Article by Forbes: Darryn Pollock
It would be hard to argue against the fact that the best current use for blockchain technology, the use that is most prevalent and popular, is cryptocurrencies. It is because of the original blockchain, Bitcoin, being built as ‘peer-to-peer digital cash.’
However, a lot has happened in the last 10 or so years since Bitcoin began the blockchain journey, even so much as a second generation has been birthed in many respects, tearing open the entire ecosystem.
Upon the invention of Ethereum use-cases suddenly grew in such magnitude that the technology was being labelled part of the fourth industrial revolution. Ethereum was the catalyst for this new era of functional blockchain where the technology could be aimed in a considerable amount of directions, disrupting as it goes.
Part of this second generation blockchain advancement has been the building of a dApp ecosystem – the decentralised app. Because Ethereum’s tagline is to be ‘the World Computer’ it acts as a platform for applications to be built upon it.
Moreover, because this decentralised world computer is as broad and similarly advanced as traditional computation, with the added benefit of decentralisation, immutability and transparency, there is a considerable dApp ecosystem that has potential to expand and overtake much of the current app market.
The current app market is vast. It has ingrained itself in the lives of almost every individual. However, it has also reached a stage where pain-points and problems are starting to show through the cracks.
The importance of data protection, coupled with fiascos by the likes of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, as well as concerns over centralised control has seen a few more eyes being turned towards dApps as alternatives to traditional apps. There is also the possibility of new applications, that are decentralised, to make our lives easier.
A Brave new world
Arguably one of the more popular and successful dApps, if it can even be classified as a traditional app, is the web browser, Brave.
Brave is an open source and free browser from Brave Software Inc. that aims to keep data safe and provides users with the power to save or delete said information. It features a built-in ad tracker and blocker, and quite notably, Brave comes with an inbuilt BAT cryptocurrency wallet. This wallet enables users to support their favourite websites.
Brave has its own native token called BAT which, after providing users with the ability to be in charge of their own data, is a huge blockchain-based benefit. This BAT ecosystem allows web users to earn for browsing Brave enabled sites with anonymous adverts from Brave.
BAT currently has a market cap of $429 million with its digital token being valued at $0.33.
It also allows advertisers, and publishers, clear and transparent ways in which to view and obtain their advertising revenue – a far cry from the outdated and centralised system currently employed for online advertising.
Chief of Communications at Brave, Catherine Corre, explained what they believed was the secret to strong adoption and generally positive feedback on their product.
“Brave is allying with our users to give them what they want in ad/tracking-blocked speed and privacy, without the intolerable compromises on user experience that arise from most other browsers’ conflicts of business interest between what users want and what their tracking ad-tech businesses or partnerships require,” Corre told Forbes.
“Brave blocks trackers and invasive ads by default, which otherwise slow down page load; this enables Brave to load twice as fast on desktop, and up to eight times faster on mobile. This speed advantage, along with Brave’s built-in privacy and security features, put the browser in a unique place to attract new users who are becoming increasingly aware of privacy scandals.”
“Privacy may have been a niche four years ago when we started, but privacy by default is now a huge draw. Brave puts users first in ownership and control of their data.”
“Additionally, Brave features Brave Ads and Brave Rewards. Brave Ads reward users for their online attention with Basic Attention Tokens. Brave Rewards enables users to in turn seamlessly support their favourite content providers by donating or tipping tokens. Users who choose Brave get excited about playing a role in fixing the Web and the currently broken ad ecosystem, which mainly now benefits intermediaries at the expense of creators and publishers.”
While Brave can’t really fall under the traditional umbrella of what a dApp is, it is clear that what they are offering, with their ERC-20-backed token, and their attention to privacy and protection of data is precisely what many see blockchain being the eventual solution for.
There is growing popularity for Brave, with places such as the LA Times coming aboard recently, because they can offer many of the benefits of decentralisation when it comes to web browsing in their case.
High demand, slow supply
With Brave as an example of the power of blockchain in an offering that people are interested in with regards to decentralisation and privacy, it is surprising that the dApp ecosystem has not made a bigger splash. However, the entire blockchain space looks to be lagging on what it can supply, compared to the current demand.
In terms of the dApp ecosystem, it is undoubtedly growing. However, it is a tricky space to be in as there are two major forces at work – new developers in a nascent market, as well as the nascent blockchain technology itself.
