The Metaverse Handbook (2022) provides insight into a new technology platform that offers huge commercial potential to digital professionals, creatives, and business leaders. It explains what the Metaverse is, how it works, and ways to integrate it into business strategies to capitalize on its offerings.
Introduction: What’s in it for me? Discover why the Metaverse is a huge business opportunity.
The Metaverse is a new market with mass potential.
The Metaverse’s power lies in its flexibility and integrity.
Capitalizing the Metaverse takes time, so create and implement your Metaverse strategy now.
About the author
Table of Contents
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Technology and the Future, Industries, Business Entrepreneurship, Web Design, Economics, Entrepreneurship, Computer Science
Introduction: What’s in it for me? Discover why the Metaverse is a huge business opportunity.
In the past few years, there’s been a lot of hype about new digital technologies and their commercial potential. Buzzwords like NFTs and Metaverse have sprung up in reports on digital artworks and pixelated graphics of punks have sold for millions of dollars. This has raised quite a few eyebrows. But it’s undeniable that something big is happening in the tech landscape. That’s why Facebook has rebranded itself as Meta and is investing billions of dollars in virtual reality software.
The Metaverse is a new digital space with huge commercial potential. And it’s gathering momentum. Even if you’re not part of a tech company, it’s going to provide you with opportunities, just like the internet did when it entered our homes and workplaces.
So, let’s find out what the Metaverse offers business leaders and creators.
In this summary, you’ll learn
- why the Metaverse is no longer just a realm for gaming and socializing;
- how the new tech behind it creates huge commercial opportunities; and
- ways you can include it in your business strategy.
The Metaverse is a new market with mass potential.
In 2020, something exciting happened. During mandatory lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, digital experiences were flourishing. And, importantly, they were generating profit. The young and young at heart alike sought out escape and connection in the virtual world. For instance, Nintendo Switch’s Animal Crossings: New Horizons was released in March 2020. In it, players build and upgrade houses and befriend local animals. In just two years, it sold 37 million copies.
But it’s not just games that people were buying. Combat game Fortnite has grown its user base to 350 million since 2017. In 2020 alone, these users generated $5 billion in revenue from the sale of digital accessories. That means accessories you buy for your in-game character – not physical items you can use or wear yourself.
Fortnite has digital concerts for its users too,which have attracted over 10 million attendees. They’re not alone in creating major events. In 2021, Paris Hilton hosted a digital New Year’s Eve party that attracted more than twice the number of people who were in Times Square. That’s right – more people went to a virtual party than to see the ball drop in person. Take a moment to think about your audience reach if your brand sponsored an event that size. This is the potential of the Metaverse.
Now, you’re probably either impressed by these figures, or you’re feeling a little cynical. After all, not every brand is about fun and games. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for you and your brand in the Metaverse. In fact, as the Metaverse develops, there’ll be opportunities for all sectors and brands to participate, whether that’s using it as an immersive digital workplace or allowing customers to test out real-world products digitally first using simulation technology. Maybe your brand will host a social space that’ll provide you with market feedback. Or perhaps you’ll be using the Metaverse in a way we can’t even imagine yet.
So, what exactly is this Metaverse?
Simply speaking, the Metaverse is a virtual realm made up of worlds that are created by builders. Confusingly, these worlds are also called “metaverses,” but to simplify here, we’ll use the term “Metaverse” to refer to the whole virtual universe that contains these different worlds.
Some worlds use a web browser as their point of access, like Decentraland. Some use gaming consoles – you can enter Fortnite’s world using the PlayStation. And some use virtual reality headsets for a deeply immersive experience. This is the direction that Mark Zuckerberg’s company Meta will be using in its VR experience – Horizon Worlds.
Meta’s goal is to create a virtual reality where people can meet, collaborate, and share experiences like going to a conference. Essentially, it sees the Metaverse as a sophisticated communication tool where you can fully immerse yourself socially, professionally, and commercially. For instance, you might end up not only working remotely, but working virtually. Your office could be in the Metaverse, your commute as simple as donning your VR headset. As soon as you’re in, you’ll be able to walk around, attend meetings, sit at your desk and work, even chat with colleagues as you pass them in the corridor. Because of this complete immersion, many people believe that the Metaverse will supersede the internet as we currently know it.
