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Ultimate Resource On The Metaverse

The social networking giant and its CEO have vast ambitions to dominate the next big thing in computing, but other tech giants are in a better position to turn the hype into reality. Ultimate Resource On The Metaverse

Did you hear? Facebook Inc. is going to become a metaverse company. At least that’s the story its management wants everyone to believe after a flurry of interviews and announcements over the past couple of weeks. It’s a narrative that seeks to put the social-media giant at the leading edge of one of the most audacious concepts in tech. I’m skeptical.


But first, what exactly is the metaverse? The term was created by sci-fi author Neal Stephenson in his 1992 dystopian novel “Snow Crash” to describe a virtual space where people interact with one another through user-controlled avatars.

Venture capitalist Matthew Ball has also written extensively on what he believes are the main attributes of a metaverse, including a full-functioning economy, its real-time persistence (no pausing), and interoperability of digital “belongings” such as clothing across multiple platforms.

Here’s how I would simplify it: Think of it as a futuristic version of an always-on multiplayer video game where you can play, socialize or even run a moneymaking business in a realistic computer-generated environment.

Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg started the hype cycle when he told The Verge in an interview published in late July that his company is going to invest aggressively to be a big metaverse player, saying it will be a place where you feel fully present with others when sharing virtual experiences.

Days later, Facebook announced the creation of a new metaverse product group within its virtual-reality business, telling the media it intends to hire hundreds of new employees for the project. Then on its earnings call last week, Facebook revealed it will spend billions annually for its Facebook Reality Labs, where the metaverse business resides.

We have heard similar things from Zuckerberg before. When the company acquired the virtual-reality startup Oculus for $2 billion in 2014, he excitedly wrote that it would enable immersive virtual experiences where you feel “present in another place with other people.”

Sound familiar? Two years later, he told Bloomberg Businessweek in an interview that VR would render an alternate reality and that Facebook was going to invest a large amount of money to make that happen.

Facebook’s actual track record on VR tells a different story. Has the company made significant progress since it bought Oculus seven years ago? Not really. Its latest VR headset, the Quest 2, has sold about 4 million units in the U.S., and it isn’t much more advanced than the original version.

In fact, Oculus’s technology has been surpassed by smaller competitors such as Valve Index, which offers better fidelity.

It speaks to the flaws in Facebook’s strategy. The two critical components needed for companies to take advantage of the opportunities that may arise from any potential metaverse are advanced semiconductors and software tools. Facebook is not strong on either front. For its VR devices, the company uses off-the-shelf chips from Qualcomm Inc.

That isn’t going to cut it. When Apple Inc. launches its own virtual-reality headsets, chances are it will use internally developed chips that deliver superior performance and will likely offer far better user experiences. It’s not going to be a contest.

On the software side, so-called programming engines and digital object-creation tools will be key to running and populating the virtual worlds in any metaverse. Here again Facebook is far behind Epic Games Inc. Epic’s Unreal engine is already the foundation for large multiplayer experiences from 100-person battle royale games to music concerts.

Nvidia Corp. has also launched a software-development platform that is being used to create virtual world simulations, taking advantage of the company’s graphics technologies.

Even if Facebook invests billions of dollars, it will be nearly impossible to quickly or easily replicate the specialized expertise that these semiconductor and software companies built up over decades.

If it is not going to be Facebook, who is poised to do well in the metaverse? Apple, Epic and Nvidia are well positioned, given their respective technological leadership in these hardware and software areas.

And the two main mobile operations systems — Apple’s iOS and Alphabet’s Google Android — will likely benefit as apps and devices run on their dominant billion-user platforms.

Ultimately, maybe it’s a good thing Facebook doesn’t look poised to win the metaverse. First, there’s the issue of trust. When the company acquired Oculus, the startup’s co-founder assured users they wouldn’t be required to use a Facebook account or be inundated by in-headset ads. Facebook reneged on both of those promises.

Also, maybe a technology giant that is monetarily incentivized to propagate the most engaging polarizing content isn’t the best fit for a healthy metaverse either.

The Metaverse Is Coming And It’s A Very Big Deal

Imagine walking down the street. Suddenly, you think of a product you need. Immediately next to you, a vending machine appears, filled with the product and variations you were thinking of. You stop, pick an item from the vending machine, it’s shipped to your house, and then continue on your way.

Next, imagine a husband and wife. The husband offers to go to the store but the wife can’t remember the name and type of product she needs. Her brain-computer interface device recognizes it for her and transmits a link to her husband’s device, along with what stores and aisles it’s located in.

Welcome to the metaverse, alternate digital realities where people work, play, and socialize. You can call it the metaverse, the mirror world, the AR Cloud, the Magicverse, the Spatial internet, or Live Maps, but one thing is for certain, it’s coming and it’s a big deal.

Google the term metaverse and you’ll find several definitions. Wikipedia defines it as a collective virtual shared space, created by the convergence of virtually enhanced physical reality and physically persistent virtual space, including the sum of all virtual worlds, augmented reality, and the Internet.

The word “metaverse” is a portmanteau of the prefix “meta” (meaning beyond) and “universe”; the term is typically used to describe the concept of a future iteration of the internet, made up of persistent, shared, 3D virtual spaces linked into a perceived virtual universe.

Currently, you can only experience the internet when you go to it, but with new connectivity, devices and technologies, we’ll be able to experience it all around every single day.

If you have trouble visualizing it, here’s a concept video from Adobe and of the best examples of what it could look like. The video starts at the 2-minute mark.

More than just a term from a Neal Stephenson sci-fi novel, the metaverse is being built today. Wired’s Kevin Kelly wrote a cover story in 2019 titled “Welcome to the Mirrorworld”. In it, he describes how augmented reality will spark the next big tech platform.

In essence, “we are building a 1-to-1 map of almost unimaginable scope. When it’s complete, our physical reality will merge with the digital universe.” In other words, get ready to meet your digital twin, and the digital twin of your house, your country, your office, and even your life.

So what happens when the world becomes a billboard, robots have spatial reasoning and virtual assistants own the relationship with the consumer? If this question made you pause for a second, definitely read on.

Today, the metaverse is a shared virtual space where people are represented by digital avatars (think Ready Player One). The virtual world constantly grows and evolves based on the decisions and actions of the society within it.

Eventually, people will be able to enter the metaverse, completely virtually (i.e. with virtual reality) or interact with parts of it in their physical space with the help of augmented and mixed reality.

Leslie Shannon, Nokia’s Head of Trend Scouting, referred to the importance of the metaverse, or spatial internet, in a recent talk during the VRARA’s Global Summit.

During her talk she stated that, “The spatial internet is the culmination of everything that AR and VR is developing today. It’s the idea of taking information about things, locations, or historical events and actually locating that information out there in the world where it’s most relevant.” Augmented reality and virtual reality will be the ways you will see this information layer.

Marketing and communications professionals need to pay attention to the metaverse because it’s the next frontier for online interaction. Just like social media revolutionized the online marketing landscape, so too will the metaverse. While we don’t have one shared metaverse at this time, there are companies positioning working on creating it.

Fortnite, Minecraft, and Animal Crossing are games now but they already have big user bases, detailed worlds, and user-generated content. Facebook is also positing itself towards the metaverse with its virtual reality social media platform, Horizon (currently in beta), and Live Maps.

Niantic, Magic Leap, Microsoft and many others are working on it too.

The pandemic too has shifted culture online. Family reunions on Zoom, weddings relocated to Animal Crossing, graduations on Minecraft and virtually trying on clothes have all become common practices. With online social gatherings becoming more mainstream and online video games increasing their world-building, “it’s inevitable that brands will play a significant role in the metaverse.”

Economy

Companies will need to transition their marketing strategies from online ad buys to existing in a shared, virtual economy. Companies will need to do market research on their new customers in the metaverse.

How people act and what their preferences are in the metaverse could be totally different than how they behave and what they shop for in real life. Add to that the layer of business to robot to consumer, where virtual assistants and robots own the relationship with the consumer and it all starts to make sense.

While there are sure to be ads in the metaverse, brands can actually be part of creating the metaverse itself. Frederic Descamps, CEO of Manticore games said, “Even in [the film] ‘Ready, Player, One,’ who actually made the Metaverse there? It will be all about the act of creation.”

Brands should approach this with responsibility and ethics and not make our world one giant ad. This is of the utmost importance.

Culture

Like the real world, CMOs must have an awareness of the culture inside the metaverse. Digital clothing, world-building, or marketing can have a real impact on brands. In December 2019, clothing options were released in GTA V that looked similar to what the protestors in Hong Kong wore.

In the game, “players dressed as Hong Kong protesters took to the [fictional] streets of Los Santos.” Gamers, donned in black, with yellow hard hats and gas masks rioted in the game. Chinese players took notice, dressed their characters up as police, and fought back against the gamers dressed as protestors.

In the metaverse, people won’t be individually wandering around. They will have friendships, relationships (with autonomous NPCs, holograms or other people) who will affect their decisions. Brands will need to continue adapting to relationship styles of play and interactions. Customers won’t just be able to talk to brands like on social media, they’ll be able to interact with them in 3D form.

Shopping

Online shopping is a given in the metaverse. But it’s more than digitally trying on clothes people can purchase for real life. Virtual fashion, avatar “skins”, and virtual real estate (housing, cars, etc.) will have their own worth in the metaverse.

Companies will have to design brands for different people at different stages of wealth. People who invest heavily in the metaverse may have their own businesses and property, therefore partner opportunities with businesses that don’t exist in physical reality.

Fashion is a big part of creating a character or being represented by an avatar. Virtual fashion houses and designers have a chance to enter a whole new market of digital-first clothing. The metaverse is about identity in ways that haven’t been possible before.

Entertainment

In Fortnite, real-world celebrities play the game and players become celebrities themselves. A 2018 Reach3 Insights study found that “most streamers aren’t vastly different from the friends’ players already spend time with in real life, making those streamers that much more relatable and valuable.”

In the metaverse, brands won’t be able to hide behind the scenes with pre-made ads, commercials, and products. They themselves will have to be personable and approachable.

People go to Wendy’s Twitter for the chance to get roasted. People will go to brands in the metaverse because they feel a connection, not necessarily a need for that product or service. Wendy’s is one company already experimenting with the metaverse.

In November 2018, they set up a “Food Fight” mission in Fortnite and live-steamed it to Twitch. Wendy’s didn’t appear in the game, but they did ask players to go after the in-game restaurant, Durr Burger (as a dig at Wendy’s rivals). Wendy’s went from zero Twitch followers to more than 7,400 and got around 43,500 comments during the game.

Jimmy Bennet, Wendy’s senior director of media and social said they didn’t pay for Twitch or Fortnite because it’s more exhausting to go after paid promotions than natural outreach.

Bennet said, “We didn’t have to do so much heavy lifting and put so much money to support it because we were able to organically lean into the experience.” This is the type of mindset CMOs and brands will need for the metaverse.

Another great example of the how the metaverse is starting to manifest itself in entertainment was John Legend’s recent Bigger Love virtual concert that used the Wave XR’s technology to broadcast a virtual John Legend, raise funds for charity and was seen by 500,000 live attendees.

A Huge Opportunity

A new iteration of the internet is being worked on and this will have massive implications for society. Marketing, communications, and branding professionals will face new challenges but also new opportunities.

This new era of the metaverse will unleash amazing creativity and open up new frontiers and horizons for brands and businesses. Now the question is, how are you getting ready?

Updated: 8-3-2021

A Crypto Guide To The Metaverse

Verifiable, immutable ownership of digital goods and currency will be an essential component of the metaverse.

The metaverse isn’t just a sci-fi term anymore.

When technology changes our lives, it’s not often by surprise. The internet, the smartphone and the cloud, to name a few, all arrived to the world preceded by a presence in science-fiction. It’s likely that the “next big thing” of the digital age is about to arrive, and with it the potential to change everyday life. It’s called “the metaverse.”

The metaverse is a superset of virtual reality, augmented reality and the internet. Its tendencies exist in forms you may already be familiar with, such as in popular video games like Roblox, Fortnite and Animal Crossing.

The term was first coined in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 science fiction novel “Snow Crash,” where a pair of delivery drivers travel the metaverse to save themselves from a capitalist dystopia.

The metaverse that many futurists envision is similar to the ones portrayed in sci-fi stories like “Ready Player One.” While no one knows for sure what the metaverse will look like, its basic characteristics are established – it spans physical and virtual worlds, is centered around a fully functioning economy, and allows users to travel through its different “places” with relative ease, maintaining their purchased goods and avatars.

Like a virtual theme park with no limits to its size and creativity, users will be able to move seamlessly from place to place with thousands of other people, all within the same digital universe.

Why The Metaverse Matters

Even if the metaverse fails to reach the epic vision many have in store for it, it could fundamentally change the way we interact with the digital world.

A collective virtual experience could bring new opportunities to creators, gamers and artists in the same way non-fungible tokens (NFT) have, not just reshaping the creator economy, but inventing it anew.

The virtual world of the metaverse could become its own trillion-dollar industry. A go-to for entertainment, commerce and for some, even a place of work. The metaverse is not being described as an extension of the internet but a successor. And it’s being built using blockchains and decentralized applications.

Venture capitalist and essayist Matthew Ball writes that the metaverse will become “the gateway to most digital experiences, a key component of all physical ones, and the next great labor platform.”

He believes it will be the driving force in creating a new generation of companies, similar to what happened with the popularization of the internet. Maybe more interestingly, it could lead to the fall of incumbent industry leaders, as we saw with the rise of digital platforms.

Enter Facebook

At the end of June, Mark Zuckerberg told his employees at Facebook they’d be working “to help bring the metaverse to life.” The company has assembled a team of its executives to spearhead the project, including Instagram product head Vishal Shah and Facebook Gaming’s Vivek Sharma and Jason Rubin.

In an interview with The Verge, Zuckerberg outlined his ambitions for what the metaverse could be. He discussed the idea of virtual workspaces, which he called “infinity offices.”

Working in VR, he argues, allows for greater multitasking, and meeting in a virtual, metaverse type environment can be intrinsically more collaborative and productive. Zoom calls have their obvious limitations, and Zuckerberg says he already prefers to do his meetings in VR if possible.

He also brought up how the metaverse can provide solutions to social inequities. Based on the research of Raj Chetty, Zuckerberg makes the point that a person’s geographic location is highly correlated with their financial opportunities.

In a world with a popularized metaverse, however, this idea is sort of flipped on its head, with remote work becoming more accessible as the technology behind virtual and augmented reality improve.

Facebook plans on spearheading this development with its own set of investments. It currently owns Oculus, which makes the popular Quest VR headset. While VR technology still has a long way to go, according to Zuckerberg, it’ll be ready for metaverse capabilities “by the end of the decade.”

Other Tech Giants Stepping Into The Metaverse

No one person or company can have control over the metaverse, but the usual suspects of the tech world are already staking their claim on the future of the space. Google, Microsoft, Samsung and Sony have joined Facebook in the XR Association, a consortium of tech companies aiming to shape the future of “experiential reality.”

Gaming is ahead of other metaverse technology in many aspects and could continue pioneering the space.

For years, video games have leaned into the concept of in-game economies, where players can buy and sell goods that hold no real value outside the universe of the game itself.

The most recent example is Fortnite, but an older example is the continued success of games like Grand Theft Auto V. Despite being released more than seven years ago, the game grossed over a billion dollars in profit in 2020, thanks to a large online community still active in the game’s online, open-world universe.

The metaverse aims to connect these in-game economies under one cohesive umbrella of virtual experience. Unlike in the world of video games, the metaverse is not objective-based. Our relationship to it will be more similar to how we treat the internet than some kind of virtual role playing game.

Where Crypto Fits Into The Metaverse

Behind the scene of the metaverse will be a demand to deliver permissionless identity, financial services and high-speed exchange. Data will have to be stored and served to millions if not billions of people. The answer to these problems lies in the technology of cryptocurrency.

Companies like Decentraland and The Sandbox have developed virtual worlds that integrate cryptocurrencies so gamers can create structures like virtual casinos and theme parks, and monetize them.

In Decentraland, the currency used is called MANA, and is available to purchase on exchanges like Coinbase.

There are even casinos in Decentraland where you can gamble in MANA, with dealers paid in MANA to show up for work.

NFTs will also play a foundational role in the metaverse, giving people complete ownership of their characters, accrued in-game items and even virtual land. An NFT of a 259-parcel virtual estate in Decentraland recently sold for more than $900,000, the largest sale to date.

Eventually, it will be possible to buy and sell virtual goods from different games and universes on interoperable marketplaces. So someone might be able to sell their virtual plot of land in the Decentraland world and use the funds to purchase Fortnite skins, for example.

Cryptocurrencies could become the sole legal tender used in the metaverse, with all virtual objects and intangible items being expressed as NFTs.

“I think people are truly blown away by the amount of money that players spend in digital assets. Hundreds, thousands, and probably millions of dollars spent on digital assets,” said Arthur Madrid, CEO and co-founder of The Sandbox. “I think making those assets NFTs, building an NFT economy, is going to add a new layer on top of the existing digital economy.”

While no one can predict exactly what the metaverse will look like, or when its final form will arrive, the importance of cryptocurrencies for its growth is a certainty.

As we monitor the development of technologies like virtual reality, and the ways that current industry leaders like Facebook are getting involved, advancements in blockchain technology and the cryptocurrency sector will play an equally important role in shaping the metaverse’s future.

Updated: 8-19-2021

Facebook, Roblox See The ‘Metaverse’ As Key To The Internet’s Next Phase

Social-media giant’s Horizon Workrooms app reflects interest to invest in technology and content development for new range of online social experiences.

A new tech-industry battle is taking shape over the “metaverse” as companies such as Facebook Inc. and Roblox Corp. work to shape a virtual realm that most consumers don’t yet know exists.

The metaverse concept, rooted in science-fiction novels such as “Snow Crash” and “Ready Player One,” encompasses an extensive online world transcending individual tech platforms, where people exist in immersive, shared virtual spaces.

Through avatars, people would be able to try on items available in stores or attend concerts with friends, just as they would offline.

On Thursday, Facebook launched public testing of Horizon Workrooms, a free app used on its Oculus Quest 2 virtual-reality headset, that lets people enter virtual offices as avatars and participate in meetings while seeing their computer screen and keyboard.

The concept is aimed at connecting people in hybrid-work and remote-work environments, the company said.

“In the future, working together will be one of the main ways people use the metaverse,” Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post.

Enthusiasm for the concept has also helped supercharge valuations of companies such as Roblox—which went public in a direct listing in March—and “Fortnite” maker Epic Games Inc. as investors bet the popular videogame worlds will have an early foothold in the nascent online space.

Other major companies are also expressing interest: Nvidia Corp.’s Jensen Huang, Microsoft Corp.’s Satya Nadella and Match Group Inc.’s Shar Dubey are among CEOs who have talked recently about ways their companies are looking to participate in building or supporting elements of shared virtual worlds.

Facebook said that through Workrooms, users can join meetings in virtual reality or dial into a virtual room from a computer by video call, similar to Zoom or Google Meet.

The move could support demand for its Oculus products, as interested companies or individuals would need to buy the roughly $300 headsets to get the full experience.

So far, consumers have been slow to adopt virtual-reality hardware, due in part to technological limitations as well as those around cost and comfort. Facebook last month announced a recall on the foam facial pads on its Quest 2 headsets after it received thousands of reports of the component causing skin irritation, including rashes, burning and hives.

Roblox CEO Dave Baszucki said earlier this week that the company sees its 15-year-old platform as a hub for virtual and immersive experiences where thousands of people can simultaneously attend concerts, school or staff meetings.

He said the company has been investing heavily in technology and growing its workforce to support these experiences, but also in areas such as content moderation.

“It must be a civil and safe platform that welcomes 6-year-olds and at the same time welcomes 30-year-olds who are working together,” Mr. Baszucki told analysts on an earnings call when asked about the interest companies such as Facebook are taking in the metaverse.

‘It’s very clear that this is becoming a focal battleground for big tech.’
— Matthew Ball, venture capitalist and former media executive

Roblox more than doubled its second-quarter revenue from a year earlier to $454.1 million—helped by growth in its user base—but posted steeper losses as it recorded higher costs including those tied to fees paid to developers, research and development and its technology infrastructure.

Much else about how people will connect to the metaverse is unclear, including how different companies’ virtual realms or platforms will interact.

Enthusiasts envision people through their avatars moving seamlessly from one platform to another. For now, companies such as Facebook are largely focused on building proprietary virtual realms.

Mr. Zuckerberg has said Facebook’s investments in virtual and augmented reality will help support the evolution of the metaverse, which he sees as the successor to the mobile internet.

He also described the process as a yearslong march that would require investments in technology protocols and devices, chips and software among other things.

“Within the metaverse, you’re going to be able to hang out, play games with friends, work, create and more,” he told analysts last month on an earnings call.

The greater level of immersion in virtual reality also raises issues over privacy. Facebook said Thursday that it would take steps to protect users’ data, noting that it wouldn’t use work conversations and materials to inform ads on Facebook.

Matthew Ball, a venture capitalist and former media executive, said he isn’t expecting there to be one clear winner in the metaverse.

Instead, there is room for multiple companies to become leaders in the category, as was the case with the evolution of the internet through the 1990s and later the mobile internet. “It’s very clear that this is becoming a focal battleground for big tech,” he said.

Roblox’s business model is largely centered on users’ purchases of virtual currency that allows them to acquire in-game perks or items for their avatars. In May, the company hosted an immersive experience to celebrate the designer brand Gucci’s 100th anniversary and users could buy limited-edition items for their avatars.

Roblox finance chief Michael Guthrie said the types of content on the company’s platform have broadened over time and, in some cases, developers are still figuring out how to generate revenue from their content.

Mr. Ball said companies are studying ways to make money from large virtual audiences via advertising and other means. However, analysts say that one of the biggest challenges through metaverse building is turning that engagement into profits, even as more people embrace the concept.

Updated: 8-27-2021

Metaverses And Cryptocurrencies

Cryptocurrencies play the medium of exchange within the Metaverse, allowing users to exchange virtual goods. The two metaverses mentioned above enable players to transact using cryptocurrencies. Decentraland’s ERC-20 based token, MANA, is the legal tender for users to purchase plots of digital land, as are SAND tokens for The Sandbox. Such coins also give users the opportunity to participate in its development.

Users can use MANA tokens to vote on policy updates, land auctionsand subsidies for new developments on Decentraland, while users can use SAND tokens for more or less the same purpose.

Moreover, cryptocurrencies can further open up the possibility of transacting goods from different games or metaverses on interoperable marketplaces.

The Metaverse allows people to interact with one another, digital objects and the physical world through their avatar in a virtual environment.

As nonfungible token sales appear reanimated after a nearly two-month dry spell from their apex in May, a particular NFT application is gaining popularity more than ever: metaverses. Metaverses have gained their fair share of media attention lately, with big moves coming from companies like Facebook and Epic games.

However, not everyone — even those who have been in crypto for a long time — has caught on to what metaverses are, despite the hype. But as more companies, celebrities and artists venture into the space, it has become another domain that deserves some thorough consideration.

The Metaverse is a network of virtual environments in which people can interact with each other, digital objectsand the physical world through their avatar. While definitions of the Metaverse vary, they orbit around technologies such as virtual reality, augmented reality, digital twins and blockchain.

Herman Narula, CEO of Improbable, described the Metaverse as “something more than a game but less than the real world. The metaverse is to virtual worlds as a website is to the internet.”
Metaverse bandwagon

For weeks, Mark Zuckerberg has been beating the drum for metaverses. The Facebook founder views virtual worlds as the next iteration of human interaction online. Zuckerberg sees Facebook transitioning from a social media firm with a set of connected applications to a metaverse company with a set of interconnected experiences.

And its recent move to introduce Horizon Workrooms is a step in that direction. It’s also in a prime spot to run after its metaverse objectives, as it has invested heavily in VR technology for several years.

Another one bursting onto the scene is game and software developer Epic Games. Epic Games, of course, already has something to show for when it comes to metaverses, with the successful virtual concerts of Ariana Grande, Travis Scott and Marshmello that were held inside its flagship game, Fortnite.

The $1 billion in funding that it received in April, with an additional $200 million deal from Sony Group, will help it pursue long-term growth opportunities with metaverses, especially as it is already remodeling the future of live events.

Why The Metaverse?

The Metaverse offers a vastly unique experience for everyone. It’s a way for artists to connect with fans more interactively and perhaps individually, which is a step up from the livestream format delivered by artists like Post Malone, Dua Lipa, Gorillaz and many others when the pandemic struck in 2020.

On the other hand, Facebook’s Horizon Workroom is geared toward replacing boring Zoom call meetings with a more interactive environment — a virtual conference room, if you will — for remote workers.

Others also see a wide variety of applications that the Metaverse is going to be useful for. Education systems, for one, can benefit by allowing students, particularly in the medical field, to receive simulation training as opposed to just a one-way communication where teachers merely deliver the lessons to the students.

Metaverses And NFTs

The tie-in between metaverses and nonfungible tokens comes from NFTs’ capability to add a certificate of ownership or authenticity to the assets belonging to the digital world. Projects like Decentraland, The Sandbox, Landemic, CryptoVoxels, and SuperWorld involve acquiring a piece of this digital asset, which is primarily virtual land. NFTs help in verifying its uniqueness, and even its provenance.

For instance, Decentraland is based on the Ethereum blockchain and uses ERC-721 tokens called LAND to facilitate trading plots of virtual lands called parcels.

This makes each land distinct and helps users establish ownership of a piece of the entire Decentraland real estate. This is built on its consensus layer, which maintains a ledger that tracks the ownership of each parcel.

LAND tokens enable owners to do various things within their digital real estate, like hosting games or experiences, organizing contests and events, or even renting it. The same concept applies to The Sandbox, the second-largest metaverse NFT project in terms of sales, behind Decentraland.

Growth of Metaverses

At this stage, metaverses haven’t reached their full potential, and companies are just beginning to explore the ways they could penetrate the space. Facebook and Epic games are just the two most recent examples of big names jumping on the bandwagon.

However, companies like Microsoft and Amazon are also getting in on the act. Amazon, in particular, is developing a virtual “Amazon mall” where users can shop and interact with the products they want to buy. But whether or not these are going to support NFTs is still uncertain and maybe even unlikely.

Nonetheless, NFT sales from metaverses are gradually gaining a strong foothold against other categories. In the second quarter, their weekly sales topped $8 million at one point.

Total sales from 2017 through August 2021 amounted to $138 million, which is enough to take a 6.77% share of NFT sales by category. This puts the metaverse NFT category in third place for NFT sales, behind digital collectibles and artwork.

And as more and more well-known personalities and big companies take part in the trend, the numbers could very well improve before the end of the year. The growth of metaverses and NFTs in general is unprecedented, especially in 2021.

Sales of NFTs in the metaverse are already up 428% from 2020 and averaged 149% growth during the past four years. If this explosive growth keeps the same pace, it would not be surprising to see sales breach the $120-million mark by early 2022.

Updated: 8-30-2021

Big Tech Wants You To Live In A Virtual World. Prepare For Real Problems

Facebook and other companies view the ‘metaverse’ as the next big thing, but user discretion is advised.

Heard of the “metaverse” lately? It has been hard not to.

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg mentioned tech’s latest buzzword 16 times on his company’s most recent earnings call last month. The future of Facebook, he said, is a metaverse—a virtual environment where you can be physically present to hang out, play games, work and create.

But he didn’t coin the term. Tech companies ranging from Intel Corp. to Unity Software talked up the metaverse last year. And Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella discussed the “the enterprise metaverse” in his company’s earnings release last month—a day before Facebook’s call.

Nvidia has been an especially loud proponent of the idea. Last year, the company launched a platform called Omniverse “for connecting 3-D worlds into a shared virtual universe.”

Chief Executive Jensen Huang used the company’s largest annual conference in October to publicly credit Neal Stephenson’s 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash” as the original inspiration for the concept of a virtual reality successor to the Internet, noting “the metaverse is coming.”

Never mind that, in an interview for a 2017 article about his novel, Mr. Stephenson told Vanity Fair he was “just making sh—t up.” Decades after the book was published, technology’s leaders are taking his ideas more seriously than ever.

And why wouldn’t they? A virtual world featuring avatars, digital objects and functioning economies is a world where technology is all encompassing and not simply a discrete tool. So naturally, the world’s largest technology companies want to play a role—preferably a leading one.

Facebook sells virtual reality headsets, while Microsoft sells augmented reality devices designed for business use.

Apple Inc. is widely reported to be working on AR devices of its own. Nvidia’s vast library of artificial intelligence chips and the software required to run them would also have a key place in a so-called metaverse.

This vision of the future is especially compelling for a company like Facebook, which still generates nearly all of its revenue from advertising. Put a sign on the main street of the metaverse, Mr. Stephenson wrote, and “the hundred million richest, hippest, best connected people on earth will see it every day of their lives.”

As a platform already created to consume people’s time and attention, Facebook would face an existential threat from a competing virtual world designed to do the same.

Thus explains Mr. Zuckerberg’s fervor. He told investors last month that the metaverse will require “very significant investment over many years.” And that is on top of the $2 billion the company laid out to acquire VR headset maker Oculus in 2014.

Virtual and augmented reality are the key technologies to enabling an immersive metaverse. They are still a work in progress, but Facebook is moving the ball forward.

Oculus, which has focused mainly on the videogame market so far, sold nearly 3.5 million VR headsets last year—more than double its level from last year, according to estimates from IDC. That was credited mostly to the success of the new Quest 2 headset that went on sale in October.

But VR is still a niche even within gaming. Sales for Oculus headsets since their first launch in 2016 have totaled 9.4 million units through the second quarter, according to IDC. Sony and Nintendo have sold more than 86 million units each of their respective PlayStation and Switch consoles in that time.

But visions for the metaverse go well beyond gaming. Facebook gave a peek of this last week, with an “open beta” test of its Horizon Workrooms— essentially, a virtual reality workspace using its Oculus Quest headsets. Mr. Zuckerberg reportedly dropped into a few demos himself—joining journalists as floating digital avatars without legs.

The impetus behind the service after 18 months of pandemic-driven lockdowns seems sensible enough: Working remotely without colleagues can feel isolating, and brainstorming with others doesn’t feel the same if you’re not in the same room.

But a world through VR also has plenty of drawbacks. For many, the experience can be hot, sweaty, and even nauseating. Even the popular Oculus Quest 2 has drawn complaints for its foam face pad insert that makes users’ faces red and itchy. Real world hair and makeup are frequently compromised.

And much like social media itself, there is still ongoing debate as to whether prolonged use of VR is physically safe—especially for children whose eyes are still developing. Plus, there’s simply the weirdness factor for many:

The percentage of the population keen to strap a device to their faces in order to interact with cartoon-versions of co-workers and friends is likely limited.

