The Metaverse is a digital alternative to the physical world. Not a game, not a fixed destination, but a digital reality. The Metaverse thus encompasses far more areas of life than today’s web. Leading companies around the world are beginning to realize the potential of the Metaverse.
The term metaverse was first used in the science fiction novel “Snow Crash” by Neal Stephenson, published in 1991. In it, the author describes the metaverse as a global virtual reality in which people are represented as avatars and live their lives digitally, as in today’s multiplayer online games. However, the Metaverse is not an all-encompassing game, there is no high score and no set goal. The Metaverse is much more of a digital alternative to the physical world.
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, as well as Fortnite CEO Tim Sweeney and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, have all recognized the potential of the Metaverse and are reorienting themselves in this regard. In Matthew Ball’s essay published in 2020, considered one of the most influential essays on the Metaverse, the venture capitalist identifies seven core attributes of the Metaverse:
- The Metaverse will be persistent- that is, it will never “reset” or “pause” or “end,” it will simply go on indefinitely.
- It will be synchronous and live- even though pre-planned and self-contained events will take place. Just as in “real life,” the Metaverse will be a living experience that exists consistently and in real-time for everyone.
- There will be no cap on the number of concurrent users, while at the same time giving each user an individual sense of “presence” – everyone can be a part of the Metaverse and participate in a particular event/place/activity together, at the same time, and with individual agency.
- It will be a fully functioning economy – individuals and businesses will be able to create an incredibly wide range of “work”. In addition to owning, investing, selling, they will be rewarded for creating “value” that is recognized by others.
- It will be an experience that spans both the digital and physical worlds, private and public networks/experiences, and open and closed platforms.
- It will provide unprecedented interoperability of data, digital items/assets, content, etc. across all of these experiences – For example, a Counter-Strike weapon skin could also be used to adorn a weapon in Fortnite or given to a friend on/via Facebook. Similarly, a car designed for Rocket League (or even the Porsche website) could also be used in Roblox. Today, the digital world basically behaves like a shopping mall. Each store uses its own currency, requires its own IDs (profile), and creates its own units of measurement for things like shoes or calories and different dress codes.
- It will be populated by “content” and “experiences” created and operated by an incredible array of contributors. There will be independent individuals, informally organized groups, or commercially oriented companies.
Aside from the shift to virtual reality, the Metaverse would not be much different from today’s Web. The only difference is that it would encompass many more areas of our lives – further changing the world of work. As an example, Ball cites companies that already hire video gamers in poorer countries to earn in-game objects that are then sold to gamers from richer countries.
“While this ‘work’ is typically menial, repetitive and limited to a few applications, the variety and value of this ‘work’ will grow with the Metaverse itself.” – Matthew Ball, Strategist and Venture Capitalist.
Metaverse will generate revenue
Ball expects that even if the Metaverse doesn’t catch on, it will generate even more revenue than the Web already does today. The value of being a major participant, if not a driving force, in such a system is obvious. Today, there is no ‘owner’ of the Internet. but almost all of the leading Internet companies are among the ten most valuable public companies in the world.
It is probably this forecast that is driving Meta CEO Zuckerberg and Fortnite CEO Sweeney to invest in this space so early. After all, just as Internet corporations were able to topple many classic companies from their thrones, the future success of the Metaverse could lead to the fall of many top dogs – at least should Ball be proven right.
Self-determination instead of platform dependency
Many roads lead to the metaverse, and it doesn’t seem to be a fad. Instead of using a Facebook login, which probably has the history of the physical world attached to it, new digital identities can be created. A new identity can easily spring from each wallet, which can be contextually extended in the metaverse. The transaction history and the possession of corresponding NFTs write an automatic and tamper-proof biography. An avatar reflects the digital identity and can be dressed accordingly in the metaverse.
The identity per se is not platform-dependent, but just like objects and other things, decentralized in the corresponding blockchain wallet of the owner. However, whether this is still represented outside of a platform or contains the promised function depends on the way the NFT is created. An NFT to a certain standard (e.g.: ERC-721) can be moved, sold, or destroyed by the owner wallet at any time without involving a third party.
A platform such as Sandbox, Meta, or the Microsoft Metaverse should only be used to view and interact with the blockchain. The metadata of the NFT should be stored in the blockchain independently of the platform. The platform can read this data at any time and can also modify it with the owner’s consent.