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The Metaverse is the next stage of Internet evolution. The Metaverse is the Internet mediated by visually rich 3D spaces with a growing emphasis on virtual and augmented reality.

Over time, the Internet has become more intuitive and interactive. Early Internet was almost entirely text-based, and hyperlinks were used to navigate between text pages. It became more graphical over time until internet applications such as Gmail, Facebook, Instagram, etc. became the norm. All this progress has been happening on screens (two-dimensional surfaces) so far, but people live in a three-dimensional world.

The origin of the Metaverse

The term "Metaverse" was coined by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel "Snow Crash". In the novel, the Metaverse is a virtual reality world that, according to Wikipedia, "is represented to its users as a city environment built along a single road 100 meters wide, The Street, which runs the entire 65,536 kilometer circumference of an unremarkable, black, perfectly spherical planet". The Metaverse is experienced in first-person through virtual reality goggles.

Parts of the metacommuniverse existed before that moment. Below we will look at a couple of such proto-meta-universes.

Immersive games like Second Life, World of Warcraft, and Eve Online are what many envision when they try to imagine what a metaverse might be, and for good reason. Each of these games has rich 3D worlds where your avatar can interact with others, but each has different focuses. Second Life focuses on social networking, World of Warcraft is geared towards entertainment - it is first and foremost a game, and Eve Online focuses on economics.

Social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok are not often considered as proto-metaverses, but they are indeed such. Facebook is essentially a mini internet in and of itself. While it is not visually immersive, Facebook's content is increasingly image-based. Facebook is in the process of becoming visually immersive, actively pivoting towards the metaverse, even rebranding itself as Meta. YouTube and TikTok are social media platforms where the primary focus is on video, which is much more immersive than text.

What is the metaverse?

The metaverse requires three equally important components: immersive graphic interfaces, interconnected networks, and crypto assets. Where two circles overlap, an incomplete metaverse is formed. Only when all three intersect at the center do you get a fully formed metaverse. Let's take a look at all the different categories and overlaps.

Immersive graphic interfaces. In many articles explaining the metaverse, it is claimed that virtual or augmented reality is necessary for the metaverse. This is simply not true. If this technology becomes mature enough to become as integral a part of life as smartphones, virtual or augmented reality may become a widely accepted way of interaction in the metaverse, but it is not necessarily required. Many 3D games provide an immersive gaming experience.

Interconnected networks: this is another way of saying "the internet," which is a world-encompassing mishmash of networks glued together. Some parts of the internet are more controlled than others, for example, in authoritarian countries. Much of the internet is walled off, like data on Facebook. The metaverse will be as diverse as the internet today. Some parts will be wild and unencumbered. Others will be well-maintained and tightly controlled.

Cryptocurrencies: cryptocurrencies and other digital assets provide a monetary layer as well as a means of creating digital scarcity. The scarcity of digital technology suddenly makes it possible to own digital property on the internet, which is a crucial component of a sustainable online world. Digital property allows people to move through the disparate networks that make up the modern internet while maintaining a cohesive, autonomous identity.

GameFi: something between immersive graphic interfaces and crypto assets, GameFi is games that integrate crypto assets into the game mechanics cycle. The first standout category of games from this mix are "play-to-earn" (P2E) games, such as Axi Infinity. GameFi is still very young, and most games seem to be less about entertainment and more about making money. Expect this to change over time as more traditional gaming companies join in. Games are becoming more and more of a social experience, which is increasingly spilling into the physical world. Almost every game created today has a multiplayer component or is fully immersed. Games like Pokemon Go! require crossing into the physical world to play. Expect this trend to accelerate in the metaverse.

Gaming platforms: the combination of immersive graphics interfaces and interconnected networks allows for the creation of things like gaming platforms and MMORPGs. Platforms like Steam and Epic Game Store are less immersive in terms of graphics, but highly interconnected. This is changing with things like the Steam VR interface. They include PC, MAC and mobile networks with thousands of games, a social network, review sites, and separate stores. MMORPGs are highly immersive graphical interfaces to fantastical worlds. Games like World of Warcraft and EVE Online are multi-functional worlds. EVE Online can especially be considered a gaming platform as it has a complex economy.

DeFi: Crypto assets distributed across interconnected networks or blockchains constitute DeFi. DeFi creates an alternative financial system that runs parallel to the outdated financial system. DeFi replicates many financial instruments and services that the outdated financial system provides access to people, but the outdated financial system mainly provides access to people in developed countries.

Metaverse: combining immersive graphical interfaces, interconnected networks, and crypto-assets, you get the future of the internet. It's an internet that's very similar to the one we have now, but with greater personal power, naturally intuitive interfaces (for humans), and a place that increasingly encroaches on the physical world.

How does cryptocurrency fit into the metaverse?

Cryptocurrency was the final missing component of the metaverse. Cryptocurrency introduced the concept of digital scarcity, which makes digital ownership possible. Many components of cryptography will play a key role in the metaverse.

Asset management. By using cryptocurrency wallet software, you can store your online data and digital assets on your own. Currently, every internet company owns your data, including text and photos, as well as things like your social graph - a unique network of connections and reputation that you've built on their service. You may be able to download your text and data, but the social graph is not transferable. These internet companies don't interact with each other, so your online presence is fragmented and uneven across all the different internet platforms. Managing crypto-assets allows you to control your data and use it in any service that supports them.

Controlling your data is crucial when that data takes the form of crypto assets that can be worth tens, hundreds, or even millions of dollars!

Cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin and stablecoins, will become an important part of the online economy. Games like Eve Online or services like Steam have digital assets similar to money, but the "money" is completely controlled by the company. The company can create, destroy, or revoke these currencies at will. Additionally, the company can go bankrupt or abandon the game in favor of continuing another. Cryptocurrencies are widely used outside the ecosystem of a single company. They are also cross-border.

NFT: NFTs allow you to independently store your digital assets, from clothing and weapons for your avatar to real estate in virtual worlds. They can represent digital art such as photos, music, and videos. They can even serve as tickets to special virtual worlds, games, guilds, and communities that are invitation-only. People are just starting to explore how to use NFTs. As with the internet in the 90s, it's hard to imagine how they will be used ten years from now.

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