Mostly, though, a virtual world hands even more power to technology giants that many argue have already amassed too much. The last few years have laid bare the dark side to mobile computing and social networking.

The contrast to tech executives’ sunny visions of the metaverse with the dystopian take of the source novel are telling:

In the book, social status in the metaverse can be enhanced by coding skills, and Snow Crash is something peddled in the metaverse like a drug that can cause brain damage to users. Even while the protagonist is collecting marketable information for money.

Big tech can probably build the metaverse. But consumers will have to think hard about whether they want to be there.

Updated: 9-4-2021

Building The Metaverse Without Bias

New industries create attractive employment opportunities for women, and the Metaverse falls squarely into that category.

While the COVID-19 pandemic decimated certain industries like tourism and retail, other entirely new industries have emerged. Two years ago, the concept of a “metaverse” was virtually unknown.

Today, the term is trending everywhere online, with new companies and funds entering the space every week — billions of dollars have already been poured into this industry. Just last week, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook will become a metaverse company.

Meanwhile, few “metaverse” companies have any real scale or customers, which makes it easy for onlookers to dismiss it as a trend that may flame out. We would caution against that.

The last time we saw a boom like this was in crypto in the mid-2010s. People who jumped on the crypto bandwagon during those early days — think Mike Novogratz, Joseph Lubin, Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, and Anthony Pompliano — are now considered to be true experts on the topic.

They have also made tremendous fortunes by acting quickly when they first spotted the opportunity.

That’s because new industries can unearth massive opportunities for people who are creative and agile enough to identify new niches and reinvent themselves.

They also create opportunities for the underrepresented because traditional hiring requirements for previous related work experience fly out the window when nobody in the world truly has relevant work experience.

This brings back the old adage attributed to the Dutch philosopher Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam: “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” If no one’s an expert, then everyone has the chance to become one.

Time For The Metaverse

Now is the time for the adventurous and ambitious to plant a flag in the parcels of the nascent metaverse industry, as today’s metaverse startups will be some of tomorrow’s Fortune 500 companies.

While that might sound a bit far-fetched, consider that Coinbase — now valued at more than $54 billion — was founded in 2012 when 1 Bitcoin (BTC) sold for about $12 and was something hackers messed around with in their dorm rooms.

It is at this point when an industry is taking shape — like primordial ooze — that opportunities are greatest, and not just for economic gain but also for personal brand building. When you join a company at the earliest stages in a new industry, you become not only a company co-founder but also an industry pioneer.

Those early employees lay the foundation for the entire industry, shape its trajectory and set the ethos and ground rules. Around the Metaverse, a new generation of leaders will emerge. It’s an exciting time to consider becoming one of them.

Metaverse jobs will span between everything from blockchain and gaming programmers to animators, designers, marketers and even accountants, recruiters and lawyers. Small businesses in the real world could become big businesses in the Metaverse, where business owners are not burdened by the perils of the retail brick and mortar.

Amazon stores and Etsy shops can become metaverse goldmines, where customers can interact with products in 3D and transact seamlessly due to the expediency of blockchain technology.

Tremendous Opportunities For Women

Despite all this industry growth, as two women working in the metaverse industry, we often find ourselves to be the only women on male-dominated work calls. Months ago, when we first discussed the new opportunities afforded by these uncharted waters, we had a conversation that played out something like this:

Julia: Do You Think The Metaverse Industry Will Look Different Than The Crypto Industry, With More Women In Senior Roles?

Janine: Well, I have to dig a bit deeper into my career history to make that connection. In my early twenties, when I was working in private equity in New York City, I was recruited for a job in Las Vegas working for a casino gaming company.

Back then, Vegas was experiencing a bit of a gold rush of its own, and they were strapped to hire local talent that was sophisticated enough to handle the extreme growth, so they recruited from the coasts.

When I visited Las Vegas for interviews, I met with many women in very senior roles — which felt very different from the male-dominated workplaces I knew in New York City.

Julia: What Does This Have To Do With Job Opportunities For Women?

Janine: Booming times create talent droughts, which means that hiring managers have to think creatively about how to fill spots. All of that unconscious (and conscious) bias that often keeps women out of the prime seats is shoved aside in the interest of just filling the job that needs to get done.

And the result is that the women who show up during these rare windows of opportunity often find themselves in the right place at the right time. They earn seniority and experience that makes them invaluable. That’s precisely what is happening in the metaverse today.

Put simply, there are enormous opportunities for women in the metaverse industry today. A simple search for the word “metaverse” on LinkedIn jobs pages reveals few jobs anywhere other than Roblox. But at the current rate, there will be thousands of metaverse jobs in the very near future. With our currently low unemployment rates, opportunities will abound.

Scientific evidence suggests that women are more risk-averse than men, which may (among many, many other reasons) explain why women are underrepresented in boardrooms, C-suites and other positions of power.

Arguably though, much of this disparity in risk-taking behavior among men and women can be attributed to “nurture” and societal norms that have been fostered rather than “nature.”

Risk tolerances and attitudes are not fully immutable, and the Metaverse presents an opportunity to rewrite history and build a more equitable (albeit virtual) society.

Web 3.0 is here, and virtual worlds represent a blank slate — a chance for women, not just men, to get in early and make their mark on the Metaverse. (Notice earlier in this piece we mentioned pioneers who dove into crypto in the mid-2010s, nearly all of them men.) History has a tendency to repeat itself.

But This Time, Things Can Be Different. Here’s What We Know:

It’s Still The Early Days For The Metaverse.
Early Days Mean High Risk.
High Risk Can Mean High Reward.

Core to the very idea of the Metaverse is that everyone is an avatar. In the Metaverse, talent trumps any bias, including physical appearances.

The Metaverse is opening up an entirely new parallel economy for participants who are willing to immerse themselves in the global communities that are building them. Now is the time for women to take risks and jump in.

Updated: 9-12-2021

NFTs Are The Revenue Model For Metaverse, Crypto Veteran Says

William Quigley, a co-founder of stablecoin Tether and a pioneer in the cryptocurrency space, sees the metaverse as a huge economic force that’s going to change people’s lives significantly in coming years.

Quigley is a co-founder of the Worldwide Asset eXchange or WAX, a carbon-neutral proof-of-stake blockchain that specializes in areas like non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and video games.

The metaverse, a vision of an internet-enabled virtual world where people have avatars and interact with digital assets and even corporeal objects with augmented reality, is developing rapidly as blockchain technology evolves.

Quigley spoke to Bloomberg News about NFTs, the metaverse and more in an interview Thursday. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

What Do You Think Of The Growth In NFTs?

The whole market is driven by the value of Ethereum, which in March 2020 was under $100. Now it’s $3,500. It’s like everybody just got paid their annual salary, it’s sitting in their pocket and they just arrived in Vegas. They’re going to waste some of their money.

But don’t be fooled. This is not a mass-market phenomenon. I suspect there aren’t that many traditional art buyers who have abandoned the Rembrandt and are buying the Crypto Punk. I think it’s mostly crypto rich.

From a consumer-product standpoint, what’s interesting to me is not one NFT selling for $1 million, but a million NFTs being sold at $1 each. A brand-new business for digital collectibles. That seems to me to have longer legs and overall a bigger market.

How About The Metaverse?

When we are able to have a digital overlay of our reality, it’s going to be a massive change in business models, a massive change in the way we interact with each other and the world.

When it happens, it really is hard to imagine and hard to overstate the impact. I’m betting that the revenue model for the metaverse is going to be NFTs.

In video gaming the revenue model now is virtual items, and that’s a $175 billion business annually. I think the metaverse should be orders of magnitude more than that because it’s everything, it’s not just gaming.

Some Top Altcoins Have Soared Recently. Any Thoughts On That?

So something is percolating for a while. And then for reasons I never understand, attention focuses on it and suddenly people pile in. That’s the speculative aspect of this.

I’ve been doing this for a long time. Doing fundamental analysis on something like that is very, very hard – because there’s no real reason. It becomes part of the zeitgeist. And people are excited about it, and it goes up.

Updated: 9-14-2021

Play-to-Earn Is Already The Biggest Star In The Metaverse

With The Sandbox launching in “public alpha” later this month, blockchain-enabled metaverses are going mainstream. Will they be open systems or closed like Facebook?

If you want to play the role of God, you can’t overlook the fish. This is the implied message of a woman named Kelsei, aka “Pandapops,” who, over a video live-stream, gives a class on how to create digital worlds.

Imagine an empty grid. Then the grid is filled with an aquarium, water and spooky fish. One of the fish has creepy eyes. One has a weird little tail. One looks like an alien.

Pandapops is upbeat and friendly, with a British accent and bright blue hair. “I really wanted the aquarium to look like there’s depth to it,” she explains.

For the next two hours she meticulously creates and tweaks her digital assets: She adds splash effects to the aquarium, she grows a flower and paints it an eerie shade of blue, she completes her “witch’s cottage.” (The asset’s meta-description: “Witch’s cottage: humble home for any aspiring woodland witch.”)

The work is strangely fascinating, like a 2021 version of watching Bob Ross paint. Soon the virtual world begins to expand. Pandapops finishes her aquarium, drops it into a tavern, then plunks the tavern itself into a village she has created, nestling it between a patch of trees.

The village is alive with people, and now it becomes clear that she’s designing a game. “This guy doesn’t give us quests yet, but he will,” Pandapops said of the barkeep, who, like all of the tiny avatars, look a bit like characters from the Lego movies. “That’s a bounty hunter,” she said.

And soon we see our protagonist, the proverbial “player one,” who jogs through a courtyard with a cute little sword.

Pandapops is not a professional game designer. She’s not an employee of Epic, Sony or Electronic Arts.

She’s using a program called VoxelEdits to create a game for The Sandbox, the newest blockchain-enabled metaverse, which launches its “public alpha” in late September.

And she’s not alone. Even before the launch of the metaverse, there have been over 100,000 downloads of Sandbox’s Game Maker engine (currently in beta), according to Sebastien Borget, the company’s co-founder and COO.

“Our Game Maker requires no code, and you can make games without any experience,” Borget said. “That’s what we’ve been building for over three years.”

They’ve actually been building for 10 years. Sandbox, which originally launched in 2011 as a normal and non-blockchain start-up, represents the shift from traditional gaming to crypto-gaming.

Sandbox started as a mobile app. Borget said that while the app was downloaded 40 million times, “the success of the game came from the users.”

These users created 70 million assets. None of them earned a nickel, which is typically the case with traditional games like Minecraft and Roblox. After Borget learned of CryptoKitties, CryptoPunks and the user-owned wizardry of NFTs, he flipped the model of Sandbox to a decentralized blockchain metaverse, which would “turn players into creators” and then “help players and creators monetize all the content they make.”

Let’s back up. For the non-blockchain obsessed, the metaverse is still something of an obscure and opaque concept. That could soon change.

The New York Times is running metaverse explainers; traditional brands like Sotheby’s and Coca Cola are dipping into the metaverse; and perhaps most consequentially, Mark Zuckerberg has hitched Facebook’s future to this virtual star, telling employees over the summer that the company’s overarching goal is to “help bring the metaverse to life.”

Which begs the question, what is the metaverse, exactly? Is it just one platform, or the sum total of all? Ask 10 different people at a crypto conference, and you’ll get 10 different definitions.

“We should not expect a single, all-illuminating definition of the ‘Metaverse,’” writes venture capitalist Matthew Ball. “The Metaverse is best understood as ‘a quasi-successor state to the mobile internet’. This is because the Metaverse will not fundamentally replace the internet, but instead build upon and iteratively transform it.”

This is why the stakes are so high. Maybe today and tomorrow, the metaverse is just an online virtual world – like Decentraland, Crypto Voxel and The Sandbox – where you play a quick game, browse NFTs in an art gallery or have an online meet-up. This is the metaverse’s infancy.

But in five or 10 or 20 years, perhaps the metaverse replaces much of what you do online, or even offline. Instead of a Zoom with your parents who live across the country, you join them for a metaverse game of tennis.

Or instead of consuming the news on Twitter, maybe you’re dropped into a metaverse simulation of what’s happening in Afghanistan.

What path will we take to arrive at this metaverse future? Through the centralized, big tech route of Facebook? Or through a new decentralized model? As NFT artist “6529.eth” framed the question in a viral Twitter thread, “What we are playing for is whether our children will be fully free or residents in a digital company universe – with the illusion of free, but not really free.”

Covid, Art, Zombies

I first visited Decentraland a year ago. While I was intrigued by the world’s potential, it felt a touch under-populated. “I’ll be honest with you, we released a product before it was really ready,” said Sam Hamilton, who’s the community and events lead at Decentraland Foundation.

“So we rolled our sleeves up.” The team pumped out more content, more events – art exhibits, conferences, music festivals, “quests” – and the crowds rolled in. Monthly users jumped from 7,000 to 70,000.

A few things help explain that growth: the boom in NFTs, the surge of play-to-earn crypto games and maybe even the pandemic. “COVID is a terrible, terrible thing, and we’ve all suffered greatly,” said Voxel Bunny, lead artist at Sandbox.

(They use a pseudonym for anonymity.) “At the same time, going online is the norm. The metaverse feels even more approachable and appealing.”

The metaverse can be a home for art. And we now live in a world where celebrities like Steph Curry, Grimes, Paris Hilton, Jack Dorsey and Shawn Mendes are buying or minting NFTs. Suddenly the metaverse has newfound relevance, or even urgency.

How do you showcase your art? How do you flaunt your Ape NFT? Decentraland’s Art District is one of the world’s standout features, creating a more immersive way to admire NFTs than to just stare at your phone.

Artists are pouncing on the opportunity. The NFT collection “World of Women” – featuring 10,000 women, with an emphasis on diversity and inclusion – plans to buy a chunk of land in Sandbox, and then build a museum to hang paintings and animations.

“Is ‘metaverse maximalist’ a term yet?” asks Gordon Goner, one of the anonymous co-founders of The Bored Ape Yacht Club. Goner is a Metaverse Maximalist. (He just coined the term.) “I’m feeling fairly confident that we’re less than 20 years out from the “Ready Player One” experience,” said Goner.

The Bored Apes are planting roots in both Decentraland and Sandbox; Goner said the club’s plan for Sandbox is still a “state secret,” but that you’ll be able to walk around in the metaverse as your three-dimensional “ape.”

In Decentraland, you and your degenerates can hang in the Bored Ape Yacht Club riverboat casino.

And the metaverse, in turn, is investing in art. On Sept. 7, the Sandbox purchased one of the rarest Bored Apes, “The Captain,” for 740 ETH, or roughly $2.4 million.

“We strongly believe that culture, whether games, music, visual arts, will be one of the pillars of the open crypto metaverse,” The Sandbox explained at the time. “We don’t just build and sell. We invest and help build the ecosystem.”

The building of that ecosystem is no longer just the work of spunky crypto startups, but also includes splashy brands.

Sandbox’s partners include Atari, The Smurfs and “The Walking Dead.” Why zombies? “The Walking Dead” partnership gives at least two ways for Sandbox to create sticky content:

First, the metaverse held “land sales” for people to buy coveted digital real-estate next to “Walking Dead” locations on the map, like the prison that featured prominently on the show.

(Only in the upside-down world of crypto would land next to a zombie-prison be more valuable.)

Second, the “Walking Dead” IP can be used as NFTs for games you create on Sandbox, boosting the crossover appeal.

You’ll spot this same kind of mainstreaming in Decentraland. Hamilton said that in the “early days” of the metaverse (last year), the only brands they partnered with were crypto players like Binance, Skale and Kraken. Then came Atari.

Then came Sotheby’s, which opened a virtual art gallery in the metaverse. As the head of sales at Sotheby’s, Michael Bouhanna, told theartnewspaper, “We see spaces like Decentraland as the next frontier for digital art.”

Then came Coca-Cola. Decentraland created a “can-top party” where you could swim inside a bottle of Coke and experience being inside the bubbles. It’s easy to see the mutual benefits: The metaverse gets compelling content, the traditional brands get engaged eyeballs.

“We loved how Decentraland embraced the brand and created unique experiences,” a Coke executive later said. “We loved seeing NFT and metaverse artists take the iconicity of the brand and put a fresh, modern twist on it.”

And then came the games.

To (Axie) Infinity And Beyond

Crypto play-to-earn games, such as Axie Infinity and Alien Worlds, have exploded. (You’ll find a fine primer here.) I tried playing Axie as a stunt for this article. You start by purchasing three Axies, cute little cartoon blobby creatures, that you then breed and send to battle.

At the time of my attempt, the cheapest of these blobs cost $200, which put the entry fee at around $600 … and thus ended the shortest experiment in my writing career.

Other gamers are bolder (or they got in before the prices skyrocketed), as Axie claims to have 250,000 daily active players and 90,000 ETH (or over $300 million) traded in its in-house marketplace.

“Everyone is looking at the success of Axie [Infinity] and saying, ‘Wow, this is definitely the future,’” said Decentraland’s Hamilton. He adds that it’s only part of the metaverse future, as “gaming isn’t everything,” but for many, it seems to be the real draw.

Hamilton said that while events (such as the “To the Moon” music festival) provide spikes of traffic, play-to-earn crypto games have been “the most popular stuff on Decentraland on a consistent basis.”

And this takes us back to The Sandbox, to the live-streaming of Pandapops, and to the make-your-own-game ecosystem.

The Sandbox is betting on games. Their “Game Maker” console allows you to create games (even complicated quest games) from scratch, such as the one Pandapops is working on, with the aquarium and the tavern:

Your character will start the game with no memories, you will unlock the memories along your journey, and you’ll need to find a way to escape a maze. Eventually, you will free a once-evil ogre from the ogre king.

Honestly? The concept feels a bit flimsy, and Pandapops would later tell me with a laugh, “I’m not very good at the game-maker side of things.” (Her passion is live-streaming for blockchain gaming, which she does for both herself and Sandbox.)

Yet some of the games are far more complex, thanks to an early decision by Sandbox.

The company bankrolled a “Creator Fund,” recruiting digital artists to build the assets that would breathe life into this new metaverse.

“We wanted to make sure that when we open a virtual world, it’s not going to be like an empty mall,” said Borget. So they incentivized artists in two ways:

1) Compensation for creating the artwork, and then

2) If the artist is able to sell their art to someone on the Sandbox marketplace, they pocket 100% of the proceeds, with Sandbox taking an extra 5% commission.

“It’s unbelievable. In all the years I’ve been making art, since 2007, I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Voxel Bunny, who once sold a Witch Tower for 3,150 SAND, or roughly $2,300 in today’s prices.

Then there’s the Game Maker fund. 450 artists and 54 studios, according to Borget, have been funded to create Sandbox games. One of these 54 studios is Sand Rush, co-founded by Christopher Weller, who goes by the alias of Necrobombicon.

“I came into this industry as an artist,” said Weller. “I learned that Sandbox was willing to pay its artists with cryptocurrency.”

First he thought he’d bang out some assets himself, then he met other like-minded artists on the Sandbox Discord. They created a game studio, Sand Rush, that creates elaborate games like Jungle Rush, described as “a place of old magic, mystery and lore,” where “ancient technologies lurk in the shadows.

He has already found Sandbox to be lucrative. Sand Rush collaborated on the creation of “The Shrine of Truth,” a mystical structure meant as a centerpiece for someone’s digital land, and sold it for 100,000 SAND, or roughly $100k at current prices.

Beeple’s $69 million this is not, but now imagine a pipeline of artists who can sell their NFTs in the marketplace, which in turn can be used to build games. That’s already happening.

Borget said that the Sandbox creator’s economy has topped $48 million in volume (pre-launch), with over 350,000 wallets created.

What’s in this Sandbox marketplace? As of the time of this writing, you could buy a “pool party cool guy” for $42, a beach van for $787, a tree house $840 and a “crazy pool” for $525 (it’s not at all clear how the pool is crazy).

This is at the low-end. For those on a more luxurious budget, you might want to consider an “ancient magic statue” for $3,150 (it is neither ancient nor magic), a “robot incubator” for $10,429 or a “summer rock metal band” for $5,214.

On the one hand, sure, to state the obvious, you can hire an actual rock metal band, which plays actual music, for less than $5,214. Then again, this marketplace enables creators to be compensated for their work.

“It’s an exciting moment in history, where suddenly a new sphere in work appears,” said Voxel Bunny. “Suddenly there are new jobs that were not here a few years back.”

This feels refreshingly concrete. While much of the capital sloshing around the crypto ecosystem is difficult to understand or process, here’s an example of the rising tide of crypto prices directly helping artists.

This could have a domino effect. First Voxel Bunny creates the Witch Tower and sells it for $2,300, then perhaps a buyer – a game creator – uses it in a quest that she herself will monetize.

Now the players of this game will earn crypto as they try and solve the quest, completing the virtuous cycle. Sure, speculation and profit-seeking is part of the model, but is that really any different than the profit-seeking of billion-dollar gaming corporations?

Enter Darth Vader

Decentraland or The Sandbox? Or maybe Crypto Voxels? Or another of the many metaverse projects popping up, such as Realm or Neon District? Which one “wins”? The various metaverse projects, at least for now, seem to view each other as more cooperative than competitive.

“I don’t think it’s a winner-take-all situation,” said Decentraland’s Hamilton, who thinks that just as there’s room for a Twitter and Facebook and Snapchat and Tik-Tok – each playing a different role – there will be space for multiple platforms in the metaverse.

Sandbox’s Borget said that “each one has a different strength,” with Decentraland more aligned with events, Crypto Voxels as “more simple and accessible,” and Sandbox with gaming.

But finally, of course, we have the issue that looms over all of this. It’s what I’ll call The Darth Vader Scenario.

In a weird coincidence, on the very same day I spoke to many of these crypto-metaverse advocates, I happened to visit a buddy who wanted to show off his new “Oculus,” a virtual reality headset. It’s made by Facebook. It’s the gateway to Horizons, Zuckerberg’s plan for the metaverse.

I slipped on the VR goggles, completed a quick tutorial, and then gasped as I found myself on the top of a skyscraper.

A virtual city enveloped me. Blue sky, honking cars, planes overhead – it all looked real. Maybe not quite photorealistic, but real enough so that when I peeked over the edge of the skyscraper, my stomach lurched at the sight of the ground far below. I don’t have a fear of heights.

And my brain knew that in reality, yes, of course, I was safely in my friend’s living room. That didn’t matter. When I “walked the plank” to step out from the edge of the skyscraper, looking down at the 100-story drop beneath me, I was both terrified and thrilled.

“Jump off the plank!” My friend urged me.

“No way.”

“Do it!”

Below me was certain death. I hesitated. What tipped me over the edge, literally and figuratively, was the sound of my friend’s young son in the background, laughing at my cowardice.

Finally, I jumped off the edge of the plank … and of course, landed safely on the carpet of the living room. It was exhilarating.

I then rode a virtual roller coaster, played a virtual shooter game, and then – to the delight of my inner 12-year-old – played a virtual reality (VR) game of Star Wars, complete with Darth Vader himself. I wanted to buy an Oculus.

The game and the VR tech is not particularly new, but it’s one thing to know that in the abstract, and it’s another to see it and feel it in your bones.

While a blockchain metaverse might win every argument on the principles – empowering players, decentralizing the tech, actual ownership of digital assets– in practice, for the average user, how does that stack up to the easy lure of flying through the air or clashing lightsabers with Darth Vader?

The tech behemoths have seemingly every advantage: bottomless resources, easy access to brands (Avengers metaverse?) and, in the case of Facebook, a built-in user base of 2.8 billion. Blockchain is still the underdog.

I thought back again to Pandapop’s humble aquarium, with the creepy fish and the splash effects that she painstakingly added. I thought of her simple game where you need to escape a maze and slay the ogre king.

It’s true that Pandapops could own that aquarium, monetize her game and claim a legitimate sense of empowerment. (It’s also true, of course, that the blockchain games will likely get more sophisticated in time, especially as creators are incentivized to make more.)

But Will The Average Gamer Care?

Just look at the internet. For decades, most of us have chosen – whether we knew it or not – the sugary speed and convenience of big tech centralization.

Even if it cost our privacy or agency, we enjoyed our stored passwords, auto log-ins and using Google, Apple, Facebook et al. to make our digital lives smoother.

We preferred a centralized Darth Vader to the decentralized maze. Time will tell if we choose differently in the metaverse.

Updated: 9-28-2021

Facebook Announces $50M Investment Fund Tasked With Developing Its Virtual Metaverse

Facebook has slated $50 million to be spent over the next two years through its XR Programs and Research Fund.

Facebook has announced it will allocate $50 million to a two-year fund tasked with beginning work on realizing the firm’s vision for a virtual metaverse.

A Monday announcement articulates Facebook’s roadmap for building its metaverse, with the funding slated to back “global research and program partners” looking to build out the platform in addition to internal research.

“The metaverse won’t be built overnight by a single company. We’ll collaborate with policymakers, experts and industry partners to bring this to life,” emphasized the announcement.

The metaverse will allow people to interact with one another, digital objects and the physical world through their avatar in a virtual environment. Funding will be disbursed through Facebook’s XR Programs and Research Fund.

Rumors of Facebook’s plan to build out a virtual metaverse began circulating in June, with the firm announcing the formation of an executive team tasked with overseeing the project the following month.

In its latest announcement, Facebook asserts that its metaverse “is not necessarily about spending more time online — it’s about making the time you do spend online more meaningful.”

Despite the $50-million investment fund, Facebook believes it will take more than a decade until a comprehensive version of its metaverse will be live and featuring a wide array of products and services.

To ensure its metaverse is deployed in a way that is ethical and inclusive, Facebook has also partnered with multiple universities and nonprofit organizations representing minority groups, including Women In Immersive Tech, Africa No Filter, The University of Hong Kong and the National University of Singapore.

As Facebook moves to mobilize capital to begin developing its metaverse, crypto developers have already made strides in building out decentralized and interoperable metaverses of their own.

Decentraland’s open-world metaverse comprises a decentralized community-owned virtual world built on the Ethereum blockchain. Users can build 3D environments, create avatars or showcase a range of digital content wh can be monetized.

Similarly, The Sandbox is a nonfungible token-powered game in which players can buy digital plots of land and create gaming experiences on top of them to share with other users.

Updated: 10-14-2021

Shatner May Have Conquered Space, But 4 South Korean ETFs Beat Him To The Metaverse

One fund is actively managed; the other three follow metaverse-related indexes.

Four major South Korean asset management funds have listed metaverse-related exchange-traded funds (ETFs), the first in the country, the Korea Herald reported Wednesday.

* KB Asset Management kicked off KBSTAR iSelect Metaverse, a passive fund that will follow indexes related to the metaverse, which is virtual space that can be shared by many people. KB follows the iSelect Metaverse Index, inclusion to which is determined by factors such as a company’s industry exposure and future growth potential.

* NH Amundi Asset Management launched Hanaro Fn K-Metaverse MZ, a passive fund. NH scored metaverse-related keywords to pick its top 20 stocks, and added 10 consumer-goods industry stocks. NH excluded automobile companies.

* Mirae Asset Global Investment’s metaverse product, Tiger Fn Metaverse ETF, has FnGuide’s metaverse index as its benchmark. That index fund follows about 20 companies.

* Samsung Asset Management actively manages its KODEX K-Metaverse Active ETF.

* Samsung and Mirae Asset, which released lists of the companies included in their funds. The list reveals a focus on the entertainment and gaming industries.

* Samsung’s Metaverse ETF comprises Hybe, Naver, Krafton, Peal Abyss and JContentree.

* Mirae Asset’s list included Naver, LG Innotek, Hybe, JYP Entertainment and YG Entertainment.

* Hybe, established in 2005, represents the popular boy band BTS.

* Krafton and Peal Abyss, which are in Samsung’s metaverse fund, are South Korea’s leading video game makers.

Sotheby’s Takes Its NFT Experiment Into The Metaverse

“Sotheby’s Metaverse” will hold its first sale from Oct. 18–26 with a collection featuring 53 works.

Sotheby’s, the 277-year-old British auction house, is staking its claim in the metaverse with the launch of a new platform called “Sotheby’s Metaverse” that allows visitors to view digital artworks available at auction, as well as learn about the collectors and artists behind the non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

“Sotheby’s Metaverse” will hold its first sale from Oct. 18–26 with a collection called “Natively Digital 1.2: The Collectors.” Featuring 53 works from 19 NFT collectors, the collection is the second iteration of Sotheby’s first NFT group sale, Natively Digital.

Sotheby’s new platform is powered by Mojito, a commerce suite for creating NFT marketplaces that offers fiat and crypto payments as well as minting functionality. Mojito is optimized for Ethereum and Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM)-compatible networks.

The metaverse is a space generated by the convergence of virtual worlds, augmented reality and internet services. By offering a collective virtual experience, it has introduced new opportunities to creators, gamers and artists.

Back in April, Sotheby’s held its first sale of NFTs by pseudonymous artist Pak, which fetched $16.8 million over a three-day drop. In March, an NFT drop by Beeple hosted by Christie’s auction house sold for a record $69.3 million.

The appetite for NFTs in the high-end luxury market has remained strong, with Dolce & Gabbana’s recent NFT collection, the Collezione Genesi, taking in approximately $5.65 million.

“We have spent months exploring every aspect of the digital art landscape, aligning with some of the most influential minds of the NFT movement to architect a custom marketplace that prioritizes curation and customization,” said Max Moore, Sotheby’s co-head of the digital art sales and head of contemporary art auctions.

Updated: 10-18-2021

Tokens.com Acquire 50% Stake In Virtual Real-Estate Firm Metaverse Group

The Metaverse Group HQ is based in Crypto Valley, a virtual space in Decentraland.

Publicly-listed cryptocurrency and blockchain investment firm Tokens.com has announced a landmark agreement to acquire a 50% stake in metaverse real estate firm Metaverse Group in a deal worth in excess of $1.6 million.

Tokens.com is expected to capitalize on the purchase — reportedly the highest purchase of a virtual real estate firm — through the development of asset opportunities for public retail investors seeking to gain greater exposure to nonfungible token, or NFT, and decentralized finance, or DeFi, assets.

Metaverse Group operates a service akin to a traditional real estate firm in that it engages in property acquisition, development and management, in addition to marketing and promotional services.

However, the group differs immensely due to its adoption of blockchain technology, gaming and NFTs as well as a multitude of other technologies that comprise the metaverse.

While the true definition of the metaverse is still evolving to a unified consensus, for now, at least, the technology is considered to be a three-dimensional virtual environment where users can interact, socialize and progress.

Fortnite and Roblox have given us some insight into this world, as did the Ernest Cline novel, Ready Player One.

The Metaverse Group owns a collection of well-regarded plots of land and properties in some of the world’s most popular metaverse games: Decentraland, The Sandbox and Somnium Space, amongst others, with their global headquarters located in Crypto Valley of Decentraland.

