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Ethereum, NFTs, and the STARL token, and how they all are essential for The STARL Metaverse
With STARL being the bridge between the crypto and non-crypto world, particularly in gaming, education on blockchain technology is an important step in our process for new members.
Ethereum, which launched in 2015, is the second-biggest cryptocurrency by market cap after Bitcoin. Unlike Bitcoin, it wasn’t initially created to be used as digital money. Instead, Ethereum’s founders set out to build a new kind of global, decentralized computing platform that takes the security and openness of blockchains and extends those attributes to a vast range of applications.
Everything from financial tools and games to complex databases are already running on the Ethereum blockchain. Its future potential is only limited by developers’ imaginations. As the non-profit Ethereum Foundation puts it: “Ethereum can be used to codify, decentralize, secure and trade just about anything.”
- Ethereum has become a popular investment vehicle and store of wealth (and can be used, like Bitcoin, to send or receive value without an intermediary).
- The Ethereum blockchain allows developers to build and run a huge variety of applications: everything from games and advanced databases to complex decentralized financial instruments — meaning that they don’t require a bank or any other institution in the middle.
- Ethereum-based apps are built using “smart contracts.” Smart contracts, like regular paper contracts, establish the terms of an arrangement between parties. Unlike an old-fashioned contract, however, smart contracts automatically execute when the terms are met without the need for either participating party to know who is on the other side of the deal — and without the need for any kind of intermediary.
- Ethereum, like Bitcoin, is an open-source project that is not owned or operated by a single individual. Anyone with an internet connection can run an Ethereum node or interact with the network.
- Bitcoin’s decentralized blockchain allows any two strangers, anywhere in the world, to send or receive money without a bank in the middle. Likewise, smart contracts running on Ethereum’s decentralized blockchain allow developers to build complex applications that should run exactly as programmed without downtime, censorship, fraud, or third-party interference.
Popular Ethereum-based innovations include stablecoins (like DAI, USDT, or USDC, which have their value pegged to the dollar via smart contract), decentralized finance apps (collectively known as DeFi for investment protocols that include earning annual percentage yield/rate, APY/APR), and other decentralized apps (or Dapps).
Ethereum is the name of the network. “Ether” is the native cryptocurrency token used by the Ethereum network. That said, in day-to-day usage most people call the token “ETH” (or just “Ethereum”). As a way of sending, receiving, or storing value, ETH works much like Bitcoin, however, it also has a special role on the Ethereum network. Users pay fees in ETH to execute smart contracts, so you can think of it as the fuel that keeps the whole thing running (which is why those fees are called “gas”).
If Bitcoin is “digital gold,” ETH can be seen as “digital oil.”
ETH is currently secured by the Ethereum blockchain in much the same way Bitcoin is secured by its blockchain. A huge amount of computing power — contributed by all the computers on the network — verifies and secures every transaction, making it virtually impossible for any third party to interfere.
The fundamental ideas behind cryptocurrencies help make them safe: the systems are permissionless and the core software is open-source, meaning countless computer scientists and cryptographers have been able to examine all aspects of the networks and their security.
You might have heard that the Bitcoin blockchain is a lot like a bank’s ledger, or even a checkbook. It’s a running tally of every transaction made on the network going back to the very beginning — and all the computers on the network contribute their computing power towards the work of ensuring that the tally is accurate and secure.
The Ethereum blockchain, on the other hand, is more like a computer: while it also does the work of documenting and securing transactions, it’s much more flexible than the Bitcoin blockchain. Developers can use the Ethereum blockchain to build a huge variety of tools — everything from logistics management software, to games, to the entire universe of DeFi applications (which span from lending and borrowing, to trading and more).
- Ethereum uses a 'virtual machine' to achieve all this, which is like a giant, global computer made up of many individual computers running the Ethereum software. Keeping all of those computers running involves investment in both hardware and electricity by participants. To cover those costs, the network uses its own Bitcoin-like cryptocurrency called Ether (or, more commonly, ETH).
