If we ask a group of people what WhatsApp, Instagram or Snapchat is. They will answer the same “Applications.”
As we know, an Application is a computer software program created to be launched on mobile phones, computers, and other devices. These applications can perform particular tasks of any kind, be it entertainment, socialization, among others.
Nowadays, applications are more present in our lives than ever. Apps such as Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram can be found in millions of smartphones around the world, and people spend hours a day using the services they provide. Nevertheless, there is something in common in all these apps, and it’s that they are “centralized.”
What does it mean centralized?
Centralized applications rely on a central organization or company, which decide everything about these platforms without asking or considering their users. For example, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter are apps that are hosted in a central server making the data more susceptible to attacks and also could be used as they wish.
The opposite happens with the dApps. However, what are they?
The word “dApp” stands for Decentralized Application. It’s a software created through smart contracts in the blockchain and does not depend on a central entity, but relies on the community of users that use it. It can be a mobile app or a web application that cooperates with a smart contract to carry out its function. This is the definition that people give it today, but in fact, dApp means ‘no servers’ and P2P existed way before blockchain appeared.
If you don’t know what a smart contract is I will explain it briefly: Let’s say that it’s a computer program that executes itself when the conditions that were programmed in its code are fulfilled. If you want to know more about it, you can check on one of my colleague’s articles that speak about smart contracts & the ethereum blockchain.
Bitcoin is considered as the first blockchain dApp. It was very innovative when ten years ago they create a digital currency that could transfer value without intermediaries using a system of open source, p2p network, and cryptography store records.
After developers start seeing that blockchain technology could be useful not just to exchange value but for digital data too, in 2014, with the instruments and with the writing language of Ethereum Solidity, they begin to pave the way for the dApps that we know today.
Nowadays many projects allow creating dApps in their ecosystem. The most famous is Ethereum, and there are many others like EOS, NEO, Qtum, Tron, among other projects.
I truly believe Decentralized Applications will be everywhere soon. Let’s take advantage of knowledge from previous experiences. What happened with the world wide web years ago? At the begin of the ’90s no one would have bet on it, nowadays the whole world revolves around it. It’s quite simple to have an idea of what blockchain will be as we move forward and when we become aware of the powerful technology hidden behind.” Mathieu Lecoq, dApp Developer.
The architecture of an App & dApp
In the structure of the apps, both centralized and decentralized, there is what we name the visual part recognized as “Frontend” and the server part known as “Backend.”
To explain it easily, the frontend is the visual section of the app, that is “what you see”. For example, when we start a mobile app or a web app, we can tell that what we are seeing is the part of the user. This part is called the “Frontend” and correspond to the visual interface of an app.
Alternatively, the section of the server is the one that “is not seen” is called “Backend” — every data, storage space, and so on. In short words, all that cannot be saved in the mobile app or on the website.
In this stage is where these two differ. A native application will be structured in this way app = Frontend> API> Database. However, in a blockchain dApp, the main difference is that in place of an API that plugs to a database, it has a smart contract that is linked to a blockchain. dApp = Frontend> Smart contract> Blockchain. The most famous dApps are CryptoKitties, Decentraland, Augur, and OpenBazaar.
Advantages & disadvantages of a “dApp”
The main problem for decentralized applications is that they still don’t have a structure that allows them to work without any server at the moment, mainly due to scalability problems. DApps still have to trust on servers for some tasks, but the protocols grow as we learn.
Cryptography has been used for years, but it has never become a standard with protocols when it comes to generic data, that’s the game-changing part. The decentralization will allow to “centralize” the data without any server. The whole organization of our society can be reviewed with blockchain, and that is why history repeats itself. We are in turn towards web 3.0, and we won’t have to wait 30 years to see the changes in our daily lives.” Mathieu Lecoq, dApp Developer.
dApps have a bright future.
In a data-driven world, our experience as internet users is now shaped mainly by the influence of the big five guys of the block that are Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon. DApps can make a real change by giving back to internet users the control over their data.
Many corporations, governments, and not-for-profit organizations are looking for blockchain technology, mostly because this is the best way to remove third parties, brokers, reduce fees, save time and other resources in the process.
Even though dApps are still in its infancy stage, I believe it’s a space to keep an eye on it.
Special thanks to Mathieu Lecoq for the insights. If you want to know more about his project take a look to Birdploy is a crypto assets management platform that allows anyone to understand, play, launch projects and try to bring something new from scratch in the Ethereum Blockchain.