Blockchain-Based Virtual World MARK.SPACE Fires Some Staff, and Announces a Pivot to Provide Business-to-Business Services Visualizing Real Estate

The long-running saga of blockchain-based virtual world MARK.SPACE has taken a few more strange twists since I last looked at it.

The company shut down its original Telegram group (with 2,626 members) and started up a brand new one (with 193 subscribers), explaining the reasons for this decision on their website in this undated news release:

Just like all of you, we are also upset by the current MRK token currency rate. However, we guarantee that we did not sell and are not going to sell our tokens on exchanges! By the way, speaking about the dissemination of false information – we are very upset by the negative informational background in this group – communication of this kind has led to a negative state of mind of a large part of the MARK.SPACE community.

In this regard, we have decided not to support this group anymore. Instead, the team is launching a new MARK.SPACE Telegram channel. We try to regularly please you with industry news, informational copyright articles, as well as platform updates. We duplicate all the information here, but, unfortunately, much remains unnoticed and we receive complaints that we are either inactive or have abandoned the development of the platform altogether.

Both of those accusations are obviously NOT true! The new Telegram channel will automatically duplicate news from the official MARK.SPACE website and you will be able to see all the news and updates without them being lost in the stream of comments and unnecessary links.

And then, in a Nov. 10th, 2019, in a news release posted to their website and to the new Telegram channel, MARK.SPACE dropped a bombshell announcement:

In May this year, it was revealed that a group of developers was trying to appropriate the MARK.SPACE technology: certain employees – in secret from their colleagues – wanted to use the technology for personal gain. To do this, they used the company MARK.SPACE Japan, and also planned to register (or possibly registered) a new legal entity in Japan called Site Makers Japan, through which over the past few months these corrupt employees tried to sell intellectual property owned by MARK.SPACE for 37 million US dollars. 

Having discovered the above facts in June 2019, MARK.SPACE Management took the following steps:

1. stopped financing Site Makers (in Russia), a company led by Vladimir Shlyapin that carried out technical development of the MARK.SPACE platform on agreement basis;

2. terminated the operating authorities and roles of Oleg Ershov, Vladimir Shlyapin, and Dmitry Shamov in the MARK.SPACE project, as they were the persons responsible for the incident with an attempt to appropriate the technology.

A Google search for MARK.SPACE Japan pulls up nothing, except a few older profiles of Dmitry Shamov. Searches for Site Makers and Site Makers Japan were similarly fruitless. MARK.SPACE has done a document dump from what it says was its internal investigation into the matter, stating “The documentation is provided without changes and in the original language.” (The documents all appear to be in either Russian or Japanese. Since I speak neither language, I have no idea what happened.)

In addition to these allegations the company makes against former coworkers, MARK.SPACE has announced a pivot to a brand new use: a business-to-business platform for visualizing real estate:

We inform you that, despite the situation, MARK.SPACE continues platform development. At the moment, our efforts are aimed at finalizing existing products, as well as selling business solutions. Over the past six months, negotiations with venture capital funds have shown that at this stage the platform needs to demonstrate sustainable development. Only after that it is possible to carry out the following stages of financing by venture funds on favorable terms and plan further IPO procedures.

Now the team is actively engaged in the promotion and sale of B2B solutions (https://live.mark.space/b2b-solution/), such as the visualization of real estate – objects both under construction and those already put into operation. MARK.SPACE representatives are currently negotiating with companies, contracts with which will allow to make substantial profits and direct them to finalizing B2C functionality of the MARK.SPACE universe. In addition, obtaining steady revenue through the sale of B2B solutions will allow the next stage of financing by venture investors on optimal conditions and to continue accelerated development of the MARK.SPACE platform.

It’s not clear to me what will happen to the previous business that MARK.SPACE was engaged in: their virtual shopping mall (which is still up), and their sale of virtual residential units to consumers (which I blogged about here and here).

For now, they are focusing on B2B solutions:

Thanks to our 3D/VR/AR solutions you can present existing real estate items as well as under construction ones to your clients in the most advanced and efficient way.

