Decentralised applications powered by the blockchain
Dapps (also spelt dApps) is an abbreviation of the term ‘decentralised applications’, which are pieces of software that run on the blockchain. Just as our current smartphones and computers run applications – serving everything from email to online shopping – Dapps are being developed to run a variety of different tasks in the blockchain world.
As a piece of decentralised, open source software, the Bitcoin cryptocurrency can be considered as the very first Dapp to have ever existed. However, things have come a long way since the creation of Bitcoin in 2009, with the Ethereum network now dominating the Dapp landscape. This is because the Ethereum blockchain was explicitly created to host the work of developers, encouraging the growth of the blockchain and the wider world’s eventual transition to this technology.
When developers use the Ethereum blockchain as a foundation on which to build their own applications, they create Dapps. Dapps now exist to power a broad range of functions, from games to social networks, and anti virus software to supply chain management. One particular Dapp, CryptoKitties, which its members use to trade and breed digital cartoon cats, gained notoriety in 2017 when a surge in popularity caused it to “break” the Ethereum network.
Whether they are frivolous or serious, one benefit of all Dapps is that they are not controlled by central authorities which often exploit user data for profit. Unlike traditional internet apps, Dapps ensure that users stay in control of their data. Their decentralised nature also means that no single entity can overhaul the network. Decisions are made by consensus, communities self regulate, and nobody has overall control of the system.
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