How to access Ethereum-based applications?

You can access an Ethereum-based application by,

  • Using an add-on in one of the widely used web browsers today (like Chrome, Firefox, Opera)
  • Or using a web browser with built-in support (Brave)
  • Or by using an Ethereum client (Mist, Geth, Parity)

But, have you ever wondered,

  • “Why do I need an add-on to access an Ethereum-based application in today’s web browsers?”
  • Or “Why can’t I access an Ethereum-based application just like any other WebApp (Website) (e.g., Twitter) in today’s web browsers?”

In this post, I’ll try my best to answer these questions in the most straightforward way possible.

What is an Ethereum-based application?

Ethereum-based application (also referred to as “Ethereum Decentralized Application” or “Ethereum DApp”) is an application that run on the Ethereum network (distributed global network running Ethereum Blockchain) that is not controlled by any single entity. Since there is no central authority, the Ethereum network establishes consensus (the process of achieving general agreement among the network computers/participants as to the correct state of the data on the network) through a consensus algorithm.

If you would like to learn about DApps, then please read our post entitled “What are DApps?”

Miners and Incentives

The primary function of a consensus algorithm is to prevent the misuse of the network like Double-Spending (a problem unique to digital currencies because digital information can be reproduced relatively easily). Therefore to encourage the miners (Ethereum network computers/participants) to contribute their computing power to resolve such conflicts, the Ethereum Foundation came up with an incentive (called “gas fee”) which is paid in the cryptocurrency, called Ether. You can interpret the incentive as a form of payment to the miners made by the end user of the Ethereum network for executing the transactions they requested.

Thus, any use of the Ethereum network requires “gas fee” paid to the miners.

Purpose of Wallet providers

As Ethereum network is decentralized, no person or entity can take money out of your wallet without your explicit authorization/signature (users have the right to choose how and where they store and operate their wallet). This security measure constitutes a serious challenge for Ethereum DApps as they require a way to request users to authorize/sign transactions regardless of the users wallet provider.

To solve this issue, the Ethereum Foundation came up with a standard interface (called web3) for Ethereum DApps and wallet providers to request user authorization/signature for transactions. Since none of the widely used web browsers today (like Chrome, Firefox, Opera) have a built-in wallet provider, we need an add-on (wallet provider) to access Ethereum DApps.

Our recommendations to access Ethereum DApps

Desktop Browser Add-on MetaMask
Android Cipher, Toshi
iOS Cipher, Toshi

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