Decentralized Applications Explained – What are dApps?

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Decentralized applications, or dapps, are a big part of the next phase of the internet – Web3. However, many people are still as unfamiliar with what dapps are as they were with “apps” before the launch of the iPhone. Thus, we will dedicate this article to exploring the ins and outs of dapps, and answering the question, “what are dapps?”.

In combination with delving deeper into the intricacies of Web3 apps, we will look closer at smart contracts. Furthermore, to fully appreciate the value of dapps, we will compare this new generation of apps to more conventional Web2 applications. Following this, the article explores the main benefits of dapps and some prominent development blockchains. To top everything off, we will explore the easiest way to build dapps: Moralis! So, if you want the answer to the question, “what are dapps?”, read on as we explore the complexities of Web3 apps. 

If you are already familiar with dapps and want to begin creating Web3 projects immediately, you might find it helpful to check out Moralis. Among other things, Moralis offers enterprise-grade Web3 APIs, providing a more accessible developer experience. Accordingly, you can easily integrate various types of on-chain data into any project. What’s more, when using Moralis, you can create a Web3 dapp in only three steps! Part of how that is possible is thanks to various tools from Moralis, such as the ultimate Web3 website template!

So, if you want to get into dapp development, sign up immediately with Moralis. Moralis will make all your Web3 development endeavors more seamless, and creating an account is free! 

What are Dapps? 

Let’s start with the basics and answer the question, ”what are dapps?”. Dapps, or ”decentralized applications”, are not all that different from traditional applications you’re most likely more familiar with. Moreover, dapps provide the same functionality as conventional apps, and, on occasion, users would not be able to tell the difference. However, the most noticeable difference is that dapps are equipped with Web3 and blockchain functionality.

This advanced blockchain functionality originates from the peer-to-peer (P2P) blockchain networks developers utilize to build dapps. Moreover, there are other similarities between Web2 and Web3 development, and developers use some of the same programming languages to build dapps as traditional applications. However, since dapps are blockchain-based, a pervading characteristic of dapps is decentralization. 

Decentralization brings dapps outside the scope and control of single entities with central power. Furthermore, the code for dapps is generally open-source, shareable, and stackable, which contributes significantly to getting developers going with building their first dapp. Moreover, the decentralization and open nature of blockchain networks ensure transparency since transaction data is publicly available through blockchain explorers. This provides a high degree of openness and security for the internal economy of dapps. 

Furthermore, another essential component of the Web3 development industry we need to mention is smart contracts. Web3 apps utilize smart contracts to mediate transactions on these P2P blockchain networks. However, as such important components of the industry, we will take the following section to explore the intricacies of smart contracts further to fully answer the question, “what are dapps?”. 

What are Smart Contracts? 

Smart contracts, also called Web3 contracts, are essentially programs stored on a blockchain network that execute a predefined action when predefined conditions are met. Smart contracts are often used to automate the execution of agreements so that participants are certain of outcomes. What’s more, since code mediates these agreements, participants do not need to worry about intermediaries’ involvement or time losses.  

To make smart contracts more comprehensible, we will use Ethereum as an example since this is the most popular development blockchain. Ethereum smart contracts are written in the programming language Solidity. These contracts are programs running on the Ethereum blockchain. 

Furthermore, smart contracts on Ethereum consist of two parts: a collection of code (the contract’s functions) and data (the contract’s state). These two components comprise a contract and reside on specific Ethereum addresses. Moreover, Ethereum smart contracts are a sort of Ethereum account. Accordingly, they can potentially have a balance and can conduct transactions. However, unlike other Ethereum accounts, smart contracts are not controlled by users but run as programmed. As such, users can interact with smart contracts by submitting funds, and, in turn, the contract executes functions defined in the code.

A great metaphor for smart contracts is vending machines. With smart contracts, you are guaranteed a specific output with the correct input, much like a vending machine. If you input the right amount of funds and select a snack, you will receive the desired output. Similar to vending machines, smart contracts have comparable, but often more complex, logic programmed into them. 

Furthermore, since smart contracts exist on-chain, the network ensures that transactions are entirely transparent. As such, these contracts contribute to the openness and transparency of the Web3 ecosystem! 

Dapps vs Apps – What is the Difference?

With a better understanding of dapps and smart contracts, it’s beneficial to compare dapps with conventional Web2 apps. So, what is the difference between dapps and apps? Central apps, which are simply what we generally refer to as ”apps”, are owned by a specific company. The organizations behind apps generally store the application software on central servers, which the company controls. 

People worldwide interact with apps daily when using their phones, tablets, and computers. Moreover, most companies have their own applications. Consequently, apps are essential in how people interact with various businesses. 

What’s more, Web2 applications played an essential role in the evolution of the web by bringing the internet into the cloud. They were critical to the rise of prominent social media conglomerates such as Facebook (now Meta), Instagram, and the entire social media revolution. However, as Web2 added intractability to the static state of Web1, Web3 apps or dapps do even more.

As the name ”decentralized applications” suggest, this new generation of apps is decentralized. This eliminates several negative aspects associated with centralization, such as a single point of failure. Also, one of the most significant differences between apps and dapps is that the latter has its backend code running on a P2P blockchain network instead of centralized servers.

These aspects of Web3 apps enable great features that central apps do not possess. Here are a few examples: 

  • Decentralization – Dapps distribute computing power across a network of nodes.
  • Transparency – Dapps provide immutable and transparent records of all transactions.
  • Smart Contracts – Smart contracts automate functionality and remove intermediaries.
  • Censorship-Resistant – No single point of failure makes it difficult to censor the contents of a dapp. 
  • Token Economy – Dapps are connected to the financial infrastructure of Web3. 

