If We Want A Decentralized Internet, We Need Mainstream dApps
Most consumers have yet to hear of a “dApp” — but that could change soon.
The internet is currently going through a period of change. We’re seeing what could be the beginning of a major shift from centralized to decentralized — one that could massively transform the way we live our online lives.
At the forefront of this change is the growth of blockchain and cryptocurrencies, which have sparked a new way of doing things that doesn’t rely on all-powerful third parties and restrictive central points.
One of the key features of this new internet age are dApps, or decentralized applications. These are built using blockchain and smart contracts; they operate without any central point and offer improved transparency, less, censorship, easier payment, enhanced security, and much more.
dApps could well form the backbone of this new decentralized model and be a big driving force for progress. It’s exciting, for sure, and we’re seeing a lot of investment and buzzaround these new technologies. But it’s still a young movement, with a long way to go.
Right now, the dApp industry still pales in comparison to traditional apps, the kind we download and use every day on our phones and tablets. But these two markets could both benefit from joining forces.
Can this be done? First, let’s take a look at why dApp uptake isn’t quite there yet.
Why aren’t dApps mainstream yet?
Firstly, it’s important to note that dApps have actually been doing very well in recent times. There are now well over 1000 out there, and this number is on the rise.
Of course, the older and more established centralized app market is much bigger and more valuable, which is only to be expected. dApps are held back in this area mainly by a lack of understanding and education.
Decentralized technology can appear confusing and overly technical, so ordinary people who don’t understand crypto all that well can be put off.
One of the ways to promote the uptake of dApps could be through projects like MetaMask. Their software allows users to run dApps in browsers like Chrome, without running a full Ethereum node. It makes the technology more accessible, and encourages more mainstream use.
But there’s still more that can be done. Right now there’s no real central hub or community for dApps — no way for users to share features from different apps and dApps and easily access a wide range of services from one location.
Also, users currently have to purchase separate crypto tokens for each dApp, which results in the need to maintain an often messy and cluttered crypto portfolio just to use some basic services.
The result is that for most people it isn’t worth the effort, and the dApp industry is failing to connect with users who could really benefit from it.
The app industry is in a similar situation, though. In this case, users are put off by the need to manage multiple subscriptions and memberships which can be costly, annoying, and restrictive.
Even if you only use one of an app’s features regularly, you’ll often be required to sign up for the whole thing and pay a monthly fee. Most apps actually go unused on a regular basis, but users still have to pay for that once-in-a-while use.
Both centralized and decentralized apps could benefit from a cohesive hub where users have easy access to separate, individual features and can mix, match, and try new software from different developers all in one place.
dApps in particular could benefit from a more user-friendly community, where experimentation and sampling of new software is encouraged and rewarded. This could generate a lot of new engagement and promote wider user of dApps.
The good news is, such a place could be on the horizon.
A hub for apps and dApps
This kind of community hub is what Cardstack is building. Their goal is to create a place where users can access all kinds of apps and dApps at the same time.
Users will be able to combine features from different software, ensuring they get access to areas useful and relevant to them without being tied into a bunch of unwieldy subscriptions or paying for a bunch of services they never use.
It’s built around the CARD token — which users pay for features with, and which is used to pay developers fairly when their work is accessed.
Importantly, it’ll be a place for people to trial different dApps, gain a better understanding of the software and its benefits, and make blockchain and decentralization more popular and widely used.
A more decentralized internet could benefit almost everyone and might well be the next logical step in the web’s evolution. Bringing decentralized software within reach of the mainstream public and promoting its use has never been more important.