Achieving a “true” Metaverse—that is, one that is open rather than closed—requires inherent seven essential elements.
There’s been a lot of talk about the “Metaverse” since it was coined in the ’90s, especially during the pandemic (the surge in people’s online activity), and even more so when Facebook changed its name to Meta.
Is the Metaverse just an obscure marketing language? What is the Metaverse? How is the term defined, how is the line drawn between one Metaverse and another virtual world? These are common questions people have about the Metaverse, so in this article, we’ll outline how we think about the Metaverse, and how the Metaverse is intertwined with Web3.
In many ways, the Metaverse is just another name for the evolution of the internet: it was more social, more immersive, and more economically complex than the internet is today. Broadly speaking, there are two competing visions on how to achieve this:
One is a decentralized Metaverse, with generous property rights and new boundaries, interoperable, open, and owned by the community that builds and maintains it.
Another vision – all too familiar to many today – is a centralized and closed Metaverse, subject to the whims of corporations and often extracted from its creators, contributors, and inhabitants Painful economic rent.
The key dimension to compare the two visions is open vs closed, the difference can be conceptualized as:
The open Metaverse is decentralized, allowing users to control their identities, enforce property rights, adjust incentives, and ensure that users (rather than platforms) get value. The open Metaverse is also transparent, permissionless, interoperable and composable (others are free to build within and across the Metaverse) and so on.
Achieving a “true” Metaverse—that is, one that is open rather than closed—requires inherent seven essential elements. We believe these elements are all necessary to meet its minimum requirements to be called the Metaverse. Our goal is to clear the fog of misinformation about what is and isn’t a “real” Metaverse for builders and potential participants, and to provide a framework for evaluating early Metaverse attempts.
Decentralization is the primary and governing principle of a proper Metaverse, and many of its other properties depend on or arise from this primary concept.
By decentralized, we mean not owned or operated by a single entity, nor dominated by a few power brokers. Houses of centralized platforms tend to start off friendly and cooperative to attract users and developers, but once growth slows, their relationship becomes competitive, predatory, and zero-sum. Typically, these powerful centralized institutions infringe on user rights and de-platform, and they have a “captive economy” (users are confined to the platform) with extremely high rates. On the other hand, decentralized systems exhibit fairer ownership, less censorship, and greater diversity among stakeholders.
Decentralization is important. Without decentralization, anyone could be prevented from building in the Metaverse at any time, thereby hindering innovation. Because centralized platforms cannot make the strong promises of being “controlled by code” like blockchains, their promises can be revoked or changed whenever a leader or organization has a whim about some arrangement. The most powerful way to prevent such actions and protect the Metaverse is to ensure decentralization of control.
2. Property rights
Today, most successful video games make money by selling in-game items such as “skins,” “emotes,” and other digital goods. However, players who buy game props now are not actually buying props, but renting props. Once the player leaves to play another game – or the game unilaterally decides to close or change the rules – the player loses access to these items.
People have become so accustomed to renting things from Web2’s centralized services that the idea of actually owning things — digital things you can sell, trade, or take elsewhere — often feels odd. But the digital world should follow the same logic as the real world: when you buy something, you own it. Just as courts uphold these rights in the real world, so the code should also be enforced online. True digital property rights cannot exist until related innovations such as cryptography, blockchain technology, and NFTs emerge. Simply put, the Metaverse turned digital serfs into homesteaders.
3. Self-Sovereign Identity
Identity is closely related to property rights. You can’t own anything if you don’t have a self-sovereign identity. As in the real world, people’s identities must be able to persist across the Metaverse without being entirely dependent on a small set of centralized identity providers.
Authentication is about who people are: proving who someone is, what they have access to, and what information they share. On today’s Web, users need to request an intermediary proxy for authentication using popular one-click login methods such as social login or single sign-on (SSO). Today’s biggest tech platforms, like Meta and Google, use this method to collect data to build their businesses: monitoring user behavior and developing models to deliver more relevant ads. Furthermore, since these platforms have complete control, innovation in the certification process relies on the honesty and willingness of the businesses behind the platforms.
The cryptography at the core of Web3 enables people to authenticate without relying on these intermediaries, so people can control their identities directly or with the help of a service of their choice. Wallets such as Metamask and Phantom provide a way for people to authenticate themselves. Standards such as EIP-4361 (Login with Ethereum) and ENS (Ethereum Name Service) allow projects to collaborate around open source protocols and independently contribute to a richer, more secure, and evolving concept of digital identity.
Composability is a system design principle, specifically referring here to the ability to mix and match software components such as Lego bricks. Each software component only needs to be written once and can be simply reused later.Composability is akin to compounding interest in finance or Moore’s law in computing (the most powerful economic force known) in that composability unleashes exponential power.
