‘Decentraland’, the Argentine metaverse that was ahead of Facebook

‘Decentraland’, the Argentine metaverse that was ahead of Facebook

To this day, many believe that the idea of ​​the metaverse was born from the mind of Mark Zuckerberg, which is not the case. What the Meta CEO did do was expose the concept to billions of people; and he also created a hype which became the perfect excuse for companies that tried to raise financing without giving too many explanations about what they thought with that money or how they would achieve it. But Facebook’s metaverse doesn’t exist as such yet—regardless of Oculus advances—and we won’t see it anytime soon, either. However, there is a platform that is revolutionizing the concept of life in virtuality and it is called Decentraland.

Decentraland It is a project that was born in Argentina and in a few years it became the most important virtual platform at a global level. It is a game, a community and, in turn, a business; has events, has gained the interest of the most important and influential brands and personalities in the world; It is an open platform open source and decentralized that lives on the Ethereum blockchain; she has her own (crypto) currency and NFTs, avatars, parcels, cities, businesses, embassies, and everything you can imagine. It is, after all, the metaverse. Neither more nor less than that.

But Decentraland It wasn’t always the three-dimensional world we know today, which we can explore using our own character and interacting with other users. Long before virtual cities, shopping malls, mini-games, the marketplace where we buy, sell or trade a piece of land or endless collectibles, music festivals, fashion week, or any other feature that today distinguishes the platform, there was a group of enthusiasts who defied technological limitations to materialize his vision of the metaverse.

Decentraland took its first steps with Bitcoin

Photo by Kanchanara in unsplash

although today Decentraland is a project that lives in the Ethereum blockchain, it took its first steps with Bitcoin. In 2015, a group of Argentine engineers led by Stephen Ordano, Manuel Araoz Y Yermel Jardi set out to create a decentralized virtual world.

The first prototype, which already used the name DecentralandIt was pretty rudimentary. It consisted of a 2D community map website with colored pixels; there, each user could connect to his computer and start mining “earth”, one pixel at a time. And since everyone was looking at the same map, each person could choose a color to identify the pixels they had mined.

The project stalled for just over a year, until renewed interest in virtual reality helped spark the idea. The second prototype was developed at the end of 2016 and already consisted of a three-dimensional map created with the Unity graphics engine; but the great novelty was that it was based on its own blockchain. To do this, the developers made a fork from a Bitcoin node. In this way, instead of using transactions to send or receive amounts of cryptocurrency, they created a method to transfer digital parcels.

Additionally, users could create scenes in the 3D browser and serialize them for later upload to the blockchain. But what was also interesting was that Decentraland it did not stray from its foundations and kept the concept of land mining from the original version.

The first explosion and the general reform

In a recent interview on doWhy didn’t I pay attention to you??Santi Siri’s podcast, Yermel Jardi detailed the beginnings of Decentraland and explained how the first explosion of the metaverse took place made in Argentina.

“A few months later [del lanzamiento del segundo prototipo] a youtuber from London raises the project and explains it much better than we could have done, and contributors begin to rain down on us, people who wanted to contribute. 3D modelers, programmers, designers,” Jardi explained, adding: “There we felt that the project could go to a new level and we started the process where we said that having our own blockchain did not make much sense and we began to see Ethereum as our base platform.

Thus, at the beginning of 2017, and already with another key figure as Ariel Meilichbegan the reform that gradually converted Decentraland in what it is today. In 2019 it took a major leap with the launch of the closed beta and in February 2020 it was made available to everyone.

Decentraland has its own cryptocurrency, MANNA, which is used for the various transactions within the metaverse. But its use has expanded beyond its original function, as the token has also been listed by exchanges like Binance and Ripio. This means that anyone, even if they do not use the platform, can buy MANA as an investment instrument or tradingjust as it happens with Bitcoin, Ethereum or other cryptoactives.

Furthermore, the platform was among the first—or possibly the first—to explore the world of non-expendable goods, even when the NFT expression did not exist as such. This thanks to the establishment of LAND, the token used to represent the more than 90,000 plots of 16 x 16 meters that make up this virtual world.

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Another issue that is also important to note is that Decentraland is managed through a decentralized autonomous organization, or DAO. “Through the DAO, you are in control of the policies created to determine how the world behaves: for example, what types of items are allowed (or not), content moderation, LAND rules and auctions, among others,” explain in your website.

Artists, celebrities, brands and governments want to be in Decentraland

The growth of Decentraland has been consistent since its release to the general public. The fact that anyone can explore this metaverse and interact with its main features using only their favorite web browser makes adaptation easier. In addition, it is not mandatory to connect to the game with a wallet of cryptocurrencies, although the experience as a guest is more limited.

But within the impressive evolution that the platform has had over the last year, some issues in particular stand out. On the one hand, holding a music festival —the Metaverse Festival— last October, with the participation of a long list of artists led by deadmau5. In March of this year, meanwhile, the Metaverse Fashion Week; yes, a fashion week with events spread over different districts and with the presence of international brands such as Tommy Hilfiger Y Dolce and Gabbana.

Sport has not escaped the fever for virtuality either. The Australian Openthe first Grand Slam on the world tennis circuit calendar, also reached Decentraland in early 2022. The renowned event launched a collection of NFTs and organized events around a digital version of the Rod Laver Arena, its legendary stadium.

As expected, criticism of these events has not been slow to appear. Some assert that the rage over Decentraland it is only because of the opportunism of brands or celebrities who want to take advantage of the hype for the metaverse. However, there are also those who maintain that most of the interest in this virtual world is genuine, and that it has allowed the establishment of attractive and very lucrative businesses.

According to CoinDesk, the casino operated by the company Decentral Games had revenues of 7.5 million dollars between the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022; with around 6,000 active users per day, it has already established itself as one of the main draws of the metaverse. In November, meanwhile, Reuters reported that Tokens.com purchased a 116-parcel plot of land for 618,000 MANA, which was equivalent to almost $2,500,000.

And while it may sound ridiculous to many, the real estate market seems more than determined to explore what virtual platforms like Decentraland they are willing to offer.

But the craziest thing that has happened so far is, without a doubt, the opening of the Embassy of Barbados. Yes, friends, the Caribbean island has become the first nation in the world to have a diplomatic dependency in the metaverse. An initiative that was the work of Gabriel Abed, current ambassador of Barbados in the United Arab Emirates. “This is going to change the way the world works. The Embassy is a small thing. The most important thing is what governments can do together when the land is no longer physical land and limitations are no longer part of the equation” , he told Bloomberg.

The metaverse is here

As Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg continue to burn billions of dollars a year to create their vision of the metaverse, Decentraland He has already taken several bodies ahead of him with far fewer resources. This does not mean that the proposal born in Argentina is perfect —which it clearly is not—, nor does it mean that better alternatives cannot appear. But it does show that it already exists. a functional version of life in virtuality that it has evolved by leaps and bounds in a very short time, and that it still has a lot of room to mature.

Manuel Araoz, one of the creators of Decentralandrecently published an article explaining his vision for the platform in the next five years. There he mentioned his idea of ​​her becoming the de facto standard of an open metaverse, but to achieve this they must focus on three key issues: accessibility, ease of development and comfort. In the last point, he referred especially to optimizing the virtual world so that the interest of users is lasting over time. Thus, he emphasized two sections: improving the tools to build houses and social interactions.

In addition, he aimed to take advantage of the five years to come to ratify his position and prosper in this space, even when the big technology companies begin to explore it. “The metaverse must remain free, open, global and sovereign”sentenced.