The concept of these virtual realms isn’t new. In fact, author Neal Stephenson’s novel Snow Crash depicted the Metaverse, and it was published way back in 1992 – long before the internet had made its way into our homes. This novel coined the term Metaverse and also avatar – which means the digital version of you that exists in virtual worlds. But what’s really given the Metaverse its momentum is a shift in attitude toward digital assets.
Digital assets refers to anything that exists in the digital world – files, emails, videos. Essentially, it means bundles of data. Until 2021, these assets rarely had a defined monetary value attached to them. But all that changed in the second year of the pandemic.
You might have heard of non-fungible tokens – or NFTs. These little bundles of data form something tangible – a unique avatar, an artwork, a song, a trading card, even virtual furniture to kit out your virtual house. NFTs are coded in a way that they can’t be copied, making them exclusive. And in 2021, they became a must-have Metaverse item, so much so that $11 billion worth of NFTs were traded in that year alone.
Suddenly, owning an NFT was like owning a Rolex or a Porsche. The advent of NFTs had given digital assets value in the eyes of society. And that value creates huge earning potential for companies who are making digital assets, along with the architects and designers who create virtual spaces for people to house their digital collections.
The Metaverse’s power lies in its flexibility and integrity.
Now that you have a sense of what the Metaverse is, we’re going to take a quick look at the technology behind it. But you won’t need an engineering degree to understand this. What we’ll share with you will help you understand the types of assets available to your brand and why it’s possible to commercialize them. Keep in mind that we’re currently in what the authors call Metaverse 1.0. And that means technology will continue to develop. There will be a version 2.0, 3.0, and so on.
On the other hand, certain fundamentals will remain the same. One of these fundamentals is the view that every user should be able to personalize their Metaverse experience – like the appearance and wardrobe of their avatars, or the shape and style of their houses. Because of this, the Metaverse needs to be built with tools that work across all kinds of different platforms, as well as allowing for all the endless variations that users might want. This means users won’t be forced to choose assets from a predetermined range, like when you buy something off the shelf in the physical world. Instead, they can tell their building tool what they want and it will modify its files to accommodate that, making every user’s experience bespoke.
At the moment, Unity and Unreal Engine are the two main tools that builders are using to create the foundation of the Metaverse. Alongside these you can find a range of 3D modeling tools like AutoCAD or Cinema 4D. Creators can make whatever they like in these programs – houses, animated pets, jetpacks – and then integrate them into the Metaverse using Unity or Unreal Engine.
So, that explains how the Metaverse and all its assets are created. But it doesn’t explain how you end up with commercial digital products that can’t just be copied and given to every avatar in your virtual neighborhood. Let’s look at that now.
The Metaverse is based on the blockchain system. Blockchain is a way of recording information so that it’s almost impossible to hack, copy, or edit. Think of it as a giant ledger that records the DNA of everything in the Metaverse, from avatars and assets to commercial activities and participation in events.
Blockchain is what allows creators to develop one-off digital assets, like the NFTs we mentioned earlier. With blockchain working in the background, it’s impossible to replicate the NFTs, and you can also verify their authenticity. This puts creators of digital assets in the same position as manufacturers and retailers of products in the physical world. For instance, if you go to your local mall and buy a pair of shoes, you can’t take the shoes home, copy them, and give everyone you know their own pair. Blockchain guards the integrity of virtual world assets in the same way.
Before you can acquire any digital assets, you’ll need an e-wallet. This wallet is attached to a blockchain address that holds your ID in the Metaverse, just like your physical-world wallet holds your driver’s license. Your wallet stores all your cryptocurrency – the different types of currency used in different Metaverse worlds – and you can use it to make transactions without using an app like PayPal. Your blockchain-based wallet is all that you need.
Once you have your wallet set up, you can go and shop at digital stores and showrooms. Metaverse assets fall into four main categories: avatars, which are your digital identity; accessories, like clothing or wearable items; objects that color and enrich your digital world, like vehicles, artwork or furniture; and real estate – just like in the physical world, you can buy a plot of land – with the help of a Metaverse mortgage broker if you need a loan – build yourself a home, workplace, or social space, and fit it out with your digital assets.
