In 2019, I founded and sold Landemic, an early pioneer of virtual land. On our marketplace, you could buy tiles from a map of the Earth, where each tile covered approximately 275 x 275 m² or about the size of an acre. The most expensive tile sold was the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, which sold for $65,000. Most people would buy their homes, work addresses, or favorite landmarks. But many people used Landemic for speculation, thus sparking a land rush.
What’s so special about these tiles? Glad you asked:
I copied the following from our former promotional materials, so I haven’t changed words from present tense to past tense.
1. The “Google Effect”
Landemic is riding on the coattails of the best-kept secret in navigation: Google Plus Codes. Plus Codes are a new location standard that Google is promoting on every Maps search. The codes are meant to be a human-friendly substitute for latitude and longitude. They are 8-digit, alphanumeric codes, such as 87G8P2C2+, and they each represent a 275 x 275 m² patch of Earth. Consider them like IP addresses for location. Google has made Plus Codes standard on every Google Maps query as of 2018, and they are attempting to get ahead of the upcoming standard war for grid systems.
2. Informational Pricing
We expect signaling to increase the perceived value of “hot” properties. There is a story of a professor in Southern California who gave their students play money to bid on plots of land. These students had no real estate backgrounds, and yet the prices of their bids neatly correlated with the USD/ft² of the underlying assets.
Likewise, with Landemic, we expect players to buy and sell tiles of land based on how much interest they assign to those real-world locations. For example, we expect “ocean-front” properties on Landemic to be in high demand.
3. “Paint Your Pixel”
We expect players to want to leave their mark on the Landemic Map. Each tile is colored according to the last six digits of your wallet, and thus the entire map will look much like the Million Dollar Home Page, Pixel Master, or Reddit’s Place. In all three projects, players painted single pixels that eventually added up to a rich fabric of self-expression and self-promotion:
Landemic tokens are ERC-721-compatible contracts on Ethereum. When you buy a Landemic token, you are buying an 8-character Google Plus Code which represents a rectangle of land on Earth. Your code entitles you to a space roughly the size of a city block on the Landemic Map. From there you can buy and sell tiles as well as earn bounties from other players. For example, this Plus Code represents the Empire State Building:
In addition to standard ERC-721 functions, the Landemic contract has some extra features to make for a lively marketplace:
Initial Price: Tiles have an initial price of $0.01, denominated in ether. The proceeds from the sale of these tiles go to the developers of Landemic. We reserve the right to change this initial price in the future based on market demand or the price fluctuations of ether.
Automatic resales: Because the goal of Landemic is to keep an active, informational marketplace, we want to avoid a situation where tiles remaining dormant because the owner lost their wallet. As a result, every tile on Landemic is automatically resellable on the Landemic Map, according to the resale multiple.
Resale Multiple: The resale multiple sets a range for what Landemic tiles can be resold for. The default is 10 times the last price it was purchased for on Landemic. Note: the multiple does not take into account purchase prices outside on 3rd-party marketplaces. The highest multiple is 100 times, and the lowest is one-tenth. We assume most people will not change the default, and we set it to 10 to provide a reasonable consolation should someone return to Landemic and discover they no longer own their tiles.
Marketplace Commission: While the standard way to buy and sell ERC-721 tokens is to use marketplaces, such as OpenSea or Rare Bits, the recommended method is through our 1st-party marketplace, the Landemic Map, so that you can take advantage of the higher liquidity. 5% of the sale price for existing tiles goes to the developer, and 5% goes to each of the owners of the neighboring tiles, for a possible total of 25% in commissions.
Appendix A: Tile Specification
For an overview of the Plus Code addressing system, visit the Plus Codes website. For a detailed description, visit the Wikipedia entry on the synonymous Open Location Code.
Landemic tiles are limited to just the first 8 characters and the plus sign of a Plus Code:
The first decision on the Landemic format was between a fixed code length or letting users choose tiles of any size. We chose a fixed code length to streamline the interface. If our goal is to provide provable scarcity, then tiles should not overlap with other tiles. Furthermore, viewing tile ownerships of differing sizes would require different zoom levels, which would break the simplicity of having one map to view all tiles.
The second decision was on the code length. 8 characters is a city-block-sized unit. For example, the block that contains the Empire State Building is between 100% and 50% the area of the 8-character Plus Code that covers it. Choosing this tile size makes it satisfying to purchase popular attractions with one tile.
If tiles are too small, and if we are sticking with the principle of “one tile, one token”, then it requires too much Ethereum gas to acquire a meaningful portion of territory. If the tiles are too large, then the prices become less informational.
The 8-character code length means that Manhattan is roughly comprised of 800 tiles, the United States 130 million, and the world 25.6 billion. If you take the top 125 cities by population and combine their land area, you get 194,954 km², or roughly 2.6 million tiles.
The characters of Plus Codes are written in base 20:
Each tile is one ERC-721 token. The ID of the token is a 256-bit, unsigned integer, but we are only concerned with using the first 9 bytes (72 bits). The 9 bytes are used for the ASCII-representation of each of the base 20 digits, in upper-case, in addition to the plus sign.
Appendix B: History of Grid-based Addressing Systems
In 2013, what3words released an addressing system that was an attempt to assign “IP addresses” to real-world locations. Every 3m x 3m square of land received a unique three-word name. For example, the room or desk where you’re reading this article now has an address like dragon.luck.soap. The addressing system is now being used to deliver packages with drones to rural areas and to help identify the location of refugee settlements in Uganda.
Fast-forward to 2018, and the world hadn’t switched from street addresses to what3words. Enter Google. Last year, Google soft-launched a new grid system, Open Location Code (a.k.a. Plus Codes), to all of Google Maps. Now, whenever you open Google Maps, you’ll see not only street addresses but a short, alphanumeric string representing that location:
Why is Google doing this? Currently, there are no killer apps based on Plus Codes, but it seems that Google would rather win the standard war before an alternative grid-system, like what3words, gets off the ground. Because of the widespread adoption of Google Maps, Google’s move means we’re all going to Plus Codes, for better or worse. Fortunately, Google made Plus Codes non-proprietary, meaning developers like us can make all sorts of apps based on it.