The World of Decentralized Applications

Decentralized application (or ‘DApps’ for short) were all the rage on Ethereum for much of late 2017.  Although still popular, the current market slump has seen daily active user rates plummet to a small fraction of what they once were at their height. Regardless, quite a few DApps are still working diligently to improve their functionality and accessibility behind the scenes. For now, many DApps have fallen out of the limelight – but, in due time, those that will really stand out in the future will be the ones that are still hard at work during this bearish market winter.

Frankly, a decentralized application is a simple concept. Think of any app you use on your phone, for instance, and imagine if it existed without the need for a client-based, third-party system which stores your info on a massive centralized server. Instead, it would all be run on a decentralized blockchain-based network. That’s a DApp.

The details are still being fine-tuned. The bottom line is though, DApps need to be accessible for the average everyday person like today’s regular apps are. And herein lies the problem – we’re not quite there yet. And neither is Ethereum, which is far from ready for mass use yet. But progress is progress, and we’re getting closer. Today’s DApps provide us with a glimpse of what the future may hold using only a tiny fraction of Ethereum’s expected computing power a decade from now. So, let’s take a look at what’s been buzzing in the world of DApps.  

The State of the Largest DApps

The first thing you need to know about DApps is that 99% of the ones live today are on Ethereum. And all the largest ones are by far on Ethereum. Now, this may change, but that’s the state of DApps today. Most of them can be broken into a few popular categories. They are all largely simple since the Ethereum network is still in its infancy

*Note: Most of the DApps we’ll be talking about here are the ones with actual volume, but there are plenty just as interesting ones in-the-works currently.

Decentralized Exchanges

Decentralized exchanges are some of the best-known DApps currently functioning. They essentially act as a regular trading exchanges but without a third-party. None of your keys are stored on any centralized serer.  However, these DApps are just spinoffs of the existing cryptocurrency market. Therefore, although innovative, they have little use for the layperson who is not a trader.

Currently, two of the largest DApps by far are IDEX and ForkDelta. Their UI is simple and to trade you need the Metamask extension and an Ethereum wallet linked to it. Both are quite active. For example, IDEX has been consistently adding new ERC-20 tokens, making product updates, and expanding their team and/or advisors. Although ForkDelta also boasts high activity, IDEX is by far the leading DApp and decentralized exchange with some $2 million in volume according to CoinMarketCap and thousands of daily users.

Digital Collectibles

Digital collectibles broke onto the crypto scene in late 2017 and made quite a stir. Using the unique ERC721 smart contract standard, each token produced in this way is unique and cannot be reproduced. You can imagine what kind of possibilities this created for the burgeoning space of digital collectibles.

The most famous one has to be CryptoKitties which raised some $12 million dollars from investors this past March. The collectible game has been steadily growing in the number of kitties born, reaching a million on Sept 14th, but the long-term success of the niche has been called into question as of late. This is due to crippling volume from its height and some arguing that it’s simply just a “fad” – indeed, even at its height only some 14,000 individuals were using CryptoKitties. Regardless, the DApp established the legitimacy of digital collectibles on the Ethereum blockchain.

And now other DApps have followed suit – for example, Etheremon is another DApp that lets one trade and collect “Mons,” similar to Pokemon but on Ethereum. Heck, even the Major League Baseball team the L.A. Dodgers is releasing a special bobblehead collectible that can be stored on one’s ETH wallet – the first pro sports team to ever have a crypto-related giveaway. Other games, such as ETH Town and 0XUniverise, have been trying to use the ERC721 standard for an open-world or SIMs-like experience, but it still revolves around digital collectibles. So maybe, just maybe, digital collectibles might not be a fad and will stick around for a long time.

Social Media

Social media is one aspect many have been trying to test on the Ethereum network with varying degrees of success. This is because Ethereum still processes only 10-15 transactions per second as of now which makes things difficult to say the least, especially when you’re building a ETH-based social media platform.

For example, Status has released an open source mobile client which effectively functions as a messenger built on ETH. Think of it as Ethereum’s all-in-one mobile client. Decentralized News Network is another social media-based concept that allows for fact-checking on the blockchain. Despite boasting some volume, its full client is yet to be released. Peepeth is a clean Twitter-like DApp for microblogging and one which is constantly garnering updates. And others have been more ambitious – like Livepeer, which is an open platform for live video broadcasting which will soon release their developer beta.

Others

Of course, the DApps mentioned thus far are just the tip of the iceberg. One could easily go on about the many gambling DApps currently live, governance models, predictive markets, storage systems, and so on. One of the most promising remains the Ethereum Name Service (ENS) which is a DApp that seeks to standardize and replace long ETH addresses with human-readable names, like email. This could go a long way towards mainstream DApp adoption. But again, so many of these lack the proper volume to properly assess their future success.

... What About EOS?

Of course, EOS also boasts some of its own DApps but they by and large haven’t brought anything new to the table. EOS Knights, however, stands out as being one of the first mobile games on the blockchain with a sizeable development team and some promise. Most of the DApps currently on EOS, however, are gambling apps and they make up almost all of the top-10 EOS Dapps by volume which is why we didn’t cover them in any detail.

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So what’s the state of DApps today? On the user side, it’s still a very minor sector of the cryptocurrency space; but on the developer side, it’s definitely building every day. However, we can say that the future success of most DApps, first and foremost, depends on the long-term usability of Ethereum. Whether or not Ethereum will be able to scale and boost its transactional power – that’s the main concern of every DApp developer.