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Decentraland: Peek Into The Metaverse

Rahul Ravindran

All Eyes on the Metaverse

Technology frequently produces surprises that nobody predicts. However, the biggest developments are often anticipated decades in advance. In 1945 Vannevar Bush described what he called the “Memex”, a single device that would store all books, records and communications, and mechanically link them together by association. This concept was then used to formulate the idea of “hypertext” (a term coined two decades later), which in turn guided the development of the World Wide Web (developed another two decades later).

In this sense, the rough outlines of future solutions are often understood and, in a sense, agreed upon well in advance of the technical capacity to produce them. Ultimately, you’ll find many of the same items in the offices of Big Tech CEOs. However, the most well-worn is likely to be a copy of Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, which first described and essentially coined the terms “Metaverse” and “Avatar”. And there are many reasons why.

The most common conceptions of the Metaverse stem from science fiction. Here, the Metaverse is typically portrayed as a sort of digital “jacked-in” internet – a manifestation of actual reality, but one based in a virtual (often theme park-like) world, such those portrayed in Ready Player One and The Matrix. And while these sorts of experiences are likely to be an aspect of the Metaverse, this conception is limited in the same way movies like Tron portrayed the Internet as a literal digital “information superhighway” of bits.

Just as it was hard to envision in 1982 what the Internet of 2020 would be — and harder still to communicate it to those who had never even “logged” onto it at that time — we don’t really know how to describe the Metaverse. However, we can identify core attributes to be persistent virtual environment – which is to say, it never “resets” or “pauses” or “ends”, it just continues indefinitely like a parallel universe.

If the idea is still new to you, it may help to understand some of the properties you can expect from a metaverse.

1. A virtual world: this is, in my opinion, the most important characteristic of a metaverse. You could explore it using a computer, gaming console, mobile, wearable technology or other device, experiencing 3D graphics and sound along the way. The idea is that this makes you feel more present in the metaverse, and presumably less present in the everyday world (where your body stubbornly remains).

2. Virtual reality. You need a virtual reality headset for this. The idea here is that you become immersed in the virtual world, so you feel even more present – at least until you bump into something that remains in the everyday world, like the coffee table.

3. Other people. The metaverse is social. There are lots of other people there, represented as avatars. Some of these avatars might be bots, virtual agents and manifestations of artificial intelligence. You can hang out with the other people or even do things together. The social aspect is likely to be central in Facebook’s metaverse given its history as a social network.

Metaverse fans and some researchers believe communication may be more natural than with video conferencing because, for example, you can use gaze to show who you are addressing (your avatar can turn its head to look at another person). Your avatar could also walk over and sit next to someone else’s avatar to start a conversation.

4. Persistence. This means the virtual world is available whenever you want to visit it. You can change it by adding new virtual buildings or other objects and importantly, the changes remain in place next time you visit. You might be able to take up residence and own a bit of it. The metaverse will rely on your user-generated content – your digital creations and personal stories – in the same way social media does today.

5. Connection to the real world. In some visions of the metaverse, the virtual stuff in the virtual world actually represents real stuff in the real world. For example, you might fly a virtual drone in the metaverse to steer an actual drone in the real world. People talk about the real and virtual as being “digital twins”.

Enter Decentraland

En

Decentraland is a virtual reality universe run on the Ethereum blockchain. Much like the games Animal Crossing and Minecraft, users can do several different things on the platform. You can do almost everything you can do in real life, including buying property/land, trading with other players, and enjoy different experiences in the world.

Decentraland is a dapp, and it has three layers. The first layer is a consensus layer which is used to track the transfer of different items in the game between players. The second layer is basically a processing layer, which stores all the information about the game and the different files needed to run certain aspects of the game. The final layer is a real-time layer, and this is what allows players to enjoy chatting with one another in real-time. To summarize:

  • Consensus layer which verifies, tracks, and maintains transaction ledgers, ensuring authenticity and security.
  • The content layer which controls parcel contents using script files and interactive definition.
  • The real-time layer where users’ avatars interact using voice chat and messaging.

To play Decentraland, you will need to purchase LAND, which is the NFT native to the Decentraland platform. LAND is basically a space in the virtual realm that you can use to create whatever you would like. You can build on it, or create a game, or something to draw tourists to your LAND. The sky is the limit. All LAND transactions are recorded on the immutable ledger mentioned above.

Besides just allowing you to enjoy the digital realm of Decentraland, owning LAND also allows you to vote on the future of the project. The weight of your vote is reliant on how much LAND you own. This means that those who own more LAND will have a vote that matters more.

History of Decentraland

Created in early 2015 by Ari Meilich and Esteban Ordano, Decentraland was originally a pixelated grid that assigned pixels to users, using a proof-of-work mechanism. In June, Decentraland took its first steps by creating an algorithm to accept Bitcoin (BTC).

In March 2017, Decentraland was officially launched and took a new step forward with 3D sketching, under the connection and support of Blockchain technology. In 2018, Decetraland made an outstanding milestone in its development journey with its first auction in January. Decentraland has been open to the public since Feb 2020.