Andrew Kiguel, CEO of Tokens.com, Shared Some Insights Into The Potential Impact Of The Space:

“The Metaverse is a game-changer for how advertisers and brands market their products. As more people congregate in these virtual cities, the land becomes more sought after for its ability to reach a new global demographic. Metaverse Group has the potential to be a major landlord and developer by using the same strategies used by physical real estate managers.”

Last month, tech behemoth Facebook advanced upon their intentions to build a metaverse with the launch of a $50 million research and development fund. The company expressed ambitions to construct a fully-fledged virtual world including a panoply of products and services within a timespan of a decade.

To execute this virtual vision, the firm is seeking 10,000 new employees from the European Union for roles ranging from specialized engineers, to virtual architects.

Updated: 10-21-2021

How Cross-Chain Games Are Giving Users The First Look At A Metaverse

Blockchain interoperability might just be becoming a reality, with cross-chain NFT games taking the lead.

Society is headed towards a new form of digital ownership with an economy and greater metaverse based on the blockchain. The concept of “the metaverse” is typically depicted as actual and augmented reality-based in a virtual world.

Most recognize this concept since it is present in several fictional movies of dystopian futures like Ready, Player, One, Minority Report and Avatar. However, the concept has since quickly gained attraction from the technology industry, making it more viable than ever before.

The metaverse is seen by many as the natural evolution to what comes next after what people are already doing on social media. Industry experts believe that people are already seeking new places to interact with each other, collect virtual likes and gain recognition.

Still, other individuals see the metaverse as an opportunity to live life in a more child-like way, in a setting free from the confines of today’s societal structure.

Currently, no clear definition for a metaverse exists, although developers agree on several attributes as necessary. While many representations of the metaverse are heavily weighted towards games and entertainment, technology experts suggest the metaverse concept must include a lot more than that.

Other attributes deemed essential to include a fully-fledged economy and unprecedented interoperability so users can take avatars and goods from one place to another, no matter who is “in charge of a particular section of the metaverse.”

Unfortunately, before the metaverse becomes a reality, there have been some questions about how much interoperability is required. Some believe that a metaverse would require a single operator, while others believe a heavily involved decentralized platform would be necessary.

Although some debate still exists here, one fact continues to ring true: the number of different blockchains has created a complicated ecosystem that will need to be addressed before the metaverse comes to life.

Isolated Efforts

As new use cases become more prevalent, more blockchains have arisen to solve each specific set of needs. While many chains have successfully solved the problems they’ve set out to, numerous solutions have increased the number of isolated chains.

The major concern is that data stored on the chain is restricted to the chain or chains they were created on.

In practice, this means users can’t even exchange Bitcoin (BTC) for Ethereum (ETH) without going through a centralized exchange.

It is also impossible to send a token like USDT from the Ethereum blockchain to the Binance Smart Chain (BNB), even if both chains support the token. The same is true for any digital asset represented by a nonfungible token (NFT).

Therefore, as the current blockchain world exists, there is no way for anyone to take advantage of the full benefits of the ledger technology unless users are willing to participate on multiple chains.

Furthermore, the lack of interoperability between chains has become added friction for new users who must spend time learning the already new and complex technology.

For blockchain, this means the pressure for cross-chain technologies has grown in response to concerns around reducing the fragmentation of NFT platforms and marketspaces. Technology companies continue to push for interoperability.

However, gamers may already be living in a world where an NFT can be traded with anyone regardless of the blockchain they use.

Achieving Cross-Chain Compatibility

The game Evolution Land provides a potential solution to NFT interoperability as a DeFi (decentralized finance) and NFT cross-chain game leveraged by Darwinia Network.

According to the team behind Evolution Land, “the multi-chain Web 3.0 world hasn’t come yet, but Evolution Land has created one in the Metaverse.”

That said, the game will also operate as a multi-chain NFT gateway, with support for multi-chain NFTs like Crypto Kitties and PolkaPets.

The game can be described as a cross-chain, business game and virtual simulation. In it, users can buy and sell property, govern their space, grow crops and create buildings, collect and trade NFTs, hire others to help mine elements on their land across 26 continents, each representing a different blockchain.

Currently, five continents exist, including one on Ethereum, known as the Atlantis Continent and another built on Tron (TRX). Players must abide by governance parameters, including a trade tax rate. However, this will be set by the players.

Each player uses Avatars called Apostles, which can be purchased using RING, the game’s native utility token. Apostles each have their own unique genes and talents that determine their abilities, much as people do in the real world.

Healthy apostles can even breed healthy offspring whose genes are determined based on the parents’ genetic algorithms, meaning they can also inherit any genes or mutations from their parents.

Taking advantage of play-to-earn mechanics, players gain the opportunity to use these Apostles to mine resources, own NFT land and use NFT mining tools called “Drills.” Users may choose to hold their NFTs or sell them in the marketplace for funds that can be converted into cash in the real world.

Furthermore, 70% of the revenue earned by the game will be shared with the players, meaning the entire community has the opportunity to share in its success.

More than ten projects have announced plans to build communities in Evolution Land to present project information and give back rewards to the community fans.

The result is that to date, the game’s DeFi farm APR reached over 1000% and resource token prices have increased 20-60 times.

Now recognized as one of the top 15 ETH game projects by volume, the team continues to seek out big updates over the next year. Designed to be both self-evolving and scalable, any developer will have the opportunity to build their DApp in the Evolution Land game and evolve the game long into the future.

Updated: 10-26-2021

GameStop Enters The Metaverse With ‘Web3 Gaming’ Job Post

The video game store is hiring an Ethereum specialist after teasing an NFT marketplace in May.

GameStop is looking to build an Ethereum-based Web 3 arm, according to a job listing posted by the company nine hours ago.

The retailer said it’s looking for someone with “experience with Ethereum, NFTs [non-fungible tokens] and blockchain based gaming platforms” for its “Head of Web3 Gaming” role.

The job post outlines a metaverse-esque future for the gaming industry, where “games are places you’ll go” and “blockchains will power the commerce beneath.”

“Integrations with different blockchains and Ethereum layer 2 environments” was listed as one of the role’s responsibilities.

Layer 2 is a companion system designed to help a cryptocurrency system handle a larger volume of data, typically with the goal of processing more payments, faster.

In May, the company created a page teasing an in-house NFT marketplace, which the company still appears to be hiring for.

An address on the site showed that GameStop had already created an Ethereum-based ERC-721 token, the standard widely used to create NFTs.

Updated: 10-27-2021

Who’s Building Facebook’s Metaverse? Meet CTO Andrew Bosworth

As the embattled company prepares a pivot, Mark Zuckerberg has tapped a longtime deputy to lead the project.

Before the wave of stories published on Oct. 25 revealed new details about the troubling ways Facebook Inc. runs its social networks, the company had been hoping to spend the week talking about its plans to expand beyond that business.

A major theme at its annual Connect conference beginning on Oct. 28 will be the company’s ambitions for the so-called metaverse, a new digital space that it believes will supplant smartphone apps as the primary form of online interaction.

Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg has said pursuing this path will transform Facebook, and has publicly set a goal of attracting 1 billion users to the metaverse by the end of the decade.

The metaverse has played a prominent role in science fiction for decades—the digital universes of the novels Snow Crash and Ready Player One, where characters live parallel digital lives to their physical existences, are metaverses.

Video games such as Roblox and Fortnite are also similar to what Facebook has in mind. The idea is that smartphones are reaching their limitations in creating immersive computing experiences, and people will hunger to go further, opting to engage in three-dimensional digital interactions, for example, instead of doing video chats.

“You can think about the metaverse as an embodied internet,” Zuckerberg told the tech news website the Verge last summer, “where instead of just viewing content, you are in it.” The person in charge is Andrew Bosworth, a longtime executive and close friend of Zuckerberg’s who will take over as chief technology officer in early 2022.

“We want to give people a glimpse into that vision, into that future,” says Bosworth, 39, known within the company as Boz. He describes the conference as a “love letter to the future of the metaverse.”

Facebook has been laying the foundation for this project since at least 2014, when it acquired the virtual-reality headset maker Oculus. Bosworth took over Facebook’s virtual- and augmented-reality efforts in 2017, and his elevation to CTO signals how high a priority the project is inside the company.

Facebook recently said it would hire 10,000 people in Europe over the next five years to help create the metaverse.

In its most recent earnings report, on Oct. 25, it said its operating profit will be down $10 billion in 2021 because of investments in the division building the metaverse, and it plans to increase that spending for years before making any real money from it.

Facebook is playing both offense and defense here. If the metaverse becomes the next way of interacting online, the company will benefit from having had a hand in its design.

Facebook has also long been aware that its access to users relies on such companies as Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google and their devices and operating systems, a vulnerability that has been highlighted by Facebook’s recent dispute with Apple over ad targeting.

Facebook thinks that people will access the metaverse from their smartphones, but that increasingly they’ll use devices like the Facebook-owned Oculus VR headsets, which would be an obvious coup.

Facebook has already invested more heavily in the field than many people realize, says Tom Mainelli, vice president for device and consumer research at the research firm IDC. He sees the metaverse as key to the company’s plans to “diversify future revenue streams, cement its position in the next computing platform, and potentially rewrite its company narrative going forward.”

To fulfill its ambitions, Facebook will likely need cooperation from both a skeptical public and competitors it’s trying to circumvent—the metaverse idea only really works if Apple and Google users can play, too.

Otherwise, says Bosworth, it’s just a bunch of universes.

The company is betting it can build the metaverse in a way that brings other companies along. Bosworth, who has been at Facebook for more than 15 years, has played a role in the creation of almost every one of its core products.

He helped build News Feed, the main way people engage with the social network and the company’s core moneymaker, as well as Facebook Groups, Messenger, and the network’s ads team.

For the past four years he’s been running Facebook Reality Labs, the company’s futuristic division building virtual-reality headsets, in-home speakers, and augmented-reality sunglasses. Zuckerberg considers him a close friend; their kids play together, and when Bosworth’s home was under construction he rented a house from Zuckerberg, moving in next door.

Bosworth is much more visible than most Facebook executives, who generally keep low public profiles. He’s a prolific user of both Facebook and Twitter, and (of course) he has a podcast.

Bosworth also considers himself a malcontent, and has shared provocative posts on internal Facebook forums.

In one post, which he wrote in 2016 and was published in a 2018 BuzzFeed article, he suggested that the negative impacts of Facebook’s platform—exposing people to bullies or enabling terrorist activity, for example—were just the price of fulfilling the company’s mission to connect the world.

“The ugly truth is that we believe in connecting people so deeply that anything that allows us to connect more people more often is *de facto* good,” he wrote.

Bosworth says he didn’t really believe this even at the time, and was instead trying to spark discussion. He says he was embarrassed about how it sounded to colleagues and the public, and has learned from it. “That was super painful to me,” he says.

Bosworth’s comments were particularly damaging because they reinforced the perception that Facebook callously pursues growth no matter the cost, a reputation that could be a barrier as the company seeks to build trust in its efforts on the metaverse.

Facebook will have to completely change established norms of online behavior, says Pano Anthos, founder of the venture fund and startup accelerator XRC Labs, who attempted to build a version of the metaverse 15 years ago.

“It’s so early,” he says, and Facebook “is going to spend billions and billions trying to get people’s behaviors to adapt to this.”

Facebook’s strategy to defuse concerns about its intentions is to talk about them before the metaverse really exists, a seeming reversal of the grow-now-and-iron-out-the-kinks-later mindset that has led to many issues with its social networking products.

Critics have suggested that the company’s metaverse discussions are primarily designed to deflect uncomfortable questions about those other products.

For his part, Bosworth says Facebook has learned about the consequences technology has on society and thinks it has to have faith that it can do better this time around.

“The products that we’re contemplating have never existed,” he says. “We have to make decisions on how they’re going to be. And it just takes a degree of confidence to do that.”

Updated: 10-28-2021

Facebook Changes Company Name To Meta In Focus On Metaverse

Social-media service will retain Facebook name as umbrella company readies billions in investments in new mixed-reality platform.

Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said the company changed its name to Meta to reflect growth opportunities beyond its namesake social-media platform in online digital realms known as the metaverse.

“Over time I hope our company will be seen as a metaverse company,” Mr. Zuckerberg said Thursday.

He unveiled the name, formally Meta Platforms Inc., for the company that also includes Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and other products during Facebook’s annual developer event, where he detailed his vision for the metaverse that he sees as key to the tech giant attracting younger users.

“We’ve gone from desktop to web to phones, from text to photos to video, but this isn’t the end of the line,” Mr. Zuckerberg said at the social-media giant’s annual developer forum called Facebook Connect. “We believe the metaverse will be the successor to the mobile internet.”

Facebook is already investing heavily in creating that new reality of shared online spaces inhabited by digital avatars, with projects ranging from virtual-reality glasses to an e-commerce platform. “We expect to spend many billions of dollars for years to come,” Mr. Zuckerberg said.

The company on an earnings call Monday already said that Facebook Reality Labs, which encompasses augmented-reality and virtual-reality products and services, is becoming a separate reporting unit and that spending for it would reduce this year’s total operating profit by $10 billion.

Mr. Zuckerberg at the time said Facebook was “retooling our teams to make serving young adults their North Star.”

The metaverse that he has been increasingly promoting also gives him a comfortable topic to focus on as Facebook faces intense criticism from lawmakers, researchers and users over revelations in The Wall Street Journal’s Facebook Files series, which showed that the company knows its platforms are riddled with flaws that cause harm.

Mr. Zuckerberg has said the criticism paints a false picture of the company he co-founded.

At Thursday’s event the Facebook chief also addressed the decision to discuss emerging plans while the company faces such scrutiny.

“I know some people will say this is not a time to focus on the future,” Mr. Zuckerberg said, but argued that it is important to move forward even if mistakes are made along the way.

The company’s shares, starting Dec. 1, are slated to trade under the stock symbol MVRS, giving up the two-letter format it had with FB. Facebook shares rose 1.5% Thursday.

The name change appears to veer away from Facebook’s move two years ago to revamp its logo and corporate identity and boost the name’s prominence by attaching “from Facebook” to the various other brands the company started or acquired over the years.

Other companies have renamed or rebranded themselves over the decades for many reasons. Philip Morris changed its name in 2003 to Altria Group Inc. amid widespread condemnation of Big Tobacco over cigarettes’ harmful heath effects.

Apple Inc. shortened its name from Apple Computer in 2007 to reflect the growth of other products like iPods and iPhones. Google restructured in 2015 to create a parent company named Alphabet Inc. that housed its array of side businesses.

Facebook traces its name to the company’s origin, when Mr. Zuckerberg, then a student at Harvard University, named an early version of the site after the term for the school’s student directories.

“I used to love studying classics,” he said Thursday, “and the word ‘meta’ comes from the Greek word meaning ‘beyond.’ For me, it symbolizes that there is always more to build.”

Bank of America analysts in an investor note Tuesday called the metaverse a compelling concept that “has a reasonable chance of mass market adoption with Facebook’s strong backing.” But they cautioned that the company’s ambitions in this area would likely take many years to come to fruition.

“Long-term holders will need to have a strong belief in Facebook’s vision for the metaverse business model to want to hold the stock,” the analysts said.

Facebook is one of many big tech companies with metaverse-related objectives. Microsoft Corp. , Nvidia Corp. , Unity Software Inc. and others have said they are developing tools, services or content for the metaverse.

Some early iterations of the metaverse already exist. Roblox Corp. and Epic Games Inc. have hosted virtual concerts with millions of attendees who appeared as avatars.

Similarly, virtual-reality applications such as “Rec Room” and “AltspaceVR” let people socialize as avatars. Some tech-industry forecasters have said in the future such experiences will evolve to become almost lifelike.

Mr. Zuckerberg has said it would take time before the metaverse becomes lucrative for his company.

“Building the foundational platforms for the metaverse will be a long road,” he said on Monday’s call, adding, “Later in this decade is when we would sort of expect this to be more of a real business story.”

At Thursday’s event, the Facebook chief took an implicit swipe at rival Apple for the fees it charges on its App Store.

“I believe that the lack of choice, high fees are stifling innovation and stopping people from building new things and holding back the entire internet economy,” Mr. Zuckerberg said.

He has groused for years that Apple holds too much sway over the social-media giant’s business. Apple has defended its App Store policy as benefiting consumers.

“We want to serve as many people as possible,” Mr. Zuckerberg said. “That’s the approach that we want to take to help build the metaverse, too.”

He said the company is building a social platform for the metaverse called Horizon, a beta version of which started rolling out last year.

And Facebook is working to bring Messenger calls to virtual reality, enabling people to more easily explore virtual worlds or join games together, as well as creating a marketplace for its Horizon platform and office-related features, he said.

Facebook said earlier this month that it plans to create 10,000 jobs in Europe over the next five years to work on metaverse-related endeavors.

The company also has introduced Oculus-branded virtual-reality headsets, and it joined with Ray-Ban to develop smart sunglasses that went on sale for $299 last month.

New gadgets are in development, Mr. Zuckerberg said.

“I view this work as critical to our mission because delivering a sense of presence—like you’re right there with another person—that’s the holy grail of online social experiences,” Mr. Zuckerberg said Monday.

Facebook Steals Another Crypto Idea For Its Nonsensical Rebrand

Mark Zuckerberg’s vision for the metaverse has little to do with the open, interoperable vision first articulated by the blockchain industry.

There is so much, too much, to be said about Facebook’s announcement yesterday that it is changing its corporate name to “Meta” as part of a refocus on what is, essentially, online virtual reality. Most of what is to be said is really not good for Facebook.

This is a desperation move made in the face of a PR nightmare that has a slim chance of panning out as a market proposition, and basically zero chance of reversing the company’s declining political and market fortunes in the U.S. and Europe.

So, given the target-rich environment, let’s start close to home: “Metaverse” is the second buzzy concept that Facebook has misappropriated from the blockchain industry.

It is likely to be just as poorly executed as Zuck’s first craven magpie act, the would-be stablecoin Libra, now known as Diem (Facebook screwed up that launch so badly it had to rename the product: Sensing a theme?).

Libra or Diem or Novi or Calibra or whatever was an attempt to steal some vague crypto halo while actually creating a powerful stream of new data for Facebook, in direct contravention of the principles behind the entire model being appropriated.

Similarly, the true “metaverse” is a blockchain concept, but you can already tell Facebook’s metaverse will be as big a perversion of it as Libra was of Bitcoin. The core idea of the blockchain metaverse is wide interoperability of virtual assets stored on a neutral and verifiable ledger.

The same blockchain tech that makes non-fungible tokens (NFTs) usable across, say, virtual galleries and (soon) Twitter would be used to create tokens that represent virtual reality assets usable across a variety of immersive experiences, from Decentraland to (let’s say, in theory) Second Life to Minecraft.

Though Facebook’s online VR will have some form of NFT integration, the broader vision is not what Zuck is rolling out.

Much of yesterday’s announcement presentation was focused on his frustration with Apple’s App Store and Facebook’s plan to build a competitive, parallel walled garden focused on online VR experiences (I’m not going to call it “the metaverse,” because see above).

They’ll be collecting fees on creators who, say, design a virtual sweater. Zuck yesterday even warned that fees on the platform would be high for a while (which, come on Facebook comms team, we know you’re sleepwalking through a state of moral paralysis, but at least pretend a little harder).

Zuck justified those high fees by explaining that Facebook (no, I’m not going to call it “Meta” either, because see above) will be building up its online VR business at a loss for a while, including by subsidizing devices.

This speaks to one of the other huge warning signs for Facebook’s pivot. It’s already pretty clear very few people actually want to use VR, especially in the kind of persistent way that would make it a good walled-garden content store business.

The Oculus VR devices at the center of Facebook’s plans have been pretty good technology for at least three or four years now, but sales have been unimpressive. Other VR and AR companies, such as the infamous Magic Leap, have burned money without finding product-market fit.

Spending boatloads of cash to drive adoption is the only hope Facebook seems to have of making mass-market VR work.

That spending, too, shows just what a desperate move this is. It’s not that this wasn’t clearly a long-term plan – it may even have been in the cards with the purchase of Oculus way back in 2014.

That absolutely did not pan out on its own terms, as Zuck is admitting when he says “we expect to invest many billions of dollars for years to come before the metaverse reaches scale.” Compare that timeline to the much faster payoff for Instagram after Facebook bought it in 2012.

(We may also see yet again how little Facebook means anything it says about user privacy. Oculus was developed and founded by Palmer Luckey, an ideological authoritarian who went on to found a military contractor, Anduril, that sells spy hardware like camera drones and recon towers, no doubt influenced by his engineering work on Oculus. Make of this what you will.)

A normal company, one not facing withering scrutiny for its abuse of its own users and the law, would probably not rename itself after a business that had already failed.

And spending money to acquire customers is the behavior of a risk-taking startup using private VC money to increase its chance of capturing a novel business opportunity, like Uber using subsidies to win rideshare.

It’s not obvious that the tactic makes any sense at all for a big public company trying to give life to a business that seems to have little traction of its own.

It also doesn’t make sense because the price of hardware like a VR headset isn’t actually the limiting factor in adoption Zuck would like you to think it is. In technology, there’s this thing called an “adoption curve” where early tech enthusiasts spend a lot of money on weird things, then more people buy them as they get cheaper.

The first part of that adoption curve still hasn’t really happened for VR, even during a pandemic when everyone was trapped at home. Making the headsets cheaper can’t solve for this clear lack of interest among the very hyper-engaged audience that’s not supposed to care about price.

But the monopolistic outspend-the-competition approach comes from the playbook of another one of Zuck’s favorite people, the neoreactionary authoritarian Peter Thiel (sensing a theme here?). It probably gives Zuck some comfort to go back to a familiar playbook.

And there are probably still enough credulous, bootlicking Web 2.0 investors out there that Zuck will be able to stave off total collapse just by saying something a la “you gotta spend money to make money, fam” on investor calls for the next 10 years as Facebook’s new VR unit, and then the entire company’s balance sheet, bleeds to death.

Because that’s the even bigger picture here. Leaving aside regulatory and legal concerns, Facebook as a company has probably already seen its best days.

User numbers in the United States are declining, particularly for young people, across both Facebook itself and, crucially, Instagram, which had extended the company’s relevance a few extra years.

Facebook’s future, unfortunately, probably lies in second- and third-tier economies with even weaker governments and poorer citizens.

That will leave Facebook freer to follow its worst impulses. On the metaverse front, ironically, it may mean it winds up with something closer to the deepest origins of the term in Neal Stephenson’s “Snow Crash,” a masterwork of dystopian cyberpunk science fiction from the 1980s.

Stephenson’s metaverse is a corporatized ghetto where the global poor play out a digital semblance of lives they can’t afford, while back in reality their emaciated bodies wither in cramped apartments.

The metaverse Facebook is building, in short, is a digital version of hell. Hard to think of a more appropriate Charon to take us there than Mark Zuckerberg, who has already unleashed so many demons on the waking world.

Updated: 10-30-2021

Into The Metaverse: Where Crypto, Gaming And Capitalism Collide

From Manhattan to Manila, players are turning their backs on Wall Street careers and medical school to seek their fortune in an online arena.

To understand why Mark Zuckerberg thinks “the metaverse” is the next frontier, consider the case of Sam Peurifoy. The 27-year-old chemistry PhD from Columbia University left his job at Goldman Sachs at the height of the pandemic and is now seeking out his fortune in crypto by playing video games.

He has recruited dozens of people from Mexico to the Philippines to a “Guild” that plays under the command of “Captain” Peurifoy. In exchange, he ponies up the funds needed to enter Axie Infinity, a game where players collect Smooth Love Potion — a digital token that can potentially be converted into real money.

The metaverse of Zuckerberg’s dreams is the sort of place where everyone’s plugged into a virtual reality, able to teleport, make things happen merely by thinking about them and effectively step beyond the limitations of the physical world into a brave, new digital one. The billionaire concedes this is still “a long way off.”

But what Peurifoy and his Guild are now doing on Axie offers an early glimpse into this future. It’s not quite “Ready Player One” — Steven Spielberg’s dystopian sci-fi adventure based on Ernest Cline’s book, or even “Snow Crash,” the 1992 Neal Stephenson novel that coined the term “metaverse.”

Rather, it’s an online arena where “decentralized finance,” or DeFi, reigns — fusing together cryptocurrencies, blockchain technology, non-fungible tokens and video gaming.

This world is filled with dangers though, and is far from altruistic. Investors and bankers have profound disagreement about how cryptocurrencies will shake out in the end, but what they do know is that prices have been extremely volatile.

While Bitcoin, Ethereum and others are gaining more Wall Street acceptance, the larger universe is populated by an ever-expanding number of new and untested meme coins — some so questionable they are literally known as shit coins.

With technical outages and sudden price shifts, there’s no guarantee these tokens can actually be converted into cash. And in the crypto world, it’s also seen as a rite of passage to be scammed at one point or another.

That may be fine for wealthy investors who can stomach the risk, but could leave market participants, including in the developing world, vulnerable.

Axie Infinity Boom

Axie — which is at the forefront of this “GameFi” trend — has already generated more than $2.5 billion in trading volume. Several other rivals offering games that lure players with the promise of crypto are also gaining popularity.

Venture capitalists and hedge funds are trying to cash in on this new online gold rush in which they predict billions of people will swipe, crush, shoot or kill in the hope of earning digital tokens.

Axie isn’t much to look at next to the many startlingly realistic games out there. It centers on Pokemon-like characters that fight and breed in a simple game of strategy.

What sets it apart is the fact that aside from earning stars or hearts or crushed candy for winning this game, players get something much more valuable, at least theoretically: Smooth Love Potion.

The ability to earn by playing a game has transformed the lives of some players, many in the Philippines where it exploded in popularity as the pandemic locked many out of work, and dollars — as well as digital tokens — go far. At least when their prices are up.

It’s impossible to say exactly how many people are playing to earn. But all the signs are pointing up. One marker: the relationship between games and digital wallets, those accounts people use to receive and store crypto.

As of last March, about 51,000 daily active wallets were connected to gaming-related contracts in the blockchain ecosystem, according to DappRadar, a firm that tracks data on decentralized finance. Three months later, that figure had skyrocketed to 359,284 — a 599% increase.

Games like Axie show why tech titans are gravitating toward the concept: The metaverse and its possibilities have the potential to upend not just how we work, earn and spend, but also the fundamental ways in which we live, plan and run our lives. In essence, they promise to transform the way capitalism functions.

“Axie embodies a new generation of games, where game creators are not operating from a place of fear but rather as an open, free market economy,” wrote Arianna Simpson, general partner at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz that has invested in Sky Mavis, the Vietnamese studio that developed Axie.

“What this means for the future of games, and really the web as we know it, is as big as your imagination will allow.”

What Simpson is hinting at goes beyond the mere fact that Axie players can earn cryptocurrencies. Axie shows how a key pillar of the metaverse — the non-fungible token — works and why anyone might want to get their hands on one.

NFTs are digital certificates that help prove that you own things in the online realm. Some of these have sold for millions of dollars, but most of them have no clear economic value and don’t command high prices.

Just recently, one NFT sold for more than $500 million, but was later revealed to have not really been sold at all.

Most Americans remain confused by it all.

NFT Collection

In Axie’s corner of the metaverse, primitive as it may be now, players must buy NFTs — the blobby monsters called Axies — before they can play.

The ante: a minimum of three Axies, at roughly $300 apiece, paid for in Ethereum, the No. 2 cryptocurrency after bitcoin. In other words, it takes nearly a grand to start playing, with no guarantees of success.

The Result: Axie has become the single most valuable collection of NFTs anywhere yet.

Numbers like those have perked rich ears. Last May, Mark Cuban and Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit, invested in Sky Mavis. Justin Sun, CEO of BitTorrent and founder TRON Foundation, has launched a $300 million fund focusing on play-to-earn and GameFi.

And Andreessen Horowitz, valuing Sky Mavis at $3 billion, recently led a Series B funding round of some $150 million.

What’s notable with NFTs in GameFi is that they aren’t just digital files to look at. They do stuff, interact with other NFTs and can appreciate over time.

Here’s How:

Imagine being able to earn money by playing Mario Kart, that indefatigable Nintendo spinoff series from the pre-internet Super Mario. You wouldn’t have to be all that good at it. You wouldn’t have to play it 24/7.

Because, in this mind experiment, you get to be Mario for as long as you like. You get to be him because you own him.

Because your Mario is an NFT, he’s impossible to duplicate. You and you alone own him. And because you own Mario, your go-kart is always better and faster than the ones piloted by other familiar faces in the Mushroom Kingdom like Luigi, Toad and Princess Peach. So off you go, earning the kingdom’s digital money – Mariocoins, let’s call them.

Given market economics, you might have to pay more for NFT Mario than for, say, NFT Peach. But then you’d also earn more, because here in the Mushroom Kingdom, Mario is the fastest player.

When you step out of the game and back into your day job, you still own Mario. When you start playing again, Mario is there, waiting for you. Waiting to earn you Mariocoins.

You can sell Mario to another player if you like. If you’ve played Mario right, he might be worth more now than when you bought him. Maybe you’ve demonstrated how lucrative Mario can be. Maybe more people want to play Mario Kart.

Maybe Mariocoin has soared in value because everybody is talking about it on social media.

This, in a large nutshell, is what GameFi evangelists are trying to build.

“Players can actually own the game items and they can see that they are scarce,” said Axie Co-founder Aleksander Leonard Larsen. “And it’s much more real than when you see someone wearing a Louis Vuitton bag on the street.

You have literally no idea if this thing is real or not. Just that doubt that you have is so fitting for the world today, because everything is so fake. The thing that blockchain brings is trust. That then extends to digital assets.”

Gaming Shift

For years, players like Peurifoy have paid the overlords of a $175 billion industry — Sony, Nintendo, Tencent, Microsoft — homage to play in digital fiefs. They’ve watched the fruits of their labor — those stars and hearts earned, levels transcended — vanish into nothing once the game is over.

They want something more, something closer to capitalism, with private ownership of the means of production, wage labor, voluntary exchange.

In this new world order, Peurifoy is a bit like a banker. He’s created his digital Guild built around his online persona, literally called Das Kapitalist. Members of this Guild meet on Twitch, a sort of YouTube for video games with live streams and chat functionality.

Because Axie NFTs are so expensive, Peurifoy funds “scholarships” for willing players around the world. He owns the NFTs, but his Guild members play them, earning more cryptocurrency. Peurifoy then splits the winnings with his players.

Carlos Enrique Sierra Almaraz, 24, discovered Axie this summer and says he’s dropped out of medical school in hopes of getting rich in GameFi, too.

