Decentraland is building a digital world for a variety of people, including gamers, builders, artists and shoppers. Here is an interview with Decentraland Foundation to get an overview of an emerging creative and innovative virtual world.
What is Decentraland Foundation? And how did the project form?
We are actually a non-profit, not a company. We report on activities in the community, who govern and hold intellectual property. We were in beta for several years but officially launched in February of 2020. At the time we put 90,000 parcels of land up for auction. All of them were bought. There have been loads of events and experiences, hackathon-type events called “game jam” have increased the number of experiences in games and activities and infrastructures in the community. NFTs are integral to experience because land that you can buy is an NFT, wearables are NFT, created by the community, they are NFTs, inextricably linked to the experience of Decentraland.
Who are the users of this virtual universe?
If you look at the most active communities, I think art has obviously been a big community for Decentraland. Very early on, it was identified as being an area of growth and activity. Online marketplaces like Super Rare and OpenSea, established presences in Decentraland. You had a very big artist community that was exhibiting and experiencing. We have a very large Chinese community as well. They throw a lot of different events. We also have builders and gamers on here as well. The builders can either build things at a basic level, while the more experienced builders can join “hackathons” or “game jam” type events. In short, it is a very diverse community.
I think the general community is people who are interested in new areas of technology. You don’t have to be up to speed on technology or crypto or NFTs to enjoy the platform, you just have to have an open mind on interacting and collaborating on a creative level with others. One area we see collaboration is artists who display their work in galleries.
One part of Decentraland is the voting process. How does this work?
Our voting process is run through the DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization) which is Decentralized governance. Anybody that holds meta (the platform currency) or is a landowner can put forward proposals through the DAO. They can also vote on proposals. And, once a proposal has been approved or rejected, it will become active in the community. It will be put into law, and really that is the basics of how governance works. That inspires people to engage, it is a job to educate the community; with this ownership comes responsibility. This makes sure it evolves the way the community wants it to, DOA is a great way for them to remain engaged and check in on different proposals that people put in. You can see different levels of people’s engagement. And DAO is a new concept but helps engagement. In basic terms, it is a question of voting on proposals and then those approved are put into practice.
What is the mix like in terms of newcomers and observers, and people that are heavily involved?
It is a mix of observers. It is not right now in the middle of a major metropolis where you would feel overwhelmed. It is very early and there is a lot of opportunities to observe. There is a lot of opportunities to observe a variety of events, music performances, games, and quests that the community built. For example, we currently have Art Week which showcases different artist’s NFT projects. The more engaged users can go buy land in the marketplace. But you can also build items on the platform. Anything can be built on the scene and picked up by landowners and hosted on their plot. It helps with involvement and collaboration. You don’t even have to own land to be a creator or build. We have creators that just sell to the marketplace.
And then landowners can be opportunistic. For example, we have landowners that have discussed creating virtual malls in Decentraland. It is basically bridging the gap between the digital and physical world. Something you purchase digitally can be received in its physical form. You start to see the metaverse creep back to the physical world.
What is the biggest pushback you get from people?
Probably a few factors, though a big one is the user technology. Everybody has a computer at home, but a computer with decent speed is recommended. Some also have a skeptical view of a virtual world. However, there are people that are happy to immerse themselves in a second world. Just look at gamers who are active in World of Warcraft or SecondLife. It is a similar environment. It is a virtual social world, and while you can just observe, the real reward is through engagement with others. Attending events and making friends with people are truly rewarding.
Another criticism is you can’t hang digital art in the real world, but the answer is in Decentraland it has given digital artists the gallery space. They have a bespoke gallery space and can create it exactly the way they want. That is an example of how the community can work.
I think there is an opportunity for other communities in the physical world, like musicians, for this to be a platform to sell music through the platform. They can use Decentraland to sell music as well as merchandise and engaging fans. The adoption will grow as the barriers come down and people can see the application in the metaverse.
What is the marketplace like on the platform?
You are able to purchase through Decentraland manner or polygon manner, which is the side chain that speeds it up and makes it cheaper to purchase. Obviously, with Ethereum there is gas fees. The marketplace has avatar names, digital art, and wearables. Galleries like Super Rare have established themselves in the marketplace. It is growing, and I think with more ways to transact and faster transactions the secondary market will have a life of its own. For galleries in Decentraland, if you click on an artwork, you are taken to the gallery or marketplace website. Also, many communities import their NFTs, and use Decentraland to house their collection for people to check out.