Decentralized Applications (DApps) Explained

DApp Landscape (Copyright: Morpheus Labs)

What are DApps?

DApps are decentralized applications made possible through decentralized networks running on blockchain technology. Each DApp consists of self-executing code (aka smart contracts), that define the functionality of the application. In essence, DApps are really the bridge that enable the interaction with blockchain-based networks from an end-user perspective.

How exactly decentralized applications are defined is still debated, however, the main attributes include:

  • The code is open-source and managed autonomously
  • Records and data are stored using blockchain technology
  • Tokens are used to reward users and incentivize specific actions
  • The application runs on a cryptographically secured protocol
Source

What are advantages of DApps?

DApps have several advantages that make them, in many ways, far superior than their traditional (non-decentralized) counterparts.

Tamper-proof

Since DApps usually take advantage of blockchain technology for data storage, decentralized applications typically high level of security and are are immune to common attacks that we know from current digital applications.

Integrations with cryptocurrencies

Most DApps make use of cryptocurrencies in order to facilitate micro-transactions, (dis-)incentivize specific behaviour or enable financial transactions between application participants.

Decentralization

Traditional applications depend on centralized institutions (i.e. companies) to manage, update and secure the code behind applications. Because DApps are based on open-source code which is managed and updated using decentralized governance systems, they are less dependent on a single actor. This way, the future of decentralized applications is targeted towards the entire network’s interests rather than a companies vested interest.

What platform do DApps run on?

Decentralized applications run on decentralized general computing platforms. Today, most DApps run on the Ethereum network as it shows the highest rate of adoption and network effects. However, in recent months, several competing platforms have emerged:

  • Cardano is a decentralised public blockchain and cryptocurrency project and is fully open source. Cardano is developing a smart contract platform which seeks to deliver more advanced features than any protocol previously developed.
  • EOSIO is a software that introduces a blockchain architecture designed to enable vertical and horizontal scaling of decentralized applications (the “EOSIO Software”).
  • Morpheus Labs is a Blockchain-Platform-as-a-Service provider, specifically targeted towards business customers that want to quickly deploy and test decentralized Applications.
  • Zilliqa is a high-throughput public blockchain platform designed to scale to thousands of transactions per second.
  • DFINITY is an Ethereum-family technology and is fully compatible with the public Ethereum network — if you can run a DApp on Ethereum, you can run it on DFINITY too. There exist several fundamental differences between the networks however, and they are really sister systems offering different things.

How can I interact with DApps?

DApps can be accessed using application libraries similar to the Apple App Store.

  • Status is a mobile Ethereum client and messaging platform that features an in-app app store
  • Coinbase Wallet is a mobile wallet that, similar to Status, enables its users to access DApps right from the smartphone
  • Morpheus Labs features an App Store for its enterprise clients to publish their decentralized applications to be accessed by the public

Alternatively, DApps can also be accessed directly through specific websites, whereas users usually interact with the applications using specific browser plug-ins.

  • Metamask enables users to interact with Ethereum-based DApps
  • Scatter is the counterpart for decentralized applications that run on the EOS.IO network.

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