(MANA) - Decentraland
What is MANA?
Decentraland is a virtual-reality platform hosted on the Ethereum blockchain, and MANA is the currency used for in-world purchases of virtual LAND parcels, as well as other goods and services that will be published there. Once purchased, landowners can choose what content to publish on their land, content can range from static 3D scenes to interactive content such as games. Imagine for a moment walking through a virtual world, let’s say that you’re looking for a streaming service to watch, and there is a lane of Kiosks in the world where you can interact with virtual representatives for an app service like Netflix or Hulu. They could inform you on services, prices, options, what content they have, in an interactive manner that hasn’t been seen. Shop for games in a virtual world where you could even try them out by walking into a “game portal” and entering a type of “trial world”, there are endless possibilities.
The global virtual reality market while relatively small at the moment, is projected to rapidly grow into a $40 billion market by 2020. Currently, users spend more time than ever in virtual worlds, but this takes place in 2D interfaces such as the web, and mobile phones, in the coming years this will be primarily accomplished by means of virtual reality and augmented reality as the technology continues to rapidly advance.
How does Decentraland work?
Land is stored within the consensus layer, where the land content is accessed through a hash of the file’s content in the blockchain. This content is then downloaded from BitTorrent or IPFS, and the file contains a full description of the content on that land such as objects, textures, sounds, and various other element needed to render the scene. Furthermore, the file contains a URL to a server that will establish P2P connections allowing users explore the content simultaneously.
Additionally, land ownership is maintained via Ethereum smart contracts which are referred the digital assets referred to as LAND. Each piece of LAND has unique corresponding coordinates (x,y), an owner, and a reference file leading to the content description that stores the data the LAND owner wants to display. Native Decentraland clients will connect to the Ethereum Network allowing for LAND updates to be fetched and displayed in accordance with the smart contract specifications.
-Content Distribution Layer
For each LAND parcel that needs to be rendered in-world, a corresponding file with the description of the content is retrieved from the smart contract. Currently, BitTorrent, and Kademlia DHT networks store the magnet links for each parcel, but IPFS also provides a potential alternative as the technology advances. Because, Decentraland is hosted in this manner it removes the need for a centralized server infrastructure. Additionally, this system structure provides strong censorship-resistance meaning no central authority can change the rules or prevent users from participating in the system. However, the bandwidth necessary to host the files, and serve the content on-demand comes with significant costs. Currently, users are seeding the content for free, but in the future this cost can potentially be covered by protocols such as Filecoin. Until then, micropayments can be used as a substitute to pay for quality of service.
– Real-Time Layer
Landowners will ideally host servers to allow for P2P connections to be established and connect over a network. Because there will be no centralized server infrastructure, P2P connections will be required for users to connect in real-time. Additionally, this provides landowners with the incentive to host these servers otherwise users will not be able to see each other in the owners LAND parcel. Furthermore, this connectivity provides users with a social experience allowing them to have avatars in-world, display the positioning of avatars, voice chat, messaging, and other interactions with the virtual environment.
What are MANA and LAND tokens used for?
In the next stage of Decentralands roadmap is the Iron Age. At that time, Decentraland will fully introduce two digital assets into their ecosystem, LAND, these are non-fungible parcels in which the virtual world is divided, and MANA, an ER-20 token that is burned to claim LAND parcels, as well as make in-world purchases of goods and services hosted within Decentraland. The main utility of LAND is its ability to host content such as applications, games, services, and other content. Developers will need to purchase LAND in order to build on top of it thus allowing them to reach their target audience through an interactive virtual platform.
However, all LAND can be purchased at the same flat rate (1000 MANA = 1 LAND). Although, LAND parcels are distinguishable from eachother, because of this LAND parcels may trade at different prices on a secondary market due to differences in location or adjacencies to more or less popular hubs in-world. For example, you would most likely want to build your content in a busy area with other services present, and lots of end-users. As opposed to, building your content in an empty zone or area lacking traffic and competition. As for MANA tokens, their value is intrinsically tied to the purchasing of LAND, goods, and services in Decentraland.
What use-cases are present for Decentraland?
The scripting language for Decentraland will allow the development of applications, games, gambling, and other dynamic 3D scenes. Their scripting language will be designed with the ability to handle various programming tasks including object creation, loading textures, handling physics, encoding user interactions, sounds, payments, and many other applications will be possible as well.
- Content Curation:
Users in Decentraland will gather around virtual neighborhoods of shared interest. Being located in high-traffic hubs will help drive users to the content of landowners.
Industry brands and market leaders will have the option to advertise using virtual billboards near, or in, high-traffic land parcels to promote their own products, services, and events. In this way, some neighborhoods may even choose to become virtual version of Times Square in New York City.
- Digital Collectibles:
Decentraland expects that users will publish, distribute, and collect rare digital assets issued on the blockchain by creators. This will open up the opportunity for digital assets to be traded within the virtual world through the scripting system. For example Etheremon has partnered with Decentraland for their digital collectibles.
- Other use cases:
Because there are no technical specifications to what can be built in Decentraland there’s a broad channel open for more use cases to emerge in time such as professional development, education, therapy, 3D design, Virtual Tourism, and many more.
What challenges are present for Decentraland?
Traditionally, decentralized content distribution has two inherent issues. The first of which involves download speed, this is due to slow file retrieval in slower legacy systems and specifically in graphical applications such as Decentraland. The second issue is availability, meaning that content is sufficiently distributed across the network without loss of data. However, IPFS and the Filecoin protocol will be tackling these issues and Decentraland plans to implement them once they become ready.
Secondly, scripting APIs for Decentraland will need to be secure enough for clients to hold private and authorize micropayments frequently. Lastly, content curation could pose a problem in regards to issues created by filtering content intended for mature audiences which is difficult to solve in a decentralized network. However, they plan to make a reputation-based approach to this idea in which users can select one or more providers from a whitelist/blacklist that tracks the type of content being served on the LAND parcels.
Demo video example:
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