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What is a DApp?

what is a dapp

DApp: pronounced ‘dee-app’. What is a DApp?

Nope, the D doesn’t sound for Dogecoin. It stands for distributed. Well, some people actually say it stands for ‘decentralized’, too. Both work, really, but we’ll leave that be as a topic for discussion.

The Basics

Distributed applications (DApps) are programs that run without a central point of authority, failure or trust. They are decentralized.

They were first put to use by Ethereum, a blockchain platform launched by Vitalik Buterin and his co-workers in 2015. It was Ethereum’s introduction of smart contracts to blockchain technology that enabled the real-world use of DApps.

The reason Ethereum brought them to life was because prior to Ethereum, each new use of blockchain technology required its own blockchain. So, everyone had ideas, but they were building their own blockchains to make them happen.

With the introduction of Ethereum, new ideas could now be built onto an existing blockchain in the form of a DApp. This saves endless time and money, as developing a DApp is typically a lot cheaper and quicker than creating a whole new blockchain for it to operate on.

DApps Are Unstoppable

They are known and labelled as unstoppable, even by Ethereum themselves.

You see, as they do not have a central point of failure (they are not contained on one singular server), they do not have downtime.

This means that they cannot be shutdown at one central point. If one system in the network goes down, the application is still live, as the remainder of the systems in the network continue to maintain the application.

Also due to their decentralized state, there is no central point for hackers to attack. This means that if a hacker was to compromise one or two systems in the network, they would not gain access to the application.

How to Understand DApps

To really understand DApps, let’s think about how their not-so similar sister, centralized applications, work.

Think about eBay, Facebook, YouTube etc. These are centralized apps.

They are centralized because there is one central point of authority and one central point of failure. Let’s take eBay for example. In eBay’s case, it is eBay themselves that are the central point of failure and authority.

This means that if eBay’s servers were to be compromised, all the data they store would be vulnerable. It also means that if their servers went down because of technical failure, no one would be able to use eBay.

If eBay was to run on a blockchain (like Ethereum) instead, it wouldn’t be the case. Ethereum is a blockchain and so it is run by a multitude of computer systems (nodes) spread out across the world, and to compromise it requires the ownership of 51% or more of the nodes. Therefore, if one or two of the nodes were hacked, the network itself would be unaffected. So, nobody would lose their data.

So, the above is what eBay would be like if it was a DApp instead of a regular (centralized) app.

Which is better?

You decide.

What is a DApp: Conclusion

Let’s summarize our explanation of DApps by reviewing their features:

  • They aren’t owned or controlled by any single entity
    • They have no central point of authority
      • Meaning no third party can interfere
    • They have no central point of trust
      • Meaning there is no third party you must rely on or pay fees to
        • Much cheaper than centralized apps
        • Much quicker than centralized apps
      • They aren’t run/hosted by any single entity, server or system
        • They have no central point of failure
          • Much safer than centralized apps
          • No virus nor human can shut the application down
        • They use smart contracts
          • Trustless, cross-border, immutable agreements can be established
          • Instant, cheap, programmable transactions of any value

For more on smart contracts, see our What is a Smart Contract guide.

If you have any further questions or require further elaboration on anything mentioned or detailed in our What is a DApp guide, feel free to ask away! We’d be more than happy to help.


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