Building a Secure “Multiverse”: What Blockchain Can Do For The Metaverse
Imagine a conversation between two people, where one is trying to understand what a metaverse is.
“What actually is a metaverse?”
“Well, it’s a virtual world where people can represent themselves through avatars and participate in shared social experiences. For example, like Second Life, Fortnite, Roblox, or even Club Penguin.”
“Wait, that’s all? These already exist. Why all this talk about blockchain and crypto then?”
Now, this is a really good point. If platforms, where people can engage in entire virtual worlds, participate in creator economies, and rock out to incredible concerts are already established, what’s the big deal about the metaverse?
The answer is that these platforms are but a precursor to what we can achieve through blockchain technology. In this article, we will cover how the qualities of blockchain and NFTs will be able to transform the metaverse into an entirely new frontier that value-adds to the way we live our lives.
If you are keen to explore the basic concepts of Metaverse, read more here from our previous article.
Why build Metaverse on the blockchain?
The defining concept of blockchain is decentralisation. Centralisation refers to a central authority holding power and control over a platform or network. Governments are a good example of central authorities within a nation. Decentralised is the opposite — power and control is distributed across multiple points.
Here are some examples of centralised platforms and what they can do:
Banks: They act as guardians of your money, but they also decide when you can access it. For example, they can delay your transactions or freeze your transactions.
Social media platforms: Facebook, Snapchat, and Tiktok have complete control over their platform. They own your data, like personal information and your viewing preferences. They can also ban anyone from using it.
Online games: Games like Runescape and CSGO have massive in-game trading systems where users buy and sell assets like equipment and skins. Microtransactions (in-app purchasing of currency, equipment, avatars) revenue hit $109 billion in 2019. Despite so much being spent by players, however, none of these items actually belong to them. Instead, they truly belong to the centralised authority — i.e., the game company.
Critics of centralisation believe that it lets these authorities hold too much power, at the expense of the users. Essentially, we trust them not to be bad actors with things like our personal data or digital assets (like money) and that they are safe from hacks, data leaks, or any human error causing detriment to the user. We also trust that they are safe from any human error causing detriment to the users, or any abuse of power.
Of course, this is not always the case. Here are some examples of how centralised platforms have led to various adverse outcomes:
- Yahoo was hacked multiple times between 2012 to 2016, with every user’s personal data and critical security information being compromised. This demonstrates centralization’s single point of failure.
- Facebook harvested 87 million user’s personal data without any consent over the 2010s, and sold it to consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. The company then misused these data analytics to greatly influence the 2016 American presidential election.
- In 2020, mobile gacha game Magia Record abruptly announced the closure of its North American servers. Despite the player’s complaints, all requests for microtransaction refunds were rejected. This was even so despite there being plenty of events encouraging players to spend money before the shutdown. Players suddenly found the in-game currency and assets they paid for completely worthless, with no hope of recovery.
There are laws in place attempting to regulate such abuse of power. However, the power that comes with access to such immense data is virtually priceless. Monetary fines and weak sanctions do little to deter huge corporations from breaking users’ trust. In the first place, why wait until the damage has been done?
Building Metaverse on the blockchain has two primary benefits: trust and composability. We will go through each one in turn.
Security issues aside, centralisation also means leaving the decision-making power in the hands of a few. Going back to the example of Magia Record above, if developers announce that they are shutting the game down, every single item would become worthless overnight. This may also happen when a game loses popularity, and there is no demand for these items.
One may argue that this is part of the natural life cycle of a game. However, that’s only true for traditional platforms, where you cannot move your item over to another game or world.
NFT technology makes that possible. NFTs, like STEPN sneakers, are unique digital assets that exist on a blockchain. This means that they also exist in any other decentralised application on the same blockchain. For example, you may potentially see your STEPN sneakers as equipment in a virtual world.
Possibly, we may go shopping in Gucci’s metaverse and buy a nice pair of sunglasses NFTs. We may then take it into a virtual Disneyland as part of our avatar’s outfit. Or, we could purchase an art NFT in an Enviro art gallery, and then frame it up in our Yaku virtual land. Some NFTs are designed to be used in any game. They have different attributes that game designers can use in any way they want.
Blockchain allows for true ownership of assets.
You no longer have to simply trust platforms to hold your data or asset for you, and not do anything untoward with it. Instead, the power rests with you. This is known as composability, which we will cover next.
Composability refers to the “general ability of components of a system to be recombined into larger structures and for the output of one to be the input of another”. Just like a Lego set, every piece should be able to connect to another piece. Essentially, in Web3, open-source development is encouraged, and software can be built on top of each other. Making codes and algorithms available to the public allows a culture of innovation and collaboration to thrive.
In order to find out why it is so powerful, we reference two other concepts:
- Compound interest was described by Albert Einstein as the world’s most powerful force. Compound interest is the interest added to the original investment, so the interest earned so far may also accrue interest.
- Moore’s law, observes that the transistors on a silicon chip double every two years. This means that computers get more and more powerful while reducing in size and cost.
What the above has in common with composability is exponential power.
This means that the growth of compounded interest, technological advancement, and open-source software is not linear, but constantly growing even faster over time.
In fact, Jon Radoff, in his Medium, writes extensively about composability, asserting that it is the most powerful creative force in the universe. He gives examples of how entire games have developed from game modifications, like Dota (which paved the way for MOBA games) and Counterstrike.
Composability not only refers to the ability to freely take assets from one metaverse to another. It also refers to the idea of linking metaverses easily to each other. Instead of growing each metaverse separately from each other, the development will be explosive if collaboration is done well.
Currently, we are at the first step of developing what a fully realised metaverse could look like. While our current progress is a far cry from its final form, it is quite amazing to see what the innovators today are doing with this technology. With the elements that blockchain brings to the table, the sky’s the limit when it comes to innovation for the metaverse.
With blockchain technology, we can build a true “multiverse’’ where endless solutions are developed. With virtual assets increasingly becoming as valuable as physical ones, and the metaverse projected to become a $13 trillion industry, it would be wise to start paying attention to current developments and use cases.
Like what you have read so far? In our next article, we will look at the current state of the metaverse, what is being developed, and future possibilities.