– 360/VR virtual tours for existing real estate

– 3D/360/VR virtual tours for under-construction real estate

– 3D modeling and visualization of apartments, offices, interior and furnishings

– 3D/VR modeling and visualization of development area

– Video production & 4D construction animation based on 3D modeling

– 2D floor plans redrawing in one style

– AR solutions for appealing presentations

Image taken from the MARK.SPACE B2B Announcement

Well, I wish the company well. There’s absolutely nothing in all this recent news that would encourage or entice me to invest in their MRK token or their virtual real estate. As I have often said before about this and all the other blockchain-based virtual worlds I cover on this blog: do every single shred of your homework before investing a penny! MARK.SPACE is another company that I will continue to monitor—safely from the sidelines.

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UPDATED! Taking Another Look at Mark Space and Its Shopping Mall: Ryan Goes Down the Rabbit Hole

It’s time to take another look at Mark Space, the blockchain-based virtual world I have talked about a fair bit in the past. I still find the whole project to be somewhat mystifying, even a bit stupefying, in its lofty ambitions and slick promotion.

And Mark Space has been putting out some pretty perplexing promotional videos lately, like this one:

And this one, focusing on their development team:

Which is all well and good, but neither video tells you a damn thing about the actual product they are selling! I tend to be rather suspicious of companies that choose to spend their money on slick advertising which lacks in specific product details.

In case you forgot, the basic idea behind Mark Space is that you can buy square virtual spaces which you can decorate with 360-degree photographs of interiors, and 2D and 3D models of furniture. And… that’s pretty much it for now. Frankly, Mark Space cannot even begin to compare with much more fully-featured social VR platforms and virtual worlds such as Sansar, High Fidelity, even long-in-the-tooth Second Life, where your avatar navigates within actual three-dimensional space, instead of just clicking and panning through 360-degree photographs!

But perhaps there have been some recent developments, something to support the hype, so I decided to pay a return visit to see what’s up.

The Mark Space Shopping Mall

The Mark Space three-story shopping mall, where you are dropped when you first arrive in Mark Space, and which currently seems to be the only space you can explore, is packed full of big name, high-end stores, including, but not limited to:

  • Givenchy
  • Balcenciaga
  • Dolce & Gabbana
  • Saint Laurent
  • Prada
  • Alexander McQueen
  • Fendi
  • Valentino
  • Alexander Wang
  • Gucci
  • Burberry
  • Stella McCartney
  • Versace
  • Diane von Furstenburg
  • Michael Kors
  • and many more brands

For example, here’s the virtual Gucci store:

And, once you get inside, you can select and inspect Gucci wear:

A pop-up window appears when you click on an item in the store, like this red jacket, complete with a Buy button at the bottom:

When you click on the Buy button, it takes you to another website, MARK.MODA, where all the goods I checked were marked “Not Available”:

My question is: does Mark Space actually have any agreements with these vendors to display their products and use their brand names and logos so prominently in its shopping mall? I would expect that an official affiliation with many of these high-end brands would be rather expensive line item for (what I assume is) a small start-up company. One journalist has already caught the company on their previous claim to having an official partnership with Jaguar and Land Rover, when that was not the case. So when I see such a lengthy listing of prestigious brand names, I do tend to get a little suspicious.

I wonder what the official representatives of these companies would have to say if they were to take a look at what Mark Space is doing. Do they even know about this? Do they care? And can Mark Space get away with this, even if they claim it’s just for demonstration purposes? The answers to those three questions, in order, are probably: No. Yes. and No.

According to the legal section on Gucci’s official website:

The content on this Website, such as text, graphics, images, photographs, illustrations, trademarks, trade names, service marks, trade dress, logos…(collectively, “Contents”) is protected under domestic and foreign intellectual property laws. Gucci owns all rights and/or license in and to the Contents. Any use of the Contents not expressly permitted by these Terms of Use is a breach of these Terms of Use and may violate copyright, trademark, trade dress, patent and other laws. You understand and agree that, except as stated herein, none of the Contents may be copied, reproduced, distributed, republished, downloaded, displayed, posted, transmitted, modified, or created into derivative works in any form or by any means without the prior written permission from Gucci…The use of the Contents on any other website or in a networked computer environment for any purpose is prohibited. 

