For all the hype surrounding the metaverse, it’s easy to forget that it’s still in its infancy. Although the term has only recently entered the mainstream consciousness, its impact on the way we interact with technology is already expected to have a profound effect. McKinsey & Company estimates that annual global spending within the metaverse could reach $5 trillion by 2030 in areas as broad as gaming, social, fitness, shopping and distance learning.
The question of how to define and build a technology with such broad capabilities is an ongoing one. While a number of games—such as Roblox, Fortnite, and Minecraft—have been hailed as early examples of successful metaverse platforms, a more holistic approach would envision unlimited interactions for players in these games. Interoperability between metaverse platforms is one key aspect that should be considered.
A new way to socialize
Although only recently entering the mainstream lexicon, the metaverse is not a new concept. The term was originally used to describe a fictional break from reality in Neil Stevenson Snowfall. The popularity of digital entertainment skyrocketed during the pandemic. From games like Among Us to services like Netflix Party and Zoom, the chance to actually socialize was very appealing to many in times of extreme isolation.
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These changes have fundamentally reshaped our ideas about how we interact and work together, with lasting habits formed from connecting and working virtually together—an important factor that accelerates engagement with the metaverse. Virtual experiences like Travis Scott’s Fortnite concert have taken positive steps forward in developing social in-game experiences. However, multinational hypersocial virtual experiences have yet to catch on.
Moderation vs. Censorship
Freedom, community and cooperation are all defining characteristics of the metaverse. Achieving this requires an infrastructure that can support the transfer of sensitive metadata across different blockchain protocols, metaverse platforms and gaming ecosystems in a mix of social media, crypto wallets and decentralized applications. So, before an interactive metaverse introduces new business models and cross-platform capabilities, the problem of multi-chain identity and moderation must be addressed.
Decentralization brings with it the opportunity to experiment with community-led strategies, encourage certain behaviors, and allow the group to dictate its own preferences. PubDAO, a publishing company launched in conjunction with Decrypt, provides a good example of how these structures can work. Significantly, it makes a clear distinction between moderation and censorship. Pubs are like-minded individuals, writers in this case, who are shown, taken on board and integrated into the culture of the community.
Scaling this model up to billions of people creates a problem where individual screening is impractical. Older social networks are plagued by this issue, using shadow bans and other censorship tools to deal with the issue. A common solution proposed by Web3 advocates involves algorithmic analysis and moderate incentives to combat abuse, and yet this fails to account for the nature of the multi-chain metaverse.
Even when done transparently and fairly, far too many abuses would slip through the net. Using the same tricks as the infamous Tornado Cash faucet, a washer of choice for 52% of non-flexible token (NFT) proceeds before a penalty was applied, the source of offensive messages could be hidden in the name of free speech. Even if the perpetrator jumped one chain, they could jump to the next. This is not the kind of metaverse anyone wants to live in.
NFTs make users traceable across chains
A possible solution lies in moving management tools upwards. Twitter has successfully tried such a process. By providing warning notifications before tweets were published, 9% of users were encouraged to cancel their posts. Overall, the study concluded that there was a 6% reduction in offensive tweets as a result of this arrangement.
Implementing a metadata standard and infusing it with distributed identities (DIDs) could provide a path to ethical moderation, which does not require privacy but ensures accountability. Such a multi-chain technical standard would ensure that symbols typed on any chain can be traced back to their origin within the metaverse. NFTs could be infused with verifiable credentials, allowing systems to grant privacy to their users and define the terms under which those rights would be forfeited.
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More importantly, in an era where cyber security is an ever-increasing concern, a metadata standard would provide greater protection to individual users. Data breaches in gaming are notoriously common, with more than half of frequent games being the target of hacks, according to a 2020 report from Akamai. The wealth of victims and the prevalence of in-game microtransactions are a lucrative target for cybercriminals. On top of that, users tend to use the same password between accounts, making credential stuffing a serious problem with the potential to filter across industries.
While certainly not a panacea, a harmonized standard would go a long way to solidifying individual security needs. Web3 is set up to accommodate an identity system that removes the need for sensitive data to be stored on central servers, making it more difficult for hackers to gain access. In the event that personal assets are at risk, a metadata standard imbued with DIDs would enable traceability across the multi-chain metaverse.
Data standards will dictate the development of the web, so it is important that we get them right. Interoperability is easier to set up from scratch than to retrofit. By learning the lessons offered by the evolution of the Internet, together we can build a revolutionary metadata standard that promotes a positive, shared techno-society experience on the Web3.
Witek Radomski is the CTO and co-founder of Enjin, a blockchain technology company building products for the next generation of NFTs. Witek is the author of the ERC-1155 token standard, the only token standard that allows both volatile tokens and NFTs to be configured in a single smart contract.
This article is for general informational purposes and is not intended and should not be construed as legal or investment advice. The views, thoughts and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.
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