One of the most promising concepts of second-generation blockchains is that of dApps (or “decentralised applications”). These are apps built on top of a blockchain and the most popular blockchain for building dApps at this time is Ethereum. The most famous of these dApps is CryptoKitties, but there is an increasingly large amount being developed and pushed to the Ethereum mainnet.
If we believe that blockchain is as disruptive and influential as internet in the 90s, then DApps are likely to be as significant as the early-days of apps and the app store. We are going to see massive growth in DApp software over the coming years. So much so that 2018 may well be the year of the dApp.
One of the most important components of the dApp story is paradoxically not a dApp, but a wallet browser extension called MetaMask, most widely used on Chrome. It requires no login, so it does not store your private keys on a server, instead, they are kept in Chrome, with password protection. Their centralized validation system enables usage without prior download of a blockchain, but getting the full feature list of a wallet. It enables the user to interact with Ethereum websites, and running Ethereum dApps right in the browser, without utilization of a full Ethereum node.
MetaMask takes away the need to run a full Ethereum node. Before MetaMask’s arrival on the scene in 2016, users would need to use a client such as Mist to interface with the blockchain. Now, with a few clicks, anyone using Firefox, Brave, Opera or Chrome can install MetaMask and interact directly with the blockchain from inside their browser.
MetaMask also functions as an encrypted storage vault for Ethereum addresses. Users are able to generate multiple accounts, in which they can store Ether and ERC20-compliant tokens. It further supports various testnets (Ropsten, Kovan and Rinkeby), for experimentation with projects in beta. If users are already running a full node, they can tether the software to it.
MetaMask reached its millionth download in early February 2018 and it has clearly made the boom in dApp development possible as without users would have to download and store the entire Ethereum blockchain.
Security is of paramount importance when it comes to wallets and MetaMask has fared very well so far. During the recent EtherDelta hijacking, the data stored in MetaMask was kept safe. This is of critical importance when the most successful dApps are decntralized exchanges. MetaMask is invaluable to safeguarding private keys when interacting with potentially vulnerable sites.
EtherDelta is a decentralized Ethereum token exchange, brought to you by Etherboost. Here, users can trade any most Ethereum-based tokens such as Iconomi, Augur, 1ST, and others. The exchange currenly has only one fee, which is the 0.3% taker fee. Deposit, withdraw, and maker transactions are all free.
Another potentially big dApp is uPort, the a brainchild of ConsenSys, one of the largest incubators for Ethereum development. This dApp gives a unique digital identity to the user. uPort can become the next passport, the next step for voting via smartphones, and a way to identify credentials. The Swiss city of Zug has already begun implementation of uPort with citizen identity.
Finally there Leeroy which is like a Twitter feed without advertising. Statuses can be upvoted with tokens, paying the writer for solid content, and allowing the users to create the database. It’s a bit expensive and bulky now, but the fact that it is working and improving as a result of people using it shows that this is the future of social networking. Social networks of the future will be run by the people who use them, free of advertisements and completely decentralized.
To get a good overview of the current status of the dApps available right you can view a list on State of the Dapps.