As time goes by, the inclination towards the overall adoption of brand new technologies has undeniably been increasing. Businesses understand the need to embrace emerging innovations as means of staying competitive. And it goes without saying that throughout the last few years, we’ve witnessed the surge of a technology which supposedly has the capacity to alter the overall dynamics of all major fields, including mobile app development.
Blockchain, of course, is the buzz, high-tech word that everyone is talking about. It’s a technology which maintains a distributed digital ledger designated to record transactions in a database which is completely decentralized.
If you haven’t heard of it, you might have heard of Bitcoin — a decentralized digital currency which is built on blockchain-based technology. While it has been around since 2009, it caught up mass media attention as well as unheard publicity in 2017 as its price spiked from a mere $100 to more than $20,000 per bitcoin in a little less than a year, marking an astronomical increase.
So why’s all this important?
Mobile app development has been one of the trends of the last few years as usage of mobile devices skyrocketed. However, it seems that there are new players in town, with blockchain-technology being seemingly set for widespread adoption.
Signs of this are all over the place. We already saw the very first US County to begin accepting payments for taxes made in cryptocurrencies, hence legitimizing their underlying technology. Going further, some of the world’s most influential individuals have expressed their positive sentiment towards blockchain-based technology, amongst which Jack Ma of Alibaba.
In other words — blockchain is here and it’s here to stay. A lot of leading technology companies have already recognized its tremendous potential. Microsoft is to launch advanced enterprise blockchain services. South Korea’s leading tech giant LG has also announced that it will be launching a blockchain-based project called Monachain. Even Facebook, the world’s leading social media is seemingly planning the creation of its native cryptocurrency.
With it, though, a lot of things are bound to change, including the entire mobile app development field. While it might not have a sudden impact, its effects will be long-lasting and disruptive.
It’s obvious that this is a technology with huge potential and, as such, we are likely to see it having a tremendous impact on mobile app development. In the words of Aldric Chang, CEO of one of Singapore’s mobile app development companies Swag Soft:
“Mobile apps are essential marketing tools for all kinds of businesses.”
Well, blockchain provides a new underlying technology for those mobile apps to be built on, introducing substantial differences and key characteristics.
Conventional Apps VS. Decentralized Apps (DApps)
As we mentioned earlier, one of the main characteristics of blockchain-based technology is that it is decentralized. In other words, there is no single, centralized authority responsible for the storage and management of the information.
The latter is stored on so-called blocks, or nodes, which are distributed on a ledger, preventing unanimous influence and guaranteeing complete traceability, immutability, and transparency.
This technology allows the creation of decentralized applications (DApps), which reveal certain differences compared to conventional mobile applications. Remember Bitcoin? You can think of it as a DApp — it’s a decentralized solution which is built on a specific blockchain and it allows the handling of financial transactions.
There are a few key characteristics of decentralized applications which make them essentially different from conventional ones. These include:
Open Source Technology
The DApp has to be entirely open source and it needs to operate autonomously. There must not be a single controlling entity. Adaptation as well as improvements are, of course, permitted. However, all the changes need to be approved by a consensus achieved between the different stakeholders of the DApp.
They are Decentralized
As you can probably get from the name itself, the data within DApps is cryptographically stored within publically accessible blockchain which is completely decentralized.
Most DApps offer tokens or coins which are native to their blockchain. They would allow access to the network and they would also deliver additional value to the holders.
With respect to the technology they are built on, DApps are also divided in a couple of ways.
They can be:
- Built on their native blockchain
- Use the blockchain of other DApps
A classic example which would facilitate your understanding of the matter is Ethereum (ETH). It’s a blockchain which allows the creation of other DApps on it and it’s currently the one that’s leading the market in this regard. While others, which might turn out to be more effective and scalable, are emerging, Ethereum remains the blockchain which is predominantly used for the creation of different DApps.
The Impact on Mobile App Development
As we’ve already explained, blockchain-based technology has already proven its merit and potential use cases to the world. The fact that leading tech companies are recognizing its prominence is undoubted proof of this.
Here are a few challenges that mobile app developers will need to tackle as blockchain technology continues to thrive.
DApps are Hard to Code
Developing DApps is no cake in the park. One of the trickiest things to go through is the actual testing and debugging of the application.
Plenty of problems are already known. A bug known as “Heisenbug” causes certain alterations to the computer’s operational behavior throughout the testing process. Other bugs can create additional behavioral problems of the testing environment. This can turn out to be quite the hassle when building a decentralized application.
Decentralization is Challenging
Having to store information in a distributed database is quite challenging. It prompts the need to constantly maintain the entire system to keep the different nodes up to date. It’s hard to keep track and to ensure that there is an update on one part which might have an impact on the other and so forth.
Blockchain is an emerging technology and, as such, it is yet to see proper regulation. Whether certain transactions carried out on the distributed ledger are legally treated by the current regulatory framework of a given country is something that developers ought to be aware of.
Regulators around the globe are increasing their scrutiny towards the field but definitive actions are yet to be taken. Until then, caution is definitely advised.
In any case, blockchain-based technology has shown that it has the potential to widely impact a range of industries, including mobile app development. Yet, this is not something to be worried about — if anything, it’s only going to pose a whole new horizon of opportunities for mobile app development companies.
Of course, if they are to capture this emerging opportunity, actions have to be taken quickly as the technology is already facing widespread adoption, especially as the cryptocurrency market is ravishingly blooming.