Cryptocurrencies

What is Decentraland? The Beginner’s Guide

What is Decentraland? It is a fascinating project in the cryptocurrency market. It is a metaverse, a virtual world, where anyone can explore, communicate, play games, and own virtual land! This is the Decentraland Beginner’s Guide. We’ll go through the project history, technology, and MANA token.

Decentraland is a Dapp built on Ethereum

Let’s categorize Decentralize first, so it is easier to understand. We like to divide cryptocurrency projects into three categories: currencies, platforms, and tokens.

The currency category includes Bitcoin and coins such as Litecoin, Bitcoin Cash, and Monero. These are designed to be P2P digital currencies and they don’t really have other key features.

Ethereum is the leader in the platform category. These projects are operating systems for decentralized apps (Dapps). You can think of them as iOS or Android. They are ecosystems for app developers to build on. Other popular platforms include Cardano, Zilliqa, Elrond, and Binance Smart Chain.

Tokens are always issued on a certain platform, mostly on Ethereum. It means they don’t have a blockchain of their own. Tokens are usually utility or governance tokens. They have a use case in a specific Dapp. Popular tokens include Chaininlink, Aave, Uniswap, and other DeFi tokens.

Decentraland belongs in the token category. It is a decentralized application, which runs on Ethereum. Decentraland is a metaverse, which anyone can join. You can communicate with other players, play games, participate in events, and build on your own piece of land.

The native token of Decentraland is called MANA. It is mostly a utility token and works as money inside the metaverse. MANA is used when buying land or additional features for your avatar. It is basically “in-game money”.

Since Decentraland is built on Ethereum, MANA is also an Ethereum-based (ERC20) token. You can store MANA on any wallet, which supports ERC20 tokens. It can be also traded on Ethereum-based DEXes (Uniswap, 1INCH, Sushiswap, etc.).

Below, you’ll find a short introduction video of Decentraland.

Decentraland differs from other cryptocurrency projects in many ways. One of such features is LAND. This is a Non-Fungible Token (NFT). Each LAND token describes a piece of land (parcel) in the metaverse.

Both MANA and LAND will be described in detail a bit later. Next, let’s go through the history of the project.

The history of Decentraland

The founder of Decentraland is Esteban Ordano. He is the project leader and CTO. Besides Ordano, the core team includes Ari Meilich, Manuel Araoz, and Yemel Jardi. All key members, besides Meilich, are from Argentina.

The story of Decentraland began in 2015. This is when the “Stone Age” was initiated.

The team built a proof of concept using NFT technology. Back then, not many people had heard about NFT. Users could acquire pieces of virtual land from a 2D world through mining. This technology finally hit the mainstream in 2021.

decentraland history

The picture above is from this article. It goes through the early years of the project in detail. The idea of this concept similar to the Million Dollar Website, which some might remember from 2005.

Next, the Bronze Age started. This is when Decentraland was born and the 2D world became 3D. The concept looked a lot like the current metaverse. Esteban Ordano described Decentraland:

“With Decentraland, we’re creating an ecosystem that combines many of the solutions being implemented on cryptocurrencies with the impending mass adoption of VR systems. The result is a metaverse, a social 3D world with a native economic network.” 

The Bronze Age version was technically a Bitcoin clone, meaning Decentraland had its own blockchain and miners. This solution was eventually ditched when the Iron Age started in early 2017. Decentraland moved to the Ethereum platform and raised money via ICO.

Below is a video promoting the Decentraland ICO.

The ICO was held in August 2017. This was pretty much at the peak of the ICO boom. Decentraland raised 24 million USD, which wasn’t that much when comparing to the largest ICOs. This is when all MANA tokens were minted.

The price of one MANA was $0.024 at the ICO. The current (March of 2021) price is about one dollar. It means that long-term holders have made over 40x their initial investment. Not bad!

After the ICO was held, the Decentraland metaverse was built. Below is a 2D map showing how the parcels were organized in early 2018. The green square is Genesis Plaza. This is where all new players are spawned.

decentraland genesis city

Each parcel (small square) in the picture is a Non-Fungible Token (NFT) called LAND. They are unique with specific features.

The first-ever public auction was held in December 2017. As many as 34,356 parcels (LAND) were sold for a total of 161,483,050 MANA. All this MANA was burned. The most expensive LAND sold for 582,090 MANA, which was over $10,000 even back then. Now, the price would be probably more than 100x higher.

