Users Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

This is a FAQ intended for users of decentralized applications. A comprehensive list of FAQs that touch on general, technical, and App Mining questions is also available.

What is a decentralized application or DApp?

Decentralized applications or DApps are a new type of software application built with blockchain technology. Where Bitcoin is a decentralized value exchange on a blockchain, DApps use blockchain technology for more than value exchange; they use a blockchain to exchange data and support application interactions.

How do DApps differ from applications I typically use?

DApps (decentralized applications) differ from Web applications in these key ways:

  • Users have identities, not accounts. The user brings their identity to the applications; applications do not require the user to create accounts and passwords. A user can use a single identity on all applications.
  • Users determine where to store their application data. They can store their data on their computer or with a commercial cloud storage provider.
  • Users control data access. Users control access to their data. Software creators and their decentralized applications don’t keep or save your data. When a user logs into a DApp with an identity, the user gives the DApp authority to read existing data or write new data. When a user disconnects from a DApp, it no longer has access to the user data.

Do DApps work with a regular browser?

Yes! DApps run in the web browsers (Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer, and so forth) you know today.

What is an identity or ID or Blockstack identity?

A name or identity, ID for short, is your “home” on the decentralized internet. Your identity is unique, like a passport number, only you have it. To use an application, you sign into the application with your identity and a secret key only you know.

Your data and where it is stored is connected with your identity. When you sign into a DApp, you give the DApp permission to read your data and write to your data store on your behalf. When you log out of an application, it no longer has access to your data or data store — until the next time you log in with your identity.

Do I need to keep my identity secret?

No. You can tell people your identity just as you tell them your name. What you need to secure and protect is your secret key.

How do I get an identity? Is it free?

Normally, registering an identity as a digital asset on the Stacks blockchain requires burning of Stacks tokens as fuel. However, Blockstack PBC is currently running a free service to pay for identities on behalf of the users. Through this service, you can get a free identity from Blockstack in the id.blockstack namespace. A namespace is similar to a domain (checklist.com, for example) on the old internet. So, a free identity has blockstack suffix in its name; for example, moxiegirl.id.blockstack is a free Blockstack identity.

If I forget my identity or my lose my secret key, can Blockstack help me?

If you forget your identity or lose your secret key, no one else, no person, no software, can help you get your identity back. This restriction protects your identity and your secret key which together control access to data about you. In the new, decentralized internet, no one can keep and store your data but you, not even Blockstack.

You need to keep your identity and secret key in a safe, secure place you won’t forget.

Where is my identity kept?

When you create an identity, your id and your private key are hashed (encrypted) and registered on Blockstack’s blockchain. The data you create through your identity is encrypted and kept off the blockchain in your data storage.

Can Blockstack delete my Blockstack ID or deny me use of it?

No. When you’re using a Blockstack client, you control your data and ID with a private key. As long as no one gets access to your private key, no one can control your data or ID. When you use Blockstack, by design, your private keys are never sent to any remote servers.

Can I get an identity without the Blockstack in the name, like steve.id?

Yes, you can get an identity in the .id space without Blockstack in the name. For example, you can create steve.id. You can even create a different space like username.frank without the id designation. These identities (.id) are not free; they cost a small amount of Bitcoin. A space (.frank) takes some technical knowledge to create and cost more.

Can I have more than one identity?

Yes, you can create as many identities as you want.

Do identities last forever or do they expire?

Identities with the like moxiegirl.id.blockstack or subdomain.name.namespace format do not expire. Names that have a single dot like name.namespace expire according to the rules set by the namespace creators. For example, name.id in the id namespace expires every two years and must be renewed. If a name.id expires, someone else can claim it.

Why do DApps ask me for an email in addition to an identity?

Your email is not kept by DApps or by Blockstack. It is stored in your browser client’s local web storage. (See the question about data storage for more information about web storage.) When you are logged into a DApp, it can use your email to send you any information you need to operate the DApp. When you log out, your email is no longer available to the DApp.

Where can I find Blockstack DApps that I can use?

You can see a list on the App.co site. Alternatively, you can go directly to your Blockstack Browser home page.

What is the Blockstack Browser?

The Blockstack Browser is a DApp used to create and manage Blockstack identities. To a user, it looks just like another tab in a standard browser. From the Blockstack Browser tab, you can find DApps to try, update settings related to your identity and storage – and much more.

Developers use the Blockstack Browser to handle login requests from DApps. From a Blockstack DApp, a user chooses the Log In with Blockstack button. Clicking this button sends users to a Blockstack Browser dialog. This dialog asks users to allow the DApp to access their data.

Do Blockstack DApps work with my web browser?

Yes! DApps using Blockstack run in the web browsers you know and love (Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and Edge). Blockstack DApps are web applications; they happen to use the blockchain. DApps are just as fast as traditional web applications, often more so. If you use our Web-hosted Blockstack Browser, you can get started using DApps right away.

Is there a downloadable version of the Blockstack Browser?

Yes. You can download a desktop version of the Blockstack Browser here.

What is Gaia?

The Gaia Storage System is a feature of the Blockstack Platform. Developers or organizations can use the Gaia Storage System to create a data storage provider. Users choose a data storage provider when they create an identity.

Where is the data about me kept or what is a data store?

Data about you appears in two locations, browser web storage and a data store. Web storage lives in your browser client, Chrome, Safari, and so forth. Data in web storage is sparse, it never leaves your device (computer or phone), and it is temporary. You can clear or remove your web storage just as you can your browser’s cache. Web storage data includes your email and your encrypted identity. Web storage never leaves your browser and never crosses a network to an external server.

Your Blockstack identity and any connected application data are kept in your data store. Unlike web storage, a data store has to live on a server accessible via the internet. That server is running the Gaia Storage System. The Gaia Storage System keeps the data encrypted. When you use an application, you give it permission to read and write from your data store. The application needs your permission to decrypt the data.

What kind of data does a Blockstack DApp keep about me?

Blockstack does not keep any data about you. When you login into an application, you are asked to provide an email. That email is in your browser’s web storage; it doesn’t leave your device (computer or phone). When you reset the Blockstack Browser or clear your browser’s web storage, the local storage and your email are removed.

What is a data storage provider?

A data storage provider is a person or a company that runs a Blockstack Gaia Storage System. You could, for example, run a Gaia Storage System on your own. Blockstack assumes that most users will use a commercial storage provider rather than a personal one.

Commercial storage providers typically use cloud computing services such as Digital Ocean, Amazon, or S3. These have the advantage of larger drives, regular backups, and more secure storage. Individual users can use these too, or they can use a local drive.

A Gaia Storage System has a location (URL) on the internet. The URL for a user’s storage provider is stored in their zone file. You can get a zone file with blockstack-cli lookup in the CLI. See the CLI documentation for more information about available commands.

Can I move my data from one storage provider to another?

Currently, moving your data from one storage provider to another is not supported via the UI. You can do this move with assistance from Blockstack.