This guide is going to be about Decentraland (MANA), a project that is building a virtual space in which you can earn its token. See the other guides that I've written, including Power Ledger (POWR), Harmony (ONE) and Augur (REP).
In the past few years, the world of blockchain has been criticized continuously by both outsiders and skeptics. Their typical argument is usually more about the lack of real use-cases rather than about the underlying technology itself.
Yes, most decentralized applications (dApps) are still not used by the “average joes” outside the crypto community. However, the crypto community has been trying as hard as they can to “figure out” what could be the best use-case for the blockchain technology and still able to attract the average joes out there.
And one of the easiest answers to that is the gaming or virtual reality world. Yes, blockchain technology can be quite useful to improve the gaming world, especially when it comes to gaming assets. We all know that you don’t actually own the gaming assets whenever you buy certain accessories in the game that you like.
But when you store the gaming assets on the blockchain, even when the game developers stopped developing the game, you still own the same assets, as the public record on the blockchain is immutable, and technically everything that you store on your own crypto wallet does belong to you.
That’s where Decentraland steps in. Imagine a virtual world like Minecraft, but here on Decentraland, you can build and own virtual assets without any centralized entity imposing its will. That’s the vision. In other words, to push the use-case of the blockchain in the world of gaming and virtual assets.
So, how does Decentraland truly work, and does it have a bright future in the sea of different altcoin projects out there? Let’s find out together.
History of Decentraland
Decentraland project has been around from many years ago despite it only became popular back in 2017. Their first development milestone was achieved in June 2015 when they developed a simple and pixelated grid. The project itself has come a long way in the past four years. Nowadays, Decentraland is considered as the “leader” in the blockchain-based virtual reality platform. While there are some altcoin projects out there that try to mimic the success of Decentraland but none of them come close.
The core team of Decentraland is actually led just by two people. They are Esteban Ordano and Ari Meilich. Esteban acts as the Chief Technology Officer at Decentraland while Ari acts as the Project Lead.
Esteban Ordano used to work as a Software Engineer for Bitpay, and he was also the founder of Smart Contract Solutions, Inc. For your information, Bitpay basically enables crypto payment for people all over the world. The slogan for Bitpay was “accept crypto, get paid in your local currencies.” And Esteban played a significant role during his time over there.
Meanwhile, there’s not much information on the internet about Esteban’s Smart Contract Solutions. One important note, on his LinkedIn page, apparently Esteban is the only Founder of Decentraland.
And then, we have Ari Meilich, the Project Lead. Before he joined Decentraland, he was the co-founder at Benchrise, Inc. He was also the Market Research Analyst at CRV. For your information, CRV is a popular Venture Capital & Private Equity company.
On the other hand, Benchrise, Inc. is a CRM (customer relationship manager) that specializes in finding and engaging top talent based on mutual connections and recent projects.
Together, Esteban and Ari have been doing a great job in growing Decentraland to the level they are today. Apart from the two core members, they also have five expert advisors such as Luis Cuende (who is the Project Lead at Aragon), Jake Brukhman (the founder of CoinFund), and Xiaolai Li (the INBlockchain founder).
Esteban and Ari don’t look like they have a really strong background, but their experiences with Decentraland (so far) have shown that they are capable of doing their jobs.
Purpose Of Decentraland
The idea of implementing blockchain technology in the gaming world has existed for a long time. Nowadays, many dApps developers are pushing the idea of blockchain-based games on top of popular blockchain networks such as EOS or Tron or Ethereum.
Decentraland is pursuing the same ideology. The developers believe that any asset (including virtual assets in a virtual world) should belong to the rightful owner without any centralized entity that can impose its will on the owner of the asset. And that’s the basic idea of Decentraland’s purpose. Basically, to normalize the idea of decentralization in a virtual world.
Decentraland is an all-immersive virtual world. Here you don’t just play the game on a flat-screen, but you literally participate in a VR (virtual reality). The long-term vision is perhaps to create an even more immersive VR world where you can do anything you want in it, like Westworld kind-of-stuff.
And of course, for a virtual world to succeed, there has to be a well-thought economy behind it. This is where the cryptocurrency of Decentraland plays a significant role. The main cryptocurrency of Decentraland is called MANA, where you can buy a piece of LAND (we will explain it below).