The cheapest LAND tokens were sold with 1,000 MANA, which was about $30 back then. Nowadays, you have to pay about $1,000 for the cheapest parcels. Early investors have made massive profits!

The marketplace of Decentraland was opened in early 2018. After this, users could buy and sell LAND easily between each other.

In December 2018, the second big auction was held. The remaining 9,331 without owners were auctioned. Over 109 million MANA was raised. All of that was burned, again.

The official launch for the public took place in February 2020. Prior to this, Decentraland was more or less in a beta. This tweet celebrates the first anniversary in February 2021.

Decentraland has grown remarkably in popularity. The development team has also got much larger. There is solid progress in the SDK, 3D engine, game features, etc. You can read the year 2020 recap from here.

Decentraland has also become a DAO – Decentralized Autonomous Organization. Read more about that from governance.decentraland.org. It means the community can vote for new features and updates. The more MANA you have locked and the more LAND you own, the more voting power you have.

The Decentraland metaverse

Now it’s time to learn more about the Decentraland metaverse. How does it work and how do you enter?

This metaverse is open for everyone. You can go check yourself at decentraland.org. You need a desktop/laptop computer and a MetaMask wallet. It’s recommended to use Chrome + MetaMask.

You don’t need any special skills to enjoy Decentraland. It’s a virtual world, where you can move around and do things you’d do in the real-world as well. One could say it is a game, but metaverse is a more accurate definition. Decentraland has games and apps in it, so it’s much more than just one application.

If you have a 5+ years old laptop and a slow internet connection, Decentraland is not going to run smoothly. The quality of the experience depends on your setup. It is not possible to use a mobile device just yet.

First, every user creates an avatar.decentraland avatar

You can define your own style by changing the body type, head, shoes, accessories, and so on. In the beginning, there are limited options for modifying your avatar. You can go to the marketplace for more cool stuff, which can be bought with MANA tokens.

Every avatar lands on the Genesis Plaza.decentraland landing

Now you are free to explore Decentraland! The avatar is controlled with your keyboard and mouse. You can walk around freely and enter buildings, play games, etc. You can also use the 2D map and spawn directly to the desired parcel.

Check the video below for beginner’s tips.

What can you actually do in Decentraland? Surprisingly, many things! Firstly, you can roam freely and interact with other players by using the chat or headset. There are also games (and even casinos!) you can play. Maybe you like art? Go enjoy some NFTs in an art gallery.

It was recently announced, that Atari is opening a casino in the Vegas City district. Decentraland is divided into different districts – just like real-life cities. Vegas City is one of the famous districts.

You can also listen to music and have parties with other players. There are all kinds of events hosted in Decentraland all the time. Check the video below for some entertainment ideas.

Finally, you can buy a parcel and own a piece of Decentraland! Once you own a parcel, you can use Decentrland’s drag & drop builder and create content for it.

We won’t go any deeper into Decentraland metaverse in this article. There are lots of videos on Youtube if you are interested.

Decentraland MANA and LAND tokens

Decentraland is not the first (and it won’t be the last) metaverse. There are lots of virtual world games with different themes. What separates Decentraland from a traditional game is the link to cryptocurrencies.

Almost every popular game has its own in-game currency. The current mobile trend is to have a free-to-play app with in-game purchases. Players will buy virtual tokens (gold coins, diamonds, etc.) with real money to unlock new levels and features.

Decentraland takes this to a whole new level because MANA is a cryptocurrency. It can be traded on cryptocurrency exchanges for fiat money. This also means that the value of MANA is linked to the real-world and goes up or down based on demand.

As mentioned earlier, MANA is the native token (ERC20) of the Decentraland. Nowadays you can buy MANA from all the major cryptocurrency exchanges. MANA is mostly used for purchases in the Decentraland marketplace.

decentraland marketplace

The marketplace has three product categories:

  • Wearables = items to improve the looks of your avatar
  • Parcels & Estates = land and buildings
  • Names = avatar names

Wearables and names get their value just like items in other games as well – whatever someone is willing to pay, that is the value at the time.

This applies to parcels too, to an extent. Parcels have also other attributes, which make the virtual land more desirable. Just like real estate in the real life. Each parcel is an NFT called LAND. When you buy LAND you’ll store it in your MetaMask wallet. The blockchain will confirm your ownership of that parcel.

Each parcel has certain attributes and a description of its contents. The most important attribute is the coordinates. A parcel is more valuable if it’s close to roads or popular areas of the Decentraland. Each parcel is 16×16 meters of virtual land.

