What sort of Ethereum projects currently exists, and which deserve our attention? Listed below are ten Dapps, DAOs, and ventures to watch out for in the upcoming year.
Augur is a prediction marketplace. Based on the concept of the “Wisdom of the Crowd” (known academically as “collective intelligence”), Augur hopes to provide answers to questions whose results lie in the future. In other words, users will launch “markets” for questions (such as Who will win the 2016 presidential election in the US?) where other users can make bets on the outcome. The “favored horse,” according to the Wisdom of the Crowd, is the outcome most likely to occur. Users who predict correctly can see a return on their investments in the form of REP, the token associated with the Augur marketplace. According to its creators, by pooling the knowledge of a large group of users Augur will be able to provide extremely accurate and up-to-date answers to just about any question one might have. The beta version of the marketplace was launched recently, giving users their first taste of how its prediction markets will work.
Unlike some others on this list, Slock.it is not a Dapp but rather a for-profit company registered in Germany. The company has given itself the audacious projects of not only bringing Ethereum into every home with their Ethereum Computer, but of also spearheading the organizational structure and ethic behind DAOs. DAOs, or Decentralized Autonomous Organizations, are companies which exist on the Ethereum blockchain, organized around the principles of transparency, trustlessness, and automated contract execution. It sounds a bit complex at first, but imagine if you will an organization whose rules are coded into the blockchain and whose actions are performed based upon shareholder votes (in this case, shareholders are those who hold tokens for respective Dapps or DAOs). Any proposals made by the members of the DAO will be executed upon a majority vote being cast, the internal mechanics of which are handled by a “robot”, or the code which underlies the DAO’s structure. While it remains unclear how exactly DAOs will organize themselves in the future, or the problems that may accompany such a trailblazing business plan, Slock.it has faced these unknowns head-on, releasing open-source code and a whitepaper detailing what a DAO could look like. So far a number of organizations have cropped up utilizing Slock.it’s initial framework. Outside of inspiring blockchain entrepreneurs, Slock.it’s first project is working with the Ethereum Computer, which aims to “bring blockchain technology to the entire home, making it possible to rent access to any compatible smart object.” In other words, Slock.it hopes to initiate the IoT revolution, granting users the freedom to, for example, rent out a spare bedroom in the house or finally get around to renting out an old bicycle. In this way, Slock.it hopes to “get rid of the middle-man” standing between users and their potential customers – a revolutionary idea which might unseat still-nascent companies such as AirBnB and Uber. But more importantly, their successes or failures will help to educate the body of Ethereum enthusiasts as to the pitfalls and achievements waiting for them on the Ethereum frontier.
Digix is another example on this list of a DAO; another “company” which hopes to revolutionize business structure while also shaping the future of the Ethereum blockchain. Digix provides users with a channel to purchase gold in the real world using Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ether, or any other cryptocurrency. Just a few days ago they launched their crowdsale, giving early adopters the chance to buy DGD (DigixDao Tokens). Users who hold DGD will earn transaction fees from DGX tokens, which are tokens that represent a real-world sum of gold. This is also how Digix plans on funding itself – through the transactions of DGX and the fees collected thereby. In addition, those who hold DGD will have voting rights within the organization. The DAO managed to sell-out their crowdsale in about 14 hours. According to their website, Digix hopes to use the funds raised from the crowdsale to launch future project proposals, most likely in the form of investment opportunities for its shareholders, the improvement of their UI, and integration with merchants and exchanges that allow for DGX to be used as a payment method and tradeable currency.
Once again we come to another DAO. Much like Digix, Maker hopes to establish a modicum of stability on the Ethereum blockchain and among the cryptocurrencies currently in existence. However, unlike Digix, Maker hopes to accomplish this through the use of their proprietary token, the Dai. According to their whitepaper, the Dai “enables Ethereum users to transact with smart contracts and applications on the Ethereum blockchain without having to deal with the volatility that is associated with traditional cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. It also functions as a decentralized savings account as it is long term deflationary, resulting in slow and steady capital gains.” In other words, Maker will operate as a central bank for Ethereum users, who in return for their savings receive Dai which can in turn be used for various purposes on the Ethereum blockchain, whether to make bets on the Augur marketplace or to invest in up-and-coming Dapps – or simply to protect their holdings in a deflationary savings account. In a world of potentially limitless currencies, each serving as the fuel for their respective Dapps or DAOs, a coin like the Dai could be a saving grace for those just getting started with Ethereum and for more advanced users who wish to avoid the volatility inherent in the crypto markets.