In order to have composability (a concept closely intertwined with interoperability), the Metaverse must provide high-quality, open technical standards as a foundation. In games like Minecraft and Roblox, you can create digital goods and new experiences based on the basic components provided by the system, but it’s difficult to move them out of the environment or modify their inner workings. Companies that offer embedded services, like Stripe for payments or Twilio for communications, can work across websites and apps, but they don’t allow outside developers to change or reassemble their code black boxes.
In its most powerful form, composability and interoperability can span a broad software stack. Decentralized finance (DeFi) is an example of this powerful form. Anyone can adapt, reuse, change or import existing code. Not only that, but developers can build on existing programs (such as Compound’s lending protocol or Uniswap’s automated market-making transactions) in the memory of a shared virtual computer (Ethereum) at their leisure. By combining powerful new elements of property, identity, and ownership, builders can create entirely new experiences.
5. Open/Open Source
True composability is impossible without open source, which is the practice of making code freely available and capable of being redistributed and modified at will. Regardless of degree or kind, open source as a principle is so important to the development of the Metaverse that we break it down as a separate component, albeit overlapping with composability above.
So what does open source mean in a Metaverse development environment? The best programmers and creators—not platforms—need full control to fully innovate. Open source and openness help ensure this. When codebases, algorithms, marketplaces, and protocols become transparent public goods, builders can pursue their vision and ambition to build more complex and reliable experiences.
Openness leads to safer software, better understanding of economic terms among all parties, and elimination of information asymmetries. These properties can create fairer and more equitable systems, actually aligning network participants. They could even eliminate the need for outdated U.S. securities laws designed decades ago to reconcile long-standing principal-agent problems and information asymmetries in business.
The power of composability in Web3 is largely due to its open source spirit.
6. Community Ownership
In the Metaverse, all stakeholders should have a say in the governance of the system proportional to their participation.People shouldn’t just follow orders from a group of product managers at a tech company. If any one entity owns or controls this virtual world, like Disney World, it may offer some form of escapism, but never reach its true potential.
Community ownership is one piece of the puzzle that unites network participants—builders, creators, investors, and users—to collaborate and fight for the common good. This miracle of coordination — previously unwieldy or impossible without the advent of cryptocurrencies and blockchains — is achieved through the ownership of tokens, the network’s native asset.
In addition to the technological advancements that decentralization brings, the philosophical implication of community-owned space is critical to the success of the Metaverse. In web3, participants in Decentralized Autonomous Organizations or DAOs have taken this principle to heart. They are eschewing the formal rigidity of corporate structures in favor of more flexible and diverse experiments in democracy and informal governance. This allows communities to be managed, built and driven by their users rather than by a single entity.
7. Social Immersion
Big tech would have you believe that high-performance virtual reality or augmented reality (VR/AR) hardware is an essential — and perhaps even the most important — ingredient in the Metaverse. This is because these devices are Trojan horses. Companies see them as a way to become the main provider of computing interfaces for 3D virtual worlds, and thus become a bottleneck for people’s cross-border experience.
The Metaverse doesn’t have to exist in VR/AR. All that is required for a virtual world to exist is social immersion in the broadest sense. Even more important than the hardware is the type of activity the Metaverse enables. They’ll let people hang out remotely, work together, connect with friends, and have fun just like they do today with Discord, Twitter Spaces, or Clubhouse.
With the surge in the use of other remote meeting and telepresence tools such as Zoom, the pandemic has highlighted the need for more immersive experiences beyond traditional text-based communication platforms such as email.Furthermore, thanks to the economic elements outlined earlier—property rights, self-sovereignty, community ownership—the Metaverse enables people to earn a living, engage in business, and gain status. In the typical knowledge worker workplace, people use tools like Slack to collaborate, while outside the traditional corporate world, Discord and Telegram are prevalent in the bottom-up organization movement of DAOs.
The Metaverse has nothing to do with “view” mode (a tool for viewing the Metaverse). It’s a handy meme for those in control of hardware manufacturing.
While many companies have begun to build on the various elements described above, if a virtual world lacks any of the above, we don’t think it counts as a fully formed Metaverse. We believe – as is evident in this framework – that the Metaverse cannot exist without the fundamental foundations of Web3 technology.
Openness and decentralization are the pillars of the Metaverse. Property rights depend on decentralization — elements that must persist despite the influence of powerful adversaries. Community ownership prevents unilateral control of the system. This approach also drives open standards, which facilitate decentralization and composability, closely related downstream properties of interoperability.
An ideal multi-dimensional virtual world will gradually take shape. There are still many questions to be resolved, or we’ll be stuck in a dystopian simulation of Ready Player One’s IOI-mediated “oasis”. However, this outcome is unlikely if the builders adhere to these principles.
When the Metaverse arrives, it should fully embody these elements — with decentralization at its core.
Posted by:CoinYuppie，Reprinted with attribution to:https://coinyuppie.com/a16z-how-to-build-a-real-metaverse/
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