Once you have bought LAND, you can build on it. There are lots of tutorials about this subject on Youtube. Below is one example.

Each parcel has some limitations too. For example, there is a limit on the height of the buildings built on your parcel. However, if you buy multiple parcels connected to each other, this limit is raised.

MANA token is also used inside the metaverse. If you go to a casino and play roulette, you can play with your MANA. The same applies to any other items or events. There are many ways to spend your MANA tokens inside the metaverse too.

Many investors have bought MANA just to speculate about the price. The NFT boom of 2021 has raised all NFT-related tokens by 10-fold. You can always just buy and hold MANA without ever entering the Decentraland metaverse.

The technical structure of Decentraland

Let’s take a look under the hood. How is Decentraland built? As mentioned earlier, Decentraland is an application running on the Ethereum platform. It’s an autonomous and decentralized app built using smart contracts. Users communicate directly with smart contracts with no middlemen.

Decentraland has a 3-layer architecture. These are called the Consensus Layer, Land Content Layer (Content Distribution Layer), and Real-Time Layer. See the image below. Source: Decentraland whitepaper.

decentraland layers

The Consensus Layer handles all the virtual land, meaning LAND tokens. Each LAND is a unique NFT including its coordinates, owner information, and description of its contents.

There’s one interesting point regarding LAND tokens. When a LAND is purchased, MANA tokens used are always burnt. This means MANA is a deflationary currency. This should also make the land more valuable on fiat terms over time.

The middle layer renders the contents of each parcel (LAND). When a user walks around Decentraland, the 3D contents of each parcel must be rendered on the screen. This content information is decentralized on smart contracts.

Contents of a parcel can include textures, 3D objects, sounds files, animation or even applications and games. Each pixel of each LAND parcel (and its functions) is defined.

The Real-Time Layer handles communication between users. This can be done by chatting (text) or using a microphone.

Decentraland (MANA) as an investment

Decentraland’s MANA is a unique cryptocurrency in many ways. This makes it exceedingly difficult for investors to evaluate. How do you define MANA’s fair price?

A good rule of thumb is to look at the market cap. When doing this, it’s important to compare market caps or relevant projects. For example, the platform category is fairly simple. You can compare the market caps of Cardano, Tron, Tezos, Zilliqa, and Polkadot.

This cannot be done with Decentraland because there are no direct competitors. This makes it impossible to know if the MANA market cap is 10x bigger or 50 % smaller than similar metaverses. Decentraland is not entirely alone, though. The Sandbox is an interesting newcomer, which tries to combine Minecraft and cryptocurrencies.

See the video below for more information.

The MANA token price has exploded in 2021. It went up more than 1000 percent in a couple of months. This is due to the general NFT boom, which has been going on in the early months of 2021. Investors are interested in all NFT-related projects:  art, collectibles, and games.

Enjin is another example of an NFT sector project making big moves. It’s probably a good idea to evaluate MANA as a part of the NFT sector. Decentraland is one of the biggest and best-known projects in this niche. If there is an NFT boom boing on, MANA is going to get a lot of attention.

It’s important to remember that MANA has a governance role too. This is how DeFi tokens (Aave, Compound, Uniswap) work. The more valuable Decentraland metaverse gets, the more desired the voting power becomes. This will create additional demand for MANA.

Such voting rights are not relevant for small investors, but it’s different for “whales” (big investors). If you have invested a lot of money in a project, you want to make sure the development goes the way you desire. This is why the “whales” acquire large amounts of these governance tokens.

MANA price and how to buy MANA

MANA can be bought from the biggest cryptocurrency exchanges in the market. We recommend using the leader, Binance. You can deposit fiat by using fast wire transfers or credit cards.

Buy MANA from Binance

MANA can be also traded on Coinbase and Kraken. These are trusted and reliable American operators.

Since MANA is an ERC20 token, you can store it in any wallet supporting Ethereum-based tokens. MetaMask (desktop and mobile), Trustwallet (mobile), and Exodus (desktop and mobile) are popular choices.

The Decentraland metaverse can be found at decentraland.org. Follow the project also on Twitter and Reddit. Decentraland’s Youtube channel has lots of how-to videos for newbies.

You should also check sites like nftplazas.com for Decentraland news. A history of LAND trades can be found at nonfungible.com. There are also other sites and social media channels specialized on NFT.

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