Almaraz, who goes by the handle Steel Valkyries, is already moving up in the Axie economy. He’s gone from blue-collar “scholar” to more white-collar “moderator,” or “mod.” In addition to playing for several hours a day, he also handles various administrative tasks.

The Captain is one of the generous Axie capitalists: He splits profits fifty-fifty. Word is, greedier sponsors toss scholars a measly 10%, Almaraz says.

He figures he pulled in $700 (real dollars) in September — serious coin in Ciudad del Carmen, and more than his parents earn combined. They still haven’t totally gotten over his decision to drop out of medical school but, he says, they can’t argue with the money.

On the Das Kapitalist live stream on a recent Thursday night, the Captain is rallying the crew. One member of the Guild, known as Fordex, is about to become a father.

“Dude, that’s so cool!’’ Peurifoy exclaims. “That’s the first baby in the community!”

Later, when a Sunday night rolls around and the clock reads 9, the Captain is back. He mentions that the founder of another crypto game recently tweeted that Axie sounds a bit like a Ponzi scheme, something even fans have wondered about. (Axie hasn’t been accused of wrongdoing.)

“Oooh, drama,” Steel Valkyries says.

Whatever. No one seems to care. “I’m out-earning my dad,” another Guild member pipes up. “He thought I was stealing or doing some fraud.”

“Dude, that’s hilarious,” Peurifoy laughs. The conversation turns to parental expectations, dead-end jobs, the banality of real-world life — a twentysomething, metaverse-view in which the hopes of a generation have led to this, a Twitch livestream about a play-for-pay game, in which a med-school drop-out might score a little Smooth Love Potion.

“The thing is, like, frankly, what does working at McDonald’s do for you, like, very seriously?” the Captain says.

“Like, what skill are you putting on your resume if you are literally working at McDonald’s instead of playing games?”

Axie is just one realm in the growing crypto-verse. There’s also CryptoBlades, a virtual Middle Earth where players earn SKILL tokens by slaying monsters.

And there’s ZED RUN, in which players own, race and breed digital Thoroughbreds. Illuvium promises a “journey across a vast and varied landscape on your quest to hunt and capture deity-like creatures.”

Crypto Tokens

As Axie has lured players, Axie Infinity Shards — another token in the game — have taken off. AXS has soared from $3.22 in June to about $136 now, even as some of the more popular crypto coins have lost value.

Such upside isn’t lost on gamers, particularly those in developing countries. Chat rooms are full of stories about how Axie helped someone get by during the pandemic or even earn enough money to buy a home.

In the Philippines, where Axie has exploded, Red Bantilo turned to the game after losing his job as a fitness trainer. His wife quit her job as a nurse because she didn’t feel safe and is now playing Axie too.

Bantilo, 34, has parlayed a small, initial investment into a stash of 130,000 Axie tokens. He’s been able to buy health insurance and is hoping to make enough to renovate his home in Bulacan, just north of Manila. He’s also sponsoring 28 scholars of his own.

Lianne Dioso, who got a scholarship from the Captain and plays out of Laguna Province in the Philippines, has the same dream.

“I want to be a blessing to other people,” she says.

Crypto evangelists will tell you that blessings will rain down upon the faithful. Shreyansh Singh, head of NFTs and gaming at Polygon, says major game studios are watching. He predicts the transition to play-to-earn will be slow and difficult but says the switch appears “inevitable.”

“They can’t abandon what they know and jump onto an entirely new ship,” Singh says of the game lords. “They don’t want to piss off the users.”

Countless hurdles loom. Game developers are trying to build out “know your customer’’ capabilities akin to the ones bank use to ferret out illicit money, according to Thomas Olsen, a partner at Bain & Co. Crypto has no shortage of bad actors, but then, the entire financial world is moving toward blockchain-style technology.

“Ten or 20 or 30 years in the future, all assets are going to be tokenized,” Olsen predicts. “All equities, all bonds are going to be on a digital asset platform that is being built by the crypto experiment today.”

Virtual Currency

Nick Kneuper is part of the experiment right now. His company is putting out a game called Crypto Raiders “the World of Warcraft for NFTs,” he calls it. He has a team of about 10 people and about 1,800 players.

They initially sold NFT characters for $45 a pop. Within three months, those NFTs were fetching $680.

Kneuper, 31, is the aptly named “head of growth.” But can runaway growth lead to problems for virtual words, the way it can for the real one?

The regulated economy of Second Life, a pre-NFT online world that’s been around since 2003, is mostly for fun, not profit. Its virtual currency, the Linden dollar, is rock stable compared to the wild ups and downs in cryptoland.

“The real challenge,” says Kneuper, “is creating a balanced game.’’ Too many players earning too much digital money could effectively crash a game’s economy.

What happens if millions want to play Axie tomorrow — or if, for whatever reason, the Smooth Love Potion that gamers have been chasing for hours, days, weeks and months abruptly collapsed?

In that scenario, the gamers’ virtual-world problems start to get real fast. Kneuper says future metaverse economies will have to be managed just like our real one. His prediction: “people with economics degrees are going to get hired by NFT games.”

Updated: 11-2-2021

‘We Are Building For The Metaverse,’ Says Meta VP Nick Clegg

Clegg joined Meta in 2018 following a two-decade tenure in the British political scene.

Nick Clegg, vice president for global affairs and communications at Meta Platforms, spoke at Lisbon’s Web Summit 2021 during a panel on Facebook and innovation in Europe.

The world’s biggest tech conference has returned to a physical setting following a two-year, COVID 19-induced virtual hiatus.

The event is showcasing an illustrious list of entrepreneurs, organizations and influencers at the cutting edge of their respective fields and has — according to recent data compiled by the Web Summit communications team — attracted 42,751 attendees from 128 countries, 50.5% of which are female, the highest-ever participation by women in the event’s 10-year history.

Interviewed by Matthew Garrahan, news editor at the Financial Times, Clegg spoke with a sense of joviality and expressiveness, sharing a number of notable insights into the development and intended execution of Facebook’s new Meta project.

Clegg shared his personal belief of the importance that “we [Meta] were as open as possible and that we are not seeking to build the metaverse on our own. We are building for the metaverse,” before continuing:

“The Metaverse, I think many people might be relieved to know, is not going to be wholly owned, administered and orchestrated by Mark Zuckerberg and Meta.”

The former British politician, who served as leader of the Liberal Democratic party between 2007 and 2015 and deputy prime minister of the United Kingdom in a coalition government alongside David Cameron between 2010 and 2015, is most often considered an orange book liberal whose political inclinations align with choice and freedom in the private lives of individuals and in the market.

He Shared A Remark That Stressed The Cruciality Of Fostering Collaboration In The Pursuit Of Technological Evolution:

“It was important for us to get out there as early as possible, and say the unlike previous technological eruptions which happened very suddenly and then, if you like, society, regulation and law breathlessly try to catch up later — which is perhaps part of the debate we’re having in the wake of the issues that Frances Haugen has brought to light — that this time we can do it the other way round.”

Facebook’s corporate pivot into the metaverse market at Facebook’s Connect conference on Thursday places it among blockchain platforms Axie Infinity, Decentraland and The Sandbox in building the architecture of virtual worlds for people to work, socialize and co-exist with the integration of nonfungible tokens (NFTs) and other facets of the crypto sphere.

Updated: 11-3-2021

Microsoft Muscles Into The Metaverse With Teams Updates And Xbox Upgrades

“The metaverse enables us to embed computing into the real world, and to embed the real world into computing. Bringing real presence to any digital space,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

United States tech giant Microsoft is taking the plunge into the metaverse via updates to its Teams and Xbox gaming console services, along with a new product called “Dynamics 365 Connected Spaces.”

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced the firm’s metaverse plans for Teams and Spaces on Tuesday during the Microsoft Ignite conference.

“The Metaverse enables us to embed computing into the real world and to embed the real world into computing. Bringing real presence to any digital space. What’s most important is that we are able to bring our humanity with us, and choose how we want to experience this world,” Nadella said.

The update for Microsoft Teams is dubbed “Mesh” and its initial rollout in 2022 will provide users with personalized digital avatars and immersive spaces to meet in the metaverse “that can be accessed from any device, with no special equipment needed.”

Later down the road of Mesh’s development, organizations will also be able to build custom spaces to support contexts such as meetings or “social mixers.”

Microsoft’s new Dynamics 365 Connected Spaces product is set for its first preview in December 2021, and it will enable organizations to combine metaverse and artificial intelligence (AI) technology with their businesses.

The firm said that Spaces can be used to harness observational data from cameras from the “the retail store to the factory floor,” in what it is calling a “hybrid work environment.”

“With the power of your existing cameras, harness computer vision and observational data to help complete the picture—giving a new perspective into people, places, and things,” wrote Vishal Sood, general manager of Connected Spaces, in a Tuesday blog post.

“Following deployment, simply turn on AI-powered models, known as skills, to help understand specific scenarios such as customer behavior at a promotional display, traffic patterns, and insights unique to your space.”

During an interview with Bloomberg TV on Wednesday, Nadella also stated that Microsoft’s video game firm, Xbox, will “absolutely” work on integrating the metaverse into its gaming lines. The CEO kept his cards close to his chest, however, as he didn’t provide any concrete updates for the gaming sector.

“You Can Absolutely Expect Us To Do Things In Gaming,” Nadella Said, And Added:

“If you take Halo as a game, it is a Metaverse. Minecraft is a Metaverse, and so is Flight Sim. In some sense, they’re 2D today and the question is can you now take that to a fully 3D world, and we absolutely plan to do so.”

Microsoft is not the only mainstream giant to come out with metaverse plans this week, with Cointelegraph reporting earlier on Wednesday that Nike had submitted applications for trademarks of its iconic logo and slogan for use in “online virtual worlds.” The firm has also posted two recent job listings for virtual material designers.

Nike said the new recruits would “play a key role in redefining our digital world, ushering us into the Metaverse.”

Social media giant Facebook is famously taking the plunge into the metaverse, rebranding itself as Meta and working to provide a platform for creators to build virtual online businesses, connect online experiences with the physical world, and launch its virtual reality hardware business named “Reality Labs.”

During an interview with CNBC’s Squawk Box on Friday, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian commented on Facebook’s plans, labeling it a “masterstroke in diversion and distraction” from the problems that have plagued the firm.

While Ohanian noted that Meta should not be “underestimated,” he emphasized that there is enough organic movement from the crypto sector to create an open metaverse as opposed to one controlled by the social media giant:

“Right now, there is this bottom-up movement to create the Metaverse. You’re seeing a lot of this happening in the crypto community. You’re seeing a lot of people building what I think is, what most of us hope will become, a much more organic type of world rather than a top-down Facebook-imposed one.”

Updated: 11-11-2021

Crypto Kids Fight Facebook For The Soul Of The Metaverse

“The Metaverse doesn’t start in virtual reality — it starts with ownership of assets, [the] ability for anyone to create and trade value.”

With Facebook and Microsoft engaged in a virtual land grab, is there still a future for the dream of a Metaverse that’s owned and built by the community?

A dinosaur walks into a bar, orders a whiskey neat and sits down with a pink elephant and a purple, hard-to-place obscure anime character. They watch a live NBA game. A good time is had by all.

This is no joke. For one major crypto fund manager referred to as “Simon,” who prefers to remain anonymous (and not offer investment advice), that night in 2020 — which resembled the famous bar scene on Mos Eisley in Star Wars — was the moment when the light bulb went off. Decentraland. This is a real thing, he thought.

Virtual, community-built worlds such as Decentraland and The Sandbox stem from a gaming market that allows people to host virtual events and buy or rent digital real estate. These nonfungible token Metaverse platforms bridge the real world with the surreal in what The Sandbox has described as a “player-owned economy.”

The Sandbox last week raised $93 million from Soft Bank’s Vision Fund 2, and NFT sales exceeded $10 billion in Q3 of 2021. We are now at the dawn of the Metaverse era.

Celebrities, including rappers like Snoop Dogg, and luxury fashion brands are all getting in on the NFT game to monetize their products, images and personas.

It has been a huge year for the space, and the pandemic has helped the cultural adoption of the concept of the Metaverse. “We have all kind of already lived a Metaverse life on Zoom, over the last two years.

The Metaverse is where it all ends,” notes Robby Yung, CEO of Animoca Brands — which owns The Sandbox and is a major shareholder in CryptoKitties and NBA Top Shot creator Dapper Labs.

It’s also more than just a game: “What does it mean to plug into the Metaverse? It’s more of a philosophical question of how much of my time will I dedicate to this place.”

Big money is being thrown around. Along with Facebook, Microsoft is muscling in too. Whoever becomes dominant early on can grab the early network effects to become a gigantic player.

While Facebook’s investors might be concerned by the $10 billion the company is spending on the Metaverse this year, why can’t Facebook join this glorious virtual world?

There is some logic behind the rebrand to Meta, considering it bought Instagram and WhatsApp in 2012 and 2014, respectively, as well as VR headset company Oculus in that latter year.

It makes sense for that virtual reality play, and Facebook has the money and the network effects to attract new gamers and interest to the space.

Many diehard cryptopreneurs and investors are enjoying the mass adoption brought on in 2021 by the NFT craze, and Facebook would help that mass adoption goal.

But it also raises plenty of questions. Few are clear on what exactly the social media giant’s plans are, but unlike Decentraland, pundits expect data to be collected and that the platform will be centralized.

The social media giant could pose a big threat to a community-run Metaverse. Should a centralized company like Facebook — which constantly faces antitrust questions and is criticized from all quarters over privacy issues and spreading misinformation and division — be allowed to take control of the Metaverse?

There are a lot of cultural and economic factors at play. We consider them from three perspectives: The Metaverse Investors, The Metaverse Founders and The Metaverse Gamers. What is the Metaverse, and where is it going? And could — or should — Facebook join this metaphysical universe?

For many (even within Cryptoland), it’s probably still hard to understand what’s driving the Metaverse. Despite the foundations being built, it’s still very much a concept at this stage — one reflecting our inner hopes and dreams, a vast cartoonish digital playground enmeshed with our physical world.

According to Mike Rubin, founder of Dreamium Labs and creator of the Dreamscape Open Metaverse initiative, the term is being misused. “The term is being both improperly and overly used to describe products and, as we’ve just seen with the Facebook rebrand, a company,” he says.

This is one of the problems with Facebook’s play: “We believe there can only be one Metaverse, and to be part of it, there has to be interconnectivity and self-sovereignty of identity,” Rubin says.

“So, in practice, companies and products that are calling themselves ‘a metaverse’ are simply referring to apps and worlds — or in the case of Facebook, its own universe. Perhaps in the future, if they adopt a self-sovereign universal identity system, they can become part of the Metaverse.”

Central to the idea of the Metaverse is that each person will have their own interactive avatar that exists outside of any walled garden or service within the Metaverse. “Owning your avatar and all its data is a fundamental tenet,” he says.

“If your interactive digital identity is not transportable to a destination, then, by definition, that destination can not be part of the Metaverse.” So, a Metaverse carved up and controlled by companies is not a Metaverse.

“That is the basis of [each person’s] digital identity, which enables all their interactions and how they are represented in each interconnected experience,” argues Rubin.

Digital ownership is made possible through NFTs, and blockchain technology encourages individuals to build the Metaverse, in part because they own whatever they create.

Logically, of course, Facebook could still muscle in the Metaverse due purely to its network effects, but this will become a war of ecosystems, not just companies.

The key battle will be between Facebook alongside other corporations seeking to control the Metaverse and the crypto kids who want it to be community-built, -owned and -run.

The history of the internet suggests that the companies are likely to get the upper hand — unless the decentralized nature of blockchain technology has dramatically altered the balance.

Rubin, a tech veteran, argues that “Since no one entity should control such a vital system to the Metaverse, we are calling on the entire ecosystem to join together in a community-owned and -operated open Metaverse: the Dreamscape MetaDAO. Only together can we accelerate into the first few innings of the Metaverse era.”

Whether a decentralized autonomous organization is more or less likely to succeed than Facebook is an interesting question that may depend on eventual commercial partnerships, platform creations and gaming preferences.

Part of the problem is that the Metaverse is still being built, so rent-seeking is still possible. For Rubin, a baseball analogy is apt: “We are still in warmups, taking batting practice. The game has not even started, but there are already lots of players on the field getting ready.”

Interoperable Gaming And The Adoption Rubric

The Metaverse has the potential to change the way we work. Decentraland and The Sandbox, for example, enable players to monetize their time spent in the Metaverse in different ways, also known as play-to-earn.

For Mitch Penman-Allen, co-founder of play-to-earn startup Perion, Facebook doesn’t fit into the definition of the Metaverse. “The Metaverse is the idea that we are building interoperable digital networks founded upon digital asset ownership and platform-agnostic useability,” he says.

Perion is a digital gaming guild that buys and leases NFT assets to gamers who use them to get the best returns, “bringing staking into the gaming realm.” Co-founder Amos Whitewolf was the No.1 player on Axie Infinity for several months in 2021, and he has reinvested those play-to-earn winnings into his startup.

He even got his 13-, 15- and 17-year-old sisters into play-to-earn to make pocket money.

“The people who really understand this are the crypto-natives who have had a strong focus on what’s been happening on the ground since the beginning. The people that will pick up on this space fast are going to be gamers — nothing is new here for a gamer other than real ownership. The fight for decentralized ownership of the Metaverse isn’t new.”

He notes that the first NFT project created on the Ethereum blockchain, “Etheria,” was a decentralized virtual world where players owned tiles and farmed them for blocks to build things. It had the intention of offering an alternative to “whatever Google and Facebook come up with” in regard to the Metaverse.

In November 2017, Dapper Labs’ CryptoKitties popularized the then-revolutionary concept of NFTs, with co-founder Mik Naayem telling Magazine last year that it was a strategic play.

“The reason we decided to go for entertainment — specifically games — is because we felt that it’s just a much easier way to introduce folks to decentralization,” he said. “Gamers are the perfect target market, as they already understand virtual currencies and virtual worlds.”

Gaming leading to crypto adoption has been a longstanding crypto prophecy that seemed to finally dawn in 2021, argues Whitewolf. “Gaming is where the next wave of people onboarded to crypto is going to happen.

People understand games — they don’t need to learn finance or tech to be a part of this movement. In-game assets are not a new concept. Ownership and truly interoperable assets are the next step.”

Incentivization Is The Key To The Community-Built Metaverse

The play-to-earn model saw Filipinos starting to play games en masse during the pandemic rather than seeking manual work or a call center job, with Axie Infinity the “godfather of the play-to-earn model,” according to fund manager Simon.

This social phenomenon, while not unique to the Philippines, is certainly most pronounced there, with a considerable amount of Metamask’s growth this year coming from the country. Discord (AKA “Slack for gaming”) groups now feature tens of thousands of members from the Philippines, and there are now more SLP (one of Axie Infinity’s tokens) wallets than credit cards in the Philippines.

Adoption is a mechanism of a “good play-to-earn model and a good game to play,” according to Yung — a tech veteran from the online gaming industry, the majority shareholder of The Sandbox and an investor in Decentraland.

Economics and being able to earn in the Metaverse will also be an important part of building the ecosystem.

Filipino gamer “Water Emperor” got into NFTs and playing Axie Infinity due to the pandemic, and he joined a guild run by Whitewolf in July 2021, renting an NFT to play the game as a “scholar.” In Metaverse parlance, scholars play the game with someone else’s NFT with a revenue split model.

Water Emperor uses this model to “pay for my tuition fees” and hopes to become a doctor one day. His parents are supportive and hope to invest in crypto soon too.

In a country with a political system as volatile as the Philippines, and with mass unemployment during the pandemic, it is easy to see why this new financial earning capacity offers new hope for Filipino gamers.

“Axie Infinity — it’s a good game, similar to card games when I was a kid. Constantly changing, another universe is always changing,” he says. “That is why I play, to open windows to explore, and it helps me to complete my studies.”

Most people play on mobile phones in the Philippines, and high internet fees affect the profitability of gaming at times. Nevertheless, he salvaged 2021 by turning his passion for gaming into a career. Crypto economics allowed that to happen.

In short, incentivization is the key to a community-built Metaverse. “We are at the beginning. Crypto-asset protocols have created the infrastructure the Metaverse will require,” says Whitewolf.

“The Metaverse doesn’t start in virtual reality — it starts with ownership of assets, [the] ability for anyone to create and trade value. VR comes later as the technology becomes available.”

Multiple Metaverses Already Exist

For Simon the crypto fund manager, his interest started with Decentraland — walking around a virtual bar and watching a live NBA game with random avatars. It was then that the “penny dropped.” For him, this is the next step for the internet and social engagement.

“Young people are more digitally engaged, and people living in suboptimal living standards could live more happily in a digital world.”

On that measure, it’s also obvious how Facebook fits in this world. Facebookers are already living online.

Posts — and more importantly, how often a person posts — can often reveal much about a person, from mental health to happiness and their attitudes toward privacy.

Facebook clearly believes the Metaverse is the next evolution of social media, which puts it in the driving seat based on its users, but its implementation of play-to-earn will also be important to its success globally.

There are already multiple socioeconomic metaverses, and this may play in Facebook’s favor if the right to play is free and its existing network effects hold strong. In The Sandbox and in Decentraland, there is a finite amount of square footage, and corporations will likely buy up much of that land, according to Simon.

Gas fees can also be prohibitive, especially on Ethereum, where it costs a fortune to mint and trade NFTs, locking out large parts of the population.

As alternative networks like Solana, Cardano and Polkadot are used, and as Ethereum sidechains are built and the blockchain moves to proof-of-stake, the barriers to entry will lower.

“NFTs are also currently relatively inaccessible to non-crypto natives. This is a limitation of the infrastructure that NFTs are released on,” argues Whitewolf. In some ways, this is a race to widespread adoption.

Corporations are already muscling into the Metaverse and taking it away from the people, replicating the divide in the real world of the haves and have-nots. Simon notes that growth is not all egalitarian.

Whales were buying up blocks in Decentraland for “$20,000 in May that are now about $800,000.”

Corporations such as 1980s gaming superstar Atari have also invested heavily in Decentraland and The Sandbox. “This is already beyond a poor man’s game,” he notes.

“As real-world advertising progresses further, land will be more valuable than Times Square,” opines the crypto fund manager.

The Metaverse Is The Antithesis Of Facebook

The term “metaverse” originates from Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel Snow Crash. It’s one of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s favorite novels, and he reportedly used to give it to all new hires.

Animoca Brand’s Yung says the book was also his own “gateway drug into tech and angel investing,” and ​​his first angel investment in 1997 was based on building a Snow Crash-style Metaverse. The CEO of that startup is now an investor in The Sandbox — hopefully, a good harbinger for the crypto kids long waiting for this moment of evolution.

Yung believes that the Metaverse is the antithesis of Facebook. “Sci-fi always reached for that idea. Now, we have the tools. A blockchain economy makes it real,” he says, adding that crypto has managed to stay one step ahead of corporate control so far:

“Crypto ventures needed to move forward as fast as possible so that the behemoths couldn’t buy them. Even Facebook and Google can longer afford to buy Ethereum.”

Whitewolf is not sure where the Metaverse is headed, but he knows it’s going to be huge and erase the barriers between developing economies and developed ones. “Crypto gaming is going to massively onboard billions onto blockchain. The crypto narrative around banking the bankless has never been so realistic,” he says.

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian said recently that the Metaverse is being built by the community, not corporations, and he hopes that it stays that way

“Right now, there is this bottom-up movement to create the Metaverse. You’re seeing a lot of this happening in the crypto community. You’re seeing a lot of people building what I think is, what most of us hope will become, a much more organic type of world rather than a top-down Facebook-imposed one.”

For Rubin, the key element has always been open community and open-source network effects, which he believes are more powerful than any corporation. “We don’t see it as a battle between Facebook and crypto kids, per se.

The latter will approach their efforts with decentralization at the forefront, while the large established tech companies are going to see blockchain and crypto as a necessary ‘bolt-on’ as opposed to being core,” he says.

“Time will tell which approach gains adoption as well as sustainability. We have made our bet that a decentralized, open and community-owned blockchain foundational layer is going to win.”

Updated: 11-12-2021

I Spent 24 Hours In The Metaverse. I Made Friends, Did Work And Panicked About The Future

The best way to learn about the 3-D future internet everyone’s talking about? Visit it in a virtual-reality headset.

Here’s a lesson from the metaverse: Avatar attractiveness is a thing.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised that my avatar caught the eye of another avatar at a virtual comedy show. Mine is pretty breathtaking—face like a Lego Minifigure, detachable hands and a legless torso that glides like a ghost.

Yet when the comedian avatar on the stage referred to me as the “pretty girl” up front, I was completely caught off guard. Not only that, real me was nervous to be the center of attention in a room with 40 or more other floating, legless digital people.

Then I remembered: I’m alone, in a hotel room, in an Oculus Quest 2 virtual-reality headset. Phew!

Such is life in the metaverse, where the digital world transforms the real one in ways that are fun, freaky and sometimes frightening.

There’s no real consensus on its technical definition, but broadly, the metaverse is the next phase of the internet, where things jump out of our two-dimensional screens to occupy space in our three-dimensional world—or at least a parallel one.

In late October, Facebook changed its name to Meta to reflect its growth beyond its namesake social-media platform. Mark Zuckerberg previewed his vision of how we’ll work, hang out, work out, shop and more as legless avatars—in part using Quest 2 headsets from his company.

A week later, Microsoft did something similar, showing how we’ll all float around a virtual PowerPoint presentation. Save us!

Those companies and others say it will take years and billions of dollars to build this digital universe. But there are apps and spaces in VR right now that give us a glimpse.

So I decided to pack two Quest 2 headsets and my bags. As you’ll see in my video, I checked into a Holiday Inn Express to live in the virtual world for 24 hours.

It was…eye-opening. When my eyes weren’t burning, that is. Here’s what I learned.

Avatar meetings are great.

Look, it’s hard to take your editor seriously when his voice is coming from a legless Milhouse from “The Simpsons.” Still, after a few minutes sitting around a virtual conference table, we both realized it was better than a boring ol’ Zoom.

It felt like he was really sitting across from me, making direct eye contact.

We met in Meta’s Horizon Workrooms, an app that provides a virtual conference room for meetings. You can invite contacts to your private space via the web.

If they have a Quest 2, they join in the 3-D space as an avatar. If not, they join via video call and watch your avatar. Once set up, it can be great—but good luck setting it up!

I had avatar meetings throughout the day, including one in a similar app called Spatial. In Spatial, you upload your photo to the company’s website, and you’re then turned into a creepy, tweaky, robo-phantasmic version of yourself.

You can also change the design of the 3-D space you’re in. I met Spatial’s CEO and co-founder, Anand Agarawala, by a virtual campfire and then in an NFT art gallery, with all sorts of digital works on the walls.

While the avatars in both apps were very different, they shared one common trait: No legs.

“It’s a technical challenge. We have headsets that are great for tracking your upper body,” Meaghan Fitzgerald, product marketing director of virtual reality at Meta, told me as a floating torso. “We are working on making it feel really authentic to be your whole self in VR, but we don’t want you to look down and be like, ‘My legs aren’t moving the way I wanted them to.’”

Avatar meetups aren’t great.

Meetings in the metaverse are nice, in part because you have control over whom you invite. It’s like the next evolution of a private Facebook Group or video call.

What happens, though, with public groups any avatar can join? I found out when joining Microsoft-owned AltspaceVR.

The platform is used for virtual comedy shows, concerts, general chat rooms and more. When I popped into a virtual park, I was instantly able to hear lots of avatars talking around me.

One woman I overheard said she’s a nurse in real life and saw someone die earlier that day. I met some nice people who said they’ve made good friends in the space.

“During the pandemic, I did a few Zoom shows, and they were disastrous,” Kris Tinkle, a Las Vegas comedian whose show I caught, told me. “In Altspace, you can feel people laughing. You can feel and see people buckle over.” And, he says, it’s easier to interact with cartoon crowds.

There are some built-in safety and privacy tools. You can click on someone’s avatar and quickly mute it. You can also block it, so that you no longer see or hear the person in the space.

The app also has round-the-clock moderators, who roam some of the spaces and can be contacted by users. The comedy club has its own “bouncers” to police the venue for bad actors.

It seems inevitable: The same issues we encountered in social media’s well-trodden text, image and video venues will carry over to the 3-D world. Except there, people can remain anonymous while getting right up in your face. Can’t wait!

Solo stuff is fun.

There are loads of stuff to do on your own, including games and my new favorite: working out.

I’m now hooked on Supernatural. In a scenic space (the virtual Galapagos is beautiful this time a year), pop music plays, and an instructor coaches you along, as you use the controllers to swipe, punch and dodge different virtual obstacles.

I totally lost track of time. But it’s pricey: $19 a month or $180 a year. Within, the company that built Supernatural, has entered into an agreement to be acquired by Meta.

I also spent more time than I should admit playing “Beat Saber,” a classic VR game, which by total coincidence also lets me smash things with my fists. Another “total coincidence”? Meta acquired the makers of this app too.

May I also suggest VR meditation? In the Guided Meditation app—not (yet?) owned by Meta—I enjoyed replacing my hotel room’s view of the Holland Tunnel with a view of British Columbia’s Azure Lake and listening to some breathing exercises.

Everything is fractured.

I made four different avatars for different apps over the course of 24 hours. I also cursed profusely, attempting to create different accounts using the virtual keyboard.

That’s one way to understand the coming fight for the metaverse: Meta and Microsoft want to provide the underlying platforms, letting us log into one account, build one avatar, then float across all our games, workout apps, meetings and more.

Unsurprisingly, Meta and Microsoft, two companies sidelined in the mobile iOS-vs.-Android race, are looking to build the next iOS or Android.

(Meanwhile, iOS maker Apple has been progressing in augmented reality for years, and analysts and industry watchers say it could be working on a VR headset as well. An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment.)

Then there is the hardware. VR helmets not long ago required room sensors and spacewalk-like tethers to some overheated super PC. The self-powered Quest 2 is, by comparison, a feat.

But spend just an hour in it—let alone 24—and you’ll face app crashes, performance slowdowns and battery drain. After my endurance test, I took Advil to relieve the motion-induced headaches.

The future is far off.

Virtual reality—where I attempted to live for 24 hours—is an escape from the real world. Augmented reality brings digital objects into our real world, like holograms.

But the AR glasses that are required for us to see those holograms naturally, instead of as obviously superimposed digital sprites, will likely require five to 10 years of hardware evolution.

A few weeks ago, Snap Chief Executive Evan Spiegel told me: “We are interested in augmented reality because it’s grounded in the world that we share. It does a better job of integrating computing into the world than the way we are using computing today.”

In Horizon Workrooms, you can pair your real Windows or Mac laptop to the headset so that your computer desktop appears on your virtual screen.

