For New Years, I flew to Tel-Aviv, Isreal, and on my way back, from the airport to my appartment I had an random encounter on the train: A polish business man from Canada on the route to Poland to visit his family. After a while of talking I introduced myself as a programmer, working here and there. He interrupted me, told me he's big into "Blockchain Technology" right now. I thought "Dang. This space is expanding fast". He grabbed a piece of paper, and wrote down three tokens: BAT, MANA, FUN. "Are you investing in any of these?", he said and glanced at me with a smile. I said: "Yep.", and smiled back.
Like people in the space would say: "This is just me talking crypto.". Use this article as an entrance to the rabbit hole. But do your own research. If you're new to the space, read The Internet of Money and Mastering Bitcoin by Andreas M. Antonopoulos. This guy is a great speaker and teacher. And even if you like to develop smart contracts on Ethereum, I recommend understanding bitcoin first. I am going to talk about Decentraland (MANA), Status Network (SNT) and the Basic Attention Token (BAT).
Let me start with the words on their website: "Decentraland is a virtual reality platform powered by the Ethereum blockchain. Users can create, experience, and monetize content and applications." (see Whitepaper and Blog). So it's not just a MMO world, but a world with ecomic incentives, like Second Life, but decentralized and built on open standards, development and governance.
Land in this world is scarce and ownership is recorded on the Ethereum blockchain. The owner is allowed to set the content of his 10m x 10m land parcel including 3d models, textures, audio and scripts, among application wide settings like flymode etc. The content itself will be decentralized via IPFS. Creating a decentralized world requires a decentralized governance. District proposals are discussed on Github and checking them gives you a rough idea, what people want to build. Further, the community is actively contributing proposals regarding more general design decisions.
Technology and Auction
Decentraland is built on top of A-Frame, an open standard plattform for VR, supporting mulitple VR systems for the full experience, you can also just use your Browser. If you are wondering, how to buy a piece of land? The auction for Genesis City has concluded and there have been 3,047 unique participants in this auction, 70,399 parcels have been sold for 161,483,050 MANA. MANA is the official currency in this world and this amount estimates to 13,006,652 $ at the current time of writing, see Auction Statistics. However, the team is working on a land marketplace, an exchange for land ownership. It's interesting to see how this project will evolve over time, just imagine VR-representations of crypto-collectibles like CryptoKitties, see Decentraland as a Playground for Crypto-Collectibles. And regarding VR tech, this demo of mind-controlling VR is mindblowing.
Speaking of, in 2017, CryptoKitties seemed like the killer app for the Ethereum blockchain, stress-testing the network by trading cute kitties. However, I believe the real killer application would be a gateway, portal application to discover and use smart contracts or dApps in a convienient way. And this is, among the human right to privacy & digital identity management, the vision of Status, see Whitepaper and Blog.
In their words: "If Ethereum is a World Computer, then Status aims to be an Operating System, or Window Manager. It is the visual expression of the Ethereum network, a user-friendly interface between people and machines alike, that lowers to nothing the technical barriers to joining, and participating on, Ethereum.". Given the fact, that there is still no way of using dApps on your phone, this could potentially become a killer app for Ethereum.
The project is still in private beta, however, you can apply for an invite. I'm testing the iOS version and a lot of the features are already working including groups, direct messages, wallet functionality and sending ether to other people on the test network. They are releasing new versions quite frequently and are transparent regarding code, see Github, and roadmap, see Town Hall meetings. Plus, the NFC hardware wallet looks interesting. Token.im is a chinese competitor.
Basic Attention Token (BAT)
The Basic Attention Token wants to disrupt the digital advertising industry. This sums it up quite well: "The Basic Attention Token is the new token for the digital advertising industry. It pays publishers for their content and users for their attention, while providing advertisers with more in return for their ads.", see Whitepaper and Blog.
There are fundamental problems with the current advertising industry from perspective of advertisers and users. Digital ad exchanges like Google, Facebook etc. gather data to build user profiles to target users based on their interest. This targeting is quite expensive for the advertiser since those exchanges taking a large slice of the pie. BAT will protect the users privacy by targeting locally, potentially with more data, to improve targeting to receive meaningful ads which people get paid for to pay attention to. Further, users can decide whom to pay automatically in BAT for providing good content.
Hope you enjoyed reading the small wrap up of, in my opinion, three very interesting Ethereum projects, which might have a good chance to disrupt centralized monopolized infrastructure in the long term. If you are interested in building on top of any of these or have some important additions just let me know, I am curious what businesses will evolve.