The metaverse is everywhere. It’s all around us. Even now, on this very website. You can see it when you swap your tokens. You can experience it when you visit the Play to Earn Game Festival or when you do some battles in Lunacia. And you can feel it when you work, when you’re shopping on an NFT marketplace, and when you login to a service using your wallet. The metaverse is the world that connects us all.
There are many projects in the blockchain space that I adore for all kinds of reasons. However, some of those projects try to own the term ‘metaverse‘. They say stuff like ‘the metaverse of our game’. That’s wrong. There’s no such thing as a metaverse of one thing. The metaverse is the air we all breath no matter where we go. The metaverse is inclusive, and it doesn’t discriminate or limit. In the metaverse there is no space for walls and borders, because the tools that make the metaverse are there to break those borders down. Those who build walls, ultimately will remove themselves from the metaverse, while the metaverse will just continue without them. The metaverse is open, interoperable and persistent. Let’s get into that a bit deeper.
The metaverse is a network of (virtual) universes, connected and bridged through technology. Therefore The Sandbox, Axie Infinity and Decentraland – even though they are different projects – are all part of the metaverse. Their economies all intertwine, and players can login to each of them using the same identity (wallet).
Not only the universes can be bridged, but digital assets and identities can travel between them. Items from one virtual world can be used in another. You use the some wallet to login to Cryptovoxels and Decentraland, using the same identity. In the future your virtual representation will also be identical, and you will drive the same car in different virtual locations. There will need to be industry standards for all of that: for your identity, for the way we deal with visual representation, and of course ownership over digital items.
The metaverse can offer experiences that take place in both digital and physical worlds, through public or private networks and on open and closed platforms. Augmented reality, virtual reality, digital events happening in physical space, and so on. There needs to be a standard programming model that enables interoperability and crossovers. Also, when people add something new to the metaverse, it needs to be compatible following a standard set if rules.
The metaverse doesn’t require a specific platform, but instead it’s platform agnostic. Users can interact with elements from the metaverse using their smartphone, or they can experience it wearing a VR suit. These are the extremes, and includes everything in between. A swipe on your wallet to send a payment at the grocery story can already be considered an interaction with the metaverse, because you can also use that same wallet to buy game assets. Running in VR inside Somnium Space is the other end of the spectrum.
The metaverse functions like the real world. There will be events that take place at a certain location and at a certain date and time. These events can be pre-scheduled, but also spontaneous. Basically a concert or a flash mob.
It sounds tough, but the world goes on with or without you, and so does the metaverse. You can’t stop or reset time. That’s also why POAPs (Proof Of Attendance Protocol) are interesting, because these say ‘I was there’.
User generated content
When the world becomes a virtual sandbox, companies are no longer capable of producing all the content. Users, creators, and freelance developers will create and operate a wide range of contributions to the metaverse, ranging from games to services, and from expositions to educational tools. The metaverse needs to have a strong focus on this, and creating needs to be as easy as possible with unlimited freedom. On the other side that coin, there needs to be a community police or something along those lines as well.
The metaverse has its own economy where individuals and businesses can create, own, sell, and earn for a wide range of tasks that produce services or value to others. This doesn’t need to be one cryptocurrency, but it can be any cryptocurrency. Through token swapping all tokens are connected into one singular digital economy.
You can be whoever you want to be. In the metaverse you can have multiple identities for different purposes. One character might be a true collector of CryptoPunks, while another one prefers to be racing in F1 Delta Time. There are no limitations for presenting yourself, not by your actions, not by your name and not visually. However, you identity creates trust, creates a reputation, which is very likely to become a very valuable aspect of your future resume. Diplomas are nice, but your on-chain reputation says a lot more about what you’ve done and who you are.
How long before Ready Player One?
We’re definitely not there yet. Developing open standards requires companies working together to embrace those standards, and as long as there’s no shared vision, the concept of the metaverse can’t grow. Software needs to become more compatible and connected, blockchain technology needs to become faster and smoother in its user experience, every building block of the metaverse needs to follow an open standard. We’d need standardized data about objects, locations, sounds, the way objects interact, we communicate, and so on. For now Ready Player One is more like a goal the industry works towards, but of course without the evil corporation and the keys to the Oasis.
Ultimately the metaverse will be an environment build by everybody for anybody. There won’t be a governing force, but it’s likely that there will be a neighborhood watch. The way we interact right now with NFTs is a first move into how the economy inside the metaverse will look like. Even though I doubt whether Picasso-inspired copycats will hold their value over time. Moving between Somnium Space and Cryptovoxels is already becoming easier, but it’s not flawless and we don’t use visual identity. But there’s no doubt that this type of stuff will be coming. Crypto Avatars and Genies are creating a standard for these metaverse avatars, Digitalax wants to do the same for digital fashion. The industry is now baking the bricks to build the foundation of the metaverse.
Tim Sweeney, founder and CEO of Epic Games, did an amazing talk about the metaverse at SIGGRAPH 2019. Big parts of the inspiration for this article come from his talk, with some personal additions. Not only has he been one of the frontrunners in the gaming space, he is busy to build on the concept of a persistent virtual world where everybody can live in. According to him Minecraft and Roblox are the first good examples, and Fortnite adds another layer there where social events meet in a virtual space. However, the concept of the metaverse is still in its infancy.
The M3 Organization, which is working on creating industry standards for the metaverse, archived the talk on their blog. You can read it, or listen to the talk through the video below. Their work is worth following.