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Apps vs Dapps: what is the main difference?

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dApps vs Apps
dApps vs Apps

dApps (decentralized applications) present a vital component of next growth phase of crypto growth. One of the recent debates amidst cooling down of prices of major cryptos after 2017 meteoric rise in value of cryptocurrencies is how to ensure mass adoption. Currently, the major use case has been the ability to send value from one person to another (medium of exchange), fundraising (ICOs) and trading. However, for long-term growth, more adoption is needed in terms of ability to use cryptos or blockchain for the day to day activities using the decentralized architecture as well as other attractive aspects of blockchain technology.

Bitcoin could be termed as the first decentralized application. It allows transfer of value/money from one person to another on the internet (internet money) without relying on established institutions such as banks. Ethereum was next and had a grander plan of enabling anyone to build decentralized apps on top of Ethereum. Ever since other decentralized platforms for building applications have come up: EOS, aeternity, waves etc.

Already a lot of development has taken place in this aspect. Many companies are testing out various use cases from agriculture, healthcare, tracking, storage, real estate, social media etc. At the heart of mass adoption of crypto is a decentralized application (Dapps). We analyzed what dapps in comparison to DAO in a previous article.

In order to understand how dapps work, we have to understand how current apps are made and how they work. Apps are basically applications made by developers in order to enable ease of use by the end user. Therefore they are mainly built for use on mobile phones with desktop and web versions still existing depending on nature of use.

 dApps are not user-friendly; yet

mainstream applications are more user-friendly. For example, almost everyone has the most common apps: Facebook, telegram, WhatsApp, Twitter, etc on their phone. They have made it easier to access our social media networks. Similarly, we have other apps such as Uber, Gmail, to do list apps such as Trello, music apps, shopping apps etc. They are very convenient to access via mobile phone; it would be very inefficient to use Uber if you had to log in through your web version every time.

All these are hosted mainly on Google Play or Apple App store owned by Google (Alphabet) and Apple accordingly. The ‘app’ stores are owned and controlled by the mobile operating system owned by the likes of Google.  Therefore whereas there may be millions of users on one side, the other side is controlled by one company. The central authority has the final say on the future direction of the platform. Even though efficiencies are created in this type of structure, users ultimately have no power to control the value they’ve created. This is basically the main problem with the way the current internet is built. It is  built for connecting, publishing, interactions without much focus on digital assets which unearths a new way of transfer and ownership of value online.

Apps are part and parcel of our day to day lives and it’s hard to imagine they just a recent phenomenon (Google Play and App store introduced in 2008). Studies show that consumer uses about 9 apps on their mobile phones daily. 80% of the time spent on a smartphone is on an app.

Dapps are meant to play the same role but now built on blockchain architecture. But why do we need dapps when apps work just fine? Crypto and blockchains are not a panacea, and it is probably not every centralized database that needs a decentralized version. But there are also important considerations that make blockchains (esp. public blockchains) attractive:

Like a ‘decentralized app store’: this means it is not controlled by one person in one centralized location. No central point of failure. Trust is not bestowed on one person but to many. a consensus mechanism to run the dapp is established at the beginning. Once something is created, it cannot be censored because information stored on the blockchain is not subject to change or altering. no one entity, cannot close it down unless of course the internet is shut down.

Open source: the code is available for scrutiny and audit by other developers.

Incentivized ecosystems: users are incentivized through tokens to undertake certain tasks on the ecosystem such as transaction verification. This helps improve the system and creating an ecosystem that has both users and consumers on both sides. The economic incentives are more aligned in this case than current apps. An ecosystem powered by tokens creates more value for users than just posting and publishing but giving possibilities of ownership of digital assets. This is not possible with current apps.

Simply put the difference between apps and dapps is that dapps enable users to enjoy more advantages such as accruing more value to themselves especially when the dapps have archived mass adoption.

These aspects are important in the long run because they will power a new form of internet that is a decentralized enabling transfer of value. Just like apps, they will be different dapps: money based dapps, marketplaces or even voting ecosystems. To show why it is important, for many developing nations, it has proved difficult to trust a centralized voting system that is controlled by a few parties. However, if it is truly decentralized, it brings a lot of promise.

At the moment, centralized databases are faster and more user-friendly. However, It would not be impossible to look forward to a moment where dapps will also be able to be faster and user-friendly. In other worlds, dapps will eventually be built on a more robust platform that transforms the way value is shared on the internet; just like the way bitcoin heralded a new way of transferring value through the peer-to-peer system.

In order to ensure mass adoption of cryptocurrencies and blockchain, dapps are important. They will enable usage of crypto and blockchain by anyone around the world. Currently, it is not only complicated but the user interface of many blockchain applications is not user-friendly. To send/receive bitcoin currently, it is only possible through a bit complicated process of obtaining a web wallet, distinguishing between private keys/public keys/storage of keys is also not easy phenomenon for users.

Smartphones with dapps will make it easier to adopt and use. To achieve this, there are multi-level strategies needed. One is crypto friendly browsers that would allow users to easily interact with decentralized apps on their smartphones. Opera browser is one example and even introduced a Opera crypto wallet.

opera crypto browser

The other way that is also important  is  to attract developers that build dapps on top of say Ethereum, EOS, waves, aeternity or any other blockchain.Already when Ethereum launched a dapps ecosystem, a number of applications have already launched on Ethereum such as Augur, Status, Golem, Ethlance (like a decentralized Upwork) among others. Even EOS launched on Ethereum but has since moved into its own blockchain. EOS and Aeternity are in the process of sensitizing adoption of decentralized apps by developers on their platforms. We had a chat with Aeternity core team during their recent tour of Nairobi during the world blockchain summit held in Nairobi.

Dapps and ICOs

Dapps have been the main driving force behind ICOs (initial coin offering). Just like the development of an app, what one needs is an idea and then test it to see if it is suitable as a dapp. Make a whitepaper and explain the concept. Solicit feedback and form a community around the project. If confident enough then launch a fundraising process through ICO. You can use existing platforms such as Ethereum, waves among others to do, Just like the same way a developer would deploy an app on the Apple store.

The future of the decentralized internet is well on course and it will take some time before all these ideas come to fruition and are adopted by the masses, but the process is underway.

As Mattgcondon on Twitter say, says –At some point in future, there will probably be no need to call them dapps, they will just be like normal apps.

The back end is the one which will be different. When users see the advantages of using them, they will automatically prefer them. There will be no need to start by explaining what the blockchain is: the benefits will be the ones to determine consumer decision making. If dapps offer consumers more value, fast speed, less costs, more control among other benefits then the winners will be clear.

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