This might seem like it was pre-planned, but in all honesty it’s just a coincidence.
Last week I talked a lot about decentralization. This week, I’m going to do more of the same. I’ve been writing about crypto for nearly two years now, I’ve mentioned the word ‘dApp’ at least a hundred times, but I’ve never actually used them. So this week I’m going to track some of those mythical beasts down and see what they do.
As I was putting the finishing touches on this blog, I saw this opinion-piece on ihodl.com.
We’re going to have two opinion pieces on dApps coming out on the same website within a week. Let’s see how they compare.
Here’s how it’s going to go down: I’m going to use a randomly select and test out several dApps. I’m not interested in exchanges or wallets as those are just too mundane.
I learned something new almost immediately after I opened the first link with a list of dApps. LocalEthereum is a dApp. I’ve never thought about it that way, but it actually makes sense. It’s built on the ethereum blockchain, it uses smart-contracts, it’s decentralized. I’ve tested LocalEthereum several weeks ago, so I’m not going to run the test again. It’s great. It’s one of the two gateways to crypto that I use regularly (the other one being LocalBitcoins).
I’ve heard a lot about Augur and I just couldn’t resist testing it out. It kind of sounds great - it’s a decentralized prediction market for forecasting real world events. I think it's supposed to look and feel like an exchange, but it seems that it might just be a gambling service in disguise.
I downloaded a Mac client which requires you to connect to ethereum. By default, the client will try to connect to the mainnet. I tried it and it looked like it was going to take forever, so I chose what seemed to be the only Light Node option on the list (other options I just never heard of).
Syncing with the Local Light Node took about 10 minutes. I really hoped that was it and I could finally explore the platform but no. Augur started ‘processing market data’. I left it running for another 10 minutes, had a cup of tea and came back to this:
Just out of curiosity I figured I’d set a stopwatch running to see how long will the whole thing take. The answer is - I have no idea. I kept getting all kinds of errors and notifications:
It kept disconnecting, it was going too slow, my computer was getting so hot I could probably cook an egg on it. That’s how long it took Augur to get to 1%:
I tried changing networks - that didn’t help. So, you know what I did? I gave up. I don’t know what the problem is - is it my computer, my internet speed, ethereum’s speed or whatever else - and frankly I don’t care. 1% of Data Processing took over 30 minutes. That’s 3000 minutes / 50 hours for the whole thing. Nope, bye. If anyone has any clues feel free to comment and give advice;)
If you want to work crypto, go to this place as it is mostly about cryptocurrencies and the mighty blockchain. So, as a crypto writer I actually had really high hopes for Ethlance - it seemed like the perfect place to find relevant work for anyone related to the industry.
It’s all completely free, which is exactly what I like. Still, I had to instal MetaMask just to be able to press any of these buttons. Ethlance also redirects you to a Medium articles which explains what MetaMask is and how to use it, in perhaps way too much detail.
Nevertheless, I got it up and running, I withdrew some ether from my Binance account and sent it to my MetaMask wallet, which came through within just a few minutes. I clicked on ‘Become a freelancer’ thing and even started filling in my profile, but then I noticed that the platform offers you to connect your GitHub profile. This kind of suggested that it’s probably mostly for programmers, so I decided to to go onto the ‘Find Work’ part.
This is when I fully understood what my colleague meant when he said that nobody uses dApps. Take a look at the state of this:
Five job listings in 2 months. One of those five is looking for a ‘Tlansrator’, while the other one is some guy named Dave apparently based in Antarctica is just looking for people to chat with.
This place is dead, I’m going to move on.
Several weeks ago I wrote an article evaluating whether the blockchain technology can revolutionise the music industry (spoiler alert: it can’t). While researching for that, I found out about Ujo. This is what it’s for:
The thing with that is that is trying to solve a non-existent problem. You don’t really need a blockchain to record rights and right owners. Royalty payments are only a problem for massive artists who are signed on to huge labels, which effectively means it’s not really a problem - they are doing well for themselves nevertheless, rest assured.
There’s a rather centralised service that does exactly the same thing that Ujo is trying to do and even more. It’s called Bandcamp. Yes, they take their cut - a mere 15%, which goes down to 10% as soon as the sales hit $5,000. It’s a platform of choice for independent artists, who have already made a combined $325 million on the platform.
What Bandcamp has over Ujo is the fact that it’s accessible to everyone. You see a song - you listen to it - you like it - you pay for it - you download it. There’s no added malarkey of trying to understand what Ether is and how to get it. But okay, enough with the rambling, let’s have a look at Ujo.
You know what, it’s interesting. Despite the fact that it seems rather dead and there are no familiar artists, it works great. You can listen to an entire songs while browsing, it seems smooth and in order. Also, it has this quality of a thrift-shop. It’s filled with literally crap, but you can probably find some gems there. And there is some questionable cryptocurrency-themed music there.
I’m not used to paying for music unless it’s on a record, but I’ll give it a go just to see how this works. This is what pops up once you press ‘register’:
You know, I bet this ‘sign transaction’ thing can be alarming to people who are not into crypto. It sounds like ‘pay to register’.
Still, I signed for the empty transaction and that was it - my account is registered. You see, now I get the point of MetaMask and things like IDs on Blockchain. It’s actually convenient and safe to use.
Back to the bad things: you can’t browse music by genres, all you see is the cover, the title and the artist name. So essentially you have to guess what kind of music it is just by looking at the picture it comes along with.
There’s also a guy named Bobby selling a 1 second song for $2.
After several minutes of browsing I found a nice little song, pressed ‘buy release’, confirmed the transaction of MetaMask and that was it!
To this day, Gas fees are Ethereum’s main killjoy. Nevertheless, this was a rapid transaction, straight after I pressed ‘confirm’, this happened:
I like to think that my $1.14 went straight to the guys who posted this song.
All in all, this was an epically convenient and easy experience. Also, this was probably the first time I’ve ever bought anything with crypto. Popped my crypto-cherry, so to speak.
Nevertheless, I have to say that I probably won’t use Ujo again, purely because most of the music there is just plain awful. Having said that, I’d love to be able to use MetaMask and pay for things with ether, overall that was a very pleasant experience.
Another key takeaway is the fact that ethereum really needs to do something about their gas fees. You just can’t charge a 13% fee on a $1 micro-transactions. You just can’t do that.
Well, having briefly delved into the world of dApps I got to say I agree with my colleague - there isn’t much need for most of them. Some are just too clunky, others are trying to solve problems that don’t really exist, while others just seem abandoned and dead.
But let’s not forget that we are still at the very early stages. May be there is some promise in dApps? Let’s just wait and see.