It’s not all good news for the virtual world of Decentraland. Having secured millions of dollars in investment, their community is feeling rather bitter about how everything was handled.
When you hear the words ‘blockchain’ and ‘cryptocurrency’, Bitcoin may come to mind. While it’s true that Bitcoin is what popularised blockchain technology, it’s also worth remembering that there are many other forms of cryptographic currency in use today. I’m not going to focus too much on the monetary value of Bitcoin (as of speaking, 1BTC equates to $4000 US). This article isn’t about that, it’s about another cryptocurrency called Ethereum (ETH).
These two coins have remarkably different properties; both of them being digital currencies is where similarities end. While Bitcoin aims to give fiat currencies a run for their money, Ethereum is focused on the idea of using blockchain technology to provide completely decentralised services. All of these are designed to run via peer to peer based protocols without the need for servers. Simply put, it aims to cut out the middle man in everything from selling homes and social media to gambling and crowd-funding.
What does this have to do with virtual worlds?
Ethereum, in the manner described, is facilitating the development of the first blockchain-based virtual world, it’s called ‘Decentraland‘. It’s in a very early stage of development and is being managed primarily by two individuals, Ari Meilich and Esteban Ordano, you can see the entire team by clicking here. The promise is that of a metaverse in which people can create their own 3D experiences, “ruled by open standards”.
What went wrong?
An initial coin offering (known as an ICO) took place. In this context, it’s best understood as a funding round allowing community members to invest in virtual plots of land. This is somewhat similar to how Second Life attributes monetary worth to virtual space. The only problem is that very few community members were able to purchase anything. The opportunity seems to have been extended, primarily, to currency investors seeking monetary gain (via Bitcoin Suisse) rather than those hoping for creative freedom.
Was this intentional?
This round of funding lasted approximately 35 seconds. Nobody knows what the original intention was but it is clear that the community is in disarray (the official forums are currently offline). If the public following led to the original attribution of worth, it’s easy to see why many are feeling betrayed. The emotional investment of an enthusiastic fanbase may have lent credence to the endeavour but now much could be needed to restore trust.
There is a lot that can be learned from this experience. Poor handling of these situations is likely to erode confidence in not just the initial business endeavour but also Ethereum as a cryptocurrency.