What are the Benefits of Dapps? 

Many of the advantages dapps supply center around safeguarding user privacy. With Web3 apps, users generally do not need to submit any personal information to access the functionality of dapps. This is partly possible thanks to smart contracts that complete transactions between two anonymous parties without a central authority or intermediaries. 

Instead, users have the potential to authenticate themselves using their Web3 wallets to verify their Web3 identity. This highly benefits businesses alike since it lowers onboarding friction. You can learn more about Web3 authentication here at Moralis. For example, learn how to add a sign in with RainbowKit or how to connect MetaMask to website with NextJS. 

Moreover, decentralization and smart contracts provide dapps with loads of benefits compared to traditional apps. Here is a list of some of the most prominent examples: 

  • Censorship-Resistant – Along with being a prominent feature of dapps, the ability to avoid censorship is also one of the most notable benefits of these applications. Since there is no single point of failure, it becomes next to impossible for governments or individuals to shut down a network. 
  • Blockchain-Based – Since dapps function through smart contracts, it is easy to integrate cryptocurrencies into the functionality of dapps.
  • Open-Source – Dapps are often open-source, contributing greatly to development within the space, and are a driver of innovation.   
  • No Downtime – Since dapps are built on P2P networks consisting of many nodes, they will continue to work even if parts of a network go down. 

With a better understanding of what dapps are and their benefits, we will take the following section to explore some of the most popular blockchains for Web3 development! 

Most Popular Blockchains for Dapp Development – What are Dapps? 

This section examines three of the most prominent networks for blockchain development. As the first and most significant development blockchain, we will start by exploring Ethereum in further detail! 

  • Ethereum – The first, and most prominent blockchain for developing dapps, is the Ethereum network. Ethereum is a decentralized blockchain platform that verifies and executes application code in the form of smart contracts. 

The native currency of the Ethereum network – ETH (ether) keeps the network secure. Moreover, users can utilize the native cryptocurrency to pay for transitions occurring on Ethereum. Additionally, all transaction records are verifiable, immutable, and distributed across the network’s nodes. 

  • BNB Chain – BNB Chain (BSC, and formerly known as Binance Smart Chain) is part of Binance’s blockchain ecosystem, and the platform supports smart contracts and dapps alike. Furthermore, BSC runs parallel with BNB Chain, where the former supports dapp development, and the latter enables high transaction volumes. Moreover, BSC is EVM-compatible, suggesting that the network supports Ethereum smart contracts. Moralis offers full support for BNB Chain, and has the definitive BNB NFT API
  • Polygon – Polygon ”believes in a Web3 for all” and is a decentralized Ethereum scaling platform. Polygon enables developers to build user-friendly, scalable dapps with low transaction fees. Moreover, since this is an Ethereum scaling platform, Polygon can facilitate higher scalability without sacrificing security because the network leverages Ethereum. Moralis makes it exceptionally easy to build a Polygon dapp.

With brief summaries of the three most popular blockchains for Web3 development, we will take the following section to explore the fastest ways to build a Web3 app

Easiest Way to Build Web3 Apps – Exploring Moralis

With an answer to the “what are dapps?” question, this section will now explore the easiest way to build apps. It might seem like a daunting task to develop your first Web3 app; however, with the proper tools and guidance, you will be able to launch dapps in no time. Now, as you might have guessed, the easiest way to build dapps is with the help of Moralis! 

Moralis supplies enterprise-grade Web3 APIs, allowing you to connect any tech stack to several different blockchain networks. The 24/7 worldwide support that Moralis features ensures that your projects launch seamlessly. What’s more, Moralis’ toolkit bridges the gap between Web2 and Web3 development, enabling the integration of NFTs, tokens, and other blockchain-related data into any of your projects! 

Here is a list of Moralis’ most prominent Web3 APIs: 

Additionally, Moralis features cross-chain compatibility, allowing you to build dapps for multiple networks. For example, Moralis supports Ethereum, Polygon, Avalanche, Cronos, etc. So, if you are looking to develop dapps, make sure to sign up with Moralis. This will, among other things, enable you to build a Polygon dapp quickly! 

Summary – What are Dapps and Their Benefits?

This article set out to answer the question, ”what are dapps?”. To answer this question, we initiated the article with a section explaining the intricacies of dapps. In doing so, we explored that they are like traditional Web2 apps but have blockchain functionality. Moreover, to sufficiently answer the “what are dapps?” question, we compared them to traditional applications that you might be more familiar with. The article also delved deeper into the main benefits of dapps. In doing so, you, among other things, found out that dapps are decentralized, which yields several benefits. For example, dapps do not have a single point of failure. As a result, they are more secure than traditional apps and censorship-resistant. 

Furthermore, once we answered the question, ”what are dapps?”, we explored some of the most prominent development blockchains. Specifically, we looked closer at Ethereum, BNB Smart Chain, and Polygon. To top everything off, we delved deeper into Moralis, which presents the easiest way to develop dapps. 

If you found this guide helpful, consider browsing Moralis’ Web3 blog further. You can explore additional Web3 development content and become a more proficient blockchain developer. For example, we recommend checking out our guides on how to connect to PlayFab with Web3 or build an Ethereum dapp! What’s more, if you want to hone your Web3 development skills, check out Moralis Academy for amazing blockchain courses. 

Nevertheless, if you are interested in Web3 development and want to build your own Web3 apps, sign up with Moralis immediately. The APIs of Moralis, along with other prominent tools, will make your Web3 development endeavors more accessible. What’s more, creating an account is free, so you have nothing to lose!

July 26, 2021
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