The word “Decentralized” may make the title sound techy and advanced, but we’re going to take a quick peek, hopefully shed a little light on the subject, and then point out one of the major problems with this new system of applications.
So for a start, what are Decentralized Applications or DApps as people like to call them. Despite the techy name, they’re pretty simple to comprehend. First, we’ll look into three types of software applications that should make DApps easier to understand. These are called Centralized, Distributed and Decentralized.
Centralized Apps dominate the marketplace today. A single center powers these systems and distributes them directly across the marketplace. Facebook, Google, and most major services apply Centralized Apps which allows the operator to censor any and all material from individual sources.
Distributed Apps are spread across many nodes, meaning there is not a single, centralized source that distributes the information, instead there are multiple. Now this may sound like it should be called decentralized, but the two are actually very different.
Decentralized Apps have absolutely no central node. In other words, no point is instructing another part, whether it is a single major center or a distributed system. Since DApps are still evolving, experts in the field still have a difficult time defining what is and isn’t a Decentralized Application. There are, however, a couple widely agreed upon factors that can help us define a DApp. Let’s start with Open Source.
A DApp must be autonomous. When a DApp changes, it should not be due to the decision of a single source, instead, it should be by the overwhelming majority of users.
It must, of course, be decentralized. This means all data and recordings of the application’s activity must be public and recorded on a decentralized blockchain system. This avoids falling into the centralization of other common applications today.
Incentivizing for DApps is one of the other factors that helps us qualify them in that category. This mean that cryptographic tokens are granted to those who validate the app’s blockchain.
In a loose sense, Bitcoin was actually the first Decentralized Application, and fits each of these definitions. It used blockchain to solve problems like censorship and centralization. The Ethereum Network also provides a base for increasingly decentralized systems and allows the creation of many real-world Decentralized Applications.
So, after all this defining and a couple examples you may be asking for the next step. What’s the problem with Decentralized Applications?
The main problem with Decentralized Apps is data storage. If you’ve ever downloaded apps on your phone, you’ll know that if you try to have too many at the same time, that annoying tab will pop up and tell you that you have run out of storage. Annoying, yes, but necessary. Your phone can only hold so much and you’ve gone over the limit—so, still frustrated, you go about deleting some things so that you can have that app that you really want. Well, DApps also have a significant amount of data to store. The problem here, is that unlike centralized apps, in order for the DApps to operate as a decentralized system, this data must be replicated across the all nodes in the blockchain. This requires an incredible deal of storage which, in turn skyrockets costs.
There are a number of new startups which attempt to solve this scaling problem for decentralized apps.
One approach is to bring conventional databases to the blockchain. Shardix is the upcoming solution for data storage on Decentralized Applications. Instead of replicating and storing the data across the entire blockchain, Shardix breaks the data into shards and stores each part on specific nodes. This cuts a significant portion of the need for data storage for the app while still allowing for an entirely decentralized system. By doing so, the great problem for decentralized aps, data storage, is solved, and along with it, the cost required for replications along the blockchain is cut.
Decentralized Apps are becoming increasingly the thing of the future. Eliminating centralized systems, is greatly important with our world’s growing globalization. Thankfully, as DApps spread, much of the censorship of the centralized nodes will fade onto the past. Though storage may still be a problem, it seems with the upcoming Shardix system we may be well on our way to a Decentralized Applications marketplace.