Oh, and in another development, Mark Space also boasts a brand-new “VR mode” for their web browser app. Here’s what it looks like on my desktop monitor:

Mark Space’s “VR Mode”

I can only assume this display is meant for cellphone-based VR headsets. According to a press release issued today:

Today we’ll tell you about a new platform feature — screen synchronization! The new feature allows to display everything that the user sees in the cardboard (into which a smartphone is placed) on a second screen. This means that the platform already allows to easily start using virtual reality for educational and auxiliary purposes: for example, during exhibitions, presentations, or just because. To enable this feature, you must simultaneously log into the same MARK.SPACE account on your smartphone and PC.

Sigh. Forcing you to sign in twice (on two different devices), just to be able to see a scene in cellphone VR? And I can find no Mark Space app on the iPhone App Store, so I assume this works for Android phones only. Or do they just expect you to use the web browser on your phone, too?

Caveat emptor! Oh, and I have emailed the Intellectual Property department of Gucci to ask them whether or not they actually have a relationship with Mark Space, with a link back to this blogpost.

UPDATE 6:28 p.m.: Well, I have been doing some more in-depth exploring of the MARK.MODA website, and I have found a number of Gucci items that appear to have valid pass-through links to third-party online stores carrying the actual Gucci products, like the Russian version of Farfetch.com. So who knows? Maybe I could be completely wrong, and all this is totally legitimate. Perhaps MARK.MODA (the store) predates MARK.SPACE (the virtual world), and the company is merely expanding its existing online business to include virtual world shopping. If so, then more power to them, and I apologize. But I still wonder if Gucci actually knows about their virtual storefront in Mark Space, and what they have to say about all this.

UPDATE 6:53 p.m.: Well, this just gets weirder and weirder! It looks like MARK.MODA is not really so much a shopping site as a sort of Pinterest-like social media site where users can dress up a model in clothing selected from various designers, and share the resulting picture with their social network for comments and likes. Any sales links go straight through to various third-party vendors. I even found a two-minute promotional video for MARK.MODA:

And it would appear that MARK.SPACE (the virtual world) predates MARK.MODA. None of the videos on the MARK.MODA YouTube channel is older than 5 months, and Mark Space has been around for longer than that. This is absolutely fascinating! I feel as if I have tumbled down a rabbit hole!

I wonder how long they have been working on all this, and if this rather cool service is only available via the one Russian website, or if there are other versions as well. This actually puts the whole Mark Space project in a rather different light. According to the English version of this Russian page from the MARK.MODA website:

MODA-MARK.com is one of the core products of MARK.SPACE Technologies, which operates an open-source platform for creation of 3D, VR and AR-compatible spaces (websites). MARK.MODA is built and based on a unique VR-code, created by our developers within the framework of our main company MARK.SPACE.

At present, we are testing the platform in the Russian Federation, where it has already gained popularity among stylists and fans of fashion. In the near future, MARK.MODA will be integrated into the MARK.SPACE Universe, which will allow for use of the full functionality of the platform and its launch into Asian / US / EU markets.

So it does look like it is just the one Russian website for now, with plans to expand. Now, whether any of this is actually going to work in a virtual world (let alone adding in VR) remains to be seen. But it is cool nonetheless. And I am rather intrigued!