- • ETH keeps the whole thing running. You interact with the Ethereum network by using ETH to pay the network to execute smart contracts. As a result, the fees paid in ETH are called “gas.”
- Gas rates vary depending on how busy the network is.
What is Ethereum 2.0?
Ethereum 2.0 (often referred to as ETH2) is a major upgrade to the Ethereum network. It’s designed to allow the Ethereum network to grow while increasing security, speed, and efficiency.
The transition to ETH2 began in December of 2020 and is scheduled to take two years.
Moving a popular cryptoasset to a new platform is a complex endeavor, but it is a necessary change for Ethereum to be able to scale and evolve. This is because the “Proof of Work” method used by the ETH 1.0 blockchain to verify transactions causes bottlenecks, increases fees, and consumes substantial resources (particularly electricity).
What is Proof of Work?
How do cryptocurrency networks make sure that nobody spends the same money twice without a central authority like Visa or Paypal in the middle? They use a consensus mechanism. When ETH 1.0 launched, it adopted the consensus mechanism pioneered by Bitcoin: the aptly named Proof of Work.
- The winner gets to update the blockchain with the latest verified transactions, and is rewarded with a predetermined amount of ETH.
- This process happens every 30 seconds (compared to Bitcoin’s approximately 10-minute cadence). As traffic on the network has increased, the limitations of Proof of Work have caused bottlenecks during which fees spike unpredictably.
Ethereum’s founders were aware of Proof of Work’s limitations, so a very different solution was devised for Ethereum 2.0. — one that will ultimately allow the network to efficiently process thousands of Ethereum transactions per second.
Ethereum 2.0 uses a consensus mechanism called Proof of Stake, which is faster, less resource-intensive, and (at least theoretically) more secure. The end result is similar to Proof of Work’s, in that a network participant is chosen to verify the latest transactions, update the blockchain, and earn some ETH.
- Rather than requiring a network of miners racing to solve a puzzle, Proof of Stake requires a robust network of participants who are literally invested in the success of the enterprise.
- These stakeholders are called validators. Instead of contributing processing power as miners do, validators contribute ETH to a “staking pool.”
- The act of contributing ETH to the pool is called staking. If you choose to stake some of your ETH, you will earn rewards in proportion to the size of your stake. For most users, staking will function much like an interest-bearing savings account.
- The network selects a winner based on the amount of ETH each validator has in the pool and the length of time they’ve had it there, essentially rewarding the most invested participants.
- Once the winner has validated the latest block of transactions, other validators can attest that the block is accurate. When a threshold number of these attestations have been made, the network updates the blockchain.
- All participating validators receive a reward in ETH, which is distributed by the network in proportion to each validator’s stake. Staking is open to anyone who is interested
Smart contracts were first proposed in the 1990s by a computer scientist and lawyer named Nick Szabo. Szabo famously compared a smart contract to a vending machine. Imagine a machine that sells cans of soda for a quarter. If you put a dollar into the machine and select a soda, the machine is hardwired to either produce your drink and 75 cents in change, or (if your choice is sold out) to prompt you to make another selection or get your dollar back. This is an example of a simple smart contract. Just like a soda machine can automate a sale without a human intermediary, smart contracts can automate virtually any kind of exchange.
- A 19-year-old computer programmer (and Bitcoin Magazine cofounder) named Vitalik Buterin releases a whitepaper proposing a highly flexible blockchain that could support virtually any kind of transaction.
- The Toronto-based teenager, along with a team of cofounders including Gavin Wood, crowdfunds the development of the Ethereum protocol with the sale of $18 million in pre-launch tokens.
- The first public version of the Ethereum blockchain launches in July. Smart contract functionality begins to roll out on the Ethereum blockchain.
- Hackers steal around $50 million from a smart-contract-powered venture fund called the DAO (short for Decentralized Autonomous Organization) by exploiting a software bug.