It was nice to be in a virtual meeting with my editor and take notes on my actual laptop. Except, I’m typing on a real keyboard I can’t see because of the VR headset. So I end up with a lot of dfdjf;lkjsdg.

I think that kind of sums it up. Blending the realverse and metaverse makes sense, but in the meantime we’re going to deal with a whole lot of dfdjf;lkjsdg problems!

Updated: 11-23-2021

‘Crypto-States’ Will Compete With Corporates In The Metaverse

It’s Facebook’s Meta versus open DAOs. And the battle will come down to hardware, specifically, microchips.

What kind of metaverse would you like to live in?

With the announcement of Facebook’s rebrand to “Meta” – where the social media giant designs and builds “the metaverse” and claims the next digital frontier – the battle for the future of cyberspace is on.
What is “the metaverse”?

“The metaverse” describes virtual worlds that break distinctions between digital and physical space. In more detail, the metaverse has been described as “a massively scaled and interoperable network of real-time rendered 3D virtual worlds which can be experienced synchronously and persistently by an effectively unlimited number of users, and with continuity of data, such as identity, history, entitlements, objects, communications and payments.”

The concept is aptly depicted in Neil Stephenson’s 1992 Novel “Snow Crash” where people plug in to conduct business and socialize in commercially owned digital worlds, the book turned film “Ready Player One” and the recent film “Free Guy,” where a non-player character becomes a sentient artificial intelligence.

Metaverse investor and writer Matthew Ball estimates the metaverse could be worth up to $30 trillion in the next decade.

How this impending digital reality is built and governed will determine societal outcomes in the near future and for generations to come. This piece argues that the battle for the future of the metaverse comes down to hardware.

Centralized Versus Decentralized Visions

The two major competing visions for the metaverse are private versus public.

The privatized metaverse is a centralized future where big corporates such as Facebook’s “Meta” determine how people “socialize, learn, collaborate and play.” This occurs through virtual reality (via headsets that project a digital world) and augmented reality (such as glasses, that project digital things over the physical world).

The private metaverse is owned and governed by Facebook, and value is extracted from users as consumers. First, Facebook attempted a blockchain and cryptocurrency play with Libra (rebranded to Diem).

Now, crypto people are once again riled up about Facebook for trying to steal and monopolize another Web 3.0 (the participatory web) idea and monopolize it, as Facebook announced that its metaverse will leverage non-fungible-tokens (NFTs) to represent and exchange digital assets.

An anonymous collective of crypto community members recently released a jointly signed “Declaration of the Interdependence of Cyberspace” that builds on the ideas in John Perry Barlow’s famous Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace from 1996.

“Your cookies, copyrights and capital may centralize your control for a small time, but they will not work in a world that will soon distribute power,” the document says as a warning to Facebook. Crypto communities are determined to collectively own the metaverse by building it themselves.

In contrast, the public metaverse is a vision of numerous, decentralized digital worlds that people can move between that are built and owned by participants. The public metaverse is predicated on open, interoperable decentralized technological architecture.

It integrates a suite of crypto community innovations in decentralized finance (DeFi) for payments and NFTs for digital in-world items that hold real value. Furthermore, the public metaverse is governed and owned by decentralized autonomous organizations” (or DAOs) where distributed, objective-aligned communities collectively own, govern and work in digital worlds.

Down To The Hardware

The base, foundational layer of the metaverse is hardware.

The metaverse is dependent on physical devices to access and interact with the metaverse. Facebook is pursuing hardware interfaces to the metaverse through the Oculus virtual reality headset (which they acquired for $1.6 billion), and an augmented reality (AR) glasses partnership with Rayban.

Hardware is a core enabler to make the metaverse possible, along with compute, networking, payment services and interoperability standards.

Yet, hardware is hard. Infamous open hardware hacker Andrew “Bunnie” Huang states that “hardware is all about supply chains”, and a particular challenge in souring reliable supply, is microchips.

Microchips are the building blocks of computer hardware. Chips are extremely expertise and labor intensive. Factories cost billions to build and there are only a few in the world.

The largest and most advanced chip maker is Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC), which manufactures over half of the world’s made-to-order chip supply, and the company is worth $550 billion.

These small, wafer sized chips power mobile devices, “internet of things” hardware, refrigerators, cars, 5G telecommunications networks and artificial intelligence.

COVID-19 significantly disrupted supply chains due to lockdowns, shipping delays and supply disruptions with cancellations from some industries such as automotive, and increased consumption in others, such as consumer electronics.

This leaves the technological advancement of nation-states vulnerable to supply chain shortages. These disruptions have revealed how fragile the microchip supply chain is, resulting in increased geopolitical tension between nation-states over microchip manufacturing.

Now, “crypto-states” also want to compete in the microchip industry to supply the essential hardware for the open metaverse. A16z’s Balaji Srinivasan describes “network-states” and “cloud cities” as virtual political entities that can collectively negotiate, fund, build, maintain and reproduce without relying on external resources.

Blockchain-based DAOs are just this – in their ability to bootstrap a digital economy, collectively negotiate and crowdfund territory in the real world.

These crypto cities and network-states are popping up everywhere, including CityDAO buying land in Wyoming, ConstitutionDAO aiming to buy and co-own an original copy of the U.S. Constitution, and Kong Land looking to mass manufacture open microchips.

Kong Land Crypto-state

The Kong Land crypto-state is the brainchild of serious open hardware hackers. Having successfully exited a physical door lock business in Silicon Valley, the co-initiators of Kong Land released the “ARX” whitepaper in 2018, which first articulated the vision for trust through open silicon chip manufacturing.

In 2019, open chips were trialed in their first use case: physical hardware notes of “crypto cash.” Known as “Kong Cash,” the notes have a microchip embedded in them which links to a smart contract to verify and ultimately access cryptocurrency.

Experimentation in open chips has recently culminated in “Kong Land” with the launch of NFT “citizen” tokens to build the community for an open chip manufacturing and utilization DAO.

Kong Land is predicated on secure hardware at the silicon level through cryptographic key ownership which links to blockchain-based smart contracts to bridge the physical world to the digital world and usher in an open metaverse.

Kong Land chips have the potential for any use case you can think of. The Kong Land manifesto states that “At inception, Kong Land will export crypto assets for projects like stablecoins, identities and art … Given sufficient funds, it will ultimately seek to continue research around more secure forms of physical crypto assets.”

This metaverse is owned by “citizens” who acquire governance rights through early buy-in, sign a “Kongstitution” social graph distribution, or work for tokens in accordance with the Kong “green card” policy initiative.

Against the threat of Facebook’s proposal for a centralized, corporate metaverse, Kong Land early contributor Paul states that “The infrastructure of registering real items with virtual items shouldn’t be a private entity, it should be a public good”.

Cryptographically secured microchips are a way for people to hold their own keys when it comes to hardware. “Through these chips you have a way to interact without an arbiter,” stated Cameron, an early contributor to Kong Land.

By addressing individual ownership at the hardware level, these chips can then be embedded in virtually anything, for secure access to digital assets and digital lands.

Kong Land intends to do this through “silicon locked contracts” (or SiLos) to address digital and physical asset ownership at the hardware level.

SiLos are low-cost, durable, secure element microchips that are cryptographically linked to a smart contract on a public blockchain. Each chip self-generates a cryptographic key pair and the public key is added to a Kong registry contract.

Using a smartphone, anyone can scan the microchip using a near-field communication (NFC) reader, to verify the private key and unlock access to the tokenized assets stored in the contract, authenticate an identity, or even trigger real-world actions.

Embedding a SiLo microchip into any physical item transforms it into a crypto asset that can be verified on chain, as well as interacted with in real life.

“While traditional tech companies focus largely on bringing users into virtual worlds or augmenting reality with digital experiences, we envision a seamlessly intertwined metaverse that doesn’t rely solely on wearable headgear,” says the Kong Land “ambassador” in a blog post.

The goal is to digitize real-world assets with these secure element chips that match physical and digital goods.

NFTs enable verified ownership of assets to port between the physical and digital, and back to physical (they assure me that this final step is hard), as well as genuine ownership of assets for interoperability between metaverses.

One example is “Metafactory,” a “digital factory” for merchandise that is integrated with Kong Land microchips. This allows clothing items to be scanned by the NFC chip reader in a smartphone, to reveal an NFT and share metadata about the item.

In the future, Kong imagines people being able to take NFTs and digital items, and port them back to physical representations through chips, which verify ownership of unique assets.

Another example is “Kong card” passports, a physical passport with a chip embedded that allows “citizens” of Kong Land to verify their citizenship at physical locations for access to special events.

Provability of unique identity with the passport then solves problems back in the digital crypto state, such as the challenge of multiple fake identities to attack a network (known as “sybil attacks”), which can be a problem in governance voting.

“Like any other country, Kong Land has citizenship requirements, a unique culture, a working government (a “DAO of DAOs”) and a robust economy built on creating and exporting SiLo-factured crypto assets,” says the project blog.

Kong Land’s vision is to be a “DAO of DAOs” with an orbit of “sub-DAOs” that integrate microchips for anything they can imagine, effectively catalyzing a constellation of open metaverses.

With the chip manufacturing hub at its core, Kong’s ambition to export their own secure element chips and eventually custom silicon research and development, this crypto-state competes with Facebook’s vision of a closed metaverse.

Conclusion

The rapid experimentation of blockchain-based DAOs as crypto-cities and states is demonstrating innovative ways to link the digital and the physical.

Fundamentally, the battle between an open, decentralized, crypto metaverse and a closed, extractive, corporate metaverse comes down to the hardware, as to how people will access digital worlds.

Kong Land is an example of a crypto-state with the community, manufacturing capabilities and expertise to compete for an open metaverse.

As they develop, crypto projects that operate like states will compete with big corporates and nation-states as new political actors.

As the distinction between physical and digital spaces continues to erode, the emergent battle for the future of the metaverse offers an important area of inquiry into the risks and opportunities of cyber-civilization.

The crypto community will need to continue to emphasize the importance of open technical architecture and participatory governance to pursue its vision for “interdependence.”

 

Updated: 11-29-2021

Brands No Longer See Metaverse-Like Worlds As Abstract Gimmicks

Chipotle, Vans and Verizon turn to Roblox, Fortnite in an effort to build brand recognition.

Brands had been toying with the metaverse for some time before Facebook’s recent name change turned the term into a household word. Now some of them are getting serious.

Companies including Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and streetwear brand Vans earlier this year built their own digital worlds on metaverse-like platforms such as Roblox Corp. and Fortnite Creative in an attempt to improve brand recognition and get existing customers more engaged.

Their efforts are a sign that advertisers, which have long been hesitant to spend marketing dollars on experimental efforts, are warming to new digital platforms.

Facebook’s late October announcement that it would develop a metaverse environment, including investing $10 billion on the effort this year and changing its name to Meta Platforms Inc., is expected to accelerate that trend.

“Facebook saying, ‘We’re going to put $10 billion into this,’ I think provides a lot of incremental confidence that this would be a worthwhile experiment,” said Brian Wieser, global president of business intelligence at GroupM, a media-buying company inside ad agency behemoth WPP PLC.

The metaverse is a relatively new term to describe a futuristic internet with virtual experiences where people can customize avatars—digital images representing themselves—to play games, make virtual purchases and interact and attend events such as concerts and comedy shows.

Roblox is currently among the highest-profile metaverse-like platforms.

This futuristic version of the internet is unlikely to become a significant branding platform for companies anytime soon. Meta Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said last month that the metaverse was five to 10 years away from being developed and adopted by a large number of users.

Marketing executives from companies currently present in the metaverse, including Vans and Chipotle, said they have yet to use the platform to sell physical goods.

Some marketers are also concerned the metaverse may just be a repeat of Linden Lab’s virtual world Second Life, said Kieley Taylor, global head of partnerships at GroupM.

Second Life, a community made up of islands and avatars developed by individuals and businesses, launched in the early aughts to much fanfare from advertisers, but never really had a meaningful enough user base to stay relevant or grow large enough for brands to benefit, said Mr. Wieser of GroupM.

Others believe things will be different this time around. Chris Brandt, Chipotle’s chief marketing officer, said he expects consumers to welcome a more immersive web experience, especially after pandemic confinements led them to change their habits.

“Being at home, using avatars, having the ability to get everything delivered to your home—that changes the way people think about digital,” Mr. Brandt said. “I think the world is more ready for it.”

Chipotle has handed out discounted or free burritos to people in costumes around Halloween for the past two decades. This year, it chose to host its long-running “boorito” promotion in the metaverse.

The Mexican-food chain turned to Roblox, where it built a virtual store where avatars could dress up in costumes such as a Chip Bag Ghost or Burrito Mummy and travel through a virtual maze to retrieve a code for a free burrito. It was Chipotle’s first foray into the metaverse.

“We haven’t tried to sell anything yet on Roblox, but certainly we would like to do some experimentation,” Mr. Brandt said.

Meta has reached out to some advertisers to discuss ad opportunities in the metaverse. One executive at a digital marketing firm said he is planning to meet with Meta remotely, through the company’s virtual-reality headset.

Another agency executive said Meta is encouraging brands to use existing augmented reality features, such as Instagram filters that overlay real photos with special effects, to get comfortable with the types of advertising opportunities that will exist in the future.

Vans, a unit of VF Corp. that sells skateboarding apparel and gear, in September launched a virtual skate park in Roblox, where users can try new tricks and earn points by hitting waffle-shaped floating coins while skating.

They can use the points to redeem items such as virtual shoes and skateboard customizations. They can also use Robux, Roblox’s currency, to buy more specific virtual items, such as customizable shoes.

The company sees virtual universes as a place to build brand awareness among 13-to-35-year olds, the company’s core demographic, said Nick Street, Vans’s vice president of global integrated marketing.

“These worlds are where they hang out, where they meet with each other,” Mr. Street said.

Vans said the virtual skate park has attracted more than 48 million visitors so far. Mr. Street said the company is generating revenue from the sale of virtual goods, but Vans declined to disclose further details.

One of the things Vans isn’t yet able to do in Roblox is use the virtual universe to sell physical products. “That’s where the opportunity lies” when the metaverse grows to a bigger scale, Mr. Street said.

Nike Inc. also recently launched a community in Roblox called Nikeland. The virtual community, which has buildings and fields inspired by Nike’s headquarters, is expected to host games like tag and dodgeball. The company plans to allow creators to design their own games.

Beyond Roblox, gaming companies like “Fortnite” maker Epic Games and Microsoft Corp. , which owns Xbox and popular gaming platform Minecraft, all operate metaverse-like platforms.

Ahead of this year’s Super Bowl, Verizon helped create a virtual copy of the stadium on Fortnite Creative, a system affiliated with the well-known game where developers can construct their own games and communities.

Fans were able to come into the stadium and play games. The company paid some high-profile National Football League players including Tua Tagovailoa and Kyler Murray to join in and play against one another, a competition that Verizon live-streamed on Twitch and Twitter.

Verizon’s marketing chief, Diego Scotti, said he sees the virtual experience—which attracted 40 million people over the course of seven days—as a branding opportunity. “We’re starting to talk about the ability of these experiences to become worthy rivals to TV spots running on the Super Bowl,” he said.

Updated: 11-30-2021

Meta’s David Marcus, Creator of Embattled Diem Project, To Leave Company

Marcus, who joined the tech giant in 2014, has struggled to get the Diem currency off the ground.

David Marcus, one of the top executives at Meta Platforms Inc. and the co-creator of the yet-to-be-launched Diem digital currency, is leaving the company after seven years to pursue other projects.

Marcus, who joined the Facebook parent company in 2014 from PayPal Holdings Inc., ran the Messenger service for years before moving over to form the company’s blockchain division in 2018.

He spent the last few years building Novi, the company’s digital wallet that launched in October, and co-founded Diem, a digital currency formerly known as Libra that was intended as a way for people to send money cross-border.

Getting Diem off the ground has proven to be a struggle for Meta and Marcus. Since the project was unveiled in 2019 — with great fanfare and dozens of partners — the currency’s debut has been delayed and its original ambitions have been scaled back.

Diem faced pushback from lawmakers and regulators when it was announced, and while Meta is still a partner on the effort, Diem is now run independently.

Marcus’s departure adds more uncertainty to Meta’s digital payment push, but the longtime entrepreneur and angel investor says he has an itch to create something outside the company.

“While there’s still so much to do right on the heels of hitting an important milestone with Novi launching — and I remain as passionate as ever about the need for change in our payments and financial systems — my entrepreneurial DNA has been nudging me for too many mornings in a row to continue ignoring it,” according to a blog post he plans to publish Tuesday.

Marcus, 48, plans to leave the company at the end of the year. Stephane Kasriel, the former chief executive officer of Upwork Inc. who joined Meta in August 2020, will take over Marcus’s role leading Novi and other payments projects.

Marcus was involved in a number of major projects at Meta during his tenure, and was a trusted lieutenant to CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

He took over Messenger in 2014 when the company spun the service out of the main Facebook service into its own stand-alone app, angering users but giving Messenger more room to build features like bots and video calling.

Marcus may be best remembered for Diem, though. The effort was opposed by regulators worried about Meta’s role in financial markets. And with scrutiny on Meta only growing this year, the project remains in limbo.

Metaverse Real Estate Piles Up Record Sales In Sandbox And Other Virtual Realms

Firms’ purchases of digital land in online worlds are bets that property values will rise as more people join in.

The latest hot real-estate market isn’t on the scenic coasts or in balmy Sunbelt cities. It’s in the metaverse, where gamers are flocking and digital property sales are setting new records.

A growing number of investment firms are acquiring digital land in worlds such as the Sandbox and Decentraland, where players simulate real-life pursuits, from shopping to attending a concert.

They are betting that individuals and companies will spend money to use virtual homes and retail space and that the value of properties will increase as more people join the worlds.

Investors’ interest in virtual real estate got a boost last month after Facebook renamed itself Meta Platforms Inc. and said it would focus on online worlds, commonly called the metaverse.

That interest reached a new peak on Tuesday when Republic Realm, a firm that develops real estate in the metaverse, said it paid $4.3 million for land in the world Sandbox, the biggest virtual real-estate sale publicized to date, according to the company and to data from the website NonFungible.com, which tracks digital land sales.

Republic Realm bought the digital land from videogame company Atari SA and the two firms said they plan to partner on the development of some of the properties.

That acquisition broke a record set just last week by a subsidiary of Canadian investment firm Tokens.com Corp., which said it paid around $2.5 million for land in the world Decentraland’s Fashion District.

“This is like buying land in Manhattan 250 years ago as the city is being built,” said Andrew Kiguel, chief executive of Tokens.com.

These virtual worlds, often created by videogame developers, include cities where a user’s avatar can stroll and shops where they can buy a new winter coat or a painting to hang on the walls of their virtual homes.

These digital worlds feature apartments or lounges where users can hang out with avatars of their real-life friends. Participants pay in cryptocurrencies to gamble in virtual casinos or to indulge in more extravagant pursuits such as virtual yachts.

Real-estate investors are looking to sell homes that are close to users’ friends and virtual attractions. They are also developing retail spaces, which they hope to lease to virtual retailers for rent priced in hard currency or cryptocurrency.

Ownership of land is recorded through so-called nonfungible tokens, digital identifiers that act as de facto deeds. Property sales are usually done in a cryptocurrency unique to each metaverse.

The investments can be risky. Unlike actual real estate, which tends to retain some value even during a market downturn, the value of virtual properties could fall to zero if the world they are in goes out of fashion and people stop visiting it.

Prices can also be slammed by the volatility of cryptocurrencies, said Zach Aarons, general partner of the real-estate-focused venture-capital firm MetaProp. “If I buy a building for 40 ETH, and then ethereum goes from $4,000 to $100, that’s a fundamental risk that I’m not really taking when I’m buying a piece of physical real estate,” he said.

Republic Realm is trying to reduce the risk by buying land in a number of different virtual worlds, said co-founder Janine Yorio. The company says it runs two real-world investment vehicles focused on virtual real estate and owns about 2,500 plots of digital land across 19 worlds.

Ms. Yorio said she spent a decade as a real-estate investment executive, first at NorthStar Realty Finance Corp. and then at the Standard Hotels, before switching to the financial-technology industry.

The company either buys land directly from a world’s creator, or from third parties through public listings or off-market deals, Ms. Yorio said.

In some cases, it decides to just sit on the vacant land and wait for it to appreciate. In others, it pays an architect to design virtual homes or malls and a game developer to build them.

As in the physical world, zoning rules limit what and where a company can build in the metaverse and, in theory at least, too much development could lead to a market glut. But unlike in the real world, metaverse buildings can defy the laws of physics by appearing to hover above the ground.

“And then we charge rent, just like a regular landlord,” Ms. Yorio said. The company employs an asset manager to deal with tenants’ complaints and change requests.

Its developments include a mall, which it leases to retailers selling fashion for avatars, and a master-planned community of around 100 villas on private islands that it sold to individuals.

Tokens.com, which is publicly traded, is currently developing an 18-story skyscraper in Decentraland that it hopes to lease to lawyers or cryptocurrency exchanges, which can use the building for events or advertising.

It is looking to develop properties on the land it bought in Decentraland’s Fashion District, which it wants to rent out to fashion companies as event and retail space.

“We can create something that’s the equivalent of a Rodeo Drive or Fifth Avenue, where the Guccis and Adidases will come,” Mr. Kiguel, the CEO, said.

 

Updated: 11-30-2021

Meta’s David Marcus, Creator Of Embattled Diem Project, To Leave Company

Marcus, who joined the tech giant in 2014, has struggled to get the Diem currency off the ground.

David Marcus, one of the top executives at Meta Platforms Inc. and the co-creator of the yet-to-be-launched Diem digital currency, is leaving the company after seven years to pursue other projects.

Marcus, who joined the Facebook parent company in 2014 from PayPal Holdings Inc., ran the Messenger service for years before moving over to form the company’s blockchain division in 2018.

He spent the last few years building Novi, the company’s digital wallet that launched in October, and co-founded Diem, a digital currency formerly known as Libra that was intended as a way for people to send money cross-border.

Getting Diem off the ground has proven to be a struggle for Meta and Marcus. Since the project was unveiled in 2019 — with great fanfare and dozens of partners — the currency’s debut has been delayed and its original ambitions have been scaled back.

Diem faced pushback from lawmakers and regulators when it was announced, and while Meta is still a partner on the effort, Diem is now run independently.

Marcus’s departure adds more uncertainty to Meta’s digital payment push, but the longtime entrepreneur and angel investor says he has an itch to create something outside the company.

“While there’s still so much to do right on the heels of hitting an important milestone with Novi launching — and I remain as passionate as ever about the need for change in our payments and financial systems — my entrepreneurial DNA has been nudging me for too many mornings in a row to continue ignoring it,” according to a blog post he plans to publish Tuesday.

Marcus, 48, plans to leave the company at the end of the year. Stephane Kasriel, the former chief executive officer of Upwork Inc. who joined Meta in August 2020, will take over Marcus’s role leading Novi and other payments projects.

Marcus was involved in a number of major projects at Meta during his tenure, and was a trusted lieutenant to CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

He took over Messenger in 2014 when the company spun the service out of the main Facebook service into its own stand-alone app, angering users but giving Messenger more room to build features like bots and video calling.

Marcus may be best remembered for Diem, though. The effort was opposed by regulators worried about Meta’s role in financial markets. And with scrutiny on Meta only growing this year, the project remains in limbo.

Updated: 12-1-2021

Meta’s Head Of Crypto To Step Down At End Of Year

In explaining his decision to leave Meta, David Marcus said that his entrepreneurial DNA had been nudging him “for too many mornings in a row to continue ignoring.”

David Marcus, the head of Meta’s cryptocurrency and fintech unit Novi, will step down from his role by the end of 2021.

Taking over from Marcus will be Stephane Kasriel, the former CEO of Upwork who has been at Meta, formerly known as Facebook, since August 2020.

Marcus announced the decision via a Monday tweet, noting that he had made the “difficult decision” to leave the firm by the end of this year. The exec didn’t go into detail about what his next move would be, but hinted that it may be something “new and exciting” that he builds himself:

“While there’s still so much to do right on the heels of launching Novi — and I remain as passionate as ever about the need for change in our payments and financial systems — my entrepreneurial DNA has been nudging me for too many mornings in a row to continue ignoring it.”

Marcus has worked at the company since 2014, initially taking up a role in the firm’s messenger service branch before shifting his focus to financial services in 2018 by founding Meta’s digital wallet Novi (which also bears the same name as the fintech unit) along with co-founding the beleaguered Diem stablecoin project, which now operates independently.

Marcus joins a list of former execs of the social media giant’s crypto unit who have left the firm over the past 12 months, including fellow Diem co-founders Morgan Beller and Kevin Weil who both took up new roles at NFX and Planet, respectively.

Novi and Diem have faced intense scrutiny from local and international regulators due to their connections with Facebook, with neither project yet to fully launch during that time frame.

In October, a group of U.S. senators including crypto skeptic Elizabeth Warren sent a letter to Facebook calling on the firm to discontinue its wallet project just hours after Novi launched a pilot in the United States and Guatemala in partnership with Coinbase.

Now that the future of Novi is in someone else’s hands, Marcus reflected on his time and said that his proudest achievement was assembling a “kickass team” over the past three years.

 

Updated: 12-6-2021

Even In The Metaverse, Not All Identities Are Created Equal

Price differences based on race and gender are emerging among the CryptoPunk NFTs. What do the disparities mean?

The complexities of the real world are starting to bleed into the Metaverse — the virtual arena where identity functions as both a reflection on and determinant of social capital.

Differences in prices for digital avatars based on race, gender and skin color are emerging among a popular collection of NFTs known as CryptoPunks, belying the utopian and egalitarian ideals touted by the closely connected world of crypto, decentralized finance, blockchain and non-fungible tokens.

According to both participants in and observers of the space, these price discrepancies are partly explained by the lack of diversity among the investors who favor these status assets.

It’s a demographic that skews mostly male and White. Female CryptoPunks, and those with darker skin colorings, tend to sell for less than avatars with male traits or fair skin.

CryptoPunk investors say the price disparity is not a function of individual prejudice or racism, but of the fact that the people currently willing and able to pay top dollar for digital goods aren’t bidding on avatars that don’t look like them.

“If you look at the blockchain space, it largely tends to be white, it largely tends to be male,” said Tony Herrera, an immigrant activist in California who owns 60 CryptoPunks. “One Punk could be dark and one could be light, and the lighter one is going to be the more desirable.”

To understand the role identity plays in the virtual world, consider the case of Richerd Chan. The engineer and entrepreneur from Vancouver, Canada, wanted to cement his reputation as a crypto pioneer, and so he decided to purchase a digital avatar.

At a cost of more than $80,000, or 45 ETH in crypto terms, that JPEG file would become his biggest-ever single expense. Chan spent two weeks on the hunt for what would come to represent his perfect online persona.

On March 31, he clicked the buy button on a pixelated image of a medium-skin colored male avatar sporting 3D glasses and a cigarette.

“It’s a very natural representation of myself,” Chan, 37, said. “The 3D glasses make it stand out and I don’t smoke in real life, but that makes it edgy.” Chan, who is Asian, said he appreciated the skin color on the image was a little darker. “I identify with it.”

Chan Wasn’t Kidding: In October he rejected a $9.5 million offer from another online enthusiast for the avatar. It was a curious offer, he said, but his digital identity was not for sale.

This year alone, Chan has spent a total of 143 ETH (now worth more than $600,000) on four pixelated avatars from a collection known as CryptoPunks, among the most popular and prominent types of NFTs.

To him, owning a CryptoPunk signals that you are an “OG” in the cryptocurrency space, or that you have the means to pay a steep price to join an increasingly exclusive club.

In this digital world, the value of the social capital encoded in your pixels is a function of different kinds of attributes. In the most expensive tiers of NFT avatars, prices vary based on elements like accessories, hairstyles and clothing — and skin color. In other words, not all Punks are created equal.

Investors say uniqueness and scarcity are the key drivers of the prices of CryptoPunks and similar NFTs in the free market for digital goods. Of the 10,000 CryptoPunks in existence, for example, there are only 9 “alien” characters.

Sotheby’s, the auction house, sold one of those aliens for nearly $12 million. The 24 apes and 88 zombies in the collection are also priced higher than the more typical Punks, because they are relatively scarce.

Punks are also divided by sex: there are 6,039 males and 3,840 females, and there are fewer female punks in circulation. Since August, a total of 2124 male CryptoPunks have sold, with a median minimum sale price of 99 ETH, according to data from DeGenData.

Over the same period, 1165 female avatars have sold for a median minimum sale price of 95 ETH.

Since August, when NFTs exploded into the mainstream, the average weekly minimum sale price of mid- and dark-skinned CryptoPunks has been below that of lighter-skinned peers, according to DeGenData, a company that tracks date of CryptoPunks sales. So has the price of female Punks, compared to male Punks.

There are similar trends in the pricing of Meebits, avatar-like NFTs that resemble 3D Lego characters.

Meebits listings show that the majority of the lower-priced characters for sale on OpenSea, a marketplace for digital assets, are designed to resemble Black people.

In May, Herrera tweeted that he was upset that the lowest-priced Meebits were all darker skinned. He challenged his followers to join him in collectively buying more of those tokens and raise the prices.

Herrera said he no longer believes there is any racial bias within the price variations, which are simply skewing to the demographics that are buying them.

“You’re allowed to buy anything you want provided that you have the budget to buy it,” Herrera said. “People of color are going to be limited.”

At one point, Herrera owned more than 100 CryptoPunks. He started buying them when the tokens were available for less than $10.

In 2017, when CryptoPunks were created, savvy crypto fans could claim them for free. In January, some Punks could be bought for what is now considered the reasonable price of a few thousand dollars.

Now, breaking into this corner of the crypto universe requires thousands, and in some cases millions, of dollars. Riding a wave of interest from companies including Visa and Christies, prices of CryptoPunks soared.

As of Dec. 1, owners of CryptoPunks had listed the tokens for sale at prices ranging from almost $400,000 to $24 billion. The highest valued sale on record is north of $7 million.

John Watkinson, the co-founder of Larva Labs, the company behind CryptoPunks, says he’d hoped to create a diverse collection of characters that would appeal to a broad group of collectors.

“We are dismayed with the pricing discrepancies along racial and gender lines in the CryptoPunks,” Watkinson said. “Unfortunately, as the market is purely decentralized, we have no levers at our disposal to directly affect it.”

Natalia Karayaneva, founder of real estate company Propy Inc., bought a female CryptoPunk with a mohawk in March at the recommendation of her fiancé. Karayaneva recently sold her punk for about $150,000, triple the price she paid for it.

“There are not as many women at a high-level position in the crypto community who can afford it,” Karayaneva, who noticed female CryptoPunks tended to trade below male avatars, said.

