What Is A Dapp?

Dapps are decentralized apps powered by blockchain networks

Decentralized network over a city at night.

Dong Wenjie/Moment/GettyImages

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Dapps, sometimes written as Dapps or dApps, is the abbreviation for decentralized applications or decentralized apps. The term is generally used when referring to apps or systems that run on decentralized technology like a blockchain. Anyone who's talking about a blockchain app is likely referring to a Dapp.

While cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, are occasionally referred to as Dapps in some circles, the word generally applies to decentralized apps powered by a blockchain that look and work in a similar way to traditional smartphone or computer apps and programs.

Most popular Dapps are powered by the Ethereum and Tron blockchains but there are some that use other blockchains or even their own unique network.

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

How Do You Pronounce Dapps?

While most people pronounce Dapps as the way it's spelled, some prefer to read it as "D-Apps" or "Dee Apps". Neither pronunciation is incorrect and both 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. This essentially means that all of their data is stored in specific, permanent locations. If these server locations are hacked or damaged in anyway, it's possible that the entire service could go down.

Decentralized services are hosted by a significantly number of individuals or organizations which makes them more resistant to hacking or other forms of attacks.

BitTorrent is one popular example of a decentralized service as all of its files are partially hosted by its users with no central database needed for storing content.

A number of decentralized cryptocurrency exchanges are popular with traders as decentralizing the trading of crypto 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 while others are meant to be 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.

Plasma Dog decentralized video game Daap.
Hoard Exchange

Most Dapps, however, 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 that's powered by the OmiseGO blockchain and runs completely within a web browser and doesn't require the downloading or installation of any program files. Another example is the popular CryptoKitties video game which is an Ethereum Dapp that also runs within a web browser.

There are a variety of Dapp directories that list a wide 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.

The Dapp browser in the Coinbase Wallet app on iPhone.
Coinbase

iOS and Android smartphone and tablet users will 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 also features a built-in Dapp directory of approved Dapps. This directory is rather small however.

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