Comparing Blockchain-Based Virtual World Projects

I am still monitoring the various blockchain-based virtual world projects via their discussion forums on Telegram. In particular, there’s been a lot of chatter lately about the Mark Space project, which I still regard with a high degree of wariness. They may have made some cosmetic improvements to the spaces you can build, but I still don’t think they’re terribly appealing compared to what you can do in Sansar, High Fidelity, etc. Here, see for yourself:

However, a member of the Mark Space team posted the following table to their Telegram channel, comparing their product with other blockchain-based virtual worlds, which I did find of interest:

While I am already familiar with Decentraland, I’ve never or barely heard of some of these other projects before:

  • district0x
  • Metaverse (now there’s a poorly-chosen name!)
  • Cappasity
  • Spectiv
  • Prosense
  • Matryx

You know what that means, don’t you? It’s time for me to go do some investigating and exploring again! I’ll report back on what I find, and just how accurate this chart is.

I leave you with this vague and mystifying promotional video for Mark Space, which makes me wonder what exactly the company is spending their money on—an actual virtual world, or slick advertising to bring in more investors? This sort of thing raises all kinds of red flags for me.

Or, if you really want to see something trippy that pretty much has absolutely nothing to do with the actual product, check out this promotional video for Cappasity!

The level of insanity in this market is breathtaking.

Mark Space Announces the Visualization 2 Stage of Their Residential Development

Mark Space Logo.png

Remember Mark Space? I wrote in the past about how underwhelmed I was by their nascent virtual world platform, with its 360-degree photos of rooms where you rearranged 2-dimensional pictures of furniture. Not terribly impressive, and I’m not the only person who thought so, either.

Well, here’s the latest Mark Space promotional video:

The Russian company behind Mark Space has proudly announced an incremental upgrade to their platform, called Visualization 2. The big news is that you can now insert, rotate, and tint 3-dimensional objects such as furniture. In fact, what you build is now an awkward mix of 2D and 3D content, as can be seen in the following six-minute video that walks you through the whole process of decorating the 64-square-metre blank box you purchased for your residence using the MRK cryptocurrency:

You purchase the virtual land for your home using a marketplace called the UNITEX, which could badly use some well-written help pages to allow you to decipher the listings:

Mark Space Unitex.png

The cheapest price for a 64 m² plot of land is 1,000 MRK (which works out to about US$6.00 at current exchange rates). So land is still relatively cheap, at least.

Mark Space plans to launch in March of 2019. If you’re interested, you can follow the project’s development via their Telegram, their BitcoinTalk forum, their Facebook page, plus LinkedIn, Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, Medium, YouTube, and of course, their website.

So, what do I think about all this now? I think that there are virtual worlds out there that are way, WAY ahead of Mark Space in development, and which do not rely on the blockchain or cryptocurrencies (which I still feel is a solution looking for a problem to solve). And what you can actually do on the platform (even if they did finally integrate 3-dimensional objects) is not really that impressive overall.

There’s some talk of user avatars and AI-controlled pets, but no mention of how they will work, or how you can customize them. The entire project is big on fancy graphics and lofty promises, but still very short on the technical implementation details. Take, for example, this image used to promote their new residential creation tool:

Mark Space.png

There is absolutely no way you can actually build a house that looks like this, using the limited toolset Mark Space is going to make available in Visualization 2! You are restricted to 64-square-metre boxes, which you can connect with doors (if you own more than one connected box). Compared to what you can already achieve in any of the newer virtual world platforms—Sansar, High Fidelity. Sinespace, VRChat—this is laughable. Even 15-year-old Second Life has far better in-world prim-building tools than what Mark Space offers you.

Again, I will be watching safely from the sidelines as this project unfolds. I wish them luck; they are certainly going to need it to succeed in this severely depressed cryptocurrency market. The only blockchain-based virtual world that I would even have considered investing in before (Virtual Universe) has gone as silent as the tomb after suspending their token sale. The crypto market is hammering a lot of start-ups.

Mark my words: there will be casualties among the many blockchain-based virtual world platforms within the next two years. Caveat emptor! As crypto journalist Ian DeMartino has written:

VR is cool, Blockchains are interesting. That doesn’t mean investors should throw their money at anyone who says those industry buzzwords. The MARK.SPACE demo is really bad VR and the MARK.SPACE token is a really [bad] crypto.

Stay away at all costs, or at least until they come out with a product that actually has some potential.