In addition to rarity, there are certain attributes that propel Punks to the top of the price charts. Hoodies, 3D glasses, VR Glasses, Tiaras, Top Hats and Beanies are among the attributes investors are willing to pay up to own. Most Punks have two or three attributes, and usually the more attributes a character holds, the more expensive it is.

Only one CryptoPunk out of the fixed collection of 10,000 holds seven traits: a Cigarette, Earring, Mole, Buck Teeth, Classic Shades, Top Hat and a Big Beard. It is widely considered the most valuable CryptoPunk.

The plethora of available attributes means investors can get creative with their Metaverse personas, including taking on characteristics entirely dissimilar to their “real” identities.

The high price point of each CryptoPunk means most buyers have to be selective, and tend to choose an avatar who they feel represents them best, according to Nick Kneuper, an NFT investor who regrets selling his three CryptoPunks back in August.

What’s more, Kneuper says, even people who can afford to own multiple punks might not be comfortable picking an avatar with a different racial presentation from their own.

“Some people may be concerned about using a black Punk as their avatar if they are white. I think some people are worried they would get accused of digital blackface,” Kneuper said.

Long-time crypto bull and billionaire Mike Novogratz waded into this particular controversy when he tweeted about being “bothered” that the racial prejudices of the real world were making their way into the Metaverse. Novogratz’s tweet sparked a flurry of responses about what is and isn’t allowed in the Metaverse.

The Novogratz tweet came a few days after Galaxy Digital Holdings Ltd., the cryptocurrency firm he controls, purchased Punk 8466: a dark-skinned male punk with an eye-patch, a headband and handlebar mustache.

The punk sold for 98.50 ETH or $421,543 on Oct 30, according to Larva Labs. A spokesperson for Galaxy declined to comment on the company’s decision to purchase a dark-skinned Punk.

Black NFT investors are buying their way into the conversation. “As more black investors show up in this space, which I think is happening, those dynamics will change,” said Web Smith, the founder of media company 2PM Inc.

“What you’re going to see is a lot of high-net-worth individuals that represent a wider diversity of America will move into this market and in six months’ time we won’t be having this conversation.”

One of those individuals is Ameer Suhayb Carter, a user experience designer who started a majority-Black group called Crypto Cookout.

The 450-member club collaborated to buy two CryptoPunks through a purchasing model known as fractional ownership. Each of the Crypto Cookout members is a part owner of the two Punks.

“We’re not really intentionally creating this type of imbalanced market,” said Carter. “It just happens as a result of us already seeing how Black or Black-identifying things may or may not be cool until it’s cool.”

Updated: 12-8-2021

Luxury Brands Are Already Making Millions In The Metaverse

The likes of Gucci, Balenciaga, and Burberry are spinning up fashion and accessories that you’ll never even wear.

The waiting list for a Birkin bag can stretch years, but for some, the only purse they want is one they’ll never get their hands on. The Dematerialised, a British startup that co-founder Karinna Nobbs calls “the digital department store of your dreams,” sells nothing but virtual luxuries; it’s a marketplace for clothing and accessories that will only ever exist online.

The first piece it brought out, on Dec. 12, 2020, was a silver sweater selling for €121 ($137). Like all of her products since, the whole run—1,212 digital renderings—sold within three hours.

Nobbs has also worked with the Fabricant, a Dutch virtual couture house where users create exclusive apparel for their digital avatars on social platforms including VRChat, a 3D digital world that soared in popularity during the pandemic.

The Fabricant collaboration scored the priciest sale at her store so far: €9,000 for a single garment—or, more precisely, nongarment.

The Dematerialised operates on the stock model popularized by streetwear, releasing a shoe, bag, or other item in a limited edition, usually of no more than 150 units. Only a single brand or computer-designed product is available at any one time.

Successful buyers receive an NFT, or nonfungible token, which is a virtual certificate of ownership that runs on blockchain technology. With this proof of authenticity, an owner can showcase a handbag or dress on VRChat, where tens of thousands of users interact daily through avatars—and flaunt their outfits.

It may seem silly, spending top dollar for luxuries you can never touch or hold, but gamers have long used clothes to proudly establish their online identity, just as people do in the real world. Called “skins,” these outfits or shells are bought by players to painstakingly customize their appearance in an online game.

And executives in the fashion industry are taking the trend seriously, especially after Facebook’s rebrand as Meta Platforms Inc. refocused it on creating a simulated digital world where users can interact as if in a real physical space.

Suddenly this niche practice has the potential to get very big. In an October video announcement of its plans, Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg could be seen using his and his colleagues’ avatars to try on clothes, play cards, pay artists, and even go surfing.

“Avatars will be as common as profile pictures today, but instead of a static image, they’re going to be living 3D representations of you, your expressions, your gestures,” Zuckerberg explained. “You’re going to have a wardrobe of virtual clothes for different occasions designed by different creators and from different apps and experiences.”

He went on to describe how Meta would help creators make clothing, home décor, and accessories that can be carried from one platform to the other—say, from Meta’s universe to the game world of Halo.

By choosing the name Meta, the social media behemoth is hoping to claim some ownership over a new galaxy of possibilities.

“The metaverse”—as the expanding terrain of virtual environments is known—includes Roblox, a platform where users can create games and geographies for others, and Fortnite, the multiplayer battle game that’s now also a social space and recently struck a deal with Ferrari.

Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games Inc., which makes Fortnite, said in November that the metaverse has the potential to become a multitrillion-dollar part of the world economy.

The Dematerialised is a first mover in this next frontier. In addition to VRChat, the store’s items will also be able to appear in rival blockchain-based worlds such as Decentraland, Cryptovoxels, and Somnium Space, where the currency is all digital and participants “own” parcels of “land” used to store and sell the items.

The Decentralized garments can’t yet be worn in Roblox or Fortnite. But if things go the way Zuckerberg predicts, digital luxuries will soon be a common feature of these worlds as well. Brands such as Gucci, Balenciaga, and Burberry have launched products in both (see last section).

So, Why Is Fashion First?

No old-school industry has embraced the metaverse quite like fashion. It’s a radical contrast with 20 years ago, when brands scoffed at internet 1.0. Even by 2008—three years after Amazon Prime started—only one-third of the luxury companies surveyed by Forrester Research sold wares online. By then, Prada barely had a website.

In March 2016, just before many of these virtual worlds were born, Kerry Murphy co-founded the Fabricant, one of the key brand partners at Nobbs’s digital department store.

An expert in visual effects for film and advertising, he brought on as creative director Amber Jae Slooten, the first person to graduate from the Amsterdam Fashion Institute with a portfolio of all-digital designs.

“She had fought her way through, to be able to not have any physical items in her portfolio,” Murphy says.

“Her motivation really came from the Rana Plaza incident in Bangladesh, where the building collapsed and killed more than 1,100 people working on fast fashion.”

After that, Slooten took a stance against the physical fashion industry.

The Fabricant’s first major project was with I.T Hong Kong, a luxury department store, which hired the team to render real-world garments from almost 100 luxury labels in metaverse-ready 3D.

But Murphy wanted Slooten to produce her own designs—a fulfillment of her moral and creative mission.

In early 2019 the Fabricant joined with blockchain-based gaming company Dapper Labs for its first virtual garment, a dress, which went on auction at New York’s blockchain-technology-centered Ethereal Summit in May of that year.

It sold for the then-equivalent of $9,500 in Ethereum. (The same amount of the cryptocurrency is now worth about $150,000.)

“We literally sold a JPEG, a picture, with a smart contract on a USB stick that verifies [the buyer’s] ownership,” Murphy says, noting that it came with the right to have the item Photoshopped by the Fabricant onto three different images.

The buyer gifted the dress to his wife, who shared images of herself “wearing” it on social media.

Murphy and his team have been finessing that unwieldy sort of transaction over the past two years. The Fabricant now has its own platform, currently in beta.

“Users can create their own digital fashion, minted [validated] on the blockchain, and use it as a wearable in multiple different games or make a Snapchat filter out of it,” Murphy says. “We’re really focusing on the creator economy, where we make everybody a digital fashion designer.”

If these amateur Armanis sell their designs to fellow users, the Fabricant receives a 10% fee. It invited just 50 creatives for this initial phase, but it will open up to 5,000 more later this month.

The Margins Are Huge

Since there are no raw materials to buy, and labor is minimal, virtual clothes are almost all profit.

(Stitching a couture garment takes days, or even weeks, compared with adjusting pre-programmed clothes templates, which can take minutes.) Minting designs in the metaverse also opens up huge avenues of creativity.

After all, the garments can look like anything a designer wants; the limitations normally imposed by market practicalities—or even gravity or logic—are gone.

Any company with decades of archival designs can convert that intellectual property into a new revenue stream, reissuing pieces as metaverse-only.

Defunct brands can have a new virtual life with minimal investment—think Schiaparelli’s lobster dress or Jackie Kennedy’s pillbox hat by Halston.

Consultant Cathy Hackl is working on this exact idea. Her expertise guiding neophytes into these virtual worlds has earned her the nickname Godmother of the Metaverse.

“Not everything they create in the metaverse needs to be new. They can leverage their many years of history and heritage and introduce their legacy to new generations,” she says. “Nostalgia is a powerful sentiment, and at the end of the day, creativity is creativity.”

Plus! No Overstock, No Discounts

Gonçalo Cruz believes resource awareness will spur a boom in virtual luxury. He’s the co-founder and CEO of PlatformE, a tech provider based in Porto, Portugal, that helps conventional brands finesse and deploy 3D renderings of things such as clothing.

Clients have included both major luxury conglomerates, Kering and LVMH, for brands like Gucci and Dior. Farfetch and Nordstrom have also called on his expertise.

Cruz says virtual luxury can solve the problem of oversupply that hinders the sector’s growth. The issue emerged after World War II, when French designers created cheaper, prêt-à-porter collections to boost their bottom lines.

This focus on volume, Cruz says, eventually led to the resource-draining fast-fashion system that dominates today.

“Every single brand has overproduction, has overinventory, and obviously has end-of-season stock,” he says of the fashion industry at large. “So you start discounting, and that’s a never-ending story. You see 90% discounts in outlets now. That depreciates the value of the brand.”

He argues that by training shoppers to start virtual-first, all kinds of brands can nearly eliminate such end-of-season sales. Picture a virtual fashion show—an army of digital Gigi Hadids sashaying up and down a make-believe catwalk, kitted out in a variety of designs.

Actual consumers could place orders from their screens, allowing the brand to physically produce only what’s already been sold—instead of filling endless Zaras or Ralph Laurens with real garments to try on.

Avatars will have sizing built in and can test out the outfits for their real-life counterparts.

Or, if the outfit was only ever purchased for the avatar—like avirtual Gucci purse that sold in Mayfor more than the same bag in the real world—then these clothes may never have to be sewn at all.

Cruz is so committed to this idea that PlatformE is now going beyond its work with Kering and company to launch an in-house label, Valaclava. It will make its debut online, with items designed anonymously by artists and illustrators—some with fashion backgrounds, others with little experience in the field.

The outfit you see on the virtual runway will sell as an NFT, which the highest bidder will own, much like a patent.

The buyer won’t receive a physical version of the garment, though they’ll get all the technical information needed to have it made in the real world if they wish. Three hundred other shoppers will be able to buy real-world versions of the look without the NFT, because some people are still into that sort of thing.

Bonus: Revenue, Forever

There’s another reason luxury labels are rushing to embrace NFTs and virtual designs: the secondary and resale market, popularized by companies such as RealReal Inc. and Fashionphile Group LLC.

The NFT setup lets the labels finally monetize a market they’ve long struggled to crack. NFTs assure authenticity, which discourages knockoffs, and can embed the equivalent of a sitcom actor’s residuals in every luxury dress or bag.

“Normally if something is sold [on a resale site] now, Hermès does not make a penny off that. But with digital items there’s a huge opportunity for continued revenue when they’re resold,” Hackl explains.

All it takes is for the smart certificate or NFT to include a royalty fee or revenue share on future transactions, guaranteeing the original designer a percentage of whatever’s paid. The Fabricant already operates like this on its creator-powered platform by taking a 5% royalty whenever a garment is resold after the first purchase.

So, Is This The End Of Real Stuff?

In short, no. At least, not yet. Virtual couture remains a niche business. One of the biggest obstacles remains the clumsiness of how to wear what’s purchased; there are the technology barriers among metaverses, as enunciated by Zuckerberg.

And we’re still far away from a world in which augmented-reality goggles, also touted in his Meta presentation, are commonplace. (In that world, a virtual garment can be worn on your actual body for passersby wearing the lenses to admire.)

But there’s a whole generation of young people who’ve grown up playing video games in environments where what you look like and what you “have” is valuable.

For them, the idea of investing in your digital appearance makes perfect sense. So while the flowering of some of these ideas may seem far off yet, their roots are already deep.

Gala Vrbanic, an avid gamer and the founder of Tribute Brand, which sells digital fashions that can be shared on social media, predicts that in the future, “all the fashion moments will happen in the digital world.”

Put more simply, we’ll wear comfortable clothes around on Earth and showcase our style in its virtual counterparts.

The Dematerialised’s Nobbs confesses that her ultimate goal is to open a brick-and-mortar store that sells nothing but virtual clothes.

“Marie Kondo has been telling us for quite some time we have too much stuff in our wardrobes, and we all know that,” she says. “I think we’ll go to people having a larger digital than physical collection of clothes.”

The Runway of the Future

Already, big names are staking a claim in the metaverse. The Gucci Garden, for example, a pop-up on Roblox that sold the brand’s designs, saw one bag fetch $4,000 in real-world cash.

Nike Inc., too, announced an in-depth partnership with the platform to create Nikeland, a virtual world modeled after the company’s headquarters in Oregon that offers exclusive goods for sale.

In September, Balenciaga brought out a collection of clothes in Fortnite. These “skins,” or outfits for game characters, are purchased using V‑Bucks, the currency of the Fortnite world. (V‑Bucks cost real money to obtain.)

Tommy Hilfiger’s venture capital arm has announced a partnership with EWG Virtual, a viral marketing agency, to focus on so‑called v-commerce.

Not to be outdone, Burberry created a string of unique characters called Sharky B—playable NFT creations complete with jetpack, armbands, and pool shoes—to live in Blankos Block Party from Mythical Games. The collection sold out quickly, for almost $400,000.

But nothing compares with Dolce & Gabbana’s efforts to settle the metaverse. At its Alta Moda show in Venice in September, the brand unveiled a separate nine-look collection of men’s and women’s clothing and accessories, also attached to NFTs.

Four designs were virtual-only; the rest included a real-world garment. Sold at auction, this futuristic collection tallied $5.7 million.

Updated: 12-9-2021

Is The Metaverse Really The Next Big Thing?

Its advocates say more immersive interfaces will increase our sense of presence. I think they have their definitions wrong.

Mark Zuckerberg would like you to be a little more present.

That’s the message that the Facebook founder hammers home in one of the most elaborate concept videos ever produced by a tech company: an 80-minute video rolling out his company’s vision of “the metaverse,” which Mr. Zuckerberg believes is the next paradigm shift in computing.

The video—and Facebook’s decision to re-christen itself with the new corporate name Meta Platforms Inc. —marked a fitting endpoint for a year in which the somewhat murky concept of the metaverse became one of the most hyped buzzwords in technology.

Mr. Zuckerberg’s primary complaint about the existing interfaces we use today is that they aren’t immersive enough.

When we interact with our friends or colleagues virtually, we’re experiencing a heavily mediated version of them—email threads, text messages, grainy Zoom videos with choppy audio. And all of that interaction is compressed through a two-dimensional screen, often the size of a pack of playing cards.

“Screens…can’t deliver that deep feeling of presence,” he says at one point in the video. “Presence is the defining quality of the metaverse.”

Let us stipulate that 1) whatever version of the metaverse does emerge will be grittier and more ad-cluttered than the chipper, pristine version showcased in Meta’s promotional video; and 2) Facebook/Meta may not be high on some people’s list of companies to shape the next-generation architecture of the internet.

Focus, Instead, On The Basic Question: Is Mr. Zuckerberg correct that the metaverse is the inevitable next leap forward in computer interfaces?

Paradigm Shifts

Modern computing history has seen three “inevitable” paradigm shifts in how we interact with our digital devices, advances that began as fringe experiences but swiftly became ubiquitous: the graphic interface, popularized by Apple with its introduction of the Macintosh in 1984; the hypertext links of the World Wide Web, which went mainstream in the ’90s; and the multitouch interface introduced with the iPhone in 2007, now almost without exception the standard interface for all mobile interactions.

Will the metaverse eventually find its way into this pantheon? One challenge in answering that question is that the term itself has multiple definitions.

In some uses, metaverse refers to a shared architecture—perhaps built on the blockchain—that would allow virtual goods and identities to move from platform to platform; imagine, for instance, purchasing an NFT horse on the Zed Run racing platform and bringing it into the Wild West game world of Red Dead Redemption.

This would be a genuinely useful step forward—particularly if it allowed us to port our social connections from one platform to another—but it would largely be an infrastructure upgrade.

But the other definition of the metaverse involves a revolution in the user interface itself: flat screens with layered windows and icons giving way to 3-D immersive places that you visit, using either augmented-reality glasses or virtual-reality goggles like the Oculus product line that Meta itself sells.

Early in his promotional video, Mr. Zuckerberg drops into a metaverse card game with four other colleagues in a simulated space station hovering above Earth. Some participants are cartoon avatars of themselves; one has reimagined himself as a 10-foot-tall robot sporting a green visor.

For its advocates, this kind of experience promises to liberate us from the fragmented, two-dimensional experience of our screens. Some of that liberation does suggest new creative possibilities. Architects, for instance, may develop a whole new line of work designing virtual spaces for public gatherings in the metaverse.

And fully simulated interaction—robots on space stations—will be a boon for the subset of the population that has a difficult time engaging in traditional face-to-face conversation, or that wishes to reinvent their physical persona in some way.

But there is something fundamentally odd about describing these sorts of immersive spaces using the language of presence. To create the “consensual hallucination” of the metaverse, to borrow a phrase from sci-fi author William Gibson, all the participants have to be strapped into a VR headset, cut off from reality.

And it is simply not clear whether this is a physical experience that most people want to have on a regular basis, even as the goggles get lighter and the screens get sharper.

Past interface revolutions steered our machines toward more human-centric ways of representing information: the visual metaphors of the graphic interface, the tactile responsiveness of multitouch.

Virtual reality, for all its creative possibilities, demands that you adopt a fundamentally unnatural relationship to your surroundings.

And even if some of these experiences can be created with augmented reality—where virtual companions or other forms of data are projected onto real-world environments through special glasses—it is unlikely that such interfaces will make us feel more “present.”

Every conversation will be haunted by the possibility that your counterpart is checking a stock ticker or watching YouTube videos out of the corner of their eye.

Real Presence

For most of us, I suspect, presence doesn’t mean dressing up as an oversize robot floating in a space station. It means experiencing our friends and family through the full bandwidth of human connection: facial expressions, subtle vocal cues, all experienced in an environment that we can feel and touch with our unmediated senses.

We aren’t far from a world where we can have remote conversations with people where their images are captured in 8K video and full-fidelity sound, and displayed life size on a wall-mounted screen.

The experience wouldn’t involve abandoning the real world for the metaverse; instead, other rooms populated by actual people could simply open up adjacent to ours, creating a powerful illusion of presence without goggles or glasses.

One other physical limitation undermines the case for the metaverse as the next paradigm shift: movement. In the Meta promotional video, we see numerous sequences where users are actively exploring a fully virtual environment—particularly when playing games or exercising.

Needless to say, this requires a lot of empty space to make it work in practice. Having a fencing match with a virtual opponent in the middle of a tropical rainforest may sound appealing—until you accidentally trip over your real-world coffee table.

It is true that VR technology can scan rooms to create boundaries to protect you from unwanted collisions, but if we’re going to be doing extensive physical activity in the metaverse, we’re going to need a lot of empty space, preferably lined with Nerf-like surfaces to soften the inevitable blows.

There is some precedent for this, of course. The rise of television triggered changes in home design that ultimately became second nature to us. Perhaps we will eventually have empty “imagination rooms” in our homes where we can explore the metaverse without physical impediments.

It sounds appealing when described with that language: Who wouldn’t want a room dedicated to imagination?

Then again, you could just as accurately call it a padded cell.

Updated: 12-10-2021

Audius Is Building A Radio Station In The Metaverse

“DeFi Land” is integrating music streaming into its gameplay by way of the blockchain-based Spotify rival.

On a quiet Thursday morning in DeFi Land, an FM radio tower was erected amid a landscape of barns and cornfields. Its completion brought the gift of music to a world that has known nothing more than the pastoral sounds of virtual harvest.

The tower is the result of a recent partnership between DeFi Land and Audius, a music streaming platform built on the Ethereum and Solana blockchains.

The upgrade allows users to stream any of the millions of songs in the Audius library while playing the game, and comes just in time for DeFi Land’s public launch, which is expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

DeFi Land, whose gameplay teaches gamers the concepts of decentralized finance through farming simulation, raised a $4.1 million funding round in September led by Animoca Brands and Alameda Research.

The partnership is Audius’ latest push to bring its tokenized music model to the mainstream. The service is modeled more after SoundCloud than Apple Music or Spotify, allowing users to upload their own music monetized through tokens instead of royalties.

Audius raised a $5 million funding round in September led by mainstream staples Katy Perry, Pusha T and The Chainsmokers.

“With DeFi Land, we’re sharing a new way to become involved in decentralized finance, a fresh take on the space,” DeFi Land founder DFL Erwin said in a press release. “Integrations like these are very valuable for mass adoption because they offer a unique user experience for easier and friendlier participation, and we look forward to seeing what comes next.”

Updated: 12-14-2021

Barbados Is Opening A Diplomatic Embassy In The Metaverse

* Located In Decentraland, Where Real Estate Can Cost Millions
* Online World Already Hosts Shopping, Real-World Concerts

When Barbados, population 287,370, opens its next embassy, almost anyone on the planet will be able to knock on the door.

The diplomatic compound is being built in Decentraland, an online world, or metaverse, accessible through a computer and a virtual reality headset.

Skeptics take note: A plot of virtual real estate in Decentraland recently sold for $2.43 million. Gucci, Christian Dior and Ralph Lauren are selling virtual clothing in 3D worlds. The crypto asset management firm Grayscale estimates the metaverse is “a trillion-dollar revenue opportunity.”

So a virtual embassy-row seems inevitable, said Gabriel Abed, the man behind Barbados’ digital-diplomacy push.

“This is going to change the way the world works,” Abed, 35, said in a telephone interview from Dubai, where he’s Barbados’ real-world ambassador to the United Arab Emirates. “The embassy is a small thing. The big thing is what governments can do together when land is no longer physical land and limitations are no longer part of the equation.”

Even before Facebook changed its name to Meta in October, the so-called metaverse was growing quickly.

In broad strokes, a metaverse is an online and immersive environment where people can interact in real-time through avatars. Decentraland allows users to buy and sell digital art and virtual parcels of land, or attend virtual-world music festivals with real-world acts.

But Abed said the metaverse also has more serious implications for small, deeply indebted nations like his.

“This is about diplomatic parity. We simply cannot support 197 diplomatic missions around the world,” he said. “We recognize that we’re a 166-square mile island — we’re tiny — but in the metaverse we’re as large as America or Germany.”

Barbados’ diplomatic compound will likely cost anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000 to build, but all the expenses are being covered by a “five-figure” grant from Decentraland. Other users on the site have also offered to donate land, he said.

“The cost is not too bad,” he said. “It’s a fraction of what a physical embassy costs.”

Emails to Decentraland seeking comment were not immediately answered.

The project is also about keeping the Eastern Caribbean island connected to global tech, Abed said.

“You don’t want to be introducing the internet to your citizens in the year 2021,” he said. “Similarly of the metaverse, you don’t want to wait until 2030, when this thing is part of everyday social interaction, to start explaining it.”

The announcement that Barbados was poised to open the world’s first metaverse embassy earned the island reams of glowing press ahead of Nov. 30, when it ditched Queen Elizabeth II as its symbolic head of state and became the world’s newest republic.

It’s no surprise that the Caribbean is leading the digital diplomacy push, said Cleve Mesidor, public policy adviser at the Blockchain Association, an industry trade group based in Washington, D.C.

Bermuda has been actively pitching itself as a blockchain and crypto hub since 2018. Bahamas launched the world’s first central bank digital currency, or CBDC, in 2020 -– just weeks ahead of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank.

“There has always been healthy competition in the Caribbean when it comes to embracing new technology,” Mesidor said.

The Caribbean and Western Atlantic includes more than 30 nations and territories that make it fertile ground for “regulatory arbitrage” – island hopping in search of governments open to innovation, she said.

As Abed put it, “When one government says ‘no,’ you get on a plane and fly 10 minutes over to the next island.”

Abed seems well suited to be one of the world’s first digital diplomats. After graduating from the University of Ontario, where he studied cyptographics and network security, in 2013 he co-founded Bitt, a financial software company that helped Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank create their digital currencies.

The company is currently helping the Central Bank of Nigeria — Africa’s largest economy — launch its own central bank-backed digital currency, the eNaira. He’s also the founder of Digital Asset Capital Management, which, as its name implies, handles digital assets for institutional investors.

Abed said the success of Barbados’ embassy could ultimately depend on other nations joining in, so his government is actively sharing everything it’s learning about the metaverse experience with others.

This isn’t the first time there have been embassies in the metaverse: Sweden and Estonia opened virtual embassies in Second Life — a Decentraland precursor — at the turn of the millennium without shaking up the world order.

“Can it fail? There’s a probability of that. Can it succeed? There’s a bigger possibility of that,” Abed said of the experiment. “But as a nation we’re looking at pioneering and re-imagining our future. So we have to try these new things.”

Updated: 12-14-2021

Get Ready For The 2022 Metaverse Real Estate Boom

It won’t be confined to Ethereum.

This time last year, if someone had said, “I’ll sell you a plot of virtual land for 1 ETH,” most of us would have told them to kick sand. Now a year later, most of us are finding that we are the ones kicking sand, and not virtual sand in the Sandbox.

Everyone in blockchain wants to be early, ahead of the curve. To everyone who believes they missed out on the latest blockchain gold rush, virtual land, think again.

A more efficient and scalable future for the intersection of blockchain and real estate is being built as we speak – and it’s not solely confined to the Ethereum blockchain.

The future of NFTs (the technological standard for unique digital assets, like artwork or virtual homes) is multi-chain, a more diverse pathway that solves the limitations of the Ethereum blockchain and enhances its usage to present once unimaginable opportunities that touch multiple corners of culture and commerce.

In this multi-chain future, we will see vast opportunities and diverse use cases made possible by alternative chains like Solana, Tezos, Polkadot, Kusama, Cardano and many others.

These chains bring answers for scalability, network congestion and the ability to truly fractionalize ownership, allowing non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to become usable and transferable in the metaverse – breaking out of the confines of traditional digital collectibles – perhaps into the real world.

While you might not immediately associate an age-old industry like real estate with the current technological advancement of blockchain, the potential for this industry to be modernized and made efficient is powerful – even inevitable.

Anyone who has ever bought or rented a property is familiar with the inconvenient, time intensive and expensive process.

There are contracts to sign, payments to be made between landlord and tenants, real estate agents and, often, mediating lawyers. These arrangements require multiple transactions, time and money.

With virtual real estate in open metaverses, we can implement peer-to-peer transactions and use smart contracts to automate and accelerate these legal processes. Smart contracts can be programmed to instantly trigger actions and execute orders as required.

As a result, property assets, such as buildings, shares or funds, and debt or equity, can be automated in new ways and executed in minutes instead of weeks or months.

Virtual real estate can unlock liquidity via decentralized global markets that enable tradable assets and allow for metaverse assets to be used as extractable collateral to fuel innovative methods of lending in decentralized finance (DeFi).

Through what we hope will be an increasingly open metaverse, users can one day move digital assets and NFTs in and out of virtual worlds. Perhaps their digital homes can be used as collateral for loans. Imagine if you could borrow against a valuable piece of virtual land to acquire physical land?

This world, still being settled, will almost certainly need to be built on more than just Ethereum, the dominant smart contract network.

Ethereum’s Limitations

Since Ethereum’s launch in 2015, smart contracts have gained traction in functionality and innovation. ERC-20 tokens are the most commonly used standard for tokenization. These tokens encode rights of ownership in code.

The ERC-721 standard and the more advanced ERC-1155 – the technical standards for NFTs – create digital scarcity. A diversity of protocols and tokens exist on Ethereum, forming the foundation for an open metaverse.

However, the industry is rapidly expanding, and the developments on Ethereum exist on other blockchain networks as well.

Although Ethereum layer 2 solutions (add-ons that help the network process more transactions) work well, new blockchains have seen exponential growth and promise fertile new ground. A rich pool of creative builders are looking beyond Ethereum and the network’s exorbitant fees.

As a consequence, the current challenge for the industry is to achieve interoperability between different blockchains. By eliminating the “silo effect” in the blockchain industry, we might finally reach “mass adoption.”

Polkadot, a blockchain I’m financially involved in, is one such alternative chain for this kind of interoperability. Due to its advanced ownership structure, it can enable the transfer of property ownership straight to other addresses, grant or prohibit third party rights to use a property for display purposes and facilitate the exchange of a deed or trust.

Goldrush

Today there is a veritable gold rush in the metaverse, with young people and celebrities like Snoop Dogg investing millions of dollars in virtual real estate. Fortune magazine called it a “multi trillion-dollar opportunity.” It’s conceivable that a new generation will purchase their first house (or a unique share of it) in the metaverse.

There’s undoubtedly a lot of work that needs to be done in this space to realize this future. As it stands, critics say that current eye-popping virtual real estate sales are more of a novelty driven by hype and speculation, compared to something that truly represents unique ownership.

Others argue that real-estate – virtual or physical – requires a level of legal due diligence to ensure security and confidence between buyers and sellers.

There will also be apprehension and criticism from the traditional real estate industry, which might not see the value in disrupting their antiquated, albeit profitable model.

Still, real estate NFTs promise the ability to democratize property ownership, a space that has historically excluded a majority of the world.

GoBankingRates quoted a research analyst at Grayscale Investments who noted that historically, real-estate value is largely influenced by proximity to shops, services and attractive neighborhoods.

It remains to be seen if that may happen too in the metaverse, where players can “teleport around the world, making travel instantaneous and irrelevant to valuation.” Grayscale is a subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, the parent company of CoinDesk.

As time goes on, will profiteering infect virtual land development? Will expensive plots in the Sandbox or Decentraland retain their value? Will people outside of crypto see NFTs as a powerful new tool for ownership, even if you can’t sleep inside a computer?

