Does the Metaverse need blockchain to ensure widespread adoption?

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Many also believe that blockchain technology will play an important role in the metaverse, along with other emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR). But, is the use of blockchain really a foregone conclusion?

Stanford University professor Jeremy Belenson recently moderated a World Economic Forum panel with some of the world’s leading thinkers from the metaverse and blockchain. “The first question before the panel was ‘Do we need a blockchain for the metaverse?'” Balson, founder of Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, told Cointelegraph. “The general consensus was that the metaverse could exist without a blockchain.”

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As an example, Belenson offers Metaverse Pioneer Second Life, founded in 2003, which has 70 million currently registered accounts and is adding 350,000 new accounts to its online multimedia platform every month. Second Life has “developed a robust economy where digital assets are bought and sold,” Belenson said. “The typical GDP of Second Life is about half a billion dollars each year. And, the world moves firmly without using blockchain.”

“Could the Next Iteration of the Internet Exist Without Blockchain Technology?” asked Tony Evans, a professor at Penn State University’s Dickinson Law School. “Yes, it can happen,” he told Cointelegraph. After all, distributed decentralized ledgers and cryptographically secure assets – including smart contracts – are only one part of Web3 technology, along with AI, 3D printing, VR, augmented reality, Internet of Things (IoT) and others.

Many are thrilled by the prospect of the virtual world of the Metaverse, which can be used to play games online, but also to train surgeons on 3D organ models and bring students to wonderfully alive villages in rebuilt ancient Greece. enables.

leave it at your own risk

But, abandoning blockchain technology, while possible, could be a mistake. “Without blockchain, the metaverse could keep the ball moving for Big Tech,” Evans said, “and it will come at the cost of the same people that Web2 has left behind – “the very same people that will power the truly decentralized web.” “

SuperSocial founder and CEO Jonathan Raz-Friedman – who develops games for the Metaverse – agreed that blockchain technology isn’t absolutely necessary. “No, you do not need a blockchain to enable the metaverse,” he told Cointelegraph. nobody is here possibly This is why avatars cannot be created in 3D and games played with closed platforms like Second Life.

But, Web3 is arguably a backlash against FAMGA companies – Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Google and Amazon – with their privately owned platforms, and Raz-Fridman predicts that companies like Meta will have to settle in terms of interoperability. If they expect to participate. This means allowing avatars to freely travel from one Metaverse project to another, along with all of their digital clothing and jewelry. As NYU marketing professor Scott Galloway recently put it:

“Why buy clothes when you can’t wear them out to the store? Why buy a Birkin bag if you can’t make it into the Metaverse?”

Consumers are now demanding Web3/Metaverse, as depicted in Neil Stephenson’s 1992 novel snow accident“Where everyone has their own digital assets and the freedom to bring them with them as they move from place to place,” Raz-Friedman said.

An artist’s illustration of the Metaverse snow accident, Source: Sivort.

Interestingly, novelist Stephenson himself is a co-founder of the recently launched metaverse project Lamina 1, “which will use blockchain technology to create an ‘open metaverse’ — one that is open-source and decentralized,” says Washington. Post said.

All about people, places and things

The metaverse is an elusive term – different sides define it differently. Most agree, however, that it includes an immersive three-dimensional virtual world with lots of games and role-playing. Belenson, for his part, finds it useful to break down the metaverse into people, places, and things. In each of these areas, he sees a potential role for blockchain technology.

“People Avatars are the bodies we wear while immersed in the digital world,” he explained to Cointelegraph. Here, blockchain technology could provide “crypto DNA” that “ensures one-to-one mapping of avatars to people.” For example, it can be used to guarantee that one cannot live in ten incarnations at once or enable someone else to “make their own avatar for the joy ride”. Added Belenson:

“While an obvious application of blockchain would be to verify clothing and jewelry for avatars, I have always thought that the killer app here is documenting and validating human animations.”

Spaces, in Bellenson’s concept, are defined areas in the grid of a virtual world. For the Metaverse to work, a world needs to be “persistent: it’s there, even when you’re not, and consistent: if you buy a plot of land one kilometer from Snoop Dogg , so it cannot proceed based on an arbitrary remapping of the world.” He added that some platforms are already using blockchain technology to document these maps.

Finally, the most obvious application of blockchain technology is in the area of ​​Belenson, which includes three-dimensional models, two-dimensional images, sound files “or any digital asset that can be placed in a virtual world.” Blockchain technology can be used to verify transactions “without a centralized body overseeing transactions” and also ensure that “commodities have unique value based on supply – no asset.” Can’t make thousands of copies just to fake it.”

Need Interoperability?

As things stand, major Metaverse players and/or contenders — including the companies Sandbox, Decentraland and FAMGA — “offer very little interchange between their web platform and other platforms,” ​​said an assistant to the Korea Advanced Institute of Science. Professor Lik-hang Lee and technology, told Cointelegraph. This lack of interoperability, a feature of Web 2, is a shortcoming that needs to be addressed if the metaverse is to reach its full potential. It contains, at a minimum, the following elements according to Lee:

  • Anyone should be able to create a virtual world that can connect to the rest of the metaverse;
  • Any device or browser must be able to access the Metaverse provided it meets certain predetermined specifications;
  • The ownership of digital assets must be recorded and protected across multiple servers and clients;
  • A single avatar must be able to communicate with avatars on other servers;
  • People must have the ability to produce, showcase, buy and sell their digital assets within the metaverse.

“In light of the increasing number of metaverse initiatives incompatible with each other, it is more important than ever to build standardized organisms,” Lee told Cointelegraph.

However, interoperability may not come easily. Meta, Google and others “will work hard not to lose their dominance,” Rez-Friedman said. It may also take time for the public to understand what is contained in a user-owned Internet, but when they do, “consumers will demand to be in more control.” FAMGA companies will have no choice but to yield at least some degree of interoperability at that time.

Raz-Friedman was asked why crypto people, in particular, are so interested in the metaverse. Is it because they think it will potentially boost cryptocurrency adoption? “If you look at it historically, there has always been conflict over narrative – different versions of what the world should look like,” he replied.

At one extreme are crypto maximalists who envision a decentralized, blockchain-based and open-source world where people own and control their data and digital assets. Raz-Friedman has sympathy for the position, but ultimately doesn’t think it will prevail, at least overall. Facebook, Google and others “own a substantial portion of the economic activity on the Internet, and they will not be taken down overnight.”

By the same token, the continuation of private, closed platforms is also not realistic. In the short term, one can expect a “clash of civilizations” between the two perspectives, Jari Rez-Friedman, emerging as an ultimate middle ground as consumers themselves decide to what extent the metaverse is decentralized.

At the same time, as the metaverse develops further, Balson expects to see a lot of unnecessary uses of blockchain technology “where the technology works, but it is not necessary.” However, as more time passes, “a set of killer apps will emerge where the blockchain is the only way to do the right thing,” Balson told Cointelegraph.

Overall, the metaverse is both doable and doable without blockchain. But, “if the goal is to democratize the Internet, not to mention accessibility, transparency, composability and platform interoperability,” Evans said, “then the metaverse should include blockchain.”