All of this means that there’s going to be a huge demand for designers and architects, who’ll create these digital assets and spaces. So, if you work in these industries, it might be a good idea to start upskilling yourself. Once the Metaverse is established, there’ll be entire industries dedicated to its products and offerings – only in the digital world, considerations like physics and resources won’t be an issue.
Capitalizing the Metaverse takes time, so create and implement your Metaverse strategy now.
So far, we’ve been talking about the Metaverse like it’s a place – albeit a digital one. That’s true, but it’s also useful to think about it as a piece of software. Think of Microsoft Office. If you were born in the analogue era, you’ll have witnessed countless software upgrades in your life. Twenty years ago, you might have been typing up reports in Word or creating budgets in Excel. You can still do that, but you can also host an online meeting with colleagues located around the world, using Microsoft Teams.
The point here is that software evolves over time. As mentioned previously, at the moment, we’re working with Metaverse 1.0. There’s so much possibility and scope that we can’t know exactly what version 2.0 or 3.0 will be like. But that doesn’t mean you should stand back and wait for the Metaverse to unfold. The time to start integrating it into your business strategy is now. Think of it like growing a fruit tree. If you want something to harvest in a few years, you need to prepare the soil, plant your sapling as soon as possible, and nurture it so that it’ll flourish and bear fruit in the future.
Depending on who you are and what you do, there are different ways to incorporate the Metaverse into your business strategy. We’re going to look at three sectors.
Brands and corporations with IP
The first is brands and corporations with IP. If you want your brand or product to thrive in the future, you’re going to need a presence in the Metaverse. But that creates a huge challenge. The Metaverse is already sprawling and will only grow as it evolves. And it’s buzzing with activity that keeps its users occupied and distracted. Unless your brand is a behemoth like Disney, you’re going to struggle to get enough visibility and traction to find your potential customers.
But getting in on the scene early creates a fantastic opportunity for you if you already have a solid and loyal customer base. Instead of focusing on how you can sell to general Metaverse users, see yourself as the shepherd who’ll safely guide your flock into this new realm. If you can take your existing customers with you on your journey into the Metaverse, they’ll become the first users of your Metaverse range.
Say you make jackets known for their cool prints. Your goal might be to sell digital jackets on the Metaverse that avatars can wear. Since your customers already love your jackets, they’re going to be the perfect Metaverse ambassadors. So, you’ll want to get them interested in coming on your journey into the digital frontier.
To do this successfully, you’ll need to gain their trust so that they’re willing to follow where you lead. Trust forms when people are honest, open, and vulnerable, so share your excitement and curiosity about venturing into the Metaverse, but share your worries and concerns too.
You’ll be the one sharing information and knowledge about the Metaverse with your customers to help them understand things like blockchain, digital wallets, and assets. Draw on your understanding of how to best communicate with your customers, so you can support them effectively.
While you’re building this trust, reflect on your existing IP and your brand values. What do customers know and love you for? What are your USPs? How could that translate into a Metaverse asset that lets your customers express their identity and feels exclusive? This is a compelling combination that customers crave in the physical world. The Metaverse is no different. Users want to represent themselves uniquely, and they want assets that give them status. That’s why one-off, branded avatars, like rare CryptoPunks, sell for millions of dollars.
An excellent starting point is buying a plot of land. Especially if your brand isn’t aligned so concretely with a physical product. Naming the plot after the brand can transform it into a well-known meeting point, like saying, “meet you outside the Chrysler Building.” You could even build a simple social space on your plot for people to hang out in. This is a great way to reinvent your brand as tech-forward if it’s usually viewed as a bit of a Luddite.
Our second sector – entertainers – has a different type of opportunity available to it. If your work involves performing in front of audiences, the Metaverse offers a platform unrestricted by geography, time zone, or even gravity. With the help of builders, you can create a digital twin, programmed to perform on your behalf.
Start by thinking about your best work. Maybe it was a comedy routine that had the audience laughing until they cried or a DJ set that got the most reluctant dancers grooving. Use this as the basis of your twin’s performance and then work with your builder to make a Metaverse-friendly digital installment.
This is how rapper Travis Scott performed in Fortnite. The concert was a huge success. Fortnite’s players participated in the experience – their avatars getting immersed in water before floating off into space. With the right builder by your side, your performances can take on a whole new scope.
