State of the DApps: 5 Observations From Usage Data (April 2018)

Naval Ravikant recently shared this thought:

“The dirty secrets of blockchains: they don’t scale (yet), aren’t really decentralized, distribute wealth poorly, lack killer apps, and run on a controlled Internet.”
https://twitter.com/naval/status/983016288195829770

In this post, I want to dive into his fourth observation that blockchains “lack killer apps” and understand just how far away we are to real applications (not tokens, not store of value, etc.) being built on top of blockchains.

Thanks to Dappradar, I was able to analyze the top decentralized applications (DApps) built on top of Ethereum, the largest decentralized application platform. My research is focused on live public DApp’s which are deployed and usable today. This does not include any future or potential applications not deployed yet.

If you look at a broad overview of the 312 DApps created, the main broad categories are:

I. Decentralized Exchanges
II. Games (Largely collectible type games, excluding casino/games of chance)
III. Casino Applications
IV. Other (we’ll revisit this category later)

On closer examination, it becomes clear only a few individual DApps make up the majority of transactions within their respective category:

Diving into the “Other” category, the largest individual DApps in this category are primarily pyramid schemes: PoWH 3D, PoWM, PoWL, LockedIn, etc. (*Please exercise caution, all of these projects are actual pyramid schemes.)

These top DApps are all still very small relative to traditional consumer web and mobile applications.

*Even “Peak DApp” isn’t that large: by our rough estimates, CryptoKitties only had ~14,000 unique users and 130,000 transactions daily.

Compared to:

*As another comparison point, even the top 50 apps in the Google Play Store alone get on average 25,000+ downloads per day. (This is just downloads, not even counting “transactions”).

Further trends emerge on closer inspection of the transactions of DApps tracked here:

  • More than half of all DApps have zero transactions in the last week.
  • Of the DApps with any usage, the majority of usage is skewed to a small few (see graph).
  • Only 25% of DApps have more than 100 transactions in a week.

Takeaways

Where we are and what it means for protocols and the ecosystem:

After looking through the data, my personal takeaways are:

  1. We are orders of magnitudes away from consumer adoption of DApps. No killer app (outside of tokens and trading) have been created yet. Any seemingly “large” DApp (ex. IDEX, CryptoKitties, etc) has low usage overall.
  2. All of the top DApps are still very much about speculation of value. Decentralized exchanges, casino games, pyramid schemes, and even the current collectible games (I would argue) are all around speculation.
  3. What applications (aside from value transfer and speculation) really take advantage of the true unique properties of a blockchain (censorship resistance, immutability of data, etc) and unlock real adoption?
  4. For new protocol developers, instead of trying to convince existing DApp developers to build on your new platform — think hard about what DApps actually make sense on your protocol and how to help them have a chance at real adoption.
  5. We as an ecosystem need to build better tools and infrastructure for more widespread adoption of DApps. Metamask is an awesome tool, but it is still a difficult onboarding step for most normal users. Toshi, Status, and Cipher are all steps in the right direction and I’m really looking forward to the creation of other tools to simplify the user onboarding experience and improve general UI/UX for normal users.

What kind of DApps do you think we as a community should be building? Would love to hear your takeaways and thoughts about the state of DApps, feel free to comment below or tweet @mccannatron.

Also, if there are any DApps or UI/UX tools I should be paying attention to, let me know — I would love to check them out.

Thanks to Noah Jessop, Kim McCann, Ricky Tan, Linda Xie, Anatoly Yakovenko, and Edith Yeung for providing feedback on this post.

P.S. — I also write a weekly newsletter of the best crypto events in the SF Bay Area. Subscribe here: > https://www.cryptoweek.ly/