentralised applications for the peer-to-peer services marketplace. By using blockchain technologies, CanYa has very low fees, global access, and cross-border payments that will disrupt the $2tn global gig-economy.”

OpenBazaar

OpenBazaar advertises itself as a completely fee-free e-commerce site that relies on bitcoin as a medium of exchange. Ratings and a multi-signature escrow system help prevent fraud, but there is no central authority for removing repeat scammers from the platform. Be sure to exercise due diligence if you decide to try it out.

“OpenBazaar costs nothing to download and use. Unlike sites like Ebay or Amazon there are no fees to list items, and no fees when an item is sold. Because the trade is p2p (peer to peer), it’s happening directly between buyers and sellers with no middleman to take a cut from each sale. It’s completely free e-commerce.”

Soma

Soma is an interesting work-in-progress decentralized e-commerce platform that will use blockchain technology to track an item’s history. This feature could be an especially handy tool for collectors, since it will provide a way for them to determine whether or not an item is authentic. This excerpt from the Soma website explains how that works:

“Every transaction that happens inside the SOMA™ platform will transfer ownership not only of the physical item but also of its Interactive Item Card (IIC). The IIC is a digital representation of the physical item. It includes ownership history, the condition of the physical item, the genuineness of the item, price history, and other critical data.”

Games

A growing number of game developers are harnessing the power of DApp technology. Here’s a quick look at some of the most popular DApp games.

CryptoKitties

Source: CoinIQ

CryptoKitties is a blockchain-based game that involves the purchase, collection, breeding and trading of cryptographically unique virtual cats. The game made headlines shortly after its 2017 debut, when the prices of the rarest cats began to skyrocket. Extremely rare cats now trade for over $80,000 worth of cryptocurrency.

The game’s creators are now developing new ways for CryptoKitties users to use their cats. To encourage more game developers to integrate CryptoKitties into their games, they’ve released an open-sourced platform they call The KittyVerse.

Related: The Complete Guide to CryptoKitties – Everything You Need to Know

Etheremon

Etheremon is similar to CryptoKitties in that gameplay revolves around the collection and breeding of cute collectibles. The main difference is that Etheremon also has a battle mode. Winners of in-game fights earn digital money in the form of EMONT tokens.

Various game modes allow Etheremon players to earn EMONT in a variety of different ways. There’s a king-of-the-hill style mode called Castle Mode, a beginner-friendly battle mode called Gym Mode and a new story-based version of the game called Adventure Mode.

Related: The Complete Guide to Etheremon – Gameplay, Stats and Strategies

Decentraland

Decentraland is a work-in-progress virtual world that aims to become a VR version of Google. Visitors will eventually be able to discover virtual reality content by taking a stroll through Decentraland’s themed districts. Even though Decentraland isn’t accessible yet, cryptocurrency investors are already buying land in Decentraland. They hope that the VR platform will become incredibly popular and that the price of their virtual properties will skyrocket. This excerpt from the Decentraland website explains the concept of LAND:

“The finite, traversable, 3D virtual space within Decentraland is called LAND, a non-fungible digital asset maintained in an Ethereum smart contract. Land is divided into parcels that are identified by cartesian coordinates (x,y). These parcels are permanently owned by members of the community and are purchased using MANA, Decentraland’s cryptocurrency token.

Related: The Beginner’s Guide to Decentraland – How to buy LAND and MANA

Gods Unchained

Digital card game Gods Unchained is similar to games like Hearthstone and Magic: the Gathering Online, only it harnesses the power of blockchain technology to track card ownership on the Ethereum blockchain. During an auction, a extremely rare Gods Unchained card recently sold for 146.279 ether, or roughly $42,000 USD at today’s exchange rate.

“Your cards are your property. Trade them, sell them, hoard them: we’re not here to tell you what to do (other than have fun). Stored on the Ethereum blockchain, our immutable smart contracts guarantee the scarcity of every creature, spell and weapon in the Gods Unchained universe.”

Related: Gods Unchained Pre-Sale Guide – Buying, Flipping, and Profiting from Cards

Governance

The creators of these DApps aim to harness the power of blockchain with the goal of improving the way that legal, governmental and corporate entities operate.