Of course, you might already be technically apt, which brings us to our third sector – Metaverse Geeks. If you fall into this category, you’re in the most exciting position. You can become a Metaverse founder.
Eventually, every interest and culture – however niche – will have its place in the Metaverse. So, think about your interests and passions and find out if they currently have a presence. If not, this is your opportunity. You can be the person who seeds that interest in the Metaverse. You never know where this might lead. The best-selling novel Fifty Shades of Grey, by author E.L. James, started its life as installments published on Twilight fan fiction websites. Now, the trilogy it belongs to has earned James over $90 million.
You’re probably already part of a community that shares your passion, so get a few of your fellow members onboard to help you pave the way into the Metaverse. Upskill yourself by learning Unity or Blender, so you can establish yourself as the leading founder. That’ll position you as the authority not only of your passion, but of its place in the Metaverse.
And who knows? You might end up in the annals of Metaverse history.
The Metaverse is no longer just a place for kids and gamers; it’s evolving into a market that will encompass most sectors. Both it and its user technology are still being developed, but this gives you time to learn, strategize about how you can adapt your products, and rethink your marketing campaigns so that you can position yourself at the forefront of the Metaverse marketplace.
About the author
QUHARRISON TERRY is the bestselling author of The NFT Handbook, a detailed guide on how to create, sell, and buy non-fungible tokens without the need for a technical background. He is also a notable entrepreneur and growth marketer who has advised Mark Cuban and his portfolio of 200+ venture companies. In addition, QuHarrison is a 4x recipient of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Technology award.
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SCOTT “DJ SKEE” KEENEY is an award-winning creator, producer, entrepreneur, media personality, investor, philanthropist, and futurist. As a driving force behind some of the most influential brands and artists over the past two decades, he is a pioneer in the metaverse operating multiple experiences as the founder of DXSH.mv Studios and also serves as the Chief Metaverse Officer at TSX Entertainment. Visit djskee.com for more information.
Table of Contents
CHAPTER 1: A Vision for the Metaverse in 2032 Extended Reality Emerges
Your Own Personalized Metaverse
The Rise of Bots and Digital Humans
The Ubiquitous Metaverse
CHAPTER 2: What Is the Metaverse? From Snow Crash to Meta
Defining the Metaverse
The Metaverse Represents the Next Digital Shifts
Preparing for the Metaverse
CHAPTER 3: Why You Should Care About the Metaverse Now The Well-Timed Interest Geek
Interest Geeks of the Metaverse
Interest Geeks Over Power Brokers
CHAPTER 4: History of the Metaverse La Réalité Virtuelle
The Early Internet
Early Virtual Worlds
Blockchain and Digital Assets
The Modern Metaverse
CHAPTER 5: The Metaverse Building Blocks The Main Metaverse Tools
The Secondary Metaverse Tools
Building Your First Metaverse Asset
CHAPTER 6: Enter the Metaverse Sandbox Metaverses
The Mass Migration to the Metaverse
CHAPTER 7: Metaverse Assets What We Will Own in the Metaverse
Metaverse Asset Management
CHAPTER 8: Challenges of the Metaverse Interoperable Economies
Interoperable Graphics and Hardware
The Negative Narratives of the Metaverse
CHAPTER 9: Your Metaverse Plan Designing Your Metaverse Plan
Further Reading at MetaverseQT.com
About the Authors
End User License Agreement
The metaverse is here. Are you ready?
In The Metaverse Handbook: Innovating for the Internet’s Next Tectonic Shift, a duo of experienced tech and culture experts delivers a can’t-miss guide to participating in the most promising new technology since the advent of the web. Through dozens of metaverse creator case studies and concise, actionable insights, you’ll walk away from this book understanding how to explore and implement the latest metaverse tech emerging from blockchain, XR, and web3.
In The Metaverse Handbook, you’ll discover:
- What the metaverse is, why you should care about it, and how to build your metaverse strategy
- The history of the metaverse and primers on critical technologies driving the metaverse, including non-fungible tokens, XR, the blockchain, and web3
- How to unearth unique metaverse opportunities in digital communities, commerce, and immersive experiences
As the metaverse has rapidly become the technology platform and marketing buzzword of the future, this new reality for companies, creators, and consumers is not easily understood at the surface level. Those who aim to be at the forefront of this exciting new arena must first understand the foundations and central technologies of the metaverse.
