Decentraland — Second Life, but on the blockchain — with me on BBC World Service “Trending”

BBC Trending on the BBC World Service has a special on Decentraland, a virtual reality sandbox game with the data stored on the Ethereum blockchain. The seven-minute video version came out today:



There’s also a radio show version, first broadcast on Friday, which is 23 minutes.

“Second Life, but on the blockchain” is my description of Decentraland, not the BBC’s — in fact, the BBC didn’t mention the words “Second Life” at any point, which is odd ‘cos it’s so obviously the point of comparison.

This show is very distilled for the general public. But when they interviewed me, we did discuss the issues in depth:

  • the controversial presale of the MANA token, where whales bought up a lot of the coins before the official opening, and the eventual sale was over in ten seconds — “Decentraland” is about as decentralised as Bitcoin mining;
  • these thousands and millions of dollars they’re spending, mostly aren’t actual dollars — but whales’ excess ETH from the Ethereum presale;
  • the problems of keeping trolls and griefers from drawing penises all over everything in a shared sandbox world. It’s always penises.

(For the BBC, we were faced with how to describe what the problem was, without at any point saying the word “penis.”)



Decentraland’s success will depend on whether it’s a good game — one that people who don’t give a hoot about blockchains will enjoy.

My daughter was mad on Minecraft when she was tiny, and still sometimes visits a shared server. Would she care about this? Only if there were fun things to do. Would I buy her MANA? Lol no.

(If your kid’s into Minecraft, and YouTube let’s plays of mod packs — get Technic Platform. You’ll never hand-install a mod pack JAR file again.)

Second Life is alive and well, with a small but enthusiastic audience — but nobody’s running corporate outreach there any more, or thinking they’re going to get rich selling Lindens for real money.

Update: Text version, in Spanish — BBC News Mundo, 28 August 2018: Decentraland, la “ciudad” creada por el argentino Esteban Ordano que ha vendido más de US$28 millones en tierra virtual (“Decentraland, the ‘city’ created by the Argentine Esteban Ordano that has sold more than US$28 million in virtual land”).

Update 2: BBC Radio 5 Live Drive, 28 August 2018: And as investors spend real money on virtual reality land, we’re asking how much of our lives will soon be lived online? (2:39:58 on) (archive of the segment)

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