Building a decentralized app (dApp) on Ethereum is the most common method of creation for these applications. A decentralized application looks like any other website or application from a front-end User Experience/User Interface perspective. However, what makes a dApp different from traditional applications is that it is built on a decentralized network, like the Ethereum blockchain.
This post will explore some aspects of decentralized apps, but our primary focus will be on Ethereum dApps specifically. If you’re interested in learning more about decentralized apps in general, check out our resource on dApps.
Let’s explore how Ethereum dApps work, why the Ethereum network dominates dApp development, and review a few alternatives to Ethereum for decentralized app development.
How do dApps on Ethereum Work?
Ethereum has gained much attention as the second most valuable cryptocurrency behind Bitcoin, but there is so much more to the Ethereum network. To understand how an Ethereum dApp works, you must first understand the blockchain.
The simplest explanation of blockchain technology is a HiTech public ledger. Bitcoin, the most famous example of blockchain technology, stores numbers in the ledger. On the other hand, Ethereum stores executable code in the form of smart contracts. Understanding this aspect of Ethereum is essential to understanding how dApps work.
At its core, Ethereum is a network protocol used to create and execute smart contracts over a decentralized network. Smart contracts are not like regular contracts that you sign with a pen. Instead, a smart contract is code that executes specific operations and commands. As a result, a smart contract must be written by a developer.
As stated earlier, an Ethereum dApp will look like any other typical website or app from the end-user’s perspective. However, while the front-end User Experience is like traditional applications, the application’s back-end will either be entirely or partially built on Ethereum in the form of smart contracts. Furthermore, instead of using HTTP protocol to communicate with the broader network, Ethereum dApps connect to the blockchain’s decentralized network instead of routing through centralized servers.
The back-end code for the smart contract is written in an Ethereum-specific programming language. There are several different Ethereum languages, including Vyper and Serpent, but the most popular language for Ethereum smart contracts is Solidity.
While the back-end code of Ethereum dApps differs from traditional app development, developers can use the same front-end frameworks and programming languages, like React Native, that they would use on any other development project. However, if you are interested in decentralizing the front-end of your application as well, it is possible to host your front-end code on decentralized storage nodes using tools like Swarm or IPFS.
The primary driver of decentralized applications is DeFi platforms. However, dApps are used in several other industries and for token launches.
Why is Ethereum Dominant in dApp Development?
There are several good reasons why most dApps are built on Ethereum, but the simple answer is that Ethereum provides the most robust development ecosystem. Developers are attracted to the best tools with the broadest reach, making Ethereum the dominant force in dApp development. In more specific terms, the Ethereum network is popular because of its:
- Development interface
- Large community
Ethereum’s development interface is user-friendly, helps reduce programming time, and helps launch projects faster than competing platforms. Additionally, Ethereum has a strong reputation among developers for providing a pleasing development experience, especially for developers who are new to blockchain development.
The Ethereum network also has world-class tools like Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM). Ethereum Virtual Machine helps developers launch their dApps regardless of the underlying code. The combination of powerful tools like EVM, application templates, and an intuitive development interface helps drive the rapid development and innovation of Ethereum dApps.
Developers prefer easy-to-use tools that have a wide range of capabilities. The comprehensive development kit offered by Ethereum allows blockchain developers to focus on innovation and refining their development projects.
Ethereum was a first mover in the blockchain ecosystem. As a result, the Ethereum network has a large and actively engaged development community that has worked hard to build network updates and write extension documentation to aid the broader Ethereum community. In addition, large, successful tech companies also improve the network.
Two key examples of this are Diligence and Microsoft. Diligence created a Solidity Visual Auditor extension for the Visual Studio tool, and Microsoft created an entire blockchain development kit specifically for Ethereum. These enhancements improve the Ethereum platform, attract more developers, and encourage additional improvements to the platform. Ultimately, this leads to more innovative dApps.
Ethereum makes it easy for dApps to monetize their assets through existing crypto exchanges or by launching their own decentralized exchange. All native tokens used within an Ethereum dApp follow the ERC-20 token standard. This standard allows for the seamless exchange of crypto assets.
In addition, asset trading creates more interest in the Ethereum network and the dApps built on it. More awareness and interest in the network leads to more businesses and consumers taking part, creating value for all other participants.
Alternatives to Ethereum
Ethereum might be the most widely used blockchain platform for dApp development, but it is not the only one. There are several other dApp networks that might interest you and fit your business needs and goals. Top alternatives to Ethereum include:
- NEO – This blockchain network is the self-proclaimed friendliest platform for developers. If you are interested in creating decentralized mobile and web apps, NEO has many development tools to aid your project.
- Ontology – This network is focused on data and digital identity. Ontology aims to be highly scalable. Plus, it offers cross-chain interoperability, which is a significant benefit when there are so many blockchain options available.
- EOS – This network positions itself as an enterprise-grade blockchain option for private and public sector deployment. The most popular dApps built on EOS are marketplaces and games.
- TRON – This network is popular with DeFi apps, and as a result, it is growing rapidly.
- IOST – What makes this network unique is its new consensus algorithm. IOST uses a “Proof of Believability” consensus mechanism that factors reputation, participation, and behavior to increase network speed and improve scalability.
Before choosing a blockchain platform, you should take the time to understand what each one offers your business. One option might be a better fit for your needs than the others. For example, FinTech companies might find that TRON is best for them, while a marketplace startup might find that EOS is best.
Decentralized apps represent the future of development. There is a lot of nuanced, technical information to sift through, but with the help of an app development partner, you can figure out if dApp development is right for your business. Building a dApp on Ethereum remains the most popular development method, but the landscape is shifting rapidly.