Cover (Photo: Decentraland.org)

When Facebook announced its rebranding to Meta last year, this 3D virtual world platform also became a trending topic—but what is it exactly?

If longstanding institutions like Sotheby's have already opened their virtual gallery in the Voltaire Art District of Decentraland, and tech giant Samsung opened its first metaverse store Samsung 837X, this is definitely not some fake news. People indeed are moving to this open-world, free-to-play virtual reality platform where you can be whoever you want to be and look however possible, roam around and interact with other avatars, and actually trade NFTs.

Sounds bullish? Yeah, blew my mind too when I first heard of it.

And then recently, Tatler reported a virtual real estate plot in Decentraland has been sold for a record-breaking US$2.4 million worth of cryptocurrency. Yeah, crazy-expensive indeed. And did I mention that 6,090 virtual sq ft on Fashion Street, Decentraland will be used to host digital fashion events and sell virtual clothing for avatars? Fashion influencers on Instagram must be rummaging through their junk emails for some missed metaverse runway invitations.

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What is Decentraland?

Back in 2015 Argentinians Ari Meilich and Esteban Ordano developed Decentraland, a 3D virtual world platform where users could buy virtual plots of land as NFTs using the MANA cryptocurrency, which is an ethereum token, and currently at a Philippine peso value of 143.29. When Decentraland was launched in 2017, parcels of digital land were sold for just about 20 USD but since then, the prices have soared due to the surge in popularity for NFTs, blockchain-based games, and the support of previously mentioned companies.

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Where can I 'go' in Decentraland?

Business companies, organisations, collectives, and individuals have all shared building and expanding Decentraland since it opened. Called 'Districts', these places have virtual real estate properties within them and they are grouped together according to their respective district's nature. As previously mentioned, there is Fashion Street, which is a shopping district with brands such as Gucci, Prada, Ralph Lauren, and more. There is the Voltaire Art District, which aside from Sotheby's, also holds Christie's, and virtual museums and galleries like Portion Museum, MakersPlace, and KnownOrigin. Speaking of galleries, you should not miss the Filipino NFT gallery called Narra Gallery at 100xArt District, another art hub in Decentraland. Other districts are centred on architecture, coding, gaming, music, tech, yoga, science, theme park, and cyberpunk, to name a few. In these districts, one may use ethereum to trade NFTs with other users.

Is it the next big thing?

With talks about the metaverse nowadays, it's easy to say that Decentraland is the next big thing. However, a critical expert would contradict this as cryptocurrencies' price value is as volatile as stocks but more unpredictable due to being a foreign idea for the general population. The rising popularity in NFT art and crypto-based games may pose as slivers of hope of making Decentraland a possible real estate alternative. However, the platform itself is still limited in terms of the virtual land space available. Still, the concept remains ingenious albeit in the infancy stage. Who knows, a far larger virtual world platform might emerge in the near future.

During the Art Fair Philippines 2021, Narra Gallery founder Gabby Dizon expressed his positive outlook on the metaverse: "As we're spending more and more of our time in the digital world and virtual spaces, we are actually going to see a lot of physical jobs migrate to the metaverse. Fashion designers of today can be the avatar designers of tomorrow. The architects designing the buildings now could be designing [virtual] buildings like the Narra Gallery. The metaverse needs all sorts of creative talents to build the virtual world that people could be inhabiting . . . in the next decade or so."


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