Since the early inception of the metaverse, starting with the 1982 book by Neil Stevenson, “Snow Crash,” the idea of an immersive world without limitations intrigued many. This interest has been boosted by the increased online presence characterizing the Covid pandemic and Facebook’s name change to “Meta.”
There remain several questions about the metaverse, and we have addressed many of these with our previous article examining the metaverse’s relationship with programmable data. Yet there remain several more questions: Can the metaverse live up to its hype? What is it good for? And how is it distinguishable from any other virtual reality-based world?
The Metaverse’s Core Idea
The metaverse is, at its core, just a named version of the internet’s evolution to a more social, economically sophisticated, and immersive system. The tech world has two perspectives by which they believe this can be accomplished, which are in opposition to each other.
The decentralized approach: An open and interoperable system owned by the communities that maintain it.
The centralized approach: A centralized system that is closed and controlled by corporate mandates. This is like the current “Web 2.0” system that demands economic rents from creators, donors, and residents. Think of the Apple store that prevents some apps from being distributed and demands a cut of every app’s revenue.
Open against closed is the distinction separating these two perspectives.
A closed metaverse is a world created by a single entity and is controlled by them. They dictate rules, enforce those rules, and can decide who is excluded and why they are. We can easily imagine Meta developing this example.
In an open metaverse, individuals govern their own identities, and the collective will enforces property rights and benefits for the users. Transparent, interoperable, and permissionless, an open metaverse enables users to freely build a metaverse of their choice.
A true metaverse is an open one, where in a Web 3.0 style, the users determine what’s best.
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