The creators intended LAND to be “scarce,” which hopefully will drive up the demand of the virtual world as Decentraland itself becomes more popular in the future.
Technology of Decentraland
Like what I have mentioned above, Decentraland is a blockchain-powered virtual reality platform. To be precise, it is powered by the most popular dApp platform in the world, Ethereum. Decentraland claims that it is the first digital world where everything is owned by the community.
The protocol of Decentraland involves three different layers. The first layer is called the Consensus layer, where it tracks land ownership and the content through the smart contract.
The second layer is called the Land content layer, where it utilizes a decentralized system to render and distribute content to the world of Decentraland. And lastly, we have Real-time layer, where it gives peer-to-peer connections for the community to interact.
The developers here are using A-frame to build the world of Decentraland. You can also participate by creating a model in Blender or SketchUp, and later you can easily import the model to Decentraland.
Digital Assets And MANA
In Decentraland, the economy is being built around its digital assets. The spaces that you interact in Decentraland are called LAND, which are non-fungible digital assets that you can buy. When you own a piece of LAND, you can do whatever you want with it. For example, you can build great 3D scenes; you can build apps, gambling places, education services, some type of mini-tourism, or whatever you want.
The amount of LAND is limited. Each plot of LAND is only 33 feet by 33 feet, although there’s no height limit. To give you an idea of how LAND marketplace work, you can check out this web page.
Decentralized Market for LAND
Besides LAND, there are several other phrases that you need to learn. The first one is called Districts. In short, Districts are groupings on LAND around a similar or shared theme. To give you an example, there is a District for the crypto community with its own services and apps built around the crypto theme.
To make things even more interesting, the users can vote on District issues through a specialized voting dApp called Agora. To give influence on your votes, you need to have larger amount of LAND that you hold.
Beside Districts, there’s also LAND Estates. This LAND Estates allows the community to associate directly adjacent parcels of LAND. One important note is that the parcels must be directly connected and must not be separated by any road or plaza or any other parcel.
And then, we have MANA, which is the native cryptocurrency of the Decentraland platform. As mentioned before, you need to use MANA to purchase plots of LAND. You also need to use the same crypto token for the provided services and goods inside Decentraland.
Every time you use MANA to buy LAND, the platform automatically burns MANA that you use. In the earlier time, the core team sold every plot of LAND for 1000 MANA tokens. Now the price of LAND varies and depending on supply and demand.
When it comes to direct competition, there’s actually no direct and threatening competitor of Decentraland. Blockchain-based virtual reality platform is a very new niche and Decentraland is the frontrunner in this industry.
But it doesn’t mean that the future is “guaranteed” because the demand for this type of niche is still somewhat questionable. Even the demand for standard and centralized virtual reality world is still questionable with many big companies still play the “wait and see” game before they dip their toes into it.
If the demand for blockchain-based VR platform grows, the demand for Decentraland will also grow. In other words, the “biggest competition” for Decentraland is basically the demand for this type of content itself.
MANA In The Crypto Market
At the time this post was written, MANA had a market cap of $33,566,865 USD, with more than $10 million daily trading volume. It was one of the top 100 cryptocurrencies by market cap, so they must be doing something right.
The biggest trading volume of MANA can be found at OKEx on MANA/USDT and MANA/BTC trading pairs. You can also trade MANA at MXC, Binance, Exrates, DragonEx, or Bilaxy.
Crypto Wallets To Store MANA
If you are looking to store and HODL MANA in your own crypto wallet, we recommend hardware wallets like Trezor or Ledger Nano S. The reason is quite simple. Because they are much more secure than other types of wallets (with a hardware wallet, you always need to press a physical button before you can send out the crypto token).
Other alternatives include standard ERC20 wallet apps like Metamask or MyEtherWallet.
Decentraland is a unique project that tries to bring blockchain technology to the “average joes” by marrying the concept of blockchain and the virtual reality world. It may or may not succeed, depending on the demand for this type of niche.
But, whatever the future has for Decentraland, it has proven itself to be one of the projects that do not shy to chase a different direction. When many other altcoin projects are just trying to be the “better” dApp platform than Ethereum, Decentraland is actually bringing something fresh to the table.