Digestible news about the latest developments across the fields of NFT, blockchain and metaverse in China, delivered to you every week.
This week: Bytedance tests a metaverse-like social network, NetEase Cloud Music launches an AI-powered music production mini app, The Sandbox partners with Warner Music Group to create a virtual music venue, and more.
American rapper Kanye West posted a picture of a handwritten note on Instagram, imploring people to stop asking him to do a “f***ing NFT.”
“My focus is on building real products in the real world,” he said. But, in a postscript, he wrote, “Ask me later.”
ByteDance tests metaverse-like social network with new app Party Island
ByteDance, the owner of short-video app TikTok and its Chinese sister app Douyin, has launched a new social app called Party Island (Pàiduì Dǎo, 派对岛), which allows users to interact in a virtual community through avatars, as global interest in the metaverse continues to grow.
- According to SCMP, while Party Island’s main functionalities fit the standard definition of the metaverse – a network of three-dimensional virtual worlds where people can interact – a Douyin representative said it “has nothing to do with the metaverse,” adding that the app is currently in beta testing by a small group of users and requires an invitation code to access.
- The app was developed by ByteDance’s wholly-owned subsidiary Beijing Shi Qu Wu Xian Technology Co., Ltd., and was launched earlier this week on iOS and Android app stores in China.
- The move marks yet another attempt by ByteDance to challenge Tencent‘s monopoly on China’s social media market. Apart from Douyin, the company’s other previous ventures into social media were mostly unsuccessful. For example, in 2019, ByteDance launched its instant messaging app Feiliao, known internationally as Flipchat, but had to shut it down last year.
- Bytedance’s acquisition of the VR startup Pico Interactive last August was widely interpreted as a step into the metaverse realm, but the company’s head of product and strategy Alex Zhu said the move was spurred by recognition of the value of VR and AR, rather than an attempt to develop the metaverse. (SCMP)
NetEase Cloud Music launches China’s first AI-powered music production mini app and music NFTs
- NetEase Tianyin is currently live on WeChat as a mini app. An official version of the mini app will be released later this year on NetEase Cloud Music, according to the developers.
- For now, the AI music production mini app’s creative capacities are limited to generating Chinese New Year-themed lyrics and visual elements only.
- Users can start creating by entering the name of a friend or family member to whom they want to dedicate the song, then choose from a variety of well-wishes based on which the system will generate a song that can be shared on WeChat.
- The mini app also provides users with a library of instrumental tracks and genres (e.g. R&B, folk) to choose from and all of the songs will be performed by NetEase Cloud Music’s virtual idols.
- To further promote the AI music production platform, NetEase Tianyin has recently released a music NFT series on NetEase Cloud Music. These are said to be the country’s first music NFTs, and are “unique, unalterable, non-fungible digital assets,” according to local news reports. (Sina)
Binance Labs announces strategic investment in gamified massive co-creation platform StarryNift
Binance Labs, the venture capital arm of Binance, has made a strategic investment in StarryNift, a gamified massive co-creation platform.
- The proceeds will be used to help StarryNift develop better GameFi and social features, as well as improve its Software Development Kits (SDK) for creators, according to a press release.
- StarryNift’s latest ventures in the fields NFT and metaverse include Starryverse, a 3D virtual gallery which can be accessed on laptops, mobile devices or VR headsets. StarryNift said it will also develop an internal marketplace for creators to mint and trade NFTs later this year.
- Prior to Binance, StarryNift has secured funds from Monday Capital, Sparkland Capital, Blockwall Capital, CoinGecko Ventures, Gate Labs, and LD Capital. Jihan Wu, founder of Bitmain, and Pranav Sharma, Woodstock Fund, serve as StarryNift’s individual investors and consultants. (Binance Blog)
Binance hopes Russia will help regional growth
Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, wants to expand in Russia and neighboring countries where it sees prospects for new regulations that could boost its business, an executive said.
- According to Binance Eastern European Director Gleb Kostarev, “the goal is to obtain a licence and conduct legal business where the regulation allows.” Kostarev added that Binance hoped for a progressive regulatory approach from Moscow that could influence the approach taken by its neighbors.
