Exploring the virtual world of Decentraland (MANA)

Decentraland is drawing in investors and ordinary folk who want to own a slice of virtual real estate. Here, we explain what it is and how you can get a piece of the action

Whether you have a love of gaming, want a new way to reach customers, or simply enjoy socialising with like-minded people, Decentraland could provide the answer.

The platform, which is powered by the Ethereum blockchain, is making waves in the virtual reality (VR) space thanks to its decentralised, finite, and 3D nature. The virtual world has widespread appeal, attracting investors looking to make a profit, developers wanting to test new ideas, and ordinary people hoping to create a better world – or, indeed, just have fun.

What is Decentraland?

Decentraland is a VR platform that hosts a 3D world where people can buy, sell, and manage virtual real estate called LAND. These plots of LAND – which are digital assets maintained in an Ethereum smart contract – are owned by members of the community, giving users complete control over what they do with their slice of the virtual world. Users can later navigate, build upon, and monetise their plots.

The amount of LAND is capped and each plot is 10m by 10m (33ft by 33ft), but there’s no limit to the height. If you own adjacent plots, you can bond them together. Decentraland is home to Genesis City – a metropolis created by the development team to encourage centralised development.

Decentraland experiences are currently being built by thousands of LAND owners. Once they’re ready, you’ll be able to explore the world on your computer, phone, or VR headset.

How do I buy LAND?

You can buy parcels of LAND using MANA – Decentraland’s cryptocurrency token. MANA is an ERC-20 token that must be burned to acquire non-fungible ERC-721 LAND tokens. You can also use MANA cryptocurrency to pay for in-world goods and services.

MANA cryptocurrency is available to buy on over 20 exchanges using coins such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Tether, in addition to fiat currencies.

Each plot of LAND was originally sold for 1,000 MANA, but thanks to the virtual world’s finite nature, a secondary market has emerged. Price tags vary, with some plots costing in the millions.

What can I do with my LAND?

Owning LAND gives you full control over the environments and applications you create. This could range from static 3D scenes to more interactive applications or games.

You can design 3D environments via a tool called the Builder – and you don’t actually need to own LAND or hold MANA to use it. Anyone can jump in and start landscaping parcels and estates. The Builder doesn’t take the place of an editor – it aims to make Decentraland accessible to ordinary folk.

Testing ideas is at the core of Decentraland, but it’s also grabbed the attention of investors who are snapping up plots of LAND in the hopes of turning a profit (and without a middleman taking a cut). According to Bloomberg, credit network Ripio.com paid almost $150,000 for a spot next to the main square where visitors appear when they enter Genesis City.

In time, Decentraland could become a place for brands to promote their products, services, and events. This could be through virtual billboards or shared experiences.

The team at Decentraland is currently working on its next stage – dubbed the Iron Age – which will see the implementation of peer-to-peer communications, a scripting system to enable interactive content, and a system of fast cryptocurrency payments for in-world transactions. Over time, it is hoped Decentraland will have a social aspect, with communities of people gathering together and creating networks akin to Facebook.

Other future uses could include training and professional development, education, therapy, 3D design, and virtual tourism.

Next steps

Decentraland began as an experiment in virtual real estate, however the evolution of the underlying tech and the growth of its community has turned the project into an open platform for 3D, user-generated content.

The project is still in its infancy, but if its development goes according to plan, the possibilities could be endless.

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