Decentraland skeptics and promoters have taken sides on the Metaverse. So is Decentraland a scam or legit? Will be all be walking around in virtual reality goggles and headsets? Only time will tell… I know for a fact that the saying “God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle” is a lie. If it were true, God would not have made me a person in the era of the metaverse.
She (or he, but we all know it’s a she) also wouldn’t have pinned me with a crippling guilt complex in the time of climate change and she definitely wouldn’t have subjected me to the unsolicited Tik Tok dances that appear on my phone 11 times per day. These are things that I am quite certain I cannot handle.
Also, at present, there is a noise I can only equate to a chainsaw cutting through walls in the unit above me and it has been going on for the past 2 hours. Again, God (if you’re there), I cannot handle this.
Seeing as I am already being tested today by outside forces, I may as well add to the inner torment by researching and subsequently explaining a little something called Decentraland.
You may recall, last week I wrote about the metaverse.
Decentraland to the metaverse is like Joan Didion to the world of literary non-fiction, which is to say, they tangibly stand at the forefront of a larger concept.
So, here goes.
What is Decentraland?
I’ve copy and pasted Wikipedia’s answer because I’ve spent the last hour at a loss for words:
“Decentraland is a 3D virtual browser-based platform. Users may buy virtual plots of land in the platform as NFTs via the MANA cryptocurrency, which uses the Ethereum blockchain (holy fuck). It was opened to the public in February 2020, and is overseen by the non-profit Decentraland Foundation”.
I know the instinct here is to scroll away, as it is my instinct to stop writing. (Do you see why I had difficulties forming my own definition?). However, if you are interested at all in our technological future and/or investing in it, read on. If not, I deeply respect that decision. Ignorance truly is bliss.
Meet the MANA Token
Earlier this year, in the midst of a crypto boom, the price of a currency called MANA began climbing the charts in Coinbase (a popular exchange for digital currencies).
MANA is the currency of Decentraland. It is like Monopoly money for, well, Monopoly. In March, something sort of horrifying started brewing. Digital plots of land were being sold for the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Purchasing a real-life home seems difficult enough so you must share my dismay when I learned that people were buying blockchain-homes for the same amount (if not more).
For my investor types: After two years bouncing around 10 cents, MANA briefly broke $1.60 in April, pushing the combined value of all the tokens past $2.4 billion.
For my non-investor types: The value of Decentraland’s currency went up. A lot.
What Do People Do in Decentraland?
Its creators have described the platform as less of a place and more of an infrastructure upon which to build a place. They already have some ground work like:
A currency: MANA. And land contracts: which run on the Ethereum blockchain.
Inhabitants of Decentraland are constantly creating scenes and experiences for other users. As of now, these typically come in the form of concerts and art exhibits (I will get to this). Decentraland is also home to casinos where you can gamble in MANA. Oh, are you looking for a new job? You’re in luck. Decentraland’s casinos are hiring dealers and greeters (you will be paid in MANA, of course) to show up and work in this virtual world!
What Does the Metaverse Look Like?
The graphics range from spectacular to clunky 90s-era computer games, and much of the quality depends on what the users have built.
By size, Decentraland can best be described as a sort of commune. As of July, just a few hundred people would be logged in at a given time (this is down from a March pandemic-peak in the low thousands. From what I’ve gathered, this universe is made up of little user-generated NFTs that bumble about.
Visually and theoretically, Decentraland is a work in progress. This is made evident by the sparsely populated grid of half-developed plots and themed zones. Between gambling excursions, art exhibits and concerts, users are left to wander and wonder…What now?
Techy people who know techy things seem less confused. The general consensus is that Decentraland is first and foremost an experiment in scarce digital property.
This month, Republic Realm, which calls itself a “digital real estate firm,” purchased an NFT of a 259-parcel virtual estate in Decentraland for more than 1.2 million MANA. At contemporaneous exchange rates? More than US $900,000.
Tainting my Romantic Vision of the Art World, One NFT at a Time…
Sotheby’s (one of the largest brokers of fine and decorative art, jewelry and collectibles) acquired a small plot in Decentraland’s arts district and constructed a replica of its London galleries. They recently closed their first “show” in the metaverse (I’ve added the quotation marks for effect – as if you didn’t already know how I’d feel about this). Michael Bouhanna, who ran the sale, estimated that 90 percent of the galleries’ 3,200 visitors had little sense of what Sotheby’s is or does (not shocking), but said the exercise was useful for helping existing customers conceptualize NFTs, which the auction house is already selling.
A man I don’t know recently told me that I look like a library-dweller. This obviously felt slightly insulting as it happened as I was out and trying to have fun on a Friday evening, but nevertheless, I guess I am a traditionalist of sorts. And I prefer my books and art to be holdable.
To each her own.
What makes Decentraland More “Metaversey” Than Other Platforms?
What separates Decentraland from its predecessors and competitors is that it is, indeed, fairly decentralized. The plan, according to Decentraland’s founders, was always for its users to take ownership of the world, building and doing what they please.
Dave Carr, a spokesman for the Decentraland Foundation, said that by contrast, “Fortnite is a centralized experience,” meaning that it functions top-down, with major decisions coming from its developer, Epic Games. “Here, you feel like you have a definite part in it.”
To drive this point home, Ari Meilich, Decentraland’s founder explains that “Decentraland has pioneered a type of virtual space (or metaverse) that is operated entirely by its users.”
I guess in a world where we feel helpless so much of the time, there is a great level of fantasy associated with the idea of building our own world, with our own rules. With this said, I will always fall into the camp of trying (however futile it may be) to rectify our current reality rather than create a new one. But again, and as usual, that’s just me.