An essential resource for digital professionals, creators, and business leaders in the vanguard of the coming technology revolution, The Metaverse Handbook provides the go-to roadmap for your journey into the metaverse.
Read an Excerpt/PDF Preview
From the Inside Flap
More than just the hottest new trend in tech, the metaverse promises to fundamentally reshape the way we interact with machines and each other. It describes a virtual and augmented reality environment that offers groundbreaking new tools and strategies for communication, commerce, research, education, and everything in between. The question isn’t if the metaverse will transform our lives, but when.
In The Metaverse Handbook: Innovating for the Internet’s Next Tectonic Shift, a team of accomplished growth marketers and content creators delivers an eye-opening discussion of the metaverse, the technologies that make it possible, and the limitless potential it offers to companies and individuals who participate in it.
You’ll discover how Web3 development is shaking up traditional websites with blockchain-based innovations and how digital asset creation through non-fungible tokens (NFTs) is revolutionizing what it means to own something in the digital realm. You’ll explore immersive gaming and social environments and understand the building blocks of the metaverse, even as they’re still being created.
The authors highlight over 120 digital creators building new tools that are changing the way we look at the world and show readers how to harness these innovations in their commercial ventures, community-building efforts, and personal digital experiences. They also point out some of the pitfalls experienced by metaverse participants and demonstrate how to avoid these obstacles.
From the Back Cover
Understand and explore the next great digital leap forward
Author Neal Stephenson coined the term “the metaverse” in his seminal cyberpunk novel Snow Crash when he described a virtual world so realistic that it was indistinguishable from reality. And what was fiction thirty years ago is rapidly becoming our new reality as new technologies make it possible to build and experience the metaverse for ourselves.
The Metaverse Handbook is a one-of-a-kind resource for C-suite executives, business leaders, and creative professionals who seek to understand and implement the latest technologies emerging in blockchain and the web to their own business ventures. Simultaneously inspirational and educational, the book highlights over 120 creators building new digital tools and guides readers through the steps they need to take to harness innovations in digital commerce, communities, and experiences.
The authors highlight these dense, futuristic topics with easy-to-understand examples, approachable language, and concrete practical applications.
An engaging and exciting blueprint for the implementation of tech’s latest and most groundbreaking innovations, The Metaverse Handbook is indispensable for anyone who must continuously think about digital innovation and strategize about new ways to reach consumers.
Six years ago, in the summer of 2016, my friend Jaeson Ma and I found ourselves at a dinner in Munich, Germany with a couple of the founders of Ethereum. I don’t remember exactly what led to our going to this dinner, but I’m glad we did. It was one of the most life-changing meals I’ve ever had. And I’m not talking about the food, which was good. For me, it was the conversation that was memorable.
I’ve always considered myself forward-thinking and a bit of an underc; over nerd. But when Stephan Tual (then the CCO of Ethereum) started talking about blockchain and cryptography and digital currency, I’ll be honest, it mostly went over my head. I could feel his passion for it, though. I could tell that this team was building something great. And it was clear they were giving Jaeson and me a look into the future.
As soon as I got back from Germany, I bought my first bit of cryptocurrency.
The following year when I was filming my documentary The American Meme, I stumbled on another revolutionary technology. I found a company that was doing full-body, 3D scans of celebrities and turning them into digital avatars. Of course, I had myself turned into an avatar.
Honestly, by this time, I was tired of going out and the whole LA scene. So, I built this virtual world where my digital avatar could have a social life, perform DJ sets, and hang out with my friends and fans in VR. I guess you could say that I built my first Metaverse in 2018.
The next piece of the puzzle—non-fungible tokens (NFTs)—came to me in 2019. The team at Cryptograph approached me to create a piece of digital art that we would auction off and donate the money to charity. Like crypto, the idea of NFTs was hard to understand at first. But once I learned the foundation of the tech and how it made digital ownership possible, I was really curious to try it out.
So, I drew a picture of my cat, Kitty, on the iPad. We then listed the NFT on Cryptograph in March 2020. And it ended up selling for 40 ETH (which was around $17,000 at the time). As a result, I won the “Best Charity NFT” of 2020 at the NFT Awards, which was super awesome.
