What is the Metaverse?
The internet made it possible for us to imagine living in another world. Since its creation, multiple novels, movies and video games have been released detailing living alternate realities in interconnected networks. In the 1984 book Neuromancer, the main character, a cyberspace cowboy, goes inside a ‘matrix’. This virtual world is explained as a ‘consensual hallucination’. The movie ‘The Matrix’ depicted a majority of humans jacked into a virtual world, all living an alternate reality.
These are what you would call metaverses. ‘Meta’ is a prefix that means ‘beyond,’ and ‘verse’ comes from ‘universe,’ making the word ‘Metaverse.’ What would ‘Metaverse’ mean for the world and what are its effects on cryptocurrency and NFTs?
What is the Metaverse?
A metaverse, to put it simply, is a space where humans can participate in a shared virtual universe. The term originated from the novel ‘Snow Crash’ by Neal Stephenson, where humans interact with each other as avatars.in a 3D space. Recently, the movie ‘Ready Player One’ depicted people who can go inside a virtual world and become a 3D being, an avatar, in it. The players experience things that they wouldn’t be able to do in the real world, like performing extreme physical feats or driving technologically advanced vehicles.
So far, virtual worlds haven’t brought about a societal apocalypse. Nonetheless, virtual worlds have made it possible for us to engage with communities of people online. Gamers would recognize these as being Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) worlds like World of Warcraft. There, people chat with their friends and raid the dungeons to destroy creatures for loot. Their avatar is the warrior, sorcerer, thief, healer or other being with supernatural powers that make up a game character.
The Metaverse, with a capital M, is the idea that there will be one single virtual reality that humans will become avatars in. They will engage in this shared virtual reality space, talk to each other, hang out, play games, watch movies, even browse the web. It will be a new internet. Instead of this flat World Wide Web that people surf through every day, the Metaverse will have texture, dimension and color. People will meet, watch shows, hang out, visit virtual museums, ride virtual parks, go to websites all within the same Metaverse.
It has become increasingly likely that if this all-encompassing Metaverse were to come about, that it would be powered by blockchain. NFTs, non-fungible tokens, have made it possible to have full ownership of a digital asset.
So if a fully-fledged Metaverse, one that is a 3D, even a virtual reality internet, that you can plunge into at a moment’s notice, where websites are floating spaces in another world, then it must have some form of ownership associated with it. With blockchain technology, you can own a digital asset and the cryptographic token will ensure, without a doubt, that the artwork, in-game item, digital property and so on will be yours. The users assets are also decentralized and peer-to-peer, not subject to a centralized authority like a government or bank.
This is massive. Not only will people surf a new internet with this technology. People will begin owning digital properties if NFT technology were to be implemented with the new internet. Not only will it have three-dimensional texture, color and immense interactivity. The Metaverse will also be a place where people buy and sell unique assets with a level of decentralized peer-to-peer ownership that wasn’t possible before.
Brief Explanation of NFTs
Fungibility is used in finance to talk about assets that are indistinguishable and interchangeable. A clear example of fungible assets are currencies and cryptocurrencies. A dollar can be interchangeable with another dollar. Likewise, 1 Bitcoin is interchangeable with 1 Bitcoin. Both the dollar and a Bitcoin can be split up into parts without changing their value. For example, a 20 dollar bill can be split up into four 5 dollar bills or one 5 dollar bill split up into five 1 dollar bills. Bitcoin and be 0.1 BTC and have the same value as 0.1 BTC.
Non-fungible tokens are unique assets that are not interchangeable and distinguishable, like a cat, a Pokemon card or a car. Cats have unique value to owners. You might not want to trade your cat for a neighbor’s cat, though they’re both Persian. The neighbor’s cat might not have the memories you both have shared. A rare Pikachu card might sell for USD 100,000 in one auction. A similar Pikachu card might sell for USD 50,000 at another auction because that specific card has a scratch on it. Likewise, if you cut up a Pikachu card into twenty pieces, it won’t have the same value as dividing a 20 dollar bill into four 5 dollar bills.
NFTs create this same uniqueness through cryptographic tokens that make a video, game monster, digital land and anything else that anyone can come up with into a non-interchangeable and distinguishable asset.
Decentralized Applications that are Metaverses
As NFTs become more and more mainstream, the NFTs that are present in alternate universes will become more and more prevalent. An all-encompassing Metaverse, if it comes about, may have functionalities like the individual metaverses that are out today, like Decentraland or Upland. These metaverses are ones that you can jump into and begin to own digital property. Although not as extensive yet as a huge Metaverse that everyone in the world can dive into, watch movies in, go to websites on, and explore cities in as a 3D Internet, these decentralized applications lay the groundwork for what a future Metaverse, with a capital M, would look like.
Right now, in the NFT space, the prime example of a metaverse would be the VR world of Decentraland. Here, you have license to buy and create on blockchain land as you see fit. You even control a humanoid avatar that you can travel the metaverse with.
With people already flipping land in a virtual reality world and making an income out of it, Decentraland has become the primary go to for digital real estate. All the space in Decentraland can be bought, save plazas and roads. Through a quick search in the marketplace, you can find land that sells for thousands of dollars. One is being bid for 301,000 MANA, which, at the time of writing, is 381000 USD! This is worth more than some real world plots of land.
How is this possible? For starters, the property you buy could be close to some locations that are enviable, like near an influencer’s land or near the land of a company with sentimental value, like Atari. They could also be a prime location to showcase to thousands of users your company, even creating things like casinos, music venues, art galleries and the list goes on.
Decentraland isn’t the only one of its kind. Somnium space also has similar functionalities. The main difference between the two is that Decentraland’s plots are divided evenly into a grid while Somnium space is divided unevenly with differing plots of land. It comes packed with a builder as well and you can go through the VR world as an avatar.
If you’re more into the blocky aesthetic, or something akin to Minecraft, you can check out CryptoVoxels. There is a particular charm to the blocky aesthetic, as if it awakens the inner child. Even an excited user proclaims “Vistas of the new internet!” Maybe the first main Metaverse will be built on blocks.
Upland is also quite an interesting project in the metaverse space. The world is a mirror world of our own, mapped to real world addresses. So if you’ve ever wanted to own digital property in the same exact place where you live, or a place in the real world that holds value to you, then there’s your chance.
As you can see, metaverses are already teeming with life and loads of creative people are coming together to buy land as well as create some outstanding digital architecture on blockchain. Perhaps a world like ‘Ready Player One’, a fully realized and immersive Metaverse, will be built on the foundations of the blockchain metaverses we see today.