Aragon

Aragon is an internet-based, decentralized system for setting up and running organizations. The Aragon Core DApp lets companies raise funds without going through the traditional financial system, collect votes on key issues, add new employees to the payroll and record all financial transactions on a tamper-proof blockchain.

“Organizations like companies exist to create value for their owners and users. They use the resources available to them in order to provide services and to create products. Their ability to do this efficiently is hindered by factors outside of their influence. By removing unnecessary intermediaries and third parties that impose artificial restrictions and unnecessarily complex regulations, we can modernize the way organizations are run.”

Wings DAO

The creators of the Wings DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization) are attempting to solve the issues plaguing ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings) through the use of applied blockchain solutions. If Wings DAO proves to be a success, it could help legitimize ICO fundraising and thus lower the public’s dependence on the traditional banking system.

This excerpt from the Wings DAO white paper gives a high level view of how it shines a spotlight on the ICOs with the most potential:

“WINGS combines several concepts, ranging from attention rewards, forecasting markets, smart contracts, governance models and federated funds security. The platform places an emphasis on encouraging the WINGS community to identify and promote high-value proposals that have higher chances of positive financial returns.”

Notar.io

As its name suggests, Notar.io is a decentralized notary service that uses blockchain technology to protect intellectual property. Once you upload a document to the Notar.io site, it timestamps the file and saves a “digital fingerprint” of it on the Ethereum blockchain. If you create a work of art, draw up a will or agree to a contract, you can use Notar.io to prove that your document is legitimate.

“In the past, if you wanted to prove that you had a certain document at a certain point in time, you might take it to a notary public who would, for a fee, be witness to that fact. And the fees were (and are!) significant. Today, the blockchain can do that for you without involving a notary public or solicitor and for a much smaller fee.”

Science and energy

These DApps help raise money for science, energy and environment protection projects.

Golem

Golem is a decentralized supercomputer that lowers the price of computations by drawing on its vast peer-to-peer network of connected nodes. It makes CGI rendering, DNA research, complex data analysis and other tasks that involve heavy number crunching more affordable and available. The Golem white paper sheds more light on how it works:

“Golem is the first truly decentralized supercomputer, creating a global market for computing power. Combined with flexible tools to aid developers in securely distributing and monetizing their software, Golem altogether changes the way compute tasks are organized and executed.”

Start Solar

Solar energy is clean compared to traditional energy resources. The problem is that not everyone lives in a climate that supports the efficient harvesting of solar energy. In addition, solar panels are expensive. The creators of Start Solar aim to solve these problems by providing a way for crypto investors to buy solar panel shares.

“Within minutes you can buy shares of solar panels on our solar farms and start earning passive income from generated electricity. By buying Start.Solar solar panel shares you contribute to accelerating the transition to clean energy sources and help fight climate change.”

Green Ether Project

The Green Ether Project lets anyone fund the planting of a tree. The organization behind the project plants a new tree for each 0.01 ETH they receive. They also print the hash associated with your purchase right on the tree. You can track your tree’s growth through the Green Ether Project website.

“It is evident that the level of energy consumed by crypto mining has sky rocketed to the level of power usage of Denmark by the end of 2017. Currently the majority of power sources are based on fossil energy and that makes us , the crypto users responsible for a great deal of carbon footprint. We teamed up to address this issue by letting you plant a tree just for a ETH 0.01.”

Crypto Exchanges and Finance Platforms

The collapse of first-generation crypto exchange Mt. Gox following a high profile hack demonstrated one of the main weakness of centralized crypto exchanges: security. Decentralized exchanges are more hack resistant because they don’t have a single point of failure. Here’s a quick look at the most notable decentralized crypto exchanges.

Bisq

Formerly known as Bitsquare, the newly rebranded Bisq crypto exchange supports over 70 different cryptocurrencies. Another benefit of this exchange is that it supports a huge number of government-issued fiat currencies. What’s more, Bisq doesn’t require any sort of identification verification whatsoever.

The main disadvantage of Bisq is its low liquidity. The complicated and unpredictable algorithm that Bisq relies on for extracting commission fees makes it somewhat unreliable compared to the competition.

Related: Bisq Review: Secure and Private Peer-to-Peer Trading

BitShares DEX

BitShares DEX is an advanced crypto exchange that supports magin-based short sales, prediction market betting and other technical features. However, its interface is somewhat slow and you have to sign up with third-party services to make deposits.

