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DApps: Q&A with Roberto Infante, Author of Building Ethereum DApps

DApps: Q&A with Roberto Infante, Author of Building Ethereum DApps

Smart contracts are the means with which we define the types of interactions we record on a blockchain network. As covered in 3 Courses for Learning Blockchain Basics, smart contracts are digital contracts that use a programming language to determine your operations. Users of blockchain-enabled applications do not interact with smart contracts directly. They use a web application that invokes these contracts. In the Ethereum network, these are called decentralized applications or DApps.

To explore DApps, let’s hear from Roberto Infante, author of Building Ethereum DApps. His book introduces decentralized applications based on the Ethereum blockchain platform. According to Thomas Bertani, CEO of Oraclize, “Blockchain is about interoperability and Roberto understands this innately. He arms you with the tools of experts while keeping you aware of the bigger picture.”

What are DApps?

DApps are decentralized applications. Rather than running in a central server (or cluster of servers) owned or leased by the organization that has developed it, DApps run on each server of a dedicated peer-to-peer network, where every server is owned by a different organization. Consequently, there is no central control or ownership. The advantage of a decentralized application over a conventional one is that a user doesn’t need to trust the owner of the application, when it comes to the validity of a transaction or of the application data, simply because there is no owner, so each transaction is validated independently by each node of the network. Systems particularly suitable to this technology are workflow management or supply-chain systems that coordinate the interaction among institutions or people that inherently do not trust each other.

What is Ethereum? 

Ethereum is the first blockchain-based platform that was designed to allow the development of any decentralized application. Prior to the creation of Ethereum, most blockchain-based decentralized applications were single purpose, and the great majority were cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, litecoin, dogecoin, and so forth.

Why are smart contracts so important?

From a programming point of view, a smart contract looks very much like a class in any object-oriented language: it contains state variables (equivalent to member variables), functions (equivalent to member functions) and events. The main Ethereum smart-contract language is called Solidity, which is JavaScript-like. Another language that is gaining traction is Viper, which is more Python-like. A key difference between a smart contract and a component of a conventional application, such as a REST service, is that a REST service runs on a limited number of servers owned directly or indirectly by one organization. A smart contract, on the other hand, runs on each server of the underlying peer-to-peer network. So, obviously, things are also different when it comes to deployment.

What are some of the more exciting or successful DApps?

The most useful DApps have been in the provenance verification and supply-chain space. For example, Everledger tracks diamonds from mining, through cutting, polishing, and up to customer sale. An identifier is imprinted in the diamond with laser technology and all steps throughout the lifecycle of the diamond are recorded on the blockchain against that identifier. Since a blockchain is immutable and untamperable, all parties along the diamond supply-chain are confident about the authenticity of the diamond and its processing status by simply looking it up on the Everledger DApp.

Decentralization and transparency are radical ideas that challenge the control of large institutions. Why are banks and financial institutions interested in something so subversive?

It’s true that major central banks are studying cryptocurrencies and looking into possibly even issuing their own. It’s also true that critics argue that these cryptocurrencies would be somewhat centralized, therefore missing the point of truly decentralized currencies. But what financial institutions are really focusing on now is the underlying blockchain technology. Insurance companies are starting to design shared blockchain-based claim management systems with the aim of reducing fraud, for example, to detect if a customer has started a claim against multiple insurers. One area banks are keen on is Know Your Customer checks, mandatory background checks that bank must perform on every customer to mitigate fraud and money laundering risks. Checks stored on the blockchain can be inherently trusted by all units of a financial organization and can even be shared with other financial counterparts, therefore reducing considerably these time-consuming and costly checks.

What’s the best way to learn how to build DApps?

The App Developer to Blockchain Engineer Skillsoft Aspire learning journey takes a learner on a path that starts with courses covering areas that app developers typically are involved with on a day to day basis. Topics such as Smart Contracts and Ethereum Wallets then help the learner progress to the next role. By the end of the four-step journey, the learner will have worked up to building decentralized applications and building blockchains in the cloud.

Application Developer to Blockchain Engineer

To ensure anyone taking the journey fully understands what is necessary for their new role, Skillsoft has assessments and hands-on practice labs (done virtually on real equipment/applications) so each learner can demonstrate their knowledge and applicability of the material covered. At the culmination of the journey, users must pass a rigorous final exam and complete a capstone project to earn their credential.

Also Read: How to Implement DApps in Just 5 Minutes

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Roberto Infante is the author of Building Ethereum DApps, published by Manning Publications. Roberto is a software development consultant who specializes in finance. He currently works on financial risk management systems and on blockchain technology.

Skillsoft is partnering with Manning Publications, a leading publisher of technology and developer content, to deliver more than 250 current and backlist Manning titles to Skillsoft customers. Manning’s bestsellers include titles across a wide range of languages, technologies, and new tech, including Kubernetes in Action, Deep Learning with Python, Java 8 in Action, Grokking Algorithms, Spring Microservices in Action, Serverless Architectures on AWS, Functional Programming in C#, and Deep Learning with R. Manning’s highly respected content on foundational technology topics and emerging areas greatly expands Skillsoft Tech & Developer book offerings and enhances our Skillsoft Aspire learning journeys. Manning will add new titles to Skillsoft Books on a monthly basis.

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