- In a divisive vote, Ethereum’s community chooses to revise the protocol in a way that would restore the lost funds. This results in the Ethereum blockchain branching off (via a hard fork) into two separate blockchains, each with its own active community: Ethereum and Ethereum Classic.
- The ERC-20 standard is created, making it easier for developers to build compatible applications. ERC-20 defines a way to create an asset (or token) on top of the Ethereum blockchain.
- The first widely popular Ethereum-based app arrives in the form of a game called CryptoKitties, in which users collect and trade digital cats. It becomes a genuine craze; at the peak, rare digital cats sell for upwards of $200,000.
- The non-profit Ethereum Enterprise Alliance launches to develop practical applications for smart contract technology. Members include JP Morgan, Samsung, Microsoft, and Mastercard.
- MakerDAO — the first Decentralized finance (or DeFi) protocol on the Ethereum blockchain — launches. Maker also introduces the first ETH-based stablecoin, DAI.
- ETH breaks $100 USD for the first time.
- DeFi, which aims to transform the financial-services industry by making transactions faster, cheaper, and more secure, gains momentum with the arrival of lending protocol Compound and decentralized exchange Uniswap.
- The USDC stablecoin is launched. Backed by the CENTRE Consortium, a partnership between Coinbase and Circle, it reaches $1 billion in issued coins in the first year.
- ETH breaks $1,000 USD for the first time in January, before falling back under $100.
- The Ethereum 2.0 upgrade begins in December. The complete transition from Ethereum 1.0 to Ethereum 2.0 is scheduled to take around two years to complete.
- As part of Ethereum 2.0’s first phase, Proof of Stake is introduced. ETH 1.0 continues to use Proof of Work as its consensus mechanism.
- ETH hits new all-time high above $1,700 in February
- NFTs become increasingly popular on ETH chain for art, videos, music, games, copyright, technical documents, and other digital documents needing preservation.
- Ethereum London Hardfork - Ethereum Improvement Proposal (EIP) 1559. The London upgrade and the subsequent activation of EIP-1559 is a mile marker of sorts in the transition to Ethereum 2.0, which will move the network from a proof-of-work consensus to a proof-of-stake consensus. After the London upgrade engineers block elasticity and overhauls the transaction fee market. The Shanghai hard fork scheduled to happen later in the year will be the next focus point on the agenda.
However you acquire your ETH, you’ll need to understand a few basic concepts. Every address on the Ethereum network is issued a public key and a private key, and you’ll need a wallet to manage your crypto holdings.
- Public key: Think of this as the crypto version of an email address. Your Ethereum public key is where people can send you ETH and Ethereum-based tokens like USDC and Dai. You can safely give this out to others.
- Private key: Think of this like your password. You should never give this out to people. A private key is a long string of letters and numbers. (It can also be in the form of a series of words called a seed phrase.) It’s crucial to keep track of your private keys. If you lose them, you lose your Ether forever.
- • Wallet: To store and secure your Ether you’ll need a wallet. If you’re just starting out, the easiest option is to make an account via the Coinbase app or coinbase.com — in which case you’ll interact with a “custodial wallet” that stores and secures your private keys for you. As you progress you might want to investigate other wallet options that are built for interacting with decentralized finance (or DeFi) protocols such as Compound (a lending and savings app) or Uniswap (a decentralized exchange that allows you to trade cryptocurrencies). Popular wallets include Metamask and MyEtherWallet.
There are a few ways of thinking about the answer to this question. On one level, Ethereum’s value is set by markets like any other asset. People buy it with Bitcoin, dollars, euros, yen, and other currencies 24 hours a day. Depending on demand, the price can fluctuate from day to day. (Ethereum’s value tends to be volatile compared to currencies such as the US dollar or equities like Fortune 500 stocks because it is still an emerging technology.)
Why the market prices it the way it does is a much more complicated question. To many investors, Ethereum’s value is based on its flexibility as a platform for issuing stablecoins and running DeFi applications — resulting in a growing user base and growing transaction fees.
