Decentralized Applications in 2024: A Deep Dive on the Pros, Cons and Real-World Examples

Decentralized applications (dapps) continue to generate excitement as an emerging use case for blockchain technology. But what exactly are dapps, and are they living up to their potential? This in-depth guide will explain what decentralized applications are, analyze their major pros and cons, and provide examples of real-world dapp projects across different industries. By the end, you‘ll have a solid understanding of this potentially transformative, yet still nascent, technology.

What Are Decentralized Applications and How Do They Work?

Let‘s start with a quick primer on what decentralized applications are.

A dapp is a digital application that operates without a central authority owning or controlling it. Dapps run on a peer-to-peer network of computers instead of a single centralized server. This allows the app to avoid downtime due to a single point of failure.

The backend software powering a dapp is typically created with smart contracts – programmable transaction protocols that self-execute based on predefined conditions. These smart contracts live on the blockchain, giving the dapp a decentralized backend.

The frontend user interface of a dapp, however, works like any normal app. But instead of storing data on private corporate servers, dapps write all data to a public blockchain ledger. This creates transparency, trust, and censorship resistance.

Key Differences from Centralized Apps

  • Dapps have no central point of control versus being owned by a single entity.
  • Dapps use a public blockchain rather than private centralized servers.
  • Dapps allow open participation versus imposing restrictive access rules.
  • Dapps data is transparent rather than privately siloed.

Now that you understand the basics, let‘s analyze some of the key pros and cons of decentralized applications.

The Pros: Why Dapps Are Exciting

Censorship Resistance

One major benefit offered by dapps is censorship resistance. Because no single entity runs the network, and because records are transparently added to blockchains, transactions cannot be altered or blocked. This allows for permissionless innovation without the risk of censorship.

For example, a centralized app store could remove an app or media outlet for arbitrary reasons. This happened in 2017 when Apple banned certain apps supporting Hong Kong protestors from the iOS app store to appease the Chinese government. Such control is impossible on decentralized dapps.

Transparency and Trust

Dapps built on public blockchains offer complete transparency. All transactions, data, and app logic can be viewed openly. Users can trust that smart contracts will execute as programmed, with no central operator able to alter data or transactions.

Public blockchains also allow trustless interactions between strangers. Two users can exchange value on a dapp without relying onmiddlemen or counterparties.

Lower Fees

By eliminating corporate middlemen and third party fees, dapps can significantly reduce transaction costs compared to legacy digital services. Dapp developers and users can transact directly on the blockchain peer-to-peer with minimal fees.

For example, selling goods in a centralized iOS app requires paying Apple‘s 30% platform fee on each transaction. Selling goods on a dapp would incur only the small blockchain network transaction fees.

Enhanced Privacy

Participating in dapps does not require providing extensive personal information. Dapp users maintain pseudo-anonymity with their blockchain wallet address not easily tied to real world identity.

On Web2 applications, users must share private data like photos, locations, and browsing habits with the platform, which monetizes that data. Dapps keep user information decentralized across the network.

The Cons: Challenges Facing Dapp Adoption

However, as exciting as the dapp model sounds, the technology currently faces some major hurdles to mainstream adoption.

Limited Speed and Scalability

The transaction processing speeds of existing blockchain networks are far too slow compared to centralized competitors.

Ethereum, the most popular blockchain for dapps, can only process 15 to 30 transactions per second. Meanwhile Visa processes 1700+ transactions per second. This limits the responsiveness and scalability of current dapps.

However, new layer 2 scaling solutions applied to blockchains like Ethereum aim to radically improve transaction speeds in the future.

Poor User Experience

The average consumer still finds the user experience around blockchain tools like digital wallets and transaction flows far too complex. Seamless user experiences must be built before decentralized apps go mainstream.

A Coinbase study in 2021 found that 15% of Americans already own crypto, but use remains niche due to poor user experience. Improving UI/UX design is critical.

Security Vulnerabilities

While the underlying blockchain may be secure, vulnerabilities in dapp smart contract code can lead to hacks and exploits. Dapps have lost hundreds of millions worth of crypto funds due to software bugs.

Formal verification and audits of smart contract code are needed to ensure dapps are truly secure.