As it stands, NFT infrastructure is still limited. The technology isn’t there yet to allow for true unique tokenization of properties (especially on Ethereum, where it’s currently close to impossible). A new paradigm will need to be developed in order to take this sector forward.

In the year to come, the industry will see an injection of billions into NFT infrastructure that will support alternative use cases and enable a visible ledger that can be divided or expanded, facilitating a unique representation of individual assets, similar to art and collectibles.

Smart contracts will need to be improved to allow for speed, functionality and scalability. There is great work being done in some sectors – like “Nested NFT Palettes” that allows for sophisticated ownership relationships between holders of fractionalized property.

Regulations are also up for debate. As are the concerns of the traditional real estate industry, which really could be disrupted by free-moving assets – pinned to no single blockchain – that can be used in the real world and digital world alike.

There are social considerations of getting people to value digital property. It’s already happening. But this the new tokenized world – this multi-chain future – will take time. Much like building a house.

Updated: 12-15-2021

Misinformation Has Already Made Its Way To The Metaverse

Virtual worlds will be even harder to police than social media.

In their version of the metaverse, creators of the startup Sensorium Corp. envision a fun-filled environment where your likeness can take a virtual tour of an abandoned undersea world, watch a livestreamed concert with French DJ Jean-Michel Jarre or chat with bots, such as leather-jacket-clad Kate, who enjoys white wine with her friends.

But at a demo of this virtual world at a tech conference in Lisbon earlier this year, things got weird. While attendees chatted with these virtual personas, some were introduced to a bald-headed bot named David who, when simply asked what he thought of vaccines, began spewing health misinformation.

Vaccines, he claimed in one demo, are sometimes more dangerous than the diseases they try to prevent.

After their creation’s embarrassing display, David’s developers at Sensorium said they plan to add filters to limit what he can say about sensitive topics.

But the moment illustrated how easy it might be for people to encounter offensive or misleading content in the metaverse—and how difficult it will be to control it.

Companies including Apple Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc. are racing to build out the metaverse, an immersive digital world that evangelists say will eventually replace some in-person interactions.

The technology is in its infancy, but industry watchers are raising alarms about whether the nightmarish content moderation challenges already plaguing social media could be even worse in these new virtual- and augmented reality-powered worlds.

Tech companies’ mostly dismal track record on policing offensive content has come under renewed scrutiny in recent months following the release of a cache of thousands of Meta’s internal documents to U.S. regulators by former Facebook product manager Frances Haugen.

The documents, which were provided to Congress and obtained by news organizations in redacted form, surfaced new details about how Meta’s algorithms spread harmful information such as conspiracy theories, hateful language and violence, and led to dozens of critical stories by the Wall Street Journal and a consortium of news organizations.

The reports naturally prompted questions about how Meta and others intend to patrol the burgeoning virtual world for offensive behavior and misleading material.

“Despite the name change, Meta still allows purveyors of dangerous misinformation to thrive on its existing apps,” said Alex Cadier, managing director of NewsGuard in the U.K.

“If the company hasn’t been able to effectively tackle misinformation on more simple platforms like Facebook and Instagram, it seems unlikely they’ll be able to do so in the much more complex metaverse.”

Meta executives haven’t been ignorant of the criticism. As they build up hype about the metaverse, they’ve pledged to take into account the privacy and well-being of their users as they develop the platform.

The company also argues that these next-generation virtual worlds won’t be owned exclusively by Meta, but will come from a collection of engineers, creators and tech companies whose environments and products work together.

Those innovators, and regulators around the world, can start now to debate policies that would maintain the safety of the metaverse even before the underlying technology has been fully developed, executives say.

“In the past, the speed at which new technologies arrived sometimes left policy makers and regulators playing catch-up,” said Nick Clegg, vice president of global affairs, in October at Meta’s annual Connect conference. “It doesn’t have to be the case this time around because we have years before the metaverse we envision is fully realized.”

Meta also says it plans to work with human rights groups and government experts to responsibly develop the virtual world, and it’s investing $50 million to that end.

Sci-Fi Becomes Real

To its evangelists, virtual and augmented reality will unlock the ability to experience the world in ways that previously existed only in the dreams of sci-fi novelists. Companies will be able to hold meetings in digital boardrooms, where employees in disparate locations can feel as if they are really together in one place.

Friends will choose their own avatars and teleport together into concerts, exercise classes and 3D video games.

Artists will be able to host creative experiences tailored to geographic locations in augmented reality, for any device holder to enjoy. Entrepreneurs will create virtual stores where digital and physical goods could be purchased.

But digital watchdogs say the same qualities that make the metaverse a tantalizing innovation may also open the door even wider to harmful content. The realistic feeling of virtual reality-powered experiences could be a dangerous weapon in the hands of bad actors seeking to stoke hate, violence and terrorism.

“The Facebook Papers showed that the platform can function almost like a turn-key system for extremist recruiters and the metaverse would make it even easier to perpetrate that violence,” said Karen Kornbluh, director of the German Marshall Fund’s Digital Innovation and Democracy Initiative and former U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Though the far-reaching, interconnected metaverse is still theoretical, existing virtual reality and gaming platforms offer a window into what kinds of problematic content could flourish there.

The Facebook Papers revealed that the company already has evidence that offensive content is likely to make the jump from social to virtual. In one example, a Facebook employee describes experiencing a brush of racism while playing the virtual reality game Rec Room on an Oculus Quest headset.

After entering one of the most popular virtual worlds in the game, the staffer was greeted with “continuous chants of: ‘N***** N***** N*****.’” According to the documents, the employee wrote in an internal discussion forum that he or she tried to figure out who was yelling and how to report them, but couldn’t.

Rec Room said it provides several controls to identify speakers even when that person isn’t visible, and in this case it banned the offending user’s account.

“I eventually gave up and left the world feeling defeated,” wrote the employee, whose name was redacted in the documents.

Bad VR Behavior

The abuse has also already reached other VR products. People on VRChat, a platform where users can explore worlds dressed as different avatars, describe an almost transformative experience where they’ve built a virtual community unparalleled in the real world.

On a Reddit thread about VRChat, they also describe nearly unbearable amounts of racism, homophobia, transphobia—and “don’t forget the dumb Nazis,” as one VRChat user wrote. It’s not uncommon for players to walk around repeating the N-word, while some virtual worlds get raided by Hitler and KKK avatars.

VRChat wrote in 2018 that it was working to address the “percentage of users that choose to engage in disrespectful or harmful behavior” with a moderation team that “monitors VRChat constantly.” But, years later, players are still reporting harmful users, and say that “nothing is seemingly ever done.”

Others try muting or blocking problematic users’ voices or avatars, but the frequency of abuse can be overwhelming.

People also describe racism on popular video games like Second Life and Fortnite; some women have described being sexually harassed or assaulted on virtual reality platforms; and parents have raised concerns that their children were being groomed on the seemingly innocuous Roblox gaming platform for kids.

Social media companies like Meta, Twitter Inc. and Google’s YouTube have detailed policies that prohibit users from spreading offensive or dangerous content.

To moderate their networks, most lean heavily on artificial intelligence systems to scan for images, text and videos that look like they could violate rules against hate speech or inciting violence.

Sometimes those systems automatically remove the offensive posts. Other times the platforms apply special labels to the content or limit its visibility.

The degree to which the metaverse remains a safe space will depend partially on how companies train their AI systems to moderate the platforms, said Andrea-Emilio Rizzoli, the director of Switzerland’s Dalle Molle Institute for Artificial Intelligence.

AI can be trained to detect and take down hate speech and misinformation, and systems can also inadvertently amplify it.

The level of problematic content in the metaverse will also depend on whether tech companies design digital environments to function like small invitation-only private groups or wide-open public squares.

Whistle-blower Haugen has been openly critical of Facebook’s metaverse plans, but recently told European lawmakers that hate speech and misinformation in virtual worlds might not travel as far or as quickly as it does on social media, because most people would be interacting in small numbers.

But it’s also just as likely that Meta would integrate its current networks, including Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, into the metaverse, said Brent Mittelstadt, a data ethics research fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute.

“If they keep the same tools that have contributed to the spread of misinformation on their current platforms, it’s hard to say the metaverse is going to help,” said Mittelstadt, who is also a member of the Data Ethics Group at the Alan Turing Institute.

Considering a great deal of the misinformation and hate speech could also arise during private interactions in the metaverse, Rizzoli added, platforms will face the same debates over free speech and censorship when deciding whether to take down harmful content.

Do platforms want to have virtual beings approach people and tell them their conversation is not fact-based, or prevent them from having the conversation at all? “This is a debatable issue,” Rizzoli said, “the type of control that you will be subjected to in this new metaverse.”

Defining and determining authenticity in the metaverse could also become more complicated. Tech companies could face tricky questions about the freedom people should enjoy to portray themselves as a member of a different race or gender, said Erick Ramirez, an associate professor at Santa Clara University.

Deep fakes—videos or audio that use artificial intelligence to make someone appear to do or say something they didn’t—could evolve to become even more realistic and interactive in a metaverse world.

“There’s more room for deception,” said Ramirez, who recently participated in a roundtable discussion with Clegg about the policy implications of the metaverse. That kind of deceit “takes advantage of a lot of in-built psychology about how we interact with people and how we identify people.”

Virtual Privacy

The metaverse could also compromise user privacy, advocates and researchers said. For instance, people who wear the augmented reality-powered glasses that are currently being developed by Snap Inc. and Meta could end up recording information about other people around them without their knowledge or consent.

Users exploring purely virtual worlds could also face digital harassment or stalking from bad actors.

“In the physical world, often you have to do some extra work in order to track somebody, for example, but the online world makes it much easier,” said Neil Chilson, a senior research fellow for technology and innovation at the right-leaning Charles Koch Institute, who also participated in Meta’s roundtable.

Bill Stillwell, Meta product manager for VR privacy and integrity, said in a statement that developers have tools to moderate the experiences they create on Oculus, but the tools can always improve. “We want everyone to feel like they’re in control of their VR experience and to feel safe on our platform.”

Even metaverse supporters such as Chilson and Jarre, the French DJ who will soon hold virtual reality concerts, say regulators around the world will have to draft new rules around privacy, content moderation and other issues to make these digital spaces safe.

That might be a tall order for governments that have been struggling for years to pass regulations to govern social media.

“Every technology has a dark side,” said Jarre. “So we need urgently to create regulations.”

Jonathan Victor, a product manager at the open-source developer Protocol Labs, also sees a potential bright side. In his vision of the metaverse, anyone will be able to own a digital 3D version of themselves, exchange cryptocurrency or make a career selling virtual goods they created.

“There’s incredible upside,” Victor said. “The question is, what’s the right way to build it?”

Updated: 12-22-2021

Elon Musk Thinks Neuralink Is Better Than The Metaverse In Long Term

The Neuralink founder does not see a future full of VR headsets after questioning its long-term implications on eyesight.

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk showed no support for the metaverse and Web 3.0 ecosystems as he dismissed the terms for being used as buzzwords and marketing tactics.

“I don’t see someone strapping a friggin’ screen to their face all day,” said Musk in an interview with The Babylon Bee when asked about his thoughts on the metaverse ecosystem.

“I don’t know if I necessarily buy into this metaverse stuff, although people talk to me a lot about it.”

Speaking around metaverse and virtual reality (VR), Musk said that he does not see a future where one would have to leave the physical world to live in a virtual on.

Sharing a personal experience, he added that the VR headsets tend to trigger motion sickness while playing video games:

“In the long term, a sophisticated Neuralink could put you fully into virtual reality. I think we’re far from disappearing into the metaverse, this sounds just kind of buzzwordy.”

Musk founded Neuralink, a neurotechnology company that primarily aims to deploy brain implants on humans for restoring and enhancing physical capabilities through computers.

“I’m currently unable to see a compelling metaverse situation or Web 3 sounds like more marketing than reality. I don’t get it, and maybe I will, but I don’t get it yet.”

Musk also highlighted that people will not prefer moving around with VR headsets without wanting to ever leave it. He also recollected being warned growing up about not sitting too close to the TV:

“It’s gonna ruin your eyesight, right? And now we’ve got TV literally right here (on the face). I’m like what? Is that good for you?”

Adding to his role as the most influential Dogecoin (DOGE) supporter, Musk recently expressed support for crypto, calling it indestructible and fundamentally aimed at reducing the power of a centralized government. As Cointelegraph reported, Musk said at Code Conference in California:

“It is not possible to destroy crypto, but it is possible for governments to slow down its advancement.”

He also suggested that the United States government should “do nothing” when asked about his views on crypto regulations.

Updated: 12-23-2021

Consultants Are Entering The Metaverse – Literally

SAND tokens are up on news of PwC Hong Kong acquiring a plot of LAND in The Sandbox.

Animoca-owned metaverse The Sandbox is heralding the arrival of the suits: in this instance, consulting firm PwC Hong Kong.

The Sandbox team said Thursday that the business consultancy bought some LAND, virtual real estate represented as a non-fungible token (NFT). A PwC Hong Kong representative wouldn’t specify which plot it bought or for how much. Recent sales have seen LAND go for about $10,000 a pop, according to blockchain data.

It’s part experiment, part forward-thinking business play for PwC as brands from Nike to Facebook hitch their wagons to what some see as the inevitable next step of being Very Online.

“We will leverage our expertise to advise clients who wish to embrace the metaverse on the full range of challenges presented by this emerging global digital phenomenon,” PwC Hong Kong Partner William Gee said in a statement.

For all the excitement, metaverses remain exceedingly niche in terms of user numbers. According to data site DappRadar, The Sandbox welcomed just 4,500 users (or unique wallet addresses interacting with the decentralized application, or dapp) in the past 30 days.

That hasn’t stopped digital prospectors from setting up shop should the hordes start arriving en masse soon.

“The metaverse is open for business,” The Sandbox COO Sebastien Borget said in a statement. “We welcome PwC Hong Kong to experience how The Sandbox fosters new immersive experiences and ways for brands to connect with customers.”

LAND sales have seen a steady uptick since late October, or roughly when Facebook rebranded to Meta.

The native token of The Sandbox, SAND, has also ridden the wave of consumer curiosity – spiking from about 80 cents prior to the Facebook announcement to an all-time high of $8.40 on Nov. 25.

SAND was trading at $6.01 at press time, up 14% in the past 24 hours, according to the data site CoinGecko, with the PwC news appearing to contribute to the spike in price.

Updated: 12-31-2021

NFTs Find True Utility With The Advent Of The Metaverse In 2021

Nonfungible tokens are one of the biggest innovations of the cryptoverse in 2021. The Metaverse is set to push the utility further in 2022.

The growth of NFTs has shot to the next level in terms of popularity and finding acceptance from the crypto community and the mainstream alike. Nonfungible tokens (NFTs) that were initially thought to be a bubble are now expanding their coverage across the cryptoverse.

According to a report by DappRadar, the NFT market has had its best year, generating over $23 billion with the floor market capitalization of the top 100 NFT collections standing at $16.7 billion, as of Dec. 17, even before the year closed out.

The biggest move for NFTs and the metaverse space has been Facebook’s announcement of being rebranded to Meta on Oct. 28 in a bid to expand its reach beyond social media and into the Metaverse. In fact, in the last week of October, it was revealed that over $106 million worth of Metaverse land was sold in seven days.

Ultimate Resource On The Metaverse

Within the cryptoverse, the NFT collectibles frenzy first began in 2017 with the launch of the CryptoKitties game and the subsequent demand for these digital cats.

At its peak, the blockchain game recorded a maximum of 140,000 daily users and 180,000 daily transactions in November 2017, but this traction was quickly lost over a few months. Since then, the collectibles domain has gone on to have renowned collections like CryptoPunks, Bored Apes Yacht Club and NBA Top Shots.

The initial interest around NFTs in the mainstream came from the digitization and tokenization of artworks by renowned artists like Beeple through auction sales hosted by traditional art galleries like Christie’s and Sotheby’s.

Since then, the scope of NFTs has expanded to include art, music, games, sports and Tweets — just about any digital or real-world asset — that can be tokenized while still holding their value and providing unique ownership.

GameFi Is The Game-changer

The prime watershed moment for NFTs that followed the Metaverse narrative is through GameFi protocols. GameFi is defined as the combination of gaming and decentralized finance (DeFi) within a single ecosystem.

According to Huobi Research, the research arm of the cryptocurrency exchange, GameFi has revived the interest in blockchain gaming.

The leading protocol in this regard in 2021 has been Axie Infinity, a game universe where gamers can collect Axies as pets in order to battle, breed, raise and build kingdoms for their pets. The game ecosystem is powered by AXS and SLP, the native tokens of the ecosystem.

The Ethereum-based game was released back in March 2018 and has been developed by Vietnamese game developer Sky Mavis. Due to the hype that surrounded the game this year, the Axie Infinity collection has quickly risen to become the most traded NFT collection ever in the short history of NFTs.

The collection has clocked nearly $4 billion in all-time sales. Axie Infinity has surpassed other blockchain games by a mile with the current in-game trading volume.

The daily active users of the game grew from 20,000 users in March of this year to 2.5 million users in December of this year, marking a 125x increase in less than nine months — a remarkable feat for a game that gained hype only this year.

The game has recorded $9.72 million in a single day in June, surpassing a record Tencent held at the time. In the third quarter of 2021, the game accounted for 19.5% of the total NFT trading volume in the same period and $2.08 billion of trading volumes.

While this game is based on Ethereum, blockchain-based games have spread across blockchain networks like Solana and the Binance Smart Chain.

There have been several games that have gained popularity across blockchain networks like Splinterlands on Hive and Wax, Alien Worlds on Wax, Upland on EOS, and MOBOX based on the Binance Smart Chain.

The investment raised with the blockchain gaming domain has well surpassed over a billion dollars in 2021, led by the $930 million raised by the gaming company Forte Labs.

Ultimate Resource On The Metaverse

Pushback From Traditional Gaming And Regulations

Even though GameFi has been disrupting gaming with the introduction of blockchain technology, the traditional gaming industry hasn’t exactly been receiving this innovation well.

Steam/Valve banned all blockchain-based games from its platform earlier this year. In response, however, over 26 companies and advocacy groups have called on the company to reverse the ban.

Additionally, the South Korean government has now blocked the release of new play-to-earn (P2E) games and asked the existing blockchain games with a P2E model to be removed from Apple Store and Google Play Store.

In contrast, Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite, has said that the company is open to blockchain-based games that support cryptocurrency and blockchain-based assets.

Even Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, recently stated in an interview on Dec. 22 that he believes his company’s technology, Neuralink, is better than the Metaverse in the long term as he doesn’t see “someone strapping a friggin’ screen to their face all day.”

Musk added: “In the long term, a sophisticated Neuralink could put you fully into virtual reality. I think we’re far from disappearing into the metaverse, this sounds just kind of buzzwordy.”

Despite the pushback from the traditional gaming industry and some regulators, GameFi has been growing at an incredibly fast pace. The company behind the first Bitcoin-based ETF in the United States, ProShares, has announced its plans to launch a Metaverse-focused ETF that will include companies like Apple, Meta and Nvidia.

The company has filed for the ETF with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) under the name ProShares Metaverse Theme ETF, which will track the performance of the Solactive Metaverse Theme Index (SOMETAV).

Even one of the consulting Big4 firms, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) Hong Kong, have dipped their toes into the Metaverse. The company purchased a land plot in a metaverse game Sandbox. Even the Italian luxury sports car manufacturer Ferrari hinted at NFTs after a deal with the Swiss blockchain startup Velas Network.

Enterprises as such can utilize blockchain technology to create business models in the Metaverse and achieve efficiency and cross-compatibility with the real world. If 2021 can be considered to be the year of DeFi and NFTs, it is almost certain that 2022 will be the year of GameFi and the Metaverse.

 

Updated: 1-2-2022

Metaverse Needs More Than VR Christmas Bump

Oculus headset sales are growing, but it still qualifies as a niche product relative to the Facebook parent’s ambitions.

Among the drawbacks to Facebook’s recent rebranding as a “metaverse” company are that it is no longer enough just to make a solid videogame device.

The company now formally known as Meta Platforms FB -2.33% appears to have had a decent holiday season for its Oculus VR headset.

Analysts for KeyBanc Capital and Jefferies both noted in reports last week that downloads of the Oculus app jumped over Christmas; Brent Thill of Jefferies added that daily active users of the app on Christmas Day were up 90% from the same day the previous year.

Facebook has never regularly disclosed sales data for Oculus, which it acquired in 2014 for $2 billion. But IDC estimates that unit sales of the company’s VR devices in 2021 will come in between 5.3 million and 6.8 million, once the market research firm’s fourth-quarter data is finalized.

Either one would be a nice jump from the 3.5 million Oculus units estimated to have sold last year. And it is far better than the anemic sales from before the company put out its first Quest headset in mid-2019.

Oculus devices before that mostly required a cable running to a high-powered PC. Such “tethers” have severely limited the appeal of VR devices even to the gamer crowd.

Analysts estimate that Sony sold about 5.5 million units of its tethered PlayStation VR headset in the fiscal years 2019 to 2021, according to consensus estimates from Visible Alpha. That is equivalent to about 12% of the total PlayStation console units the company sold in that time.

But while Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has long made clear that his ambitions for Oculus go well beyond gaming, the company’s name change two months ago significantly raised the stakes on that bet.

Proponents of the metaverse concept insist the idea is about more than virtual reality.

But VR is one of the main technologies that would set such a virtual world apart from simply browsing the internet on computers and mobile devices. “Without VR, there is no presence. And presence is the key point,” said longtime VR market analyst Stephanie Llamas of VoxPop.

Hence, a company banking its future on the metaverse will have to get a lot more devices into a lot more hands. Estimated Oculus sales over the past five years amount to less than 3% of Facebook’s daily user base in North America and Europe—the two markets that account for the vast majority of its business.

It also is anyone’s guess how many people who got a headset for Christmas will be anything but casual users. And some of the recent sales could have gone to Meta’s own employees trying to score some face time with the boss. The Wall Street Journal reported that Mr. Zuckerberg has been taking more of his internal meetings in virtual reality of late.

Facebook’s metamorphosis assumes that enough people will be willing to invest a few hundred dollars to plug into a virtual world controlled by a company with serious public trust issues now generating more than $110 billion a year in advertising revenue. Getting VR headsets under the Christmas tree may prove to be the easy part.

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Bitcoin Miners Will Someday Be Incorporated Into Household Appliances

Musk Inquires About Moving ‘Large Transactions’ To Bitcoin

How To Invest In Bitcoin: It Can Be Easy, But Watch Out For Fees

Megan Thee Stallion Gives Away $1 Million In Bitcoin

CoinFLEX Sets Up Short-Term Lending Facility For Crypto Traders

Wall Street Quants Pounce On Crytpo Industry And Some Are Not Sure What To Make Of It

Bitcoin Shortage As Wall Street FOMO Turns BTC Whales Into ‘Plankton’

Bitcoin Tops $22,000 And Strategists Say Rally Has Further To Go

Why Bitcoin Is Overpriced by More Than 50%

Kraken Exchange Will Integrate Bitcoin’s Lightning Network In 2021

New To Bitcoin? Stay Safe And Avoid These Common Scams

Andreas M. Antonopoulos And Simon Dixon Say Don’t Buy Bitcoin!

Famous Former Bitcoin Critics Who Conceded In 2020

Jim Cramer Bought Bitcoin While ‘Off Nicely From The Top’ In $17,000S

The Wealthy Are Jumping Into Bitcoin As Stigma Around Crypto Fades

WordPress Adds Official Ethereum Ad Plugin

France Moves To Ban Anonymous Crypto Accounts To Prevent Money Laundering

10 Predictions For 2021: China, Bitcoin, Taxes, Stablecoins And More

Movie Based On Darknet Market Silk Road Premiering In February

Crypto Funds Have Seen Record Investment Inflow In Recent Weeks

US Gov Is Bitcoin’s Last Remaining Adversary, Says Messari Founder

$1,200 US Stimulus Check Is Now Worth Almost $4,000 If Invested In Bitcoin

German Bank Launches Crypto Fund Covering Portfolio Of Digital Assets

World Governments Agree On Importance Of Crypto Regulation At G-7 Meeting

Why Some Investors Get Bitcoin So Wrong, And What That Says About Its Strengths

It’s Not About Data Ownership, It’s About Data Control, EFF Director Says

‘It Will Send BTC’ — On-Chain Analyst Says Bitcoin Hodlers Are Only Getting Stronger

Bitcoin Arrives On Wall Street: S&P Dow Jones Launching Crypto Indexes In 2021

Audio Streaming Giant Spotify Is Looking Into Crypto Payments

BlackRock (Assets Under Management $7.4 Trillion) CEO: Bitcoin Has Caught Our Attention

Bitcoin Moves $500K Around The Globe Every Second, Says Samson Mow

Pomp Talks Shark Tank’s Kevin O’leary Into Buying ‘A Little More’ Bitcoin

Bitcoin Is The Tulipmania That Refuses To Die

Ultimate Resource On Ethereum 2.0

Biden Should Integrate Bitcoin Into Us Financial System, Says Niall Ferguson

Bitcoin Is Winning The Monetary Revolution

Cash Is Trash, Dump Gold, Buy Bitcoin!

Bitcoin Price Sets New Record High Above $19,783

You Call That A Record? Bitcoin’s November Gains Are 3x Stock Market’s

Bitcoin Fights Back With Power, Speed and Millions of Users

Guggenheim Fund ($295 Billion Assets Under Management) Reserves Right To Put Up To 10% In Bitcoin Trust!

Exchanges Outdo Auctions For Governments Cashing In Criminal Crypto, Says Exec

Coinbase CEO: Trump Administration May ‘Rush Out’ Burdensome Crypto Wallet Rules

Bitcoin Plunges Along With Other Coins Providing For A Major Black Friday Sale Opportunity

The Most Bullish Bitcoin Arguments For Your Thanksgiving Table

‘Bitcoin Tuesday’ To Become One Of The Largest-Ever Crypto Donation Events

World’s First 24/7 Crypto Call-In Station!!!

Bitcoin Trades Again Near Record, Driven By New Group Of Buyers

Friendliest Of Them All? These Could Be The Best Countries For Crypto

Bitcoin Price Doubles Since The Halving, With Just 3.4M Bitcoin Left For Buyers

First Company-Sponsored Bitcoin Retirement Plans Launched In US

Poker Players Are Enhancing Winnings By Cashing Out In Bitcoin

Crypto-Friendly Brooks Gets Nod To Serve 5-Year Term Leading Bank Regulator

The Bitcoin Comeback: Is Crypto Finally Going Mainstream?

The Dark Future Where Payments Are Politicized And Bitcoin Wins

Mexico’s 3rd Richest Man Reveals BTC Holdings As Bitcoin Breaches $18,000

Ultimate Resource On Mike Novogratz And Galaxy Digital’s Bitcoin News

Bitcoin’s Gunning For A Record And No One’s Talking About It

Simple Steps To Keep Your Crypto Safe

US Company Now Lets Travelers Pay For Passports With Bitcoin

Billionaire Hedge Fund Investor Stanley Druckenmiller Says He Owns Bitcoin In CNBC Interview

China’s UnionPay And Korea’s Danal To Launch Crypto-Supporting Digital Card #GotBitcoin

Bitcoin Is Back Trading Near Three-Year Highs

Bitcoin Transaction Fees Rise To 28-Month High As Hashrate Drops Amid Price Rally

Market Is Proving Bitcoin Is ‘Ultimate Safe Haven’ — Anthony Pompliano

3 Reasons Why Bitcoin Price Suddenly Dropping Below $13,000 Isn’t Bearish

Bitcoin Resurgence Leaves Institutional Acceptance Unanswered

Bitcoin’s Rivalry With Gold Plus Millennial Interest Gives It ‘Considerable’ Upside Potential: JPMorgan

WordPress Content Can Now Be Timestamped On Ethereum

PayPal To Offer Crypto Payments Starting In 2021 (A-Z) (#GotBitcoin?)

As Bitcoin Approaches $13,000 It Breaks Correlation With Equities

Crypto M&A Surges Past 2019 Total As Rest of World Eclipses U.S. (#GotBitcoin?)

How HBCUs Are Prepping Black Students For Blockchain Careers

Why Every US Congressman Just Got Sent Some ‘American’ Bitcoin

CME Sounding Out Crypto Traders To Gauge Market Demand For Ether Futures, Options

Caitlin Long On Bitcoin, Blockchain And Rehypothecation (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Drops To $10,446.83 As CFTC Charges BitMex With Illegally Operating Derivatives Exchange

BitcoinACKs Lets You Track Bitcoin Development And Pay Coders For Their Work

One Of Hal Finney’s Lost Contributions To Bitcoin Core To Be ‘Resurrected’ (#GotBitcoin?)

Cross-chain Money Markets, Latest Attempt To Bring Liquidity To DeFi

Memes Mean Mad Money. Those Silly Defi Memes, They’re Really Important (#GotBitcoin?)

Bennie Overton’s Story About Our Corrupt U.S. Judicial, Global Financial Monetary System And Bitcoin

Stop Fucking Around With Public Token Airdrops In The United States (#GotBitcoin?)

Mad Money’s Jim Cramer Will Invest 1% Of Net Worth In Bitcoin Says, “Gold Is Dangerous”

State-by-state Licensing For Crypto And Payments Firms In The Us Just Got Much Easier (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin (BTC) Ranks As World 6Th Largest Currency

Pomp Claims He Convinced Jim Cramer To Buy Bitcoin

Traditional Investors View Bitcoin As If It Were A Technology Stock

Mastercard Releases Platform Enabling Central Banks To Test Digital Currencies (#GotBitcoin?)

Being Black On Wall Street. Top Black Executives Speak Out About Racism (#GotBitcoin?)

Tesla And Bitcoin Are The Most Popular Assets On TradingView (#GotBitcoin?)

From COVID Generation To Crypto Generation (#GotBitcoin?)

Right-Winger Tucker Carlson Causes Grayscale Investments To Pull Bitcoin Ads

Bitcoin Has Lost Its Way: Here’s How To Return To Crypto’s Subversive Roots

Cross Chain Is Here: NEO, ONT, Cosmos And NEAR Launch Interoperability Protocols (#GotBitcoin?)

Crypto Trading Products Enter The Mainstream With A Number Of Inherent Advantages (#GotBitcoin?)

Crypto Goes Mainstream With TV, Newspaper Ads (#GotBitcoin?)

A Guarded Generation: How Millennials View Money And Investing (#GotBitcoin?)

Blockchain-Backed Social Media Brings More Choice For Users

California Moves Forward With Digital Asset Bill (#GotBitcoin?)

Walmart Adds Crypto Cashback Through Shopping Loyalty Platform StormX (#GotBitcoin?)

Congressman Tom Emmer To Lead First-Ever Crypto Town Hall (#GotBitcoin?)