Related: BitShares Review: Sluggish UI Mars Innovative Exchange

ETHLend

ETHLend is a decentralized, peer-to-peer loan marketplace that lets you use your crypto assets as collateral. Security is ensured through the use of Ethereum smart contracts. Zero fee lending is available to ETHLend users who use the platform’s in-house LEND token as the medium of exchange.

IDEX

IDEX markets itself as “the most advanced Ethereum DEX.” It supports features like limit and market orders, gas-free cancels, and fast order fulfilment. IDEX differs from other decentralized exchanges because it processes smart contracts in a more efficient way. This excerpt from the IDEX site provides some relevant details:

“Unlike other decentralized exchanges, the IDEX smart contract is designed such that only the exchange is authorized to submit signed trades to Ethereum. This enables IDEX to control the order in which transactions are processed, separating the act of trading from final settlement.

ForkDelta

ForkDelta’s main selling point is that it has more ERC20 listings than any other exchange. ForkDelta’s seemingly endless token selector drop-down menu backs up that claim with hundreds of different tokens to choose from. The founding members of the ForkDelta decided to break away from EtherDelta and start their own exchange after EtherDelta’s new owners “introduced questionable development decisions.”

“ForkDelta prides itself on being an open, fair community with developers who are easily accessed and an open source codebase. At ForkDelta, we believe in direct and open streams of communication with the community. We pride ourselves on our availability in our Discord channel and through comments on GitHub pull requests and issues.”

Bancor Network

The Bancor Network aims to solve the problem of low liquidity in crypto markets through the use of a new type of Smart Token. The Bancor Network white paper provides some details about how these Smart Tokens work:

“Smart Tokens are the heart of the Bancor Protocol. They operate as regular tokens, in compliance with the ERC20 token standard used on the Ethereum blockchain, but include additional logic that allows users to always buy and sell them directly through their own smart contracts at prices that programmatically adjust to reflect supply and demand. Effectively, Smart Tokens come with a built-in liquidity mechanism that ensures they are continuously convertible for other tokens.”

News and social media

The goal of these DApp projects is to change the way we consume news and communicate with our friends and family online.

Steemit

Steemit– a new blockchain-powered social media site– operates on a “share the wealth” ethic. All revenues generated by the platform are distributed to its users. Steemit users can earn digital currency by creating and interacting with Steemit content. However, critics of Steemit say that its biggest spenders have too much power because they can use their influence to get low-quality content featured on the home page.

Related: Steemit Review – Make Money Writing about Crypto and Blockchain

Decentralized News Network

This work-in-progress decentralized news app’s goal is to use the blockchain to promote censorship-resistant, accurate and verifiable news. The DNN white paper explains that the platform’s lack of dependence on advertisers will allow it to be more objective than traditional news platforms.

“DNN removes the need for advertisers because the platform will not source revenue from display ads. DNN will run as a network, fueled by the DNN token. Each action, which includes the writing and reviewing of an article, will be made possible by these tokens and linked to the Ethereum network.”

Akasha

Akasha is a decentralized publishing platform that takes its cue from Medium. This excerpt from the Akasha website explains how publishers can earn crypto rewards for producing high quality content:

“You can publish, share and vote for entries, similar to Medium and other modern publishing platforms, with the difference that your content is actually published over a decentralized network rather than on our servers. Moreover, the votes are bundled with micro transactions so if your content is good you’ll generate value – in a way, mining with your mind.

Sapien

Sapien is similar to Facebook, only it’s decentralized and has privacy features like public/private browsing and encrypted chat. Other features include the ability to create and share posts, add friends and comment on their content.

Useful DApps Resources

Here’s where to go to learn more about DApps.

State of the Apps

This website is a curated list of more than 1,900 DApps. The DApps are sorted by category, and there’s also a statistics tab that can help you identify the most popular DApps on the market.

The Official Ethereum Github

The official Ethereum Github contains this in-depth overview of DApp projects that are currently in development. Though it is somewhat technical, it’s a good place to go to find information about the most groundbreaking DApp projects.

DApp Radar

DApp Radar is similar to State of the Apps. It contains detailed charts, useful categories and information about the most popular DApps on the market today.

Alex Munkachy

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