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What are decentralized apps?

Web3 applications are usually referred to as “dApps,” which stands for decentralized or distributed applications. dApps often feel like regular Web2 apps, but behind the scenes, they run on a peer-to-peer blockchain network like Ethereum, Solana, or Oasis. 

A standard web application, such as Uber or Twitter, runs on a computer system that is owned and operated by an organization, giving it full authority over the application and its operation. dApps can run on a blockchain network through which multiple participants can interact with the app and each other. 

The history of dApps really started in 2014 with a report called “The General Theory of Decentralized Applications, Dapps”. It was written by various authors familiar with crypto. It defined dApps with the following characteristics:

  • A DApp must have open-source code and work without the intervention of a third party. It needs to be controlled by the user as they propose and vote on changes that are automatically implemented.
  • All information must be kept on a publicly accessible blockchain network. Decentralization is key, as there can be no central point of attack.
  • DApps must have some sort of cryptographic token for access and must reward contributors in said token, such as miners and stakers.
  • A DApp must have a consensus method that generates tokens, such as proof-of-work (PoW) or proof-of-stake (PoW).

dApps have lots of benefits for builders and users. 

Since there is no centralized network, a hacker could not attack enough networks of nodes to destroy a dApp. Also, data stored on a blockchain is immutable and secure because blockchain consensus algorithms ensure that data stored on the blockchain is resistant to change. And with tools from networks like Oasis, uses have the option to enjoy extreme privacy and security for their personal information and data within dApps.

dApps have some drawbacks too. In some cases, because of the lack of a central authority could mean slower updates and changes to the platform based on community or user votes during governance. dApp user experiences currently can also be quite complex and push away new, inexperienced users. 

In the future, accessing a dApp may be simpler, easier, and more fun. For now, the ecosystem of Web3 dApps is certainly fun but has a lot of improvements to make. Building a faster, smarter, and safer network of dApps is a key part of bringing Web3 to the mainstream.