Decentraland (MANA)

What is Decentraland?

Decentraland (MANA) is a virtual reality (VR) platform operating on the Ethereum blockchain. The platform enables users to create, experience, and monetize decentralized content and applications.

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The protocol also provides access to virtual real estate where users can own and develop virtual lands. These lands are non-fungible tokens (NFTs), unique, and directly owned by the community.

Techopedia Explains

Each virtual land is identified by a set of cartesian coordinates (x, y). Landowners can build content and applications according to the blockchain-based ledger of parcels available to them.

As a result, users can create 3D static scenes, engage in interactive gaming experiences, lease or rent out their virtual lands, and even develop them for future resale.

Additionally, Decentraland adds an immersive component to its software, which makes it the first one to do so in the Web3 landscape. This unique feature has seen the project called the Metaverse by numerous Web3 enthusiasts.

History of Decentraland

According to its whitepaper, Decentraland started as a proof-of-concept (PoC) in 2015 by founders Esteban Ordano and Ariel Meilich. Yemel Jardi and Manuel Araoz also contributed to the success of the protocol.

The development of Decentraland has been split into the Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age. Below, we provide snapshots of the protocol’s continued growth over the years.

Age Effect(s) on Decentraland
Stone  Conceptualized in 2015, the Stone Age allocated virtual parcels of land to users using blockchain technology. Each virtual land was represented as a pixel on an infinite 2D grid. Each pixel came with metadata identifying the owner and the pixel’s color. 
Bronze This era began in late 2016. It crafted the hashing reference system, copied from the Bitcoin network, to identify land parcels and their owners. This led to the development of the Distributed Hash Table (DHT) framework. Users could download parcels and their content using the BitTorrent software
Iron This stage embodies the actualization of a shared virtual reality platform where Decentraland enables peer-to-peer (P2P) social experiences, interactive content, games development, and fast cryptocurrency payments for in-world transactions. In 2020, the company launched its 3D virtual browser-based software, which began this era.

What Makes Decentraland Unique?

From the ground-up, Decentraland is built for content creators, businesses, and individuals seeking a new artistic landscape, business opportunity, or even a source of entertainment.

Here are some qualities that make Decentraland unique:

  • Decentraland is split into 90,601 parcels of virtual lands called The Metaverse. Each piece of land is 16m X 16m (256 square meters) and is fixed on the cartesian x and y coordinates.
  • Landowners can build whatever they like on their virtual real estate. Users can develop virtual buildings, games, or content for adverts and paid experiences.
  • Besides offering a creative outlet for its users, Decentraland can also be directly monetized. Users can lease out their virtual real estate, game, or content for adverts and paid experiences in return for crypto payment. This is why Decentraland is highly rated in trading cryptocurrencies.

How Does Decentraland Work?

Decentraland operates as a web-based virtual reality platform, requiring users to log in through a desktop or PC.

However, being a crypto-focused protocol, it eliminates the need for traditional account creation. Instead, users can access the platform by connecting to a crypto wallet like Metamask.

Inside Decentraland’s captivating 3D virtual realm, users can explore virtual museums, attend concerts, host events, participate in games, and develop applications.

The platform ensures the security and transparency of all activities and transactions by harnessing the power of the Ethereum blockchain. It also allows users to acquire digital land parcels and exchange ownership rights using the MANA token.

Furthermore, developers can innovate on the platform and design animations, avatars, textures, and other related content used in virtual real estate.

Decentraland’s Architectural Layout

The virtual reality software comprises three fundamental layers – the consensus layer, the land or content distribution layer, and the real-time layer.

Additionally, it features a payment channel infrastructure and an identity system, both intricately linked to its virtual economy and operation.

  • Consensus Layer

The consensus layer contains an Ethereum smart contract that maintains a distributed ledger for tracking the ownership of digital land parcels. This layer safeguards parcels of land and their respective reference files (coordinates and districts they are in).

  • Land/Content Distribution Layer

This serves as a decentralized storage mechanism for content on the Decentraland platform. These include audio files, textures of in-game characters, and other relevant details to render each parcel. Besides content, the content distribution layer hosts the scripting system, which controls how the parcel is placed and how it runs.

  • Real-time Layer

This is the final layer where P2P interactions are seamlessly run between users via landowners and third-party servers. The real-time layer allows landowners to host permissionless servers for other users to better interact with their digital real estate.

Decentraland Tokens

Decentraland kickstarted the Metaverse frenzy in the crypto space and has remained relevant despite growing competition.

However, what has truly propelled the Ethereum-based shared reality platform ahead is its twin-token system.

LAND Token

The first token in this system is the LAND token, which is an NFT. Each token has unique attributes and is usually 256 square meters.

Only 90,601 parcels of LAND tokens are available, making them highly valuable.

MANA Token

On the other hand, MANA is a different token system. It is fungible and operates on the ERC-20 token standard. Over 2.1 billion tokens were created at the protocol’s launch in 2020.

MANA serves as the primary network token, ensuring the smooth operation of the Decentraland blockchain protocol.

Its primary purpose is facilitating swift cryptocurrency transactions, which are crucial for acquiring LANDs (NFTs), digital wearables, in-game avatars, and other features.

MANA is also used in:

  • Governance: Decentraland operates using a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) system where the community decides the direction a protocol goes. Token holders get to vote on network proposals and make their proposals.
  • Staking: MANA can also be locked up (staked) to secure the network. Stakers are often rewarded with more tokens relative to the percentage interest rate payable at the time and the amount a user locks up.

The Bottom Line

Decentraland is a browser-based distributed platform that enables users to share unique social experiences in a permissionless manner. It also features a software development base where developers can build games and applications.

The protocol relies on the Ethereum blockchain, inheriting the constraints of the older smart contract-based foundational layer. In the future, as Ethereum evolves to become faster, cheaper, and more sustainable, Decentraland’s first-mover position in the Metaverse ecosystem could see it gain significant prominence.

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Jimmy Aki
Crypto & Blockchain Writer

A graduate of the University of Virginia and now based in the UK, Jimmy has been following the development of blockchain for several years, optimistic about its potential to democratize the financial system. Jimmy's previously published work can be found on BeInCrypto, Bitcoin Magazine, Decrypt, EconomyWatch, Forkast.news, Investing.com, Learnbonds.com, MoneyCheck.com, Buyshares.co.uk and a range of other leading media publications. Jimmy has been investing in Bitcoin himself since 2018 and more recently in non-fungible tokens (NFTs) since their boom in 2021, with expertise in trading, crypto mining and personal finance. Alongside writing for Techopedia, Jimmy is also a trained economist, accountant and blockchain…