Bridging the Gapp: App vs. Browser

Why dapp browsers cannot be the only way to use decentralized apps.

This post is part of a series. The intent of the series is to share random thoughts and updates in the process of building Folio, an app for using decentralized applications.

Thus far, the blockchain world has presented dapp users with one option: go through a browser. While this works for many functions, there are experiences that are better in an app (calling a ride, ordering food, communicating with people). That’s where Folio comes in — Folio handles the infrastructure and user on-boarding so developers don’t need to reinvent the bridge between the user and the dapp, allowing them to focus on building their dapp (and using the blockchain they see most fit).

I’ve been thinking about a dapp browser and a dapp sandbox as opposing pieces of software, but I’m realizing that both are needed, just as we have browsers and apps today — each serves a special function to a user. While browsers provide the ability for users to access anything they please, apps provide an experience that is specific to a function, which can create a much better user experience.

Game apps are popular because playing games in a browser is not the same experience as playing games within an app. An app that allows people to search store hours is not popular because using a browser to search the times of a given store is not difficult and people don’t do it often enough for it to justify downloading and storing an app on their phone.

So, what types of processes are better to do through an app? Through a browser? On a mission to answer this question, I asked my friends which apps they couldn’t live without. While there are several criteria that can be used to assess whether an app or a website is a better fit, I noticed something interesting about the apps my friends listed off as “essentials”. Each app had at least one of two features:

1. Recurring tasks

Even websites completely optimized for mobile users are not ideal to access within a browser if users are accessing the website frequently. For example, checking email is not a particularly difficult task to accomplish within a browser, but there are a few small steps that add friction — typing in the URL, logging in, etc. — making an app a better fit for users to check email.

2. Several user inputs

Hailing a ride, ordering food for delivery, and playing a game all require many user inputs (often of different types). While these inputs could be collected through a browser, an app provides more flexibility, ultimately allowing app developers to create a better user experience for collecting these inputs.

Keeping in mind that these are my observations from sampling a group of 20 year olds (and I’m sure there are other criteria for assessing whether a product/service should be an app or a website optimized for mobile), the key takeaway is that a dapp browser is not competing with a dapp sandbox. In fact, both are necessary pieces of infrastructure to improve the user experience of dapps today. Without both a browser and a sandbox, developers have very few options when it comes to crafting a user experience.

For developers, Folio emphasizes freedom to choose: your blockchain(s), your user experience. Some dapps may not be a great fit for Folio — there are products/services that I engage with through a browser today because the experience in a browser works well and an app would be unnecessary; I think this will continue as we move to a decentralized model. But some dapps certainly stand to benefit from providing users with an experience in an app rather than a browser. For those dapps, Folio provides the infrastructure so developers can focus on building their dapp without needing to reinvent the wheel when it comes to the bridge between users and the dapp.

Definition/intended meaning of words used in this post:

Dapp: decentralized applications

Dapp browser: a browser (like Brave, Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or any other), with the ability to access and engage with decentralized applications

Dapp sandbox: an app with the ability to download and use decentralized apps (similar to WeChat mini-programs or your Google Drive with different apps within it like Docs, Slides, Sheets, etc.)

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Decentralized technology for a better world (formerly TryCrypto). Our DappStarter platform makes it easy for developers to build decentralized apps.

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Chase Chapman

Chase Chapman

Co-founder @ Decentology | Studying @Umich

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