Lack of Oversight

With no central entity overseeing dapps, unintended behaviors or bugs in dapp code cannot be reversed or patched by administrators. If funds are lost or locked due to an error, there is no recourse.

This also means dapps can be used for illicit or dangerous purposes without repercussions. Strict regulations will likely eventually be imposed on dapps.

Real-World Dapp Examples

Despite these challenges, dapp innovation marches onward across industries like finance, gaming, identity, insurance, and more. Let‘s look at some of the most popular categories of live dapps.

Decentralized Finance (DeFi)

Decentralized finance aims to recreate traditional financial services like lending and trading without intermediaries through the use of dapps connected to blockchain networks and digital assets.

DeFi dapps collectively locked over $100 billion in crypto value in 2021, demonstrating the potential scale of permissionless financial services.


MakerDAO is the largest DeFi protocol, with over $6 billion currently supplied. Users lock up crypto as collateral to take loans against and earn interest. The platform‘s DAI stablecoin aims to maintain price parity with the US dollar through an algorithmic central bank model.


Aave is a decentralized lending and borrowing protocol that allows users to supply crypto assets and earn interest or borrow crypto by using other assets as collateral. Over $11 billion is currently being used in loans on Aave.

Decentralized Exchanges (DEXs)

DEXs utilize blockchain smart contracts to enable peer-to-peer trading of crypto assets with no centralized intermediary. Users retain custody, bypassing security risks.


Uniswap uses automated liquidity pools instead of order books to enable algorithmic, decentralized trading of tokens. Uniswap is the most popular DEX, processing over 50% of all DEX volume.


Similar to Uniswap but built on the Binance Smart Chain. PancakeSwap offers fast settlement and low fees, processing over $10 billion in monthly volume.

Blockchain Gaming

Dapps are being used to integrate blockchain technology, digital ownership and crypto economies into online video games.

Axie Infinity

Axie Infinity is a blockchain-based game involving collecting, battling, and trading cute creatures called Axies. The game racked up [$4 billion](– activity-overview) in sales in 2021, proving the popularity of blockchain gaming.

The Sandbox

The Sandbox is a virtual world where players can purchase virtual lands as NFTs and create experiences on those lands from gaming to events and museums. Over [$500 million](– defi-nfts) has been spent on Sandbox lands and assets.

Decentralized Social Media

A handful of projects are attempting to build social media platforms on blockchain technology to remove centralized control over content and data.


Steemit is a decentralized blogging and social media site that allows users to earn cryptocurrency rewards for creating content and curating posts. Steemit has over 1.3 million registered accounts.

Lens Protocol

Lens Protocol by Aave enables decentralized social graphs for social media dapps. Profiles, content, follows and other activity is posted publicly to the blockchain. This allows for portability between apps.

Decentralized Cloud Storage

Filecoin and related projects offer alternatives to centralized cloud storage providers using blockchain networks to allow users to buy and sell spare storage capacity.


Filecoin is a decentralized storage network that lets users pay others to store their files. The IPFS protocol breaks files into pieces, erasure codes them, and stores them on independent storage providers for redundancy. Over 10 billion GB of storage capacity has been supplied to Filecoin.

The Future of Dapps – Mass Adoption or Niche Use Case?

While decentralized applications clearly unlock new technological possibilities, it remains unclear whether dapps will ever truly surpass legacy Web2 applications, or if they are destined to remain a niche developer technology.

Much depends on if core technical limitations around scalability and user experience can be resolved. And even if they are, new regulations and infrastructure would likely emerge around dapps.

However, perhaps the largest question is around network effects. Can dapps ever build user bases and activity that comes anywhere close to the scale that titans like Facebook and YouTube operate at? Or will users prefer to stick with centralized platforms due to inertia and familiarity?

Most experts believe the truth lies somewhere in the middle. We will likely continue to see innovation in decentralized finance, gaming, social platforms, identity, storage and other verticals. But dapps may act more as a neutral backend layer rather than direct consumer products.

Either way, the pace of experimentation and innovation happening in the decentralized application space ensures it will remain an exciting arena for both developers and power users for the foreseeable future.

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