Ramblings of a new metaverse started last year when Mark Zuckerberg announced his plans to push Facebook into the virtual-reality space. This is when the majority of the world first learned of the term ‘metaverse’ - but if you’ve been in the cryptocurrency space, you may have already heard this term.
The metaverse isn’t exactly a new idea. The term comes from the 1992 science-fiction novel ‘Snow Crash,’ in which author Neal Stephenson predicted a successor to the internet would be a world in which you can explore with virtual reality. Stephenson told Vanity Fair in 2017 that he was just “making shit up.” However, in addition to the metaverse prediction, he was a key influence in the development of Google Earth and coined the term “avatar” to describe online virtual bodies, borrowing from the Sanskrit word अवतार (the incarnation of a deity on earth).
Today the metaverse shares the same concept of a world you can explore from within the internet, either by using your phone, computer, or even a VR Headset. Metaverse on the blockchain has seen the rise of big players in the last four years, such as Decentraland and Sandbox, but it doesn’t stop there. Many are trying to get into the virtual real estate ‘land rush’ and that is exactly what Mark Zuckerberg and Meta see as the future.
The Metaverse Before Meta
Some would argue that Linden Lab’s 2003 game Second Life was the first use case of the metaverse in popular culture. It was, as the title suggests, your second life on the internet, where you could interact with other players and explore the world. Since then, other popular games have incorporated the idea of a ‘metaverse’ in titles such as Roblox and Fortnite, where users have participated in social events and concerts featuring the likes of Marshmello and Lil Nas X.
Minecraft is described as a game that allows players to create their own metaverses. I give a lot of credit to Minecraft being one of the building blocks (pun intended) of today’s path to virtual reality. The game has shown how easy it is to create your own world that is the core of the metaverse. Games like Sandbox have literally emulated Minecraft’s creation of places and worlds, but extended it to the blockchain and an open realm for people to explore.
VRChat is a fun application that acts as a piece of the metaverse. VRChat is an early indicator of what could possibly come. Hell, it even demonstrates the activity of ‘new metaverse’ trolls. Meta’s Horizon Worlds has experienced trolling/harassment already, even enough to warrant a lawsuit, and begs the question of what new rules and regulations will need to be brought forth for discussion in the coming years.
With the adoption of blockchain technology and demand for the Ethereum network’s impressive potential via dapps, new metaverses have surfaced. One of the first and now giants to do so is Decentraland - plots of land originally sold for about $20 in 2017 and are now fetching prices more than 4.5E ($14,000 at time of writing). Decentraland is a place where users and entities can build, host parties, develop virtual headquarters, show off art galleries and much more. The introduction of POAP (Proof of Attendance Protocol) to the metaverse now gives users virtual swag and tokens for attending events. The effect COVID-19 has had on the way we interact with life outside of the house has given an immense rise to parties, concerts, conventions, and virtual meet-ups in the metaverse, not only with Decentraland.
Sandbox is another that has been around for awhile, though it only launched it’s Alpha phase in November 2020. But Sandbox makes up for its late debut by enabling users to build land and items that can be sold in the Ethereum space as NFTs. The ability to build with Sandbox has created a sort of layer-2 ecosystem on top of the present metaverse and Sandbox. NFTs such as Property’s and NFT Worlds have allowed builders to create lands and structures that other users can place in their own worlds that they own. The metaverse opens up so many possibilities of ways that users can monetize their participation.
We are already seeing the industry ape into the metaverse, and newcomers such as WorldWideWeb3 and Nifty Island will be pushing for a more social aspect. Users and owners of land will be able not only to display their life online, but develop challenges and ways to reward users through marketplaces, play-to-earn, and gaming. PS: the WorldWideWeb3 demo is live and a lot of fun.
Corporate Reach Can Be Good
Zuck and larger corporations co-opting the metaverse have seen a lot of pushback, especially from users in the crypto space that see their virtual space as home. However, I am sure some good can come from larger companies joining the metaverse, right? Mass adoption is something that the crypto community has been wanting for years and it is right around the corner. More large entities pushing in leads the general public right to the door. You cannot have a metaverse on the Ethereum chain without NFTs, so the more push for NFTs or metaverse leads users to discovering the other. NFTs and the Metaverse have a beautiful symbiotic relationship.
One must think that the rise of virtual real estate and demand for play-to-earn games in the metaverse is going to be huge. We’re already seeing the Sandbox open its Alpha passes and allow its users to play-to-earn $SAND while completing challenges in the game. The partnerships that they’ve made have really pushed things in an upward trend. Snoop Dogg is just one celebrity with a big reach that is hyping elements of the metaverse. How about Microsoft, who wants to fully incorporate the metaverse into their day-to-day meetings? Or Nike reaching out and purchasing RTFKT Studios? Or even Adidas’ partnership with GMoney, BAYC, and PUNKS Comic?
Huge things are happening with NFTs, and the metaverse is the next frontier/layer for NFTs. As long as there is demand, play-to-earn capabilities, marketplaces, and games within the metaverse - the people will come.
Is Facebook’s Metaverse Really the Metaverse?
Horizon Worlds is Meta’s first look into the metaverse. Meta owns and operates VR headset company Oculus, so they have a lot of potential to onboard new users. Now, is Horizon Worlds really part of the metaverse, is it the metaverse, or is it just a social game for users that have a Facebook account and an Oculus Headset? It appears to be the latter. Users, including myself with my Oculus Quest 1, cannot even get into Horizon Worlds anymore. This is not the metaverse - the metaverse should be open to all no matter who you are, what social media profile you have, or which VR headset you own.
A blockchain-based metaverse land is built on decentralization, allowing you to do what you want with your land, and even create or operate businesses in the virtual space. Sign in with your web3 connection and be able to stay anonymous, or out in public while enjoying the different metaverse worlds with your friends. You’ll be able to create your own goods/wearables to sell in the universe under a fair market and a proven ecosystem, Ethereum.
How could a virtual universe for you to explore possibly be bad? Well that’s one way people see it when big players such as Zuckerberg push into the metaverse. Social locks, account registration, cookies, and risks to your data and privacy are at play with Facebook’s metaverse. This is a closed metaverse - a metaverse in which you may feel like you are free, but you’re not. I imagine before even hopping into the new Meta metaverse, you will need to provide your name and other personal information to Facebook. This is not the metaverse that we need, or want.
We’re excited to see how things shake out in for metaverse. Who knows, we may be co-working or working from home in the metaverse in the coming years. Just hope it stays decentralized and we aren’t subject to big business lurking around each digital street corner. We want the metaverse to be free and open… with as few Sweet Baby Ray’s advertisements as possible.