Blockchain and the Decentralized Applications
Even though blockchain technology is still in its infancy, it is already clear that blockchain is a revolutionary concept despite its relative simplicity. In a wide range of human cultures, information is often highly centralized. Whether it’s the village elder calling on decades of experience or the national library containing the works of an entire people, we are accustomed to having to go to a single source for information that we want. Even with the promise of the Internet, we still have to access someone else’s server for information. This situation is similar to having to go to someone else’s house to look at their encyclopedia. Even if they’re very welcoming one day, they could always lock their doors the next. However, Blockchain 1.0 made sure that everyone has the same copy of the same encyclopedia in their own homes to access however and whenever they want to. Blockchain 2.0 supported the use of smart contracts, which help users create and execute new blockchain-related functions, but most users would find it at best inconvenient to try to send commands directly to smart contracts. Which is why in the 3rd generation blockchains, dApps were created as another level of abstraction between the user and the blockchain.
But what are dApps actually? The truth is that most users probably would never know whether they were using a dApp, a regular app or just visiting a website! They are all the same things to the end user, but are different with regard to where they get their data. Regular apps and websites help users interface with a walled-off, centralized server somewhere, while dApps help users interface with blockchains through smart contracts.
It might be helpful to further understand what dApps are by discussing an example. According to https://www.stateofthedapps.com, there are over 1,200 dApps available for the Ethereum blockchain, one of the most popular platforms for developing dApps. However, there are some that stand out above the rest. CryptoKitties, a game in which players collect and breed cats which are actually just visual representations of algorithms. By breeding your CryptoKitties, you can generate new algorithms that have a chance of having their parents’ characteristics, some of which are rare and desirable. All of this is actually just a cute visual representation of a cryptocurrency generation and trading process. CryptoKitties is an excellent example of a dApp because, at its core, it is a highly technical process that is run by a smart contract sitting on the Ethereum blockchain but through the CryptoKitties dApp, it has been made available to the average user in a simple, fun, engaging way. It’s basically the digital, decentralized version of the Beanie Babies craze.
Technology doesn’t exist for its own sake. We create new technologies to make our lives better, but one of the biggest challenges faced by many new technologies is how to make them accessible to the average user. Blockchain technology holds a great deal of promise for improving our lives, but Blockchain 1.0, as amazing as it is, doesn’t actually do much other than let users assign different parts of the blockchain to each other in one-off transactions. Cryptographers and other visionaries knew this was only the tip of the iceberg as to what was possible with this technology. Blockchain 2.0 allowed for the use of smart contracts, which allowed people to manipulate the blockchain automatically in response to environmental inputs, but they were still difficult to make and accessible to only a select few. dApps have finally made blockchains accessible to all kinds of users by letting them interact with blockchains in easy, familiar ways. dApps represent the first step in making blockchains accessible to everyone. Think Color.