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Why recreational dApps matter and how they will evolve

Published on: January 23, 2018

Just a couple of years ago, if you had told me that dApps were going to scale to a massive, global degree—I would have called you crazy. However, 2017 certainly seemed to prove the potential of dApps. But how exactly?

Throughout 2017, both blockchain technology’s reputation managed to rapidly grow, as well as—and especially covered by the media—a variety of blockchain currencies. With an enhanced reputation, massive user-growth became inevitable. Today, dApps represent one of, if not the most promising use case. 

Overview

Before diving in, I think I should clarify what dApps actually are. For starters, the term is short for decentralized application. If you’re already involved in the blockchain industry, the definition is self-explanatory and you can just skip to the next section. If you’re new, a typical app has a central authority, which is typically the creator of the app.

Central authorities can play a negative influence on user-experience and privacy, whether through accessing your information used on the platform, censoring the content you put, and so on. A dApp takes away this central authority and often rewards users for contributing toward the success of the dApp.

How do dApps work?

Decentralized apps have been growing on par with Ethereum’s success as a result of Ethereum’s innate compatibility with developing apps. But the processes aren’t particularly intuitive.

Just to clarify, this section is a vast over simplification of the overall process of dApps. To discuss how dApps truly work would require loads of more information and would distract the ultimate focus of this post—the importance of four recreational dApps.

To deploy a dApp, it needs to have some sort of connection to the blockchain. Often times, to maintain distance from the main blockchain network—whether it’s for security purposes, performance, etc.—developers use sidechains, a form of decentralized blockchains, for dApps.

One major tool used for browsing decentralized apps is known as web3js. The JavaScript API allows people to use dApps with tools like MetaMask or the Cipher Browser. Combined with a UI like the Ethereum test RPC (note: this requires nodeJS), you can use web3js to easily exchange smart contracts.

Without further ado, let’s get into the importance of four specific recreational apps, starting with Cryptokitties.

Cryptokitties

This app is very likely the most known recreational dApp. Attracting headlines like “the Beanie Babies of blockchain” and “How one CryptoKitty was flipped for $60,000 in four days,” it is needless to say that Cryptokitties has garned quite a lot of traffic.

I’m sure many of you already know about Cryptokitties but for those that don’t, it is an app where you can collect different digital cats. The cats themselves have different “genetic” makeups and so on, which makes each one distinct. The nuances of the game are cool, but the implications of its growth and the increased attention brought about one major “pro” of dApps and one major “con.”

First: the good. Cryptokitties traffic is extremely high. In fact, in just a few days of being online, according to TechCrunch, the app already had handled over $1,000,000 in purchases. But that part isn’t as impressive as the next statistic—in the same period of time, nearly 15 percent of all Ethereum traffic was driven toward the game. The growth has proven that blockchain apps have the potential to become adopted at a mainstream degree, as well as become a part of popular culture.

Now comes the bad. While Cryptokitties’ growth rate was shocking, the quick attention also brought scrutiny. With its success, it became increasingly clear that the app was not truly decentralized. In fact, in a Medium blog post, the CryptoKitties team explained how their app wouldn’t have been as user-friendly if it were completely decentralized. Specifically, the UI and gene algorithms were centralized.

"Completely decentralizing CryptoKitties would have resulted in a game that wasn't as fun, and we would have crippled our efforts to bringing blockchain to the masses."

Regardless, as cute of a game as it is, CryptoKitties has serious implications regarding the blockchain—and they are for the best. To best summarize the positive impact of the dApp, Buterin tweeted: “Agree it's not close to fully decentralized in its current form. But I think people see that it can be.”

The game isn’t a complete decentralized success story but it’s a giant leap in the right direction.

Smart Billions

Recreational games, of course, include gambling—and, specifically, participating in a blockchain lottery. Smart Billions launched as one of the first decentralized lotteries and made a strong mark in potentially altering a global industry. With smart contracts, the blockchain lottery was able to increase its transparency and decrease the risk of fraud (since there’s no central authority who can skew the outcomes).

The platform runs off of Ethereum and seems to show a lot of potential for dApps to be completely decentralized. However, right before launching, they had a big issue: they were hacked.

In October, the smart lottery founding team offered a prize of $450,000 in Ether (1,500ETH at the time) to anyone who can hack the system and withdraw funds.

It took two days for a couple of hackers to withdraw 400ETH or $120,000 then and win the hackathon. While the contest was for the improvement of Smart Billions, the successful hacking—in my eyes—deterred a lot from being as excited about the launch and instead being more cautious. The overall implication of this is that decentralized apps are a relatively new concept and, like most new concepts, they are susceptible.

However, Smart Billion’s quick fix and subsequent launch proves that even when there are technical issues, the blockchain community will just quickly fix them and continue to grow—unlike most new industries, which lose consumer confidence from issues in their early stages.

KryptoWar

As the founder of KryptoWar, I had to talk about our work. Our game started as simple war game but is growing into something more complex where players can purchase factories and schools to sell weapons and certifications to other armies.

Our goal with KryptoWar is to build a game completely decentralized so it felt like a great evolution to let players sell weapons to each other instead of getting them to purchase weapons from our smart contract.

At KryptoWar, we don’t use any side chain component. All of the data that runs the game is stored on the blockchain. It’s great way to test the Ethereum Blockchain and to create a completely decentralized war game. 

Closing Remarks

As the world is becoming more aware and focused on Ethereum, we can expect the number of developers working on decentralized applications to continue grow rapidly. Even more, developing dApps themselves is also becoming easier with the release of tools like CryptoZombies, which have been largely successful in teaching developers to use Solidity and Web3js.

Each of these apps represents a leap in the right direction for the building decentralized apps on the Ethereum blockchain. But it’s important to realize that this is just the beginning—and everyday, dApps are becoming increasingly more advanced. Soon, we will see larger-scale apps that have achieved complete decentralization.