Work-in-progress virtual world Decentraland is similar to open world games like Minecraft and Second Life– but its creators’ ambitions are far greater.
If Decentraland’s developers stick to their roadmap, you will soon will able to strap on a VR helmet and take a stroll through a visually stunning 360-degree virtual world. Once the virtual world’s content creators begin to build up its virtual spaces, there will be music venues, immersive games and and all kinds of imaginative settings to socialize in and explore.
One of the most intriguing things about the Decentraland is that, rather than being owned by a small group of people, the platform is collectively owned by its token holders. Decentraland’s founder believes that today’s major internet platforms are guilty of “extracting significant revenue from the communities and content creators who drive traffic” their way. They hope that Decentraland’s alternative way of doing business will provide an example of how revenues can be distributed fairly across an online community.
Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about Decentraland.
In an interview with Crypto Insider, Decentraland co-founder Esteban Ordano revealed that he became inspired to get involved with decentralized technologies after reading books by Bruce Schneier and David Chaum. The more he investigated the concepts they were describing, the more he began to see their potential.
“Nowadays, the most successful large scale organizations base their power on the sheer number of people involved. Governments, corporations, and the internet are examples of these organizations: it is almost impossible for a competing product or organization to overtake them due to their vast network effects. I believe that we will see a similar effect with smart contracts removing intermediaries.”
The Decentraland white paper describes how the main obstacle for Ordano and his team in the beginning of the project was the fact that cryptocurrency was still a fledgling industry.
“The current team began working on Decentraland in 2015. At the time, the adoption of cryptoassets was still in its infancy, as much of the blockchain-based infrastructure necessary for a consumer-oriented platform was lacking.”
Despite these challenges, the Decentraland team managed to produce a proof of concept that they referred to as the “Stone Age” version of the platform. Two years later, they introduced new Bronze Age features. Buzz around these early development efforts helped the project reel in $49.1 million worth of capital during its 2017 ICO.
The Decentraland Team
- Esteban Ordano – Co-founder, Chief Technical Officer. Before starting Decentraland, Esteban co-founded Zeppelin Solutions and developed a blockchain-based payment app called Streamium. During a stint at bitcoin processor BitPay, he co-created a bitcoin infrastructure library called Bitcore. Other notable projects he’s been involved in include a bitcoin wallet called Copay, an API for bitcoin called Insight and the blockchain publication tool Poet.
- Yemel Jardi – Co-founder, Software Engineer. Like Ordano, Jardi is a veteran blockchain developer who has worked on many different blockchain-related projects. Before starting Decentraland, he created a micropayments system called ChangeTip. Before that, he was a Software Engineer at BitPay.
- Ari Meilich – Project Lead. Meilich is a venture capital and data analytics specialist. Before joining Decentraland, Meilich worked for Silicon Valley-based venture fund Charles River Ventures. In 2016, he founded a CRM (Customer Relations Management) company called Benchrise.
- Manuel Araoz – Board Member. Araoz is a smart contracts specialist who co-founded a smart contract security firm called Zeppelin Solutions. He is also credited with inventing the blockchain-powered notary service known as Proof of Existence. He has also served as a Tech Lead at Bitpay, Copay and Insight.
How Does Decentraland Work?
Less overhead for content creators
The Ethereum blockchain keeps track of who owns what in Decentraland. Once you buy a piece of Decentraland, you can do what you want with it– and if you make money with something you build, you won’t have to give a percentage of your earnings to a corporation.
According to the Decentraland white paper:
“Unlike other virtual worlds and social networks, Decentraland is not controlled by a centralized organization. There is no single agent with the power to modify the rules of the software, contents of land, economics of the currency, or prevent others from accessing the world.”
All files will be stored in the swarm
Today’s largest internet platforms rely on expensive hosting services like Amazon Web Services (AWS). In 2017, AWS reeled in $17.46 billion dollars in revenue for Amazon.
Rather than use a traditional web hosting service, Decentraland relies on BitTorrent and the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS).
“The [Decentraland] content can be downloaded from BitTorrent or IPFS. The downloaded file contains a description of objects, textures, sounds, and other elements needed to render the scene.”
The IPFS is a new peer-to-peer distributed file system that aims to replace Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP)– a core internet protocol that defines the way that data is transmitted over the World Wide Web.
According to the IPFS website, IPFS is in many ways superior to HTTP. One of the key advantages that IPFS has is that it’s faster and more efficient.
“HTTP downloads a file from a single computer at a time, instead of getting pieces from multiple computers simultaneously. With video delivery, a P2P approach could save 60% in bandwidth costs.”
Things You Can Do in Decentraland
Last August, Decentraland rolled the Bronze Age version of the virtual world. The most notable new feature was the ability to purchase LAND and MANA.