As of early 2021, Ethereum is host to the vast majority of blockchain applications and has a market cap of just under $200 billion, with over $55 billion locked into tokens on the blockchain. Popular stablecoins such as USDC and USDT mostly live on Ethereum today due to its network effects.
A variety of new smart contract blockchains are now beginning to compete in the space. While Ethereum is currently the dominant market leader today, there is growing pressure for it to successfully execute the transition to Ethereum 2.0. in order to maintain that position.
- • A “token” often refers to any cryptocurrency besides Bitcoin and Ethereum (even though they are also technically tokens). Because Bitcoin and Ethereum are by far the biggest two cryptocurrencies, it’s useful to have a word to describe the universe of other coins. (Another word you might hear with virtually the same meaning is “altcoin.”)
- • The other increasingly common meaning for “token” has an even more specific connotation, which is to describe cryptoassets that run on top of another cryptocurrency’s blockchain. You’ll encounter this usage if you become interested in decentralized finance (or DeFi). While a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin has its own dedicated blockchain, DeFi tokens like Chainlink and Aave run on top of, or leverage, an existing blockchain, most commonly Ethereum’s.
- • Tokens in this second category help decentralized applications to do everything from automate interest rates to sell virtual real estate. But they can also be held or traded like any other cryptocurrency.
You can think of NFTs as being kind of like certificates of authenticity for digital artifacts. They’re currently being used to sell a huge range of virtual collectibles, including:
- NBA virtual trading cards
- Music and video clips from EDM stars like Deadmau5
- Video art by Grimes
- The original “nyan cat” meme
- A tweet by Dallas Mavericks owner and entrepreneur Mark Cuban
- Virtual real estate in metaverses such as Decentraland, Sandbox, and now STARL Metaverse
As Bitcoin and other crypto has boomed in popularity over the last year, NFTs have also soared — growing to an estimated $338 million in 2020….. and up to 2.5 billion so far in 2021! Each NFT is stored on an open blockchain (often Ethereum’s) and anyone interested can track them as they’re created, sold, and resold. Because they use smart contract technology, NFTs can be set up so that the original artist continues to earn a percentage of all subsequent sales, like an automatic royalty.
Along the way, NFTs have raised fascinating philosophical questions about the nature of ownership, such as why digital artifacts that can be endlessly copied and pasted have any value at all? Proponents would point out that most kinds of collecting aren’t based on inherent value. Old comic books were produced for pennies’ worth of ink and paper. Rare sneakers are often made out of the same materials as worthless ones. Some paintings hang in the Louvre, others end up in thrift shops.
As the collector who sold the $6.6 million Beeple piece noted, you can take a nice picture of the Mona Lisa, but it’s not the Mona Lisa. “It doesn’t have any value because it doesn’t have the provenance or the history of the work,” said the Beeple fan. “The reality here is that this is very, very valuable because of who is behind it.”
Every bitcoin is worth as much as every other bitcoin. NFTs, on the other hand, are all unique. “Fungibility” refers to goods or assets that are all the same and can be swapped interchangeably. A dollar bill is another perfect example — each is worth exactly one dollar.
Concert tickets, by contrast, are non-fungible. Even if every Radiohead ticket is the same price, they aren’t directly exchangeable. Each represents a specific seat and a specific date — no other ticket will have those exact characteristics.
Digital-artwork NFTs are mostly sold on specialized marketplaces like Zora, Rarible, and Opensea. For those more interested in games and sports collectibles, developers like Dapper Labs have created experiences including NBA Top Shot (virtual trading cards) and Cryptokitties (a Pokemon-ish digital-cat collecting app that actually was the first NFT hit in late-2017). Online games including Gods Unchained are starting to use NFTs to sell in-game assets like weapons or cosmetic upgrades. Real estate in new virtual worlds is sold via markets including Decentraland and The Sandbox, and now STARL
You can also buy or sell some NFTs directly via a compatible crypto wallet.
