The metaverse and Web3 revolution put new concepts and paradigms on the table that will govern virtual worlds. We have identified the ones that we believe will impact users the most
When planning a new product, be it a consumer good or a service, any design team needs to start from a concept. As every good designer knows, a concept is a fundamental idea that explains the entire project, why it exists, and what it is for. Having this first step clear and defined helps designers and developers stay on the desired path throughout the creative process, ensuring that the final product brings users the value they expect. In short, the concept is the "soul"of the project.
In thejourney to build the Internet of the future, a complex and gradual process, the ultimate product is the metaverse: the set of interconnected immersive virtualenvironments that incorporate virtual and augmented reality. But what conceptsare driving the development of this new multidimensional virtual universe?
About a year ago, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the reorientation of Facebook's strategy to address the metaverse’s expected role as the "successor to the mobile Internet." Much like that novel technology changed our lives by allowing us to go online anywhere, Zuckerberg predicts that the metaverse will have a similar impact.
For this reason, Meta has come out in favor of an open and interoperable metaverse, which will require a network of standards and norms to enable the interconnection of different platforms. Along with Microsoft and dozens of organizations, Meta is one of the founders of the Metaverse Standards Forum, a space to discuss and encourage the creation of open protocols for future immersive 3D worlds.
For sometime, internet experts, new platform builders, and technology philosophers have been trying to outline the core principles of an ideal metaverse and how they should intersect with those of Web3 or Web 3.0 (the new version of the web, with blockchain-based architecture). While the terms may vary, the concepts generally start from what we might call the requirements for a "real" metaverse. All appear in recent books that define themselves as essential guides to the new digital revolution, including:
- Navigating the Metaverse: A Guide to Limitless Possibilities in a Web 3. 0 World, by Cathy Hackl, Dirk Lueth, and Tommaso Di Bartolo;
- The Metaverse Handbook: Innovating for the Internet’s Next Tectonic Shift, by Quharrison Terry and Scott Keeney;
- Step into the Metaverse: How the Immersive Internet Will Unlock a Trillion-Dollar Social Economy, by Mark van Rijmenam;
- The Metaverse: And How It Will Revolutionize Everything, by Matthew Ball.
According to these authors, essential premises for the metaverse should include:
This is the broadest principle that should govern the architecture of the metaverse and an implication of Web3. In practical terms, virtual spaces should not be operated by a few centralized platforms that determine the game’s rules and end up mediating all the relationships between people. Blockchain technology allows direct, transparent, and secure exchanges. It also makes several applications of the virtual universe more accessible and representative of users in general.This is already a reality with crypto activities, which offer greater democratization of financial transactions without the intermediation of banks,for example.
This is the type of digital identity whereby each holder can control and manage all their data, from personal information to the history of relationships with other users, companies, and virtual goods. Through Web3 cryptography, in the metaverse, people should be able to authenticate themselves without relying on intermediaries. This is possible because self-sovereign digital identity is decentralized by various blockchain network agents, which issue several electronic credentials.
In today's virtual video game worlds, players can sell countless, such as skins, tools,and other digital goods. But those who buy one of these products can only use them within the game. Accessing the items in different games or virtual spaces is impossible. There are technological challenges and issues, such as the relevance of certain items in specific environments, but the metaverse needs to ensure that when you buy something, it belongs to you. You can sell, trade, or transport it wherever you go. As in the real world, the dynamics of relationships between people and institutions result from freedom of choice.
This is the ability to compose, that is, to use and combine system components. Imagine a toy assembled from Lego pieces for a concrete idea about how this works. Each component can be reused in countless ways to create new things, which empowers creative people. To meet the principle of composability, an ideal metaverse needs to be built with technical standards that allow compositions between virtual worlds, as well.
This requirement is necessary to enable pervasive compositions. Publicly available and modifiable code also drives innovation and makes it easier to fix problems with algorithms and protocols, for example. The more transparency, the more diverse and reliable the metaverse will be.
To achieve its true potential, the metaverse must ensure that participants in virtual communities have a voice. When the management of systems considers the proportion of involvement of its members, we pave the way for real collaboration. Community governance reflects the diversity of stakeholders in platforms (developers, investors, users, etc.). Thanks to blockchain, it can be coordinated through tokens. One idea is to create proportional governance assets.
The metaverse will incorporate virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) but should not be defined by them. New devices, such as VR headsets and AR glasses, are immersive connection platforms —but they are not immersion itself. To be truly immersive, the metaverse needs authentic interactions, as happens in real-world conversations. There are several possible interfaces for creating immersive experiences through hearing alone, the sense of touch, or —why not?— smell. Some depend on new technological advances, but who can deny that a discussion in Discord is not already genuinely immersive? Immersion comes from the human experience, not the hardware.
Ultimately,some of these concepts may seem incomprehensible to regular web users today.But if combined, it is possible to establish three basic rules, or new paradigms, about how the metaverse will impact online life:
People will be able to carry their digital personas wherever they go, which means a new asset. To use their identities securely, people will need to authenticate them with encryption agents.
Ownership of a digital asset will need to extend across all virtual spaces because people don't just want to use what they buy while connected to a platform. This is not buying but renting items; people deserve to own what they purchase. In addition, developers, investors, and active users will prioritize that enable forms of collective management.
Players of today's successful games or normal internet users are already more attracted to the possibility of experiencing or building things together. Gamification is one way, but the crucial thing is to offer real interaction and contextualized experiences, even with simple hardware.
These paradigm shifts open up a universe of opportunities. Many companies and people are working on building the metaverse at the same time, and change will be gradual. There is still plenty of room for innovation and the creation of new models of relating. People and companies are discovering in practice what the new virtual universe will be like.
Many central issues need to be resolved, such as shared technical standards and ethical decisions —decentralization and open-source face pressure from big players in the industry. For society, what matters is that the virtual worlds of the future can correct problems with the current Internet and are a force for good, not just a new product.