What Is a Dapp?

Dapps are decentralized apps powered by blockchain networks

Dapps, sometimes written as DApps or dApps, is the abbreviation for decentralized applications or decentralized apps. Dapps are apps or systems that run on decentralized technology, for example, a blockchain. The word generally applies to decentralized, blockchain-powered apps that look and work like smartphone or computer apps and programs. Cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, are occasionally referred to as Dapps.

The Ethereum and Tron blockchains power many popular Dapps. Some use other blockchains or their network.

Decentralized network over a city at night.
Dong Wenjie / Moment / Getty Images

The main prerequisite for a Dapp to be called a Dapp is for it to be decentralized. Many crypto enthusiasts also state that a Dapp must be open source or powered by digital tokens. However, these are personal preferences for the technology rather than unbiased technical requirements.

How Do You Pronounce Dapps?

While most people pronounce Dapps phonetically, some prefer to read it as D-Apps or Dee Apps. Either pronunciation is correct and will be understood when referring to the technology in conversation.

What Is Decentralization?

Most mainstream apps and services, such as social media networks, banks, and government services, are centralized. Their data is stored in specific, permanent locations. If these server locations are hacked or damaged, the entire service could go down.

Many individuals and organizations host decentralized services, which makes them more resistant to hacking or other forms of attacks.

BitTorrent is one popular example of a decentralized service. It's users partially host its files, so a central database isn't needed for storing content.

Many decentralized cryptocurrency exchanges are popular with traders. Decentralizing crypto trading makes the service harder to shut down by authorities.

How to Use Dapps

Some Dapps can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store for smartphones and tablets. Others are downloaded and installed onto a computer. These kinds of Dapps, on the surface, work in much the same way as a regular app or video game.

Most Dapps run in a web browser and can be accessed in much the same way as a website. Plasma Dog is one such Dapp. It's a video game powered by the OmiseGO blockchain. It runs in a web browser and doesn't require the downloading or installation of program files. Another example is the popular CryptoKitties video game, an Ethereum Dapp that runs in a web browser.

A variety of Dapp directories list a range of decentralized Ethereum apps and Dapps built on other blockchains like Eos, Neo, and Tron. Some Dapp directories worth checking out are State of the Dapps, Tron Dapp House, DappRadar, and Dapp.com.

iOS and Android smartphone and tablet users need to use a Dapp browser app to access or load Dapps. The Coinbase Wallet app is a good option for beginners due to its easy-to-understand interface and documentation. It features a built-in Dapp directory of approved Dapps. However, this directory is small.

As Dapp awareness grows, more devices will add native support for them. The HTC Exodus smartphone, not to be confused with the cryptocurrency wallet Exodus app, features support for Dapps by shipping with several Dapps pre-installed and offering other Dapps in its app store for download.