- In Russia, the annual volume of crypto transactions stands at about $5 billion. Kostarev said the country was important for Binance and added it plans to hold a “dialogue with the regulator.”
- Meanwhile, Russian politicians have pressed for a change of course previously set by the central bank, which has proposed restricting crypto trading and mining because of concerns it may cause financial instability.
- A Reuters investigation last week showed that Binance withheld information about its finances and corporate structure from regulators, even as it welcomed government oversight and lauded its anti-money laundering program.
- The investigation also found Binance acted against its own compliance department by recruiting customers in Russia and six other countries deemed to be of “extreme” money-laundering risk. (Reuters, Yahoo! News)
China names blockchain trial zones after its crackdown on cryptocurrencies
China has designated some cities and entities to trial blockchain applications, underscoring the importance Beijing is attaching to this particular technology.
- The Chinese capital Beijing and megalopolis Shanghai, as well as Guangzhou in southern China, are all part of the pilot projects. Local government departments, universities, banks, hospitals, car companies and power firms are among the 164 entities chosen by the government to carry out trial blockchain applications.
- China’s cyberspace regulator along with other official departments issued a notice on Sunday calling on provincial-level regulators to “give full play to the role of blockchain” in areas such as data sharing, optimizing business processes and reducing operating costs.
- China’s blockchain push comes after it renewed a crackdown on cryptocurrency trading and mining last year. Beijing has long-viewed bitcoin and other digital coins as a threat to the country’s financial stability.
- Meanwhile, the People’s Bank of China is pushing ahead with the rollout of a digital version of the country’s yuan. However, it is not a decentralized cryptocurrency like bitcoin. It will be controlled and issued by the Chinese central bank itself. (CNBC)
The Sandbox partners with Warner Music Group to create virtual music venue
Animoca Brands-backed The Sandbox has recently announced a partnership with Warner Music Group (WMG) to create a musical theme park and concert venue within its gaming metaverse.
- The virtual music venue, called LAND, will be used to host concerts and live events featuring artists and talent represented by WMG.
- The Sandbox announced that it will host a LAND sale in March offering spaces that are adjacent to the WMG property, although it did not specify whether this offers any concrete perks or if buyers simply get emotional satisfaction.
- The Sandbox has previously partnered with individual artists like Snoop Dogg for experiences, but this is apparently a larger and more ambitious installation.
- The Sandbox’s Land sales have a precedent in virtual worlds like Second Life, another place where corporations have opened virtual experiences. Digital land remains in high demand, and consistent high trading volume in The Sandbox has made it one of the most competitive players in virtual real estate. (Cointelegraph, The Verge)
John Legend launches new NFT platform ‘Our Song’
American singer-songwriter and Grammy winner John Legend has been named co-founder and Chief Impact Officer at OurSong, a social NFT platform.
- Officially marketed as “social commerce platform,” OurSong allows users to create NFTs (called “Vibes”) and monetize superfan communities through access to private chat rooms and unreleased music.
- OurSong notably differs from many NFT platforms in that it doesn’t require users to have external cryptocurrency wallets. Rather, digital fan cards purchased via OurSong are stored on the app itself, granting users access to “clubs” based on the privileges of their card.
- Working alongside a team of media technologists and futurists, including Kevin Lin, co-founder of Twitch; Matt Cheng, founder of Cherubic Ventures; and Chris Lin, CEO of KKBOX, Legend co-founded the project as a means to create more opportunities for content creators, by introducing the artform to new audiences.
- The OurSong mobile app is available in English, Traditional Chinese, Bahasa Indonesia and Japanese languages on the Apple App Store and Google Play. The app also enables users to create NFTs directly from their phones, solidifying the desire to keep the app’s experience entirely on mobile devices. (Forbes, Billboard)
That’s it for this week’s newsletter – thanks for reading! As always, I welcome any feedback on how to make this newsletter better. My email is email@example.com. Happy Chinese New Year, and see you next week!