I consider myself genuinely lucky to have found out about these technologies before most people. Not everyone gets this type of access to the innovators or their innovations so early. But I also think about all of the other celebs or brands who were introduced to crypto or NFTs or the Metaverse when I was and didn’t do anything about it. They didn’t have an open mind and couldn’t see how digital life was going to evolve.
When you have influence, you are supposed to show people what’s next. Whether that’s social influence or cultural influence, that’s your job. We’re supposed to be vessels for bringing trends into the mainstream. And I love having that responsibility. I love contributing to the future and setting an example for a better way forward.
But I also know the value of this power. It’s not to be abused. If you’re going to show people a new wave, then you have to commit to riding that wave for some time. Since my first crypto purchase, my first Metaverse, and my first NFT, I’ve done a lot to keep contributing to this new age of the Internet.
I’ve collected more than 2,000 NFTs from so many incredible artists. I helped my friend Jimmy Fallon purchase his first NFT, which was a Bored Ape. I was a virtual DJ headliner at Metaverse Festival in Decentraland. And I built Paris World in Roblox, which is my own personal virtual oasis for hosting great parties and fun experiences for my fans.
These last few years, I’ve had more fun being social on the computer than I ever did in real life. My husband and I hosted a New Year’s party in the Paris World Metaverse this past year, and it was honestly more fun than any party I’ve ever thrown. After we ran the numbers, we found that we had twice the number of people ringing in the New Year with us in Paris World than Times Square did. After that, I knew that the Metaverse was the future of partying (and social life, in general).
It’s been truly great connecting with my fans in this new era for the Internet through my NFTs and Metaverse spaces. And my subtle flex throughout this whole time is how WhaleShark, one of the major NFT collectors, gave me a shoutout in a Bloomberg story saying that I was the road map of how a celebrity should enter the space. That was especially validating to hear.
I’ve had a lot of help on my Metaverse journey. And that’s what is so great about this space. As a celebrity, we often get access to resources and creators to help us innovate. But this sense of communal help and collaboration is in the DNA of this industry. Everyone is eager to help you learn the ropes and navigate these new waters.
There are so many artists, developers, marketers, and technologists who all want to have an impact on the blockchain or in the Metaverse. Connecting and building with physical strangers (but digital friends) is incredibly common. All it takes is a few days in Clubhouse rooms or Twitter Spaces to find a team to work with or an idea to run with.
It’s such an exciting time to be a creator, to have an influential brand, or to have a loyal fanbase. In so many ways, the Metaverse puts the power back into the hands of creators. Creators own their creations, control the entire experience, and receive royalties forever. Fans get to support their favorite creators directly and also have the chance to share in the economic growth of that creator.
We’re in a major shift in how we operate as creators, influencers, and brands. Everything is going digital. I still love putting out new fragrances and sunglasses. The physical world isn’t disappearing. But the Metaverse is like an inspiration pill. Once it’s in your system, it’s hard to think about anything else.
Just like social media manifested a huge diversity of influential figures and entrepreneurs, the Metaverse will manifest its own prominent influencers and creators who build a following on Roblox or in Decentraland or The Sandbox. And they may not even be the same people we tune into on YouTube or follow on Instagram today.
Because I played such an instrumental role in showing the world that being an influencer can be an entire profession, I’m incredibly passionate about playing a part in this next era for Internet creators. While some people may be satisfied with being just the first influencer in real life, my mission now is to continue to celebrate, empower, and uplift creators as the Queen of the Metaverse. Are you with me?
The Internet has evolved to the point where we can share and communicate almost anything we want across space and time. We find love through apps. We trust our digital neighbors to give us the best suggestions for food and housing. We place our most precious photographic memories in the hands of digital giants to protect for eternity.
The Internet has become this expansive virtual, shared space for almost anything you can think of. But surely this isn’t the best version of the Internet. Like any form of existence, it must continue to grow and evolve.
So, what’s next?
We believe the evolution of the Internet is the Metaverse—a culmination of the Internet and the boundless possibilities in augmented and virtual reality technologies.
We wrote The Metaverse Handbook to serve as a detailed resource for anyone seeking to understand the emerging changes to the Web in order to harness new digital innovations that are inventing the next phase of the Internet. This book is one part inspiration and one part education, exemplifying well over 100 creators who are building new digital tools and outlining how you can take steps to emulate these changes to digital commerce, digital community, and digital experience.