LAND is the virtual space that Decentraland developers use to create new things in Decentraland. They function as the equivalent of domain names for Decentraland’s virtual world.
In real life, zoning laws dictate what you can do with any given property. These laws prevent your from turning your residential home into an industrial factory, for example. According to the Decentraland white paper, similar logic applies to Decentraland.
“The adjacency of land makes Decentraland parcels unique from web domains. New land parcels must be contiguous to existing ones. This adjacency allows for spatial discovery of new content and the creation of districts devoted to a special topic or theme.”
It’s easy to see why content creators might be interested in LAND.
Let’s say you’re a game developer that specializes in tower defense games and you want to generate more interest in your product. Investing in a LAND parcel that’s located near a competitor can help you get an edge. Someone that logged on to Decentraland to play your competitor’s game may get bored, wander over to your neck of the virtual woods– and become a new customer.
Like CryptoKitties and other non-fungible digital assets, each plot of LAND is unique and limited in quantity. The intentional smallness of the Decentraland virtual world is designed to encourage competition and facilitate content discovery.
In order to buy LAND, you need to first purchase MANA– Decentraland’s official cryptocurrency token. MANA can be redeemed for LAND and other Decentraland items.
…and that’s pretty much it
The Decentraland website contains this summary of the state of Decentraland development:
“While Decentraland is still under active development and there is currently no way to access the world, we are planning to support several platforms: you will be able to access Decentraland from a mobile device, a web browser, or a VR headset to enhance your immersive experience.”
Getting started with Decentraland is easy if you already have ether because you can trade your ether for MANA through the official Decentraland website. If you don’t own ether, you’ll need to purchase some through a cryptocurrency exchange.
Here’s a step-by-step view of everything you need to do to to get MANA and buy LAND.
Note: The cheapest LAND plots available are currently selling for roughly 7000 MANA, or just over 2 ether. That means that you’ll probably need to spend at least $600 USD in crypto to become a Decentraland LAND owner.
Decentraland, CryptoKitties and other Ethereum-powered dApps rely on MetaMask for payment processing. If you don’t already have MetaMask, just go to MetaMask.io and click Get the Chrome Plugin. During the setup process, the installer will give you a set of seed words. The seed words provide the only way to recover your MetaMask account if you forget your password– so be sure to copy them down and save them somewhere safe.
Purchase some ether
The easiest option for buying ether through MetaMask is CoinBase. Just open MetaMask and click the Deposit button, then choose Continue to CoinBase.
CoinBase provides two different ways to buy ether through MetaMask: Credit/Debit card or Bank Account. You’ll pay less in transfer fees if you choose the bank account option, but you’ll also have to wait longer for the ether you bought to show up in your account.
Trade your ether for MANA
To accomplish this step, first go to the Decentraland Marketplace. Then, click Get Started. Next, click the red Connect button to connect MetaMask to Decentraland. You should see this:
Now you’ll need to authorize the Decentraland Marketplace to operate MANA and LAND on your behalf.
Note: Authorizing will incur a small Ethereum network fee. The fee will vary depending on network traffic, but will probably amount to around 5 cents worth of ether for each authorization.
Click the Buy More button to convert your ether into MANA.
Buy some LAND
If you’ve bought enough MANA, you can now buy LAND. Use the Atlas or Marketplace tabs to locate a plot you want to buy, then click the Buy button. Then, click Confirm— and the LAND is all yours.
Future Decentraland Development
The Decentraland white paper provides some clues about what the future holds for the virtual world.
On particularly interesting paragraph suggests that the developers may implement privacy features:
“You will be able to control who you can see and interact with (and who can see and interact with you) within Decentraland. For example, imagine that you have a house on your parcel and you only want to invite certain friends into your house. You will be able to specify which users you can see (and which users can see you) within your house, but you won’t necessarily be able to prevent anyone from seeing your house or its contents since the assets required to render your house reside on IPFS.”
Other features under consideration include teleportation mechanisms, a “ghost mode” that lets players pass through walls of unrestricted parcels and incentives for not creating content that obstructs adjacent parcels.
What will Decentraland look like?
As mentioned above, there’s no way to view Decentraland now. However, some early tests of the virtual world provide some idea of what it might look like.
The Decentraland white paper contains this screenshot of what Decentraland looked like during its Bronze Age development period.
What will Decentraland games look like?
Various Decentraland developers have created tutorials for creating various types of Decentraland games. They provide a small glimpse of what the virtual world’s capabilities.
YouTuber Hardly Difficult shows how to create a virtual pet in Decentraland and program it to follow you around.
In this tutorial, Hardly Difficult reveals how to make a simple tower defense game.