The Metaverse according to every brand and bank is a trillion-dollar opportunity. Meta, Microsoft, Bandai, and just about every company you can think of are channeling their inner Avon Barksdale from The Wire and wants their corner. Not surprisingly, we’re ways out from the actual metaverse. I’m talking about 10years+. But if you scroll on Twitter for more than 5 minutes you’d see we’re in gold rush territory. The actual metaverse (whatever that looks like) is in it is earliest stages. And I mean early. With the explosion of NFTs, communities, DAOs, and just about every other sector of Web3 that has VCs and retail ready to risk it all, we’re able to see the seeds being planted and early rumblings of how the metaverse may emerge. Spoiler alert, it starts with communities.
When we hear about the metaverse the first thing that comes to mind are scenes of Ready Player One or Neo jacking into The Matrix. The problem with these examples is that it emphasizes a future where The Metaverse is completely controlled by one entity. If there’s one thing actual participants of Web3 hate are centralized entities looking to control everything while not sharing ownership with it’s contributors and participants. Aka, the people who actually provide value and help grow networks into something worth wanting to explore. Don’t worry, I’m not going to go on a centralized vs. decentralized rant. I’m setting the foundation for a point below. Keep reading. If the metaverse is a $1 Trillion dollar opportunity, and we know some of the largest companies in the world are going to carve their lane, what we know and what we should hope for is that the metaverse will not be one place controlled by a single entity.
The metaverse ideally, will be a collection of virtual worlds. In it’s modern day example, it’s the collection of blockchains and Discord communities. Now here’s where the challenge comes. Especially in the centralized vs. decentralized perspective. Centralized entities are more than likely not going to play nice with other virtual worlds. What do I mean by that?
Of the companies I named above bullish on the metaverse, most aren’t approaching it with a mindset of interoperability. Aka, the ability to own, travel, and easily port your identity between virtual worlds. While it’s cute that JP Morgan setup shop in Decentraland, trust and believe if they wanted to, they would do everything in their power to gobble up Decentraland and make sure they lock users into their own ecosystem. Again, this isn’t a centralized vs. decentralized rant. In some cases, centralization can be a good thing and other cases it can turn poorly. The same can be said about Decentralization but I’m biased and believe we need a decentralized metaverse. But back to the topic on hand. If early, and I mean early, examples of the metaverse are visible now, what does that look like?
Right now it’s a multi-chain world: Ethereum, Avax, Solana, Cosmos etc. This multi-chain world is full of communities that live in Discord, Telegram and users leveraging the web2 social platforms we use daily. No, you can’t immerse yourself physically in these worlds, but you can send funds across these chains(e.g bridging) and you can verify/maintain your identity across multiple Discords with the right tools.
If you’ read up until this point you’ll notice I keep mentioning the ability to move between virtual worlds.
The concept of being able to move between virtual worlds while maintaining and owning your identity is interoperability. Interoperability is a good thing for you anon. It’s also a good thing for emerging cos and entities in Web3 and the future of the metaverse. If the trend of multiple virtual worlds continues (which I suspect), you’ll want to easily be able to port your identity and data between these worlds.
Where a ways from full-blown interoperability; however, the habit and behavior of thinking multi-chain and multi-world is already instilled in those of us that participate daily in Web3. But what if you don’t actively interact with multiple chains? This can be confusing and you probably have no idea what I’m talking about. Let’s look it at through the lens of video games. For certain games you have the option of crossplay. Crossplay let’s players who own the same game but on different consoles to play with each-other. In this case, Xbox console Halo players can play against PC players and vice-versa. While that doesn’t sound ground breaking, it wasn’t long ago that this wasn’t possible. Crossplay is another instance in which we can think about interoperability but on a drastically reduced scale.
When looking at the current seeds planted we reached the point where they’ve just become seedlings. NFT projects in particular have given many, their first glimpse into virtual worlds/experiences but on a much smaller scale. Many NFT projects are creating their own virtual worlds, games, and experiences. What appear as fractured experiences are the early web of a metaverse that is still in its building phases. But imagine if NFTs adopted an open metaverse framework. The ability to easily navigate between these worlds. While the JP Morgans may take a more centralized approach, NFT projects are potentially more aligned and have more to benefit from creating open virtual worlds.
Despite being 10years + out, the seeds of open metaverse are at risk. R&D and the titans with Billion dollar market caps have little incentive to maintain an open virtual world. How do I know this? I don’t. I hope I’m wrong. Correction, I hope I’m very wrong. Interoperability is a good thing. Allowing communities, contributors, and participants, to control their data, identity, and share ownership in the networks/virtual worlds they decide to participate in is the future. In the beginning we may not reach this point. Meta’s Metaverse can very well become the starting point for many individuals first experience with the Metaverse, but they will migrate to open worlds once they become familiar with the possibilities and opportunities available in an open metaverse.
The only way to ensure that the seeds of the metaverse grow into open worlds, is to guarantee interoperability and composability and incentivizing incumbents to adopt this thinking as they help shape this next phase of the internet.
Building, creating, contributing or interested in web3? Say, hi @antoniogaryjr 👋