In this book, we explore and explain arcane topics such as the following:
- Web3 development with blockchain-based websites
- Changes to user digital identification through blockchain wallets
- Digital asset creation and ownership via NFTs
- Immersive gaming and social environments
- Building blocks of the Metaverse
- Pitfalls preventing us from achieving the vision of the Metaverse
The Metaverse Handbook is perfect for business professionals and decision-makers who must continuously think about digital innovation and strategize on new ways to reach consumers, as well as creators who rely on monetizing their creativity on the Internet.
The Metaverse Handbook illustrates these dense, futuristic concepts with easy-to-understand examples, approachable language, and concrete practical applications so you can easily grasp and retain the foundational and advanced topics contained within.
A Vision for the Metaverse in 2032
Coca-Cola lovers will have a new place to hang out starting today and…can set up a virtual alter ego known as an avatar, which can then shop and dance at the Coca-Cola diner, visit a movie theater to watch short films, and soar around on a hoverboard.
Coca-Cola’s CC Metro, an online island shaped like a Coke bottle within a larger virtual world called There.com, showcases a vision of the shared Metaverse where brands give their customers a virtual playground to explore, play games, meet people, and ultimately shop. It’s a vision that is shared by many corporations and has recently gained a lot of steam. However, the aforementioned announcement of CC Metro is not from 2022. It’s not even from this decade. Rather, that’s a quote from The New York Times in 2007.
Before the digital aspect of our social lives was cemented on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn, there was a belief that social networks could and should be in 3D, virtual worlds featuring experiences much like the real world. Second Life and Habbo Hotel were onboarding hundreds of thousands of users. Disney jumped on the trend with their Club Penguin virtual environment. MTV created almost a dozen of these virtual worlds for each of their hit shows at the time. Second Life was getting investments from Internet visionaries, including Jeff Bezos, and partnering with brands such as Sony, Sun Microsystems, and Adidas for campaigns. Virtual existence was becoming a thing.
Although not as large as Second Life or Habbo Hotel, There.com was pioneering Metaverse economies right alongside them. There.com had their own virtual currency called Therebucks, which were converted at a rate of 1,800 Tbux to $1 USD. Tbux could be spent on houses, furnishings, and outfitting your avatar. There were ample activities ranging from training your virtual pet to racing vehicles to connecting with new friends over a game of cards. And communities were forming around special interests.
In the early part of the new millennium, it really looked like virtual existence would become a major part of our lives. That’s why Coca-Cola invested in CC Metro. They even went so far as integrating the MyCokeRewards program into CC Metro, giving users a place to spend their rewards points. It didn’t matter where your brand was showing up in these virtual worlds, just as long as you were there in some capacity—learning from this new behavior and testing ways to capitalize on it.
Ultimately, 2D social networks were more effective than virtual worlds at onboarding droves of users and providing instant gratification. As a result, it’s Facebook, not Second Life or There.com, that is the nearly trillion-dollar social networking company.
Extended Reality Emerges
The year 2022 brought many of the same narratives we heard back in the early 2000s, except under the new moniker of “the Metaverse.” The commercial narrative hasn’t changed much. Most brands view the Metaverse as a way to disguise an advertisement within the confines of a virtual experience, except that now the tech has completely changed.
Today, virtual worlds are largely being built on the back of the blockchain. Blockchain is a digital ledger that records transactions and information maintained and duplicated across a peer-to-peer network of computers, making it nearly impossible to record, edit, and hack false transactions. This allows creators to build digital scarcity into the social experience, turning everything from the game’s land to the accessories our avatars equip into nonfungible tokens (NFTs). With blockchain as a new foundation of the Metaverse, the narrative has shifted to building a future that is user-owned, user-built, and ultimately for the user to reap the rewards. This is the rallying cry of the Metaverse today. It’s an upgraded promise from the early Metaverses that were primarily social experiences with the occasional commercial opportunity.
