Decentralized applications (DApps) provide the user experience for blockchain as it offers an interface through which the user can perform any transaction on the said technology. Keeping it simple, consider this as a front end for the blockchain.
DApps do require the browser extension to be able to connect to blockchain and either write data on the blockchain or read from it. There are various browsers, but the popular ones are Metamask and Mist. Sometimes, DApps may need specialized browsers itself, for example, Toshi or Brave.
There are at least 2,000 DApps in the market today. I’m not surprised at that number since there has been a race toward Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) in the past couple of years that eventually resulted in many use cases delivering DApps. There are various trackers where these DApps and their usage data can be looked at. I look at Dappradar and stateofthedapps, here:
While DApps is the critical component of blockchain-based architecture, the challenges associated with it have limited user adoption of the blockchain, to some extent. Let’s get into what these challenges are and reflect on what must be done to avoid Dapps becoming the weakest link between users and blockchain.
Challenges being observed with Dapps:
- Low usability: Today’s DApps feel like internet websites from the time when the internet first went public. There were tons of websites with crazy colors, fonts, etc., and we still tried our hand at them. Obviously, corporates, as they realized the potential of the internet, polished much of the space and made it look nice to users. The usability factor for current Dapps, in most of the cases, is low, with these apps being difficult to understand and use for the purposes they are built for.
- Low in functionality: Beyond usability concerns, another key concern is that most of these DApps don’t even offer rich functionalities or force users to come to their platforms to accomplish something that cannot be accomplished with existing web applications with centralized architectures. For example, if the DApp can offer tokenization of real estate investment, it will present a strong case for users to adopt it considering these capabilities are not available over apps built over centralized architectures. However, very few DApps are being built to provide these differentiating capabilities.
- Limited integrations in the ecosystem: A compelling reason behind low usability and functionality also comes from the existing challenge of limited integration in the blockchain space. Imagine a scenario where DApps force users to go to Coinbase, buy crypto, transfer to a Metamask address, and then be ready for the transaction through DApp. Users would rightly look for alternatives and they are doing that.
- Low user training considerations: Somehow, DApps building communities haven’t realized that not many users are close to blockchain terminologies and components, including browsers such as Metamask, exchanges, transaction confirmations over blocks, etc. We are not seeing enough effort being put into educating and enabling users on DApps, although there are some exceptions.
- Security concerns: The regular stories of hacking of exchanges, constant fear of losing private keys, and thus losing access to all your investments, not being enough aware of security aspects in the blockchain, public ledgers with limited transparency, and similar reasons are pushing users away.
Although organizations can build excellent use cases and architecture for blockchain unless the interface for these brilliant architectures attracts users, the potential for mass adoption remains low. Permissioned and permission-less blockchains may see the different impact of these challenges. In some cases, however, the need to address these stands valid for both. In my view, some of these key things can ensure DApps are not limiting the adoption of this fantastic technology.
Improved functional capabilities for DApps: This takes many of the DApps to the drawing board again to think about what they want to accomplish with blockchain in their architectures and how do they differentiate themselves from what already exists in the industry. (C).
- Bring in stronger UX and usability aspects in DApps. Very few startups today have specialized UX experts guiding their DApps designs. Acknowledge the complexity which exists and will continue existing for some more time for limited integrations in the blockchain space.
- Implement the sandwich complexity model. In other words, keep front end and blockchain-based back end as simple as possible. Implement the complexity in your middleware, hiding it from users as much as possible. Users should be able to buy the crypto over DApp and use it, address exchanges and swaps between fiat and crypto in your architecture and process workflow.
- Educate, improve awareness for users but keep it simple. Blockchain has quite a bit of technology aspect to it which not every user would feel comfortable with. Keep it simple for users to know what benefits they are getting on your DApps, how to use it. Provide some support in early days through chatbots and similar mechanisms.
It’s amazing to see the ever-growing acknowledgment for blockchain as revolutionary technology, however, the pace of adoption hasn’t met expectations for many. While there are various other aspects behind it inclusive of regulatory, technical, economical etc., addressing challenges around DApps can take away one of the important resistance components and take us one step closer to the mass adoption of blockchain! The blockchain industry needs to take some huge strides soon to differentiate DApps ecosystem from an existing ecosystem of centralized apps, offering capabilities to users which are unique and deliver in a way that users can consume without worrying about the complexity of technology behind these.