What associations do the majority of us have when we hear about blockchain? In most cases, it's something related to Bitcoin, cryptocurrencies and ICOs.
However, there’s much, much more to the story. Indeed, built into the technology which enabled Bitcoin is a ingenious P2P technology that can be used for the development of a vast range of applications capable to perform a variety of tasks. A few examples include domain registration and signing legal documents needed to start a crowdfunding campaign, but the list is all-encompassing and touches all industries.
This thing has its own name, and is called a DApp (pronounced Dee-App), which stands for Decentralized Application and is also known as a Blockchain Application.
In his white paper, David Johnston, CEO of the DApp Fund, says:
"These decentralized applications will some day surpass the world’s largest software corporations in utility, user-base, and network valuation due to their superior incentivization structure, flexibility, transparency, resiliency, and distributed nature."
In other words, if you are about to change your life and develope blockchain apps, it's time to gain experience!
What's a DApp?
According to Mr. Johnston, a blockchain application is a specific type of app, having the following characteristics:
● It's an open-source software piece that operates autonomously and can't be controlled by any user in a network.
● All app-related data is cryptographically stored in a public, decentralized ledger (blockchain).
● A blockchain application needs to use specific cryptographic tokens (App Coins) in order for users to access the app.
● Another reason for a DApp to generate tokens is to prove the value nodes that contribute to the software piece.
Main types of blockchain apps
The point is, decentralized applications can be based on custom (their own) blockchains or use networks/protocols created for other "out-of-control" software components. By that "standard", you can safely assume that there are three main types of DApps. Here they are, as follows:
1. "Keepers”: apps that have their own blockchains. You can think of a "keeper" as an OS like Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, etc.
2. "Users”: apps that utilize the advantages of "keepers" and are "protocols and have tokens that are necessary for their function". You can think of them as programs using OS sources to operate (like Dropbox clients, etc.).
3. "Supplements": apps that share the same protocols with "users" and "are protocols and have tokens that are necessary for their function". You can think of them as platforms integrating some app features (like Dropbox add-ons in your browser).
What's so special about DApps?
Seriously, why do you actually need to develop blockchain apps? Luckily for you, that question was answered by Tom Ding, a creator and CEO of the Koinify crowdsale platform. He says:
“The more commoditised (ie: an incremental rather than revolutionary model change) an industry is, the more likely it can be disrupted totally with the DApp model."
In other words, a blockchain app may have a significant impact on many procedures and processes within an industry, including retail banking, insurance and financial exchanges.
Another pleasant thing about blockchain apps is that they produce app coins that have value. In fact, these digital tokens can easily replace an untrustworthy centralized consensus, perform specific functions not available for altcoins and be capable to operate exclusively with specific network assets.
So, if something can be decentralized, you can try your best to make it "free of a loose end".
A short guide on how to create a blockchain app
Now that you know how DApps can help your business to get rid of intermediaries, lengthy (depending on the user) procedures and questionable partnerships (in many cases), you can see how they can make your life much easier!
Now let's figure out the main steps you need to take in order to create a blockchain application. Here we go!
Come up with a real challenge
At the beginning there was the idea… Before building your own decentralized application, it would be very wise of you to define a bunch of issues and decisions to solve them. In other words, you need to determine why you actually need a DApp.
The point is, some potential issues you may face can be solved without blockchain. So, you need to make sure that investing your resources and precious time in a blockchain business makes sense for you currently.
Try to conduct a cost/benefit study, explore the influence of risks and audit one's internal capabilities. If the analysis indicates that using a blockchain application is a good idea, move to step #2.
Develop an appropriate consensus mechanism
To create a blockchain app, you need a system of linked parts to validate transactions and maintain a consensus mechanism. In most cases, Bitcoin is used as a sample.
However, in case you need, feel free to choose from the following range of mechanisms: Proof of Elapsed Time, Federated, Delegated Proof of Stake, Proof of Stake, Byzantine fault tolerant and Round Robin.
Make sure the method you choose meets your requirements in the best way.
Choose a platform
The easiest way to get yourself a DApp is to build one on an existing platform. These days, the most popular of them are:
● Ethereum. No doubt, this is one of the best known blockchain platforms. It can boast of an extended infrastructure that makes it possible to create smart contracts and deploy decentralized apps. To use Ethereum, you need to "speak" Solidity.
● Cardano. One of a new breed of blockchain platforms. Unlike its counterparts, Cardano has two development layers: one is related to ADA cryptocurrency; the other one is for smart contract processing (requires Haskell).
Don't forget about your User Interface and Admin Console
That's all you need to know! Make your application user-friendly and easy-to-maintain. Believe it or not, the importance of those two features can't be overestimated.
Skills and practical experience: things you can always rely on
To build a DApp from scratch, you need to consider lots of things, some of which can seem secondary and insignificant. Still, the main rule here is, the more you know, the more you grow.
So, here we give you a few pieces of advice from the experts that can be useful for both experienced app developers dreaming of the blockchain industry and for those who are at the start of their developer career.
Spend some time to understand the working principles of blockchain
Before you dive into the exciting world of DApp development, you will need to know the nuts and bolts of blockchain basics. To learn how digital ledgers work, you can refer to Andreas Antonopoulos's book Mastering Bitcoin: Unlocking Digital Cryptocurrencies.
Get familiar with Truffle and Solidity
To succeed in blockchain app development, you need to spend some time learning programing languages like Solidity. It is Ethereum’s special language for smart contracts.
Also, you'll need to know more about popular frameworks. Ethereum's Truffle is one of them. Don't hesitate to use step-by-step guides in order to become a true guru.
Gain experience by developing blockchain… games
Isn't that awesome to create an army of zombies and fight a war on a blockchain? Sounds great, indeed. The most important thing is that it's possible with Solidity! Such an approach will help you to understand that blockchain can be used not only for smart contracts and financial transactions, but for exciting diversions as well.
Thinking outside the box can help you to create really amazing ideas.
Keep in mind: networking is a key
For exchanging ideas with potential partners/customers you will need to use the advantage of networks. If you're OK with that, try to attend a local blockchain meetup or network with blockchain developers online. Reddit, Gitter or Slack make good places to start.
Don't be too lazy to learn
Oh yeah, what else is new? However, lots of people forget to give themselves enough time to update their "database". It’s much better to spend some time to get a deeper understanding of blockchain technology right away in order to succeed in the industry in the future when it becomes more developed.