Why It’s Time To Pay Attention To Mexico’s Booming Crypto Market (#GotBitcoin?)

The Assets That Matter Most In Crypto (#GotBitcoin?)

Ultimate Resource On Non-Fungible Tokens

Bitcoin Community Highlights Double-Standard Applied Deutsche Bank Epstein Scandal

Blockchain Makes Strides In Diversity. However, Traditional Tech Industry Not-S0-Much (#GotBitcoin?)

An Israeli Blockchain Startup Claims It’s Invented An ‘Undo’ Button For BTC Transactions

After Years of Resistance, BitPay Adopts SegWit For Cheaper Bitcoin Transactions

US Appeals Court Allows Warrantless Search of Blockchain, Exchange Data

Central Bank Rate Cuts Mean ‘World Has Gone Zimbabwe’

This Researcher Says Bitcoin’s Elliptic Curve Could Have A Secret Backdoor

China Discovers 4% Of Its Reserves Or 83 Tons Of It’s Gold Bars Are Fake (#GotBitcoin?)

Former Legg Mason Star Bill Miller And Bloomberg Are Optimistic About Bitcoin’s Future

Yield Chasers Are Yield Farming In Crypto-Currencies (#GotBitcoin?)

Australia Post Office Now Lets Customers Buy Bitcoin At Over 3,500 Outlets

Anomaly On Bitcoin Sidechain Results In Brief Security Lapse

SEC And DOJ Charges Lobbying Kingpin Jack Abramoff And Associate For Money Laundering

Veteran Commodities Trader Chris Hehmeyer Goes All In On Crypto (#GotBitcoin?)

Activists Document Police Misconduct Using Decentralized Protocol (#GotBitcoin?)

Supposedly, PayPal, Venmo To Roll Out Crypto Buying And Selling (#GotBitcoin?)

Industry Leaders Launch PayID, The Universal ID For Payments (#GotBitcoin?)

Crypto Quant Fund Debuts With $23M In Assets, $2.3B In Trades (#GotBitcoin?)

The Queens Politician Who Wants To Give New Yorkers Their Own Crypto

Why Does The SEC Want To Run Bitcoin And Ethereum Nodes?

Trump Orders Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin To Destroy Bitcoin Just Like They Destroyed The Traditional Economy

US Drug Agency Failed To Properly Supervise Agent Who Stole $700,000 In Bitcoin In 2015

Layer 2 Will Make Bitcoin As Easy To Use As The Dollar, Says Kraken CEO

Bootstrapping Mobile Mesh Networks With Bitcoin Lightning

Nevermind Coinbase — Big Brother Is Already Watching Your Coins (#GotBitcoin?)

BitPay’s Prepaid Mastercard Launches In US to Make Crypto Accessible (#GotBitcoin?)

Germany’s Deutsche Borse Exchange To List New Bitcoin Exchange-Traded Product

‘Bitcoin Billionaires’ Movie To Tell Winklevoss Bros’ Crypto Story

US Pentagon Created A War Game To Fight The Establishment With BTC (#GotBitcoin?)

JPMorgan Provides Banking Services To Crypto Exchanges Coinbase And Gemini (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Advocates Cry Foul As US Fed Buying ETFs For The First Time

Final Block Mined Before Halving Contained Reminder of BTC’s Origins (#GotBitcoin?)

Meet Brian Klein, Crypto’s Own ‘High-Stakes’ Trial Attorney (#GotBitcoin?)

3 Reasons For The Bitcoin Price ‘Halving Dump’ From $10K To $8.1K

Bitcoin Outlives And Outlasts Naysayers And First Website That Declared It Dead Back In 2010

Hedge Fund Pioneer Turns Bullish On Bitcoin Amid ‘Unprecedented’ Monetary Inflation

Antonopoulos: Chainalysis Is Helping World’s Worst Dictators & Regimes (#GotBitcoin?)

Survey Shows Many BTC Holders Use Hardware Wallet, Have Backup Keys (#GotBitcoin?)

Iran Ditches The Rial Amid Hyperinflation As Localbitcoins Seem To Trade Near $35K

Buffett ‘Killed His Reputation’ by Being Stupid About BTC, Says Max Keiser (#GotBitcoin?)

Meltem Demirors: “Bitcoin Is Not A F*Cking Systemic Hedge If You Hold Your Bitcoin At A Financial Institution”

Blockfolio Quietly Patches Years-Old Security Hole That Exposed Source Code (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Won As Store of Value In Coronavirus Crisis — Hedge Fund CEO

Decentralized VPN Gaining Steam At 100,000 Users Worldwide (#GotBitcoin?)

Crypto Exchange Offers Credit Lines so Institutions Can Trade Now, Pay Later (#GotBitcoin?)

Zoom Develops A Cryptocurrency Paywall To Reward Creators Video Conferencing Sessions (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Startup Purse.io And Major Bitcoin Cash Partner To Shut Down After 6-Year Run

Open Interest In CME Bitcoin Futures Rises 70% As Institutions Return To Market

Square’s Users Can Route Stimulus Payments To BTC-Friendly Cash App

$1.1 Billion BTC Transaction For Only $0.68 Demonstrates Bitcoin’s Advantage Over Banks

Bitcoin Could Become Like ‘Prison Cigarettes’ Amid Deepening Financial Crisis

Bitcoin Holds Value As US Debt Reaches An Unfathomable $24 Trillion

How To Get Money (Crypto-currency) To People In An Emergency, Fast

US Intelligence To Study What Would Happen If U.S. Dollar Lost Its Status As World’s Reserve Currency (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Miner Manufacturers Mark Down Prices Ahead of Halving

Privacy-Oriented Browsers Gain Traction (#GotBitcoin?)

‘Breakthrough’ As Lightning Uses Web’s Forgotten Payment Code (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Starts Quarter With Price Down Just 10% YTD vs U.S. Stock’s Worst Quarter Since 2008

Bitcoin Enthusiasts, Liberal Lawmakers Cheer A Fed-Backed Digital Dollar

Crypto-Friendly Bank Revolut Launches In The US (#GotBitcoin?)

The CFTC Just Defined What ‘Actual Delivery’ of Crypto Should Look Like (#GotBitcoin?)

Crypto CEO Compares US Dollar To Onecoin Scam As Fed Keeps Printing (#GotBitcoin?)

Stuck In Quarantine? Become A Blockchain Expert With These Online Courses (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin, Not Governments Will Save the World After Crisis, Tim Draper Says

Crypto Analyst Accused of Photoshopping Trade Screenshots (#GotBitcoin?)

QE4 Begins: Fed Cuts Rates, Buys $700B In Bonds; Bitcoin Rallies 7.7%

Mike Novogratz And Andreas Antonopoulos On The Bitcoin Crash

Amid Market Downturn, Number of People Owning 1 BTC Hits New Record (#GotBitcoin?)

Fatburger And Others Feed $30 Million Into Ethereum For New Bond Offering (#GotBitcoin?)

Pornhub Will Integrate PumaPay Recurring Subscription Crypto Payments (#GotBitcoin?)

Intel SGX Vulnerability Discovered, Cryptocurrency Keys Threatened

Bitcoin’s Plunge Due To Manipulation, Traditional Markets Falling or PlusToken Dumping?

Countries That First Outlawed Crypto But Then Embraced It (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Maintains Gains As Global Equities Slide, US Yield Hits Record Lows

HTC’s New 5G Router Can Host A Full Bitcoin Node

India Supreme Court Lifts RBI Ban On Banks Servicing Crypto Firms (#GotBitcoin?)

Analyst Claims 98% of Mining Rigs Fail to Verify Transactions (#GotBitcoin?)

Blockchain Storage Offers Security, Data Transparency And immutability. Get Over it!

Black Americans & Crypto (#GotBitcoin?)

Coinbase Wallet Now Allows To Send Crypto Through Usernames (#GotBitcoin)

New ‘Simpsons’ Episode Features Jim Parsons Giving A Crypto Explainer For The Masses (#GotBitcoin?)

Crypto-currency Founder Met With Warren Buffett For Charity Lunch (#GotBitcoin?)

Witches Love Bitcoin

Bitcoin’s Potential To Benefit The African And African-American Community

Coinbase Becomes Direct Visa Card Issuer With Principal Membership

Bitcoin Achieves Major Milestone With Half A Billion Transactions Confirmed

Jill Carlson, Meltem Demirors Back $3.3M Round For Non-Custodial Settlement Protocol Arwen

Crypto Companies Adopt Features Similar To Banks (Only Better) To Drive Growth (#GotBitcoin?)

Top Graphics Cards That Will Turn A Crypto Mining Profit (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Usage Among Merchants Is Up, According To Data From Coinbase And BitPay

Top 10 Books Recommended by Crypto (#Bitcoin) Thought Leaders

Twitter Adds Bitcoin Emoji, Jack Dorsey Suggests Unicode Does The Same

Bitcoiners Are Now Into Fasting. Read This Article To Find Out Why

You Can Now Donate Bitcoin Or Fiat To Show Your Support For All Of Our Valuable Content

2019’s Top 10 Institutional Actors In Crypto (#GotBitcoin?)

What Does Twitter’s New Decentralized Initiative Mean? (#GotBitcoin?)

Crypto-Friendly Silvergate Bank Goes Public On New York Stock Exchange (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin’s Best Q1 Since 2013 To ‘Escalate’ If $9.5K Is Broken

Billionaire Investor Tim Draper: If You’re a Millennial, Buy Bitcoin

What Are Lightning Wallets Doing To Help Onboard New Users? (#GotBitcoin?)

If You Missed Out On Investing In Amazon, Bitcoin Might Be A Second Chance For You (#GotBitcoin?)

2020 And Beyond: Bitcoin’s Potential Protocol (Privacy And Scalability) Upgrades (#GotBitcoin?)

US Deficit Will Be At Least 6 Times Bitcoin Market Cap — Every Year (#GotBitcoin?)

Central Banks Warm To Issuing Digital Currencies (#GotBitcoin?)

Meet The Crypto Angel Investor Running For Congress In Nevada (#GotBitcoin?)

Introducing BTCPay Vault – Use Any Hardware Wallet With BTCPay And Its Full Node (#GotBitcoin?)

How Not To Lose Your Coins In 2020: Alternative Recovery Methods (#GotBitcoin?)

H.R.5635 – Virtual Currency Tax Fairness Act of 2020 ($200.00 Limit) 116th Congress (2019-2020)

Adam Back On Satoshi Emails, Privacy Concerns And Bitcoin’s Early Days

The Prospect of Using Bitcoin To Build A New International Monetary System Is Getting Real

How To Raise Funds For Australia Wildfire Relief Efforts (Using Bitcoin And/Or Fiat )

Former Regulator Known As ‘Crypto Dad’ To Launch Digital-Dollar Think Tank (#GotBitcoin?)

Currency ‘Cold War’ Takes Center Stage At Pre-Davos Crypto Confab (#GotBitcoin?)

A Blockchain-Secured Home Security Camera Won Innovation Awards At CES 2020 Las Vegas

Bitcoin’s Had A Sensational 11 Years (#GotBitcoin?)

Sergey Nazarov And The Creation Of A Decentralized Network Of Oracles

Google Suspends MetaMask From Its Play App Store, Citing “Deceptive Services”

Christmas Shopping: Where To Buy With Crypto This Festive Season

At 8,990,000% Gains, Bitcoin Dwarfs All Other Investments This Decade

Coinbase CEO Armstrong Wins Patent For Tech Allowing Users To Email Bitcoin

Bitcoin Has Got Society To Think About The Nature Of Money

How DeFi Goes Mainstream In 2020: Focus On Usability (#GotBitcoin?)

Dissidents And Activists Have A Lot To Gain From Bitcoin, If Only They Knew It (#GotBitcoin?)

At A Refugee Camp In Iraq, A 16-Year-Old Syrian Is Teaching Crypto Basics

Bitclub Scheme Busted In The US, Promising High Returns From Mining

Bitcoin Advertised On French National TV

Germany: New Proposed Law Would Legalize Banks Holding Bitcoin

How To Earn And Spend Bitcoin On Black Friday 2019

The Ultimate List of Bitcoin Developments And Accomplishments

Charities Put A Bitcoin Twist On Giving Tuesday

Family Offices Finally Accept The Benefits of Investing In Bitcoin

An Army Of Bitcoin Devs Is Battle-Testing Upgrades To Privacy And Scaling

Bitcoin ‘Carry Trade’ Can Net Annual Gains With Little Risk, Says PlanB

Max Keiser: Bitcoin’s ‘Self-Settlement’ Is A Revolution Against Dollar

Blockchain Can And Will Replace The IRS

China Seizes The Blockchain Opportunity. How Should The US Respond? (#GotBitcoin?)

Jack Dorsey: You Can Buy A Fraction Of Berkshire Stock Or ‘Stack Sats’

Bitcoin Price Skyrockets $500 In Minutes As Bakkt BTC Contracts Hit Highs

Bitcoin’s Irreversibility Challenges International Private Law: Legal Scholar

Bitcoin Has Already Reached 40% Of Average Fiat Currency Lifespan

Yes, Even Bitcoin HODLers Can Lose Money In The Long-Term: Here’s How (#GotBitcoin?)

Unicef To Accept Donations In Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)

Former Prosecutor Asked To “Shut Down Bitcoin” And Is Now Face Of Crypto VC Investing (#GotBitcoin?)

Switzerland’s ‘Crypto Valley’ Is Bringing Blockchain To Zurich

Next Bitcoin Halving May Not Lead To Bull Market, Says Bitmain CEO

Tim Draper Bets On Unstoppable Domain’s .Crypto Domain Registry To Replace Wallet Addresses (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Developer Amir Taaki, “We Can Crash National Economies” (#GotBitcoin?)

Veteran Crypto And Stocks Trader Shares 6 Ways To Invest And Get Rich

Is Chainlink Blazing A Trail Independent Of Bitcoin?

Nearly $10 Billion In BTC Is Held In Wallets Of 8 Crypto Exchanges (#GotBitcoin?)

SEC Enters Settlement Talks With Alleged Fraudulent Firm Veritaseum (#GotBitcoin?)

Blockstream’s Samson Mow: Bitcoin’s Block Size Already ‘Too Big’

Attorneys Seek Bank Of Ireland Execs’ Testimony Against OneCoin Scammer (#GotBitcoin?)

OpenLibra Plans To Launch Permissionless Fork Of Facebook’s Stablecoin (#GotBitcoin?)

Tiny $217 Options Trade On Bitcoin Blockchain Could Be Wall Street’s Death Knell (#GotBitcoin?)

Class Action Accuses Tether And Bitfinex Of Market Manipulation (#GotBitcoin?)

Sharia Goldbugs: How ISIS Created A Currency For World Domination (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Eyes Demand As Hong Kong Protestors Announce Bank Run (#GotBitcoin?)

How To Securely Transfer Crypto To Your Heirs

‘Gold-Backed’ Crypto Token Promoter Karatbars Investigated By Florida Regulators (#GotBitcoin?)

Crypto News From The Spanish-Speaking World (#GotBitcoin?)

Financial Services Giant Morningstar To Offer Ratings For Crypto Assets (#GotBitcoin?)

‘Gold-Backed’ Crypto Token Promoter Karatbars Investigated By Florida Regulators (#GotBitcoin?)

The Original Sins Of Cryptocurrencies (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Is The Fraud? JPMorgan Metals Desk Fixed Gold Prices For Years (#GotBitcoin?)

Israeli Startup That Allows Offline Crypto Transactions Secures $4M (#GotBitcoin?)

[PSA] Non-genuine Trezor One Devices Spotted (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Stronger Than Ever But No One Seems To Care: Google Trends (#GotBitcoin?)

First-Ever SEC-Qualified Token Offering In US Raises $23 Million (#GotBitcoin?)

You Can Now Prove A Whole Blockchain With One Math Problem – Really

Crypto Mining Supply Fails To Meet Market Demand In Q2: TokenInsight

$2 Billion Lost In Mt. Gox Bitcoin Hack Can Be Recovered, Lawyer Claims (#GotBitcoin?)

Fed Chair Says Agency Monitoring Crypto But Not Developing Its Own (#GotBitcoin?)

Wesley Snipes Is Launching A Tokenized $25 Million Movie Fund (#GotBitcoin?)

Mystery 94K BTC Transaction Becomes Richest Non-Exchange Address (#GotBitcoin?)

A Crypto Fix For A Broken International Monetary System (#GotBitcoin?)

Four Out Of Five Top Bitcoin QR Code Generators Are Scams: Report (#GotBitcoin?)

Waves Platform And The Abyss To Jointly Launch Blockchain-Based Games Marketplace (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitmain Ramps Up Power And Efficiency With New Bitcoin Mining Machine (#GotBitcoin?)

Ledger Live Now Supports Over 1,250 Ethereum-Based ERC-20 Tokens (#GotBitcoin?)

Miss Finland: Bitcoin’s Risk Keeps Most Women Away From Cryptocurrency (#GotBitcoin?)

Artist Akon Loves BTC And Says, “It’s Controlled By The People” (#GotBitcoin?)

Ledger Live Now Supports Over 1,250 Ethereum-Based ERC-20 Tokens (#GotBitcoin?)

Co-Founder Of LinkedIn Presents Crypto Rap Video: Hamilton Vs. Satoshi (#GotBitcoin?)

Crypto Insurance Market To Grow, Lloyd’s Of London And Aon To Lead (#GotBitcoin?)

No ‘AltSeason’ Until Bitcoin Breaks $20K, Says Hedge Fund Manager (#GotBitcoin?)

NSA Working To Develop Quantum-Resistant Cryptocurrency: Report (#GotBitcoin?)

Custody Provider Legacy Trust Launches Crypto Pension Plan (#GotBitcoin?)

Vaneck, SolidX To Offer Limited Bitcoin ETF For Institutions Via Exemption (#GotBitcoin?)

Russell Okung: From NFL Superstar To Bitcoin Educator In 2 Years (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Miners Made $14 Billion To Date Securing The Network (#GotBitcoin?)

Why Does Amazon Want To Hire Blockchain Experts For Its Ads Division?

Argentina’s Economy Is In A Technical Default (#GotBitcoin?)

Blockchain-Based Fractional Ownership Used To Sell High-End Art (#GotBitcoin?)

Portugal Tax Authority: Bitcoin Trading And Payments Are Tax-Free (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin ‘Failed Safe Haven Test’ After 7% Drop, Peter Schiff Gloats (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Dev Reveals Multisig UI Teaser For Hardware Wallets, Full Nodes (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Price: $10K Holds For Now As 50% Of CME Futures Set To Expire (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Realized Market Cap Hits $100 Billion For The First Time (#GotBitcoin?)

Stablecoins Begin To Look Beyond The Dollar (#GotBitcoin?)

Bank Of England Governor: Libra-Like Currency Could Replace US Dollar (#GotBitcoin?)

Binance Reveals ‘Venus’ — Its Own Project To Rival Facebook’s Libra (#GotBitcoin?)

The Real Benefits Of Blockchain Are Here. They’re Being Ignored (#GotBitcoin?)

CommBank Develops Blockchain Market To Boost Biodiversity (#GotBitcoin?)

SEC Approves Blockchain Tech Startup Securitize To Record Stock Transfers (#GotBitcoin?)

SegWit Creator Introduces New Language For Bitcoin Smart Contracts (#GotBitcoin?)

You Can Now Earn Bitcoin Rewards For Postmates Purchases (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Price ‘Will Struggle’ In Big Financial Crisis, Says Investor (#GotBitcoin?)

Fidelity Charitable Received Over $100M In Crypto Donations Since 2015 (#GotBitcoin?)

Would Blockchain Better Protect User Data Than FaceApp? Experts Answer (#GotBitcoin?)

Just The Existence Of Bitcoin Impacts Monetary Policy (#GotBitcoin?)

What Are The Biggest Alleged Crypto Heists And How Much Was Stolen? (#GotBitcoin?)

IRS To Cryptocurrency Owners: Come Clean, Or Else!

Coinbase Accidentally Saves Unencrypted Passwords Of 3,420 Customers (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Is A ‘Chaos Hedge, Or Schmuck Insurance‘ (#GotBitcoin?)

Bakkt Announces September 23 Launch Of Futures And Custody

Coinbase CEO: Institutions Depositing $200-400M Into Crypto Per Week (#GotBitcoin?)

Researchers Find Monero Mining Malware That Hides From Task Manager (#GotBitcoin?)

Crypto Dusting Attack Affects Nearly 300,000 Addresses (#GotBitcoin?)

A Case For Bitcoin As Recession Hedge In A Diversified Investment Portfolio (#GotBitcoin?)

SEC Guidance Gives Ammo To Lawsuit Claiming XRP Is Unregistered Security (#GotBitcoin?)

15 Countries To Develop Crypto Transaction Tracking System: Report (#GotBitcoin?)

US Department Of Commerce Offering 6-Figure Salary To Crypto Expert (#GotBitcoin?)

Mastercard Is Building A Team To Develop Crypto, Wallet Projects (#GotBitcoin?)

Canadian Bitcoin Educator Scams The Scammer And Donates Proceeds (#GotBitcoin?)

Amazon Wants To Build A Blockchain For Ads, New Job Listing Shows (#GotBitcoin?)

Shield Bitcoin Wallets From Theft Via Time Delay (#GotBitcoin?)

Blockstream Launches Bitcoin Mining Farm With Fidelity As Early Customer (#GotBitcoin?)

Commerzbank Tests Blockchain Machine To Machine Payments With Daimler (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin’s Historical Returns Look Very Attractive As Online Banks Lower Payouts On Savings Accounts (#GotBitcoin?)

Man Takes Bitcoin Miner Seller To Tribunal Over Electricity Bill And Wins (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin’s Computing Power Sets Record As Over 100K New Miners Go Online (#GotBitcoin?)

Walmart Coin And Libra Perform Major Public Relations For Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)

Judge Says Buying Bitcoin Via Credit Card Not Necessarily A Cash Advance (#GotBitcoin?)

Poll: If You’re A Stockowner Or Crypto-Currency Holder. What Will You Do When The Recession Comes?

1 In 5 Crypto Holders Are Women, New Report Reveals (#GotBitcoin?)

Beating Bakkt, Ledgerx Is First To Launch ‘Physical’ Bitcoin Futures In Us (#GotBitcoin?)

Facebook Warns Investors That Libra Stablecoin May Never Launch (#GotBitcoin?)

Government Money Printing Is ‘Rocket Fuel’ For Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin-Friendly Square Cash App Stock Price Up 56% In 2019 (#GotBitcoin?)

Safeway Shoppers Can Now Get Bitcoin Back As Change At 894 US Stores (#GotBitcoin?)

TD Ameritrade CEO: There’s ‘Heightened Interest Again’ With Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)

Venezuela Sets New Bitcoin Volume Record Thanks To 10,000,000% Inflation (#GotBitcoin?)

Newegg Adds Bitcoin Payment Option To 73 More Countries (#GotBitcoin?)

China’s Schizophrenic Relationship With Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)

More Companies Build Products Around Crypto Hardware Wallets (#GotBitcoin?)

Bakkt Is Scheduled To Start Testing Its Bitcoin Futures Contracts Today (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Network Now 8 Times More Powerful Than It Was At $20K Price (#GotBitcoin?)

Crypto Exchange BitMEX Under Investigation By CFTC: Bloomberg (#GotBitcoin?)

“Bitcoin An ‘Unstoppable Force,” Says US Congressman At Crypto Hearing (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Network Is Moving $3 Billion Daily, Up 210% Since April (#GotBitcoin?)

Cryptocurrency Startups Get Partial Green Light From Washington

Fundstrat’s Tom Lee: Bitcoin Pullback Is Healthy, Fewer Searches Аre Good (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Lightning Nodes Are Snatching Funds From Bad Actors (#GotBitcoin?)

The Provident Bank Now Offers Deposit Services For Crypto-Related Entities (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Could Help Stop News Censorship From Space (#GotBitcoin?)

US Sanctions On Iran Crypto Mining — Inevitable Or Impossible? (#GotBitcoin?)

US Lawmaker Reintroduces ‘Safe Harbor’ Crypto Tax Bill In Congress (#GotBitcoin?)

EU Central Bank Won’t Add Bitcoin To Reserves — Says It’s Not A Currency (#GotBitcoin?)

The Miami Dolphins Now Accept Bitcoin And Litecoin Crypt-Currency Payments (#GotBitcoin?)

Trump Bashes Bitcoin And Alt-Right Is Mad As Hell (#GotBitcoin?)

Goldman Sachs Ramps Up Development Of New Secret Crypto Project (#GotBitcoin?)

Blockchain And AI Bond, Explained (#GotBitcoin?)

Grayscale Bitcoin Trust Outperformed Indexes In First Half Of 2019 (#GotBitcoin?)

XRP Is The Worst Performing Major Crypto Of 2019 (GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Back Near $12K As BTC Shorters Lose $44 Million In One Morning (#GotBitcoin?)

As Deutsche Bank Axes 18K Jobs, Bitcoin Offers A ‘Plan ฿”: VanEck Exec (#GotBitcoin?)

Argentina Drives Global LocalBitcoins Volume To Highest Since November (#GotBitcoin?)

‘I Would Buy’ Bitcoin If Growth Continues — Investment Legend Mobius (#GotBitcoin?)

Lawmakers Push For New Bitcoin Rules (#GotBitcoin?)

Facebook’s Libra Is Bad For African Americans (#GotBitcoin?)

Crypto Firm Charity Announces Alliance To Support Feminine Health (#GotBitcoin?)

Canadian Startup Wants To Upgrade Millions Of ATMs To Sell Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)

Trump Says US ‘Should Match’ China’s Money Printing Game (#GotBitcoin?)

Casa Launches Lightning Node Mobile App For Bitcoin Newbies (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Rally Fuels Market In Crypto Derivatives (#GotBitcoin?)

World’s First Zero-Fiat ‘Bitcoin Bond’ Now Available On Bloomberg Terminal (#GotBitcoin?)

Buying Bitcoin Has Been Profitable 98.2% Of The Days Since Creation (#GotBitcoin?)

Another Crypto Exchange Receives License For Crypto Futures

From ‘Ponzi’ To ‘We’re Working On It’ — BIS Chief Reverses Stance On Crypto (#GotBitcoin?)

These Are The Cities Googling ‘Bitcoin’ As Interest Hits 17-Month High (#GotBitcoin?)

Venezuelan Explains How Bitcoin Saves His Family (#GotBitcoin?)

Quantum Computing Vs. Blockchain: Impact On Cryptography

This Fund Is Riding Bitcoin To Top (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin’s Surge Leaves Smaller Digital Currencies In The Dust (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Exchange Hits $1 Trillion In Trading Volume (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Breaks $200 Billion Market Cap For The First Time In 17 Months (#GotBitcoin?)

You Can Now Make State Tax Payments In Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)

Religious Organizations Make Ideal Places To Mine Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)

Goldman Sacs And JP Morgan Chase Finally Concede To Crypto-Currencies (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Heading For Fifth Month Of Gains Despite Price Correction (#GotBitcoin?)

Breez Reveals Lightning-Powered Bitcoin Payments App For IPhone (#GotBitcoin?)

Big Four Auditing Firm PwC Releases Cryptocurrency Auditing Software (#GotBitcoin?)

Amazon-Owned Twitch Quietly Brings Back Bitcoin Payments (#GotBitcoin?)

JPMorgan Will Pilot ‘JPM Coin’ Stablecoin By End Of 2019: Report (#GotBitcoin?)

Is There A Big Short In Bitcoin? (#GotBitcoin?)

Coinbase Hit With Outage As Bitcoin Price Drops $1.8K In 15 Minutes

Samourai Wallet Releases Privacy-Enhancing CoinJoin Feature (#GotBitcoin?)

There Are Now More Than 5,000 Bitcoin ATMs Around The World (#GotBitcoin?)

You Can Now Get Bitcoin Rewards When Booking At Hotels.Com (#GotBitcoin?)

North America’s Largest Solar Bitcoin Mining Farm Coming To California (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin On Track For Best Second Quarter Price Gain On Record (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Hash Rate Climbs To New Record High Boosting Network Security (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Exceeds 1Million Active Addresses While Coinbase Custodies $1.3B In Assets

Why Bitcoin’s Price Suddenly Surged Back $5K (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin’s Lightning Comes To Apple Smartwatches With New App (#GotBitcoin?)

E-Trade To Offer Crypto Trading (#GotBitcoin)

US Rapper Lil Pump Starts Accepting Bitcoin Via Lightning Network On Merchandise Store (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitfinex Used Tether Reserves To Mask Missing $850 Million, Probe Finds (#GotBitcoin?)

21-Year-Old Jailed For 10 Years After Stealing $7.5M In Crypto By Hacking Cell Phones (#GotBitcoin?)

You Can Now Shop With Bitcoin On Amazon Using Lightning (#GotBitcoin?)

Afghanistan, Tunisia To Issue Sovereign Bonds In Bitcoin, Bright Future Ahead (#GotBitcoin?)

Crypto Faithful Say Blockchain Can Remake Securities Market Machinery (#GotBitcoin?)

Disney In Talks To Acquire The Owner Of Crypto Exchanges Bitstamp And Korbit (#GotBitcoin?)

Crypto Exchange Gemini Rolls Out Native Wallet Support For SegWit Bitcoin Addresses (#GotBitcoin?)

Binance Delists Bitcoin SV, CEO Calls Craig Wright A ‘Fraud’ (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Outperforms Nasdaq 100, S&P 500, Grows Whopping 37% In 2019 (#GotBitcoin?)

Bitcoin Passes A Milestone 400 Million Transactions (#GotBitcoin?)

Future Returns: Why Investors May Want To Consider Bitcoin Now (#GotBitcoin?)

Next Bitcoin Core Release To Finally Connect Hardware Wallets To Full Nodes (#GotBitcoin?)

Major Crypto-Currency Exchanges Use Lloyd’s Of London, A Registered Insurance Broker (#GotBitcoin?)

How Bitcoin Can Prevent Fraud And Chargebacks (#GotBitcoin?)

Why Bitcoin’s Price Suddenly Surged Back $5K (#GotBitcoin?)

Zebpay Becomes First Exchange To Add Lightning Payments For All Users (#GotBitcoin?)

Coinbase’s New Customer Incentive: Interest Payments, With A Crypto Twist (#GotBitcoin?)

The Best Bitcoin Debit (Cashback) Cards Of 2019 (#GotBitcoin?)

Real Estate Brokerages Now Accepting Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)

Ernst & Young Introduces Tax Tool For Reporting Cryptocurrencies (#GotBitcoin?)

How Will Bitcoin Behave During A Recession? (#GotBitcoin?)

Investors Run Out of Options As Bitcoin, Stocks, Bonds, Oil Cave To Recession Fears (#GotBitcoin?)

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