Mark Hardman, a certified Blockchain solutions architect Ethereum Developer, spoke with Forbes about the current state of the dApp ecosystem and where it is heading.
“For me, dApp’s are what the blockchain is all about. Organisations as a whole have only really scratched the surface in terms of what’s possible, and unfortunately, many people I speak to confuse Blockchain with Bitcoin, and I think the negative perceptions which surround the latter are a red herring which is suppressing the demand for Dapps in the corporate sphere, Hardman expressed.
“The continued evolution of the Dapp infrastructure is crucial, and occurring naturally already.”
Wei-Ning Huang, Co-founder and CTO of Dexon Foundation, also chimed in as they look to provide a platform for dApp developers to use.
“Over the past year or two, we are very thrilled to see that the dApp market is booming. However, most of the popular dApps are still gaming applications with far fewer daily active users compared to those of well-known ones. There are still not many real-world use cases for dApps that can be applied across different industries and used on a mass scale.”
David Kuang, a financial professional and data scientist, who works at UBS Bank as a business analyst, adds just how broad the dApp environment can be
“The idea behind dApp environment is quite remarkable from the innovation achievement perspective as for the first time in the history we now have a technology that allows anyone – including AI machines – the capability to build a ‘corporation’ or business model via coding smart contracts without having to domicile in a specific physical location but can operate as independent entity on the blockchain – or namely the Decentralised Autonomous Organisation – DAO.”
Slowing the potential
Like a lot of things in the blockchain and cryptocurrency space, the potential is seemingly limitless, but its application has been slow and rocky. Since Ethereum came to the fore, people have been marvelling at smart contract blockchains and their potential uses, but for a few reasons, including poor blockchain performance and a slow dApp development, nothing substantial has been released yet.
The development of Blockchain technology is on a bumpy road and very controversial,” adds Kuang. “However, I believe it is a game changer as it would start to embed into our daily life from an infrastructural level.”
“Imagine all of the electric appliances at home is an IoT device and backbone is support by Blockchain technology to secure its data transmission. dApp is a critical application for Blockchain technology; it provides an angle of how this technology can reshape and change the world. dApp is a direction but not a necessary nor the only direction for technological development and progression.”
dApp developers are seemingly working hard to integrate solutions into our lives through their creations, but it could be that the base technology needs more time to mature, as Huang explains expanding on their own developer-focused platform:
“One of the biggest blockers of the dApp development and mainstream adoption is the limitations of the blockchain technology. Current blockchain systems have long been hamstrung by technical bottlenecks include low TPS, low scalability, and weak security.
“We are committed to addressing this challenge of blockchain technology, by using an ideal platform to build trusted, real-life blockchain solutions. From this, we are advancing by seeking partnerships with various enterprises in insurance, retail, supply chain, gaming, digital asset exchanges, to help entrench this space.
For Hardman, he too identifies that the blockchain platform can be a real area of growth once it manages to move beyond this ‘pilot’ phase.
“I think that the power of blockchain technology as an enabler of dApps could start to become the real growth area, once we move out of the pilot phase that many organisations are currently in,” said Hardman.
“This will then overtake crypto-currency as the topic of conversation, and we’ll see a dramatic change in the ways some business processes are handled, with big cost and time savings, and a culture change, where organisations start to do business across the same infrastructure. I Think some supply chain projects are starting to give us a glimpse of that.”
“Organisations have an opportunity to escape from the constraints they have had for decades, of silo-based data and processes, and of bloated protectionism when it comes to sharing data across corporate boundaries, so the goal is worth the effort.”
Chicken and egg
It would appear, according to those who are on the development side as well as the blockchain platform side, there are several issues that have hamstrung the advancement and uptick of dApps.
The platform itself needs a lot of work as the first smart contract platform – Ethereum – has been under heavy scrutiny in the past for its performance to the point where it has begun its move to change its algorithm to address some of these concerns.
However, the developers of dApps on these platforms also suffer from issues that are removed from just blockchain performance. The world of cryptocurrencies and blockchain is still quite niche, and a little controversial in terms of its adoption.
So, although these dApps can offer a new era of applications that have the added benefits of decentralisation, transparency, immutability and digital tokens, most people are still more comfortable using traditional apps and their dangers of data misappropriation – for now, anyway.