Decentraland: Next Steps for 2020
Our strategy to continue decentralizing Decentraland beyond the governance of smart contracts.
Over the past two and a half years, we have been hard at work developing the core products that make up Decentraland: the Builder, the SDK, the Marketplace, and the World itself.
We believe Decentraland is a unique project; poised to attract more gamers into cryptocurrency and true digital ownership; to advance the development of Ethereum due to its inherent blockchain-native nature; and continue leading how blockchain-based project management and governance can best benefit community-driven projects.
With the public launch of the world on February 20th, we birthed the reference client for the first-ever decentralized virtual world, with all of its infrastructure run by a distributed network of nodes. Its source code has been published under an Apache 2.0 license on the Decentraland GitHub account, opening the gates for the community to foster the project and grow it beyond its initial scope.
As outlined in a previous publication, for Decentraland to achieve its full potential, it is paramount that its most important aspects remain free from the control of any single entity. With the establishment of the Decentraland DAO and the Decentraland Foundation, and in an effort to avoid the emergence of single points of failure, the functions that have insofar been under the development company, will now shift to these independent organs.
How the DAO operates and new opportunities for the community
The Decentraland DAO is an on-chain organization that controls all the core smart contracts, and is therefore in charge of any future protocol updates. Right now, MANA holders can approve any change on smart contracts through the DAO’s voting interface. The DAO also owns some key assets, including Decentraland’s public roads and plazas, and the contract that lists the default Catalysts nodes running Decentraland’s infrastructure. It is also the beneficiary of a vesting contract that will release 222 million MANA over the next decade.
One of the key aspects of Decentraland is the Catalyst nodes that serve the content deployed on LAND. The first ten nodes have already been selected for the DAO. DAO participants might elect to increase the number of nodes, as needed, to improve availability and latency; or decrease them if the number of nodes is deemed excessive or an inefficient use of the funds.
Similarly, our ‘Creators Program’ initiative has been a good way of getting high-quality scenes built, like BlockRunner, Tomb Chaser, Infinity Engine, Backgammon and many others. This experiment was recently taken to the next level, and many longer term MANA grants are now being assigned, ranging from 1-3k USD per month. Along with private investment that some of these teams have been able to secure, we’re already seeing the leads of a few projects going full time into Decentraland, marking an important milestone for the economy of the virtual world. We expect the Creators Program to really push the limits of what can be built while supporting the work of independent content creators.
In order to ensure the best possible outcome, a Content team will be set up to advise and help the community evaluate all projects that will be part of this program. Participants will in turn report to the community on their progress, on a bimonthly basis. Qualified teams will be able to submit proposals to this program through the DAO, enabling the community to vote on their approvals and continuity in the initiative in a decentralized way.
Introducing the Decentraland Foundation
To set up and oversee the Content team, and for those functions that cannot be practically fulfilled by the DAO, we’re creating the Decentraland Foundation. The Foundation is an independent body, free of control from the original founding team of Decentraland. The Foundation will hold property rights over Decentraland’s intellectual property, trademarks, web domains, open source repositories and social media accounts, among other assets, which the DAO, lacking formal legal status, cannot hold.
Equipped with these tools, the Foundation will be able to independently cooperate with the DAO in executing its Marketing, Community Management, Support and Product objectives.
Throughout this many-month transition, the management of the development team will continue advising the Foundation and the DAO on strategic and tactical matters, in particular, sharing with MANA and LAND holders their perspective on aspects relevant to the progress of the project. The ultimate goal is for the DAO to be a tool to collectively decide on all the economically relevant parameters of the project; and for Decentraland to fully transition to a thriving open-source project.
Among these decisions, and of crucial importance, is the future management of the main smart contracts. While the MANA contract became immutable back in November 2018, the LAND, Estates, Wearables, Marketplace and other smart contracts possess certain parameters that the community may choose to update from time to time. For instance, which NFT contracts should be ‘allowlisted’ for their assets to be traded in the Marketplace or exhibited as NFTs in-world? Should Marketplace fees be modified? Should MANA holders be rewarded for governing and safeguarding the network? When and how – or if ever – should Genesis City expand?
Upcoming smart contract priorities
Questions like those above are not for a single organization to answer. In the past, some of these issues have been addressed through non-binding polls on Agora, but in the immediate future, the DAO will be taking over such determinations. Some short term considerations include:
- Allowing LAND owners to weigh in on votes, as accepted in the Agora vote
- Implementing ‘speed bump’ mechanisms to enforce the security of the votes
- Adding an ‘inbox’ voting mechanism to prevent spamming the main Aragon Vote application. This mechanism will also allow anyone to submit a proposal to the DAO (not just Security Advisory Board members)
- Automatically assigning grants for Catalyst nodes and Content Creators
The way forward
The past year alone has seen the release of the Builder, Creator Contest, two Hackathons and open-source release of the client. The next stage of Decentraland will be no less momentous. The Foundation, established to oversee the long-term success of Decentraland, will gradually take over things that a DAO can’t do, such as holding brand rights, copyright and anything else that requires a legal entity. It will also continue improving the protocol, the reference client and the core smart contracts of the platform.
While the Public Launch was very much the culmination of several years’ solid work, it also marked the beginning of a major new era for Decentraland. With the DAO and Foundation at its core, our unique shared virtual world is primed for consolidation of its existing features and expansion into a number of exciting new opportunities.