Boardroom is a Dapp which aims to assist users in the governance of their DAOs. In other words, it is software that will aid shareholders in launching proposals, taking votes, and executing smart contracts. By operating on the blockchain, all of Boardroom’s actions will be entirely transparent, ensuring a degree of security for all shareholders involved. When faced with an organization that lacks the structure and potential hierarchy of traditional business models, not to mention a potentially high number of shareholders with varying degrees of voting rights, users will be thankful for an application which collects all the information in an easy-to-access format. In short, Boardroom is an easy user interface that aids users in the structure and function of their various organizations.
EtherEx is very straightforward: it aims to be the world’s first decentralized crypto exchange. While there are plenty of crypto exchanges out there right now, EtherEx will have the advantages that come along with using the blockchain: transparency, security, and permanence. Any user will be able to see their transactions on the blockchain, and because of the decentralized nature of Ethereum the exchange never has to worry about shutting down unexpectedly. You can check out their alpha version now.
Along with smart contracts and their trustless execution come a number of potential adaptations to the real world. Pax seeks to establish a community of users, each of whom has a verified identity on the Pax system. Once established, users can set up various legal relationships, use their identity to launch businesses and ventures with other “Citizens”, and even incorporate their business on the blockchain. In a way it’s a microcosm of the real world, where one’s relationships (legal, corporate, and civil) are represented by the execution of smart contracts that operate on the Pax framework. They even hope to include an “App Store”-like marketplace where users can launch their personal enterprises and gain followers. Perhaps the most interesting feature of Pax is what they are calling “status”, which is gained through their reputation system. Along with status comes ease of use and greater notoriety, not to mention a feeling of security on the part of your peers. After all, if you know you can trust someone in the digital world like you trust your neighbor in real life, you might find yourself launching more-readily into new ventures that before you would have shied away from. Pax seeks to establish a method to verify one’s identity on the blockchain in a way that would allow for easy, safe cooperation between members.
Have you ever dreamed of paying with Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies in everyday transactions by simply swiping your phone over a reader? Plutus has, and they aim to make it possible for users to pay with Bitcoin anywhere. By simply sending some Bitcoin to your Plutus wallet you can spend your funds easily by swiping your phone over NFC terminals wherever you find them. The Dapp converts your Bitcoin to fiat currency on-the-go using an exchange on the Ethereum network (perhaps EtherEx?). Currently they only seem to be aiming for Bitcoin adaptation, but one figures that once the tech is worked out we will be able to pay with Litecoin, Ether, Dogecoin, or any other currency.
WeiFund is the decentralized version of crowdfunding; in other words, it’s a way for users to raise funds for projects solely on the Ethereum blockchain and solely using Ether. By logging into the Dapp (through a Web 3.0 browser, like Mist) users can track, contribute, start, or simply browse through a number of projects seeking funding. It operates almost exactly like Kickstarter or GoFundMe, except for running on the Ethereum blockchain. In addition to the traditional crowdsourcing model, WeiFund is also proposing that contributors receive “digital assets” in return for their contributions, assets which can in turn be traded on a decentralized exchange, or simply held onto. And finally, by utilizing the smart contracts built into the Ethereum blockchain, WeiFund wants to make it possible for campaigners to expand the scope of their crowdfunding. Instead of simply raising funds, why not give your contributors equity shares in your project? Thanks to the security of the blockchain crowdfunding can be opened up to new avenues not possible in the traditional model.
In a future of decentralized exchanges and organizations it might be easy to lose oneself among the numerous markets that will inevitably crop up. For example, how will the users of Slock.it keep track of all sales or rentals occurring throughout their city? How will interested parties become aware that I am selling my old things? How can we sort out the markets from one another so that users don’t have to slog through countless adverts selling exactly what they don’t want or need? Enter Safemarket, a digital marketplace living on the blockchain where users can set up their own markets and, using the transparency and reliability of the blockchain, safely make transactions with other users. Think of it as a decentralized craigslist of sorts, with the added benefit of being easily sorted in to “submarkets” so users can quickly find what they are looking for. It’s never been easier to go into business for yourself!
In addition to the projects listed here you can check out a number of up-and-coming Dapps running on the Ethereum blockchain. Currently we sit at around 200 start-ups that hope to participate in the blockchain revolution, not to mention those Dapps and DAOs that haven’t even been created yet.