Decentraland and the Fusion of Trends

I had to get in the car for a short drive last night, so I flipped on the radio to listen to along the way.  It was set to our local PBS station, KQED, and since it was between 9 and 10pm, the BBC News Service feed was playing.

I wasn’t really listening to what was being said until I was out of the driveway and headed down the street.  Then some very familiar words started flowing through my brain in charming English accents with precise BBC pronunciation.  It was something about a virtual world and selling virtual plots of land and maybe businesses setting up shop and people visiting friends and having a virtual cup of tea and all the nonsense that was being passed around about virtual worlds more than a decade back.

My first thought was that they were playing an old track, some sort of “Remember when this was a thing?” segment featuring Second Life and how people were buying into that.  I mean Reuters and CNN had “offices” there and people who got rich on speculation were making it to the covers of magazines.

But the whole thing sounded more recent.  They were talking about the funding by selling plots in the Genesis content section of this world.  We’ve certainly seen virtual real estate sold before.  Then there was mention of the in game currency, called MANA, which you had to buy in order to get any of the plots.  But we’ve been down that path before.

And then the surprising-yet-unsurprising twist hit, MANA was a cryptocurrency and used blockchain technology and I said aloud, “Nailed it!”

But it isn’t just the currency that uses blockchain, it is the whole world and all your virtual land deeds and whatever.  I was back in the driveway before I was the story was through… honestly, I was only driving out to get a PokeStop because it was day seven of my streak and I wanted the big payout… so I sat in the driveway until they finally said the name of the place.  Just to hit on the block chain theme in a big way it is called Decentraland.

Buzz words sell things

So I went back in the house and started looking the whole thing up.

It doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry yet, which I am sad to say is my current method of assessing notability.  If you aren’t there yet how can you make any claim to fame?  But it does have its own web site and blog with an introduction to things and a FAQ.

Naturally, because it is 2018 and this is how things are, even though the developers are selling plots of land via their cryptocurrency, you cannot log in and visit your purchase yet, so add crowdfunding to the list of trends it is riding on.

Not that there isn’t a lot going on with Decentraland.  Browsing through their site and reading articles about non-fungible tokens and what not indicates that much thought is going into the technology being used.  However, technology isn’t a product and I didn’t see a thing that made me think that they had anything beyond the most basic ideas as to what people would eventually do with the place.

That is likely my native skepticism kicking in I am sure.  As I said, I’ve heard a lot of their pitch before, and the fact that blockchain technology is part of the equation doesn’t sell me.  But we shall see.  I mostly wanted to write this to mark the point in time so I would come back and visit it again in a year and in five years and so on to see what develops.

Are you interested in some blockchain secured virtual real estate?

4 thoughts on “Decentraland and the Fusion of Trends

  1. Bhagpuss

    There’s a school of thought that says blockchain currencies will replace some if not all real world currencies during this century. I think governments and their access to miltary grade hardware…and actual military… will probably have something to say about that. However, there have been plenty of non-digital, non-government currency schemes that have had considerable local success. It’s something quite a lot of people seem keen on. I’m not one of them but I’ve known quite a few who were.

    I don’t buy into the whole apocalyptic/utopian theme but I do think that in a world where some of the very biggest wealth generators are digital service platforms like Google and Facebook, it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that blockchain-backed currencies might end up being somewhat mainstream. Whether that means virtual malls in virtual worlds, though, I rather doubt. More likely real world goods and services changing hands for non-government backed currency, probably via an app. I mean, if Apple or Google decided they wanted to secede from the dollar and move Apple and Google Pay onto a blockchain standard, would you bet against them?

    On the subject of Second Life, I must have had it installed once, although I can’t remember much about it, because I do remember having an avatar standing in an imaginary room watching a real world politicial give a speech. Can’t remember who or what it was about though. I suppose it could have beenin some other virtual world…


  2. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Bhagpuss – The problem with cryptocurrencies is that they only have value as measured in real world currencies like the dollar. A Bitcoin might as well be a unit of Station Cash or a Blue Chip Stamp for all the value it has at the grocery store or the bank. Any place that does accept Bitcoin does so based on its current valuation in dollars or other such currency. It is not integrated into any economy, it is just an anomaly that doesn’t even add up to a rounding error when it comes to GDP. It lacks the inherent value of something like gold, the backing of law that would force people to accept it, and the ability to roll around on in great piles like metal coins and paper bills. If the dollar is a fiat currency that depends on our collective belief in its value, then Bitcoin is once removed from even that as our belief in it requires the dollar as part of the equation.

    As for Apple and Google succeeding from the dollar… I am pretty sure the government, any government, US, EU, or otherwise, wouldn’t accept their funny money when it came time to pay taxes. The IRS doesn’t take Bitcoin, Station Cash, or Monopoly money when your bill comes due, so you’re stuck with the legal tender process we have currently.

    In essence, a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin is built upon something like the Marxist dream that the state will eventually fall away, being of no value, and we’ll get along without it. Historically I see the state, like every organization over a certain age, being primarily interested in asserting and expanding its power and reach, having forgotten its original purpose and only concerned with its own survival. Except, unlike a lot of organizations, the state has the guns and the gulags to enforce conformity to its designs.


  3. Jacob

    I can’t really see the future in crypto-curriences for a variety of reasons. But you don’t even have to get all that outlandish. I live in the SE US, coastally. Periodically, yearly say, a hurricane comes through and power is lost in a large swatch of area for a few days up to a week. (Nothing on the scale of Puerto Rico). It is generally an annoyance for most people.

    However, any requirement that a currency (like any block-chain backed thing) has on an electronic record (hence power and network stability) feels inadequate under those circumstances. If a currency cannot survive and function under minor natural disasters – even for things like buying a loaf of bread – then I don’t see it having a chance at replacing government backed fiat currency, i.e. paper money.


  4. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    As an aside, I had to do my annual business ethics compliance course at work which covers, among many things, acceptable online behavior. Under the heading of “virtual worlds” the example is Second Life. I may not represent the company or use company logos in Second Life without company approval.


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