As Decentraland was known as the “Stone Age” earlier, the land was modeled in the form of a simple grid and pixels were allocated to users through a proof-of-work algorithm which was similar to Bitcoin.

Then, the project entered the “Bronze Age,” with land modeled in 3D space, a torrent and Blockchain full node, and features like the Unity Browser and World Editor. After that, the MANA Contribution Period took place. Those who bought MANA were able to claim pieces of LAND, then interact with other MANA owners.

Now, the Terraform Event is ongoing, which is the first chance for users to claim land, as is the Beta launch for the “Iron Age.”

So, now, the “Iron Age” is adding multiplayer support, along with LIVE chats and Avatars. It allows scripting and custom items on owned land. Finally, the “Silicon Age” is the full-fledged 3D world with complete VR support and customizes the laws of physics. At this point, Decentraland is living within the blockchain.

Besides that the core team includes:

  1. Ari Meilich — Project Lead (Co-Founder)
  2. Esteban Ordano — Technical Lead (Co-Founder)
  3. Manuel Araoz — Board Member
  4. Yemel Jardi — Board Member
  5. Dario Sneidermanis — Core Developer
  6. Martin Triay — Core Developer
  7. Nicolas Santangelo — Core Developer
  8. Franco Zeoli — Marketing
  9. Mariano Rodriguez — Illustrator
  10. Jake Brukhman — Founder at CoinFund
  11. Luis Cuende — Project Lead at Aragon
  12. Diego Doval — ex CTO at Ning

Mana token and LAND

Decentraland has two digital access: LAND, the non-fungible parcels in which the virtual world is divided; and MANA, an ERC-20 token that is burned to claim LAND, as well as to make in-world purchases of goods and services.

The utility of LAND is based on its adjacency to other attention hubs, its ability to host applications, and also as an identity mechanism. Developers and other content creators will demand LAND so that they can build on top of it and reach their target audience. Although every unclaimed LAND can be purchased at the same exchange rate (1000 MANA = 1 LAND), LAND parcels are distinguishable from each other, potentially trading at different prices on a secondary market due to differences in adjacencies and traffic.

On the other hand, MANA serves as a proxy to asses the price of a new parcel of LAND. Also, MANA used to buy goods and services in the virtual world creates utility value for the token.

Payment Channels

General purpose, public, and distributed HTLC networks like Lightning may be at least one year away from materializing, but low-trust hub-and-spoke payment channel networks allow for fast and low-cost transactions that can be implemented today.

Payment channels are key for Decentraland for two reasons: In-world purchases Incentivizing quality of service of content and P2P servers Today, platforms mitigate the risk inherent in credit card payments: users trust the platform, rather than the application, with their payment details. With payment channels, they could make direct purchases to the developer with no risk of identity theft. Some parts of Decentraland’s infrastructure can be paid for with micropayments.

These costs include hosting content, serving it, and running P2P protocols like spatial audio processing for multiple users. The marginal cost of running applications on Decentraland for developers, given a market of incentivized servers to provide the infrastructure, approaches its real cost as this becomes essentially commoditized. However, in order to have no barrier to entry for incoming developers, Decentraland will subsidize these services with the proceeds of selling MANA tokens.

Gameplay and Governance

Holders of the MANA token can suggest or vote on decisions to improve the platform, which is in-keeping the founders’ goal to make it the top decentralized VR platform in the NFT world.

In Decentraland, you can explore the virtual world, play games, and interact with other players. You can also purchase LAND — a 16 x 16 portion of virtual land, using MANA.

You reserve total creative freedom on your parcel and can build hotels, casinos, and games and earn returns as other users interact with your projects in your parcel.

Alternatively, you can choose to hold your token and (potentially) sell them later at a higher price in the in-app marketplace.

Buying LAND is as simple as using MANA, the token for Decentraland. Tiles of LAND measure 10 square meters, which is 33 square feet. There are no limits on how much a user can build upward on the piece of LAND. The only limitations are on the ground and the base of buildings.

To get started, users have to choose/select the size of their scene:

  1. Mini (1×1): 16x16m — about 20 items max
  2. Standard (2×2): 32x32m — about 80 items max
  3. Big (2×3): 32x48m — about 120 items max
  4. Custom: Up to 32 parcels

Popularity

As per state of Dapps, Decentraland is one of the most activiely played blockchain games. A subsidiary of Tokens.com, called the Metaverse Group, bought a patch of real estate for 618,000 MANA on Monday, which was around $2,428,740 at the time.In October 2021, Decentraland hosted a four day festival of music, culture and portable toilets in a virtual world first. The Metaverse Festival saw a diverse mix of music stars perform across five stages, specially created by community development teams for the event.

Conclusion

Metaverse and virtual reality is opening doors to limitless possibility on how view the world around us. Decentraland although a fun game is an exciting technology to inspire the future builders of the metaverse that will take us to the next level.

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