Those interested in DeFi, might have heard of the ERC-20 standard, which allows anyone to create a token compatible with the Ethereum blockchain. Those are “fungible” tokens. Most non-fungible tokens are built using the ERC-721 and ERC-1155 standards, which allow creators to issue unique cryptoassets via smart contract. Because each NFT is stored on a blockchain, there is an immutable record starting with the token’s creation and including every sale. (Some NFT-focused developers have also built their own alternative blockchains, including Dapper Lab’s Flow.)
Good question! Some people display their digital artworks on large monitors. Some buy virtual real estate (via NFT, of course) in which they’re able to build virtual galleries or museums. You can also roam virtual worlds like STARL and check out other people’s collections. For some fans, the appeal is in the buying and selling — much like any other asset class. (The collector who sold the $6.9 million Beeple paid less than $70,000 for it in October 2020).
More and more mainstream artists have also gotten involved in the space — especially from the world of music. In early March, Nashville band Kings of Leon announced their next album would arrive in the form of multiple NFTs. Depending on which one a fan buys, various perks will be unlocked — like alternate cover art, limited-edition vinyl, and even a “golden ticket” to a VIP concert experience.
STARL is the token for the STARL Metaverse. STARL is on the Ethereum blockchain. You can view its data, contract, creator, holders, and transaction history here*: https://etherscan.io/token/0x8e6cd950ad6ba651f6dd608dc70e5886b1aa6b24
*You cannot view transactions on central exchanges here, otherwise known as CEXs, but you can see them via decentralized exchanges like Uniswap, otherwise known as DEXs.
STARL is an ERC-20 token with a total supply of 10 trillion. All tokens are in circulation, with the initial liquidity and contract ownership burned. This means that no additional STARL tokens can be minted into circulation. Also, as STARL was 100% fair-launched, all tokens have always been publicly tradable. Unlike most projects, private investors have no token unlocks to dilute the current circulating supply, resulting in more stagnant price action as increased buying power is needed after each unlock to increase the price per token further. This is another reason why STARL stands out from the crowd and again emphasizes the truly decentralized ethos within the STARL Metaverse Project.
STARL will be used as the medium of exchange within the metaverse. It will be used to buy, sell, trade, and modify in-game assets and services. It can be used as points of entry for various areas of the metaverse, for accessing games, virtual concerts and clubs, media, entertainment, education, traveling to areas, investing in virtual real estate, mining and farming, social experiences and programs, dating apps, and really anything else that money can be used for in the physical world, but virtual. It is a digital currency for the virtual world.
STARL will be used in the STARL Market (https://market.starltoken.com/market). The STARL Market will host all the NFTs and assets needed in-game. Once those NFTs are purchased, they will interact with the metaverse, or games within the metaverse, in various ways. For instance, the first auction round sold 18 satellites. Those satellites give APR returns based on the amount of STARL spent on your SATE in auction. Different levels of satellites = different APR. Users will be able to see the satellites in the metaverse, in terminals and screens in-game, with satellite holders possibly modifying and upgrading their satellites down the line. Plans to have parts and modular satellites, space craft, etc., are in the works.
The Market will host living modules represented by 3D artists' work and will be tickets to a virtual living space (or virtual real estate), where only the user that owns the NFT has access. Think of it like a hotel card you have in your pocket that you scan in order to gain access to your room. It's yours and only yours in the metaverse. You could possibly even rent it out in the future to other users and earn STARL that way. For example, maybe another user has health damage from a game in the metaverse and needs to 'rest.' They could rent a module from another user to rest in and gain back their health.
These modules will be customizable. Our Market will sell customizations for modules, satellites, vehicles, and characters. Additionally, skins, clothes, furniture for the modules, and other various upgrades will be available. In-game assets will also be sold in our Market - weapons, tools, health upgrades, and much more. All these assets, represented as NFTs, will be bought and sold using STARL.
Our STARL token is the key that unlocks everything within the STARL Metaverse.