What a Dapp really is, really

My article on Dapp-s just got published -

While you may find small inconsistencies and contradictions the article is far more precise compared to what I call ‘fairy tales’ of wishful thinking and marketing hype articles on what a Dapp is.



I would define a dapp as an app that does not have a central point of failure that would render the app inaccessible to users.

  • An app on your computer has a central point of failure: your computer. If your computer is destroyed, the app becomes inaccessible.

  • An app in the cloud has a central point of failure: the legal entity hosting the app on its server.

  • An app running on Ethereum with no single owner or host does not have a central point of failure: any one node or miner or developer could be compromised or go offline and the app will remain accessible and usable, at least directly through the smart contract if not through an interface distributed through a decentralized network as well.

Take for example Aragon: it is an app with smart contracts that run on Ethereum, not controlled by a single account (users opt-in to smart contract upgrades themselves), with a frontend resolved using ENS (a decentralized naming service) and served using IPFS (a decentralized file system). While not as decentralized as it could be, this is imo one of the most decentralized dapps out there.

More info about how the Aragon dapp works here:


I appreciate the comments. I am a professional programmer who develops on both low level (in C) and high level (php, java script ).
Regarding your comments here is a point by point replay -
I would define a Dapp as a collection of instances of code, and each instance has to have hardware (notebook, phone,tablet…) to run on.
A Dapp is not running on the blockchain - it can only call the blockchain, for ex. a smart contract function or funds transfer
Every Dapp has its owner/creator
The central point of failure on Ethereum Dapps is the ‘metamask’/web3.js provider blockchain node; when it is down all Ethereums Dapps using ‘metamask’ will be down
A smart contract is a collection of functions, which mostly mint coins and sell them for ETH or fiat; your beloved Aragon Dapp has owners/creators who pocket the ETH or fiat and hosts from where the Dapp is downloaded;


The Aragon developers don’t collect any ETH or fiat from users, so that part is not true. And while there is a web client hosted in a central location at app.aragon.org, it is not the only instance: users could build and run it themselves locally, or even load the client directly from IPFS (again, a decentralized file system) on-demand without any reliance on any central points of failure. So it is quite a bit more decentralized in its operation then I think you give it credit for. And I think this is a meaningful enough distinction from traditional web apps or desktop apps that it deserves its own category.

That said, from a branding perspective, I do think “dapps” is probably not going to last long outside of a niche group of technologists, if at all. At the end of the day, these are just apps with a novel backend or distribution mechanism, technical details that most users don’t want or need to know about except in cases where something might be going wrong.

For the sake of disclosure I do not get paid by anyone to write the article.
As you did mention Aragon - are you holding Aragon/ANT or are you being paid in ANT to promote it?

Regarding ->>>>>The Aragon developers don’t collect any ETH or fiat from users, so that part is not true…
As ANT is an ERC-20 token on the Ethereum blockchain it is convertible to ETH with a specific exchange rate. The developers did allocate and distribute some ANT coins for themselves. And if ANT is listed on crypto-exchanges the developers can sell their ANT for fiat.

I agree on Dapps remaining niche technology. In the end of my article I post 2 links to my ‘let’s get rid of the blockchain’ articles, outlining possible post-blockchain future.