Now, everyone is just $300 USD away from immersing themselves in a very impressive virtual reality experience. Consumer-ready virtual reality (VR) wasn’t an option when Coca-Cola was building CC Metro. Furthermore, augmented reality (AR)—a real-world overlay of graphics and computer-generated information experienced through devices such as smartphones and smart glasses—was still the stuff of science fiction in the CC Metro world. The immersive technologies of VR and AR that are instrumental in the experience of the Metaverse are collectively known as extended reality (XR).
While current Metaverses like Decentraland are still accessed through the web browser, they will eventually collide with XR. The true vision of the Metaverse promises shared virtual experiences. And that is now in the realm of possibility for all builders, brands, and individuals.
In an interview with The Information, John Riccitiello, the CEO of Unity Technologies, predicts that VR/AR headsets will be as common as gaming consoles by 2030. With 250 million households owning gaming consoles worldwide, he is not predicting ubiquity on the level of the 4 billion smartphones worldwide. Rather, John sees XR as shared devices, like your game system or TV, which is a sentiment we largely agree with.
XR is an innovation in communication. Of course, gaming, entertainment, and commerce are great use cases for extended reality. And these experiences will make a significant impact on enticing people to use XR platforms. But it’s the social experience that XR can facilitate that will make these devices so sticky for users. It makes you wonder how things would have been different for There.com if Meta’s Oculus Quest 2 VR headset was around back then. But that’s beside the point.
Ten years from now, XR and the Metaverse will be part of most of our lives. But how do we get to the point where nearly every household owns an XR headset and is accessing the Metaverse regularly? What Metaverse apps and experiences are onboarding people into the Metaverse today that will become the pillars of the Metaverse in 2032?
To answer these questions, we’ll first look at the idea of personal Metaverses or Metaverse homes.
Your Own Personalized Metaverse
Talk of the Metaverse mostly revolves around the vision of a shared universe. But the shared Metaverse is actually made up of smaller units of personal Metaverses. The idea of your very own command center or home base in the Metaverse that you can control is what’s most compelling about the Metaverse—much like how the Internet has evolved into a billion different personalized experiences where algorithms curate the content and services that reflect your views, interests, and needs.
RTFKT (pronounced “artifact”) is making strides in putting personal Metaverses into people’s hands with the RTFKT Pods. The brand, which was acquired by Nike at the end of 2021, emerged on the NFT scene with its Metaverse sneakers but has since begun creating environments called RTFKT Spacepods. RTFKT excels at creating culturally significant digital objects. In other words, they know how to create hype around collectibles. These Pods are going to be collectors’ home base for displaying their 3D NFTs and digital assets. While RTFKT’s ultimate vision for Pods is kept secret, we can safely assume that these Pods will also double as social centers—places that Pod owners can invite friends to and host events in. In the near term, I’m doubtful that these pods will expand outside of the confines of a personal digital gallery. However, they’re a part of the larger trend that will accelerate Metaverse adoption. That trend is the creation of customizable, personal Metaverse environments.
The next Zaha Hadid or Frank Lloyd Wright of the world won’t ever architect a single building in the real world. Their focus will be on designing houses, offices, parks, museums, and other constructions in the Metaverse. And they’ll have more than enough work to keep them occupied. Look no further than Krista Kim, the contemporary artist who made headlines for designing the Mars House and selling it as an NFT for 288 Ethereum (ETH) tokens, which were equivalent to $514,558 USD at the time. The Mars House was designed without the constraints of the laws of physics. The result is a meditative environment that is meant to inspire and create a calm virtual atmosphere.
Most of us will never have the pleasure of a corner office overlooking Central Park. But with personal Metaverses, we can all design and occupy our own Mars Houses that help us lead more productive and social lives.
Personal Metaverse platforms are where the magic will happen. Think of them as your home page to the Metaverse or your Metaverse home, if you will. All of the cool VR apps, games, productivity tools, meeting rooms, and upcoming events will be present in your Metaverse home. It’s a space you can curate to reflect what you care about. And platforms that provide the means for people to create personal Metaverses will be a major part of making the Metaverse practical by 2032.
The Rise of Bots and Digital Humans
A big part of XR and the Metaverse’s promise is a better means of communication and connection. But it won’t always be a human on the other end of our communication. Rather, interacting with bots and digital humans will be our primary means of social interaction in the Metaverse. This isn’t to paint a bleak picture of a future where we don’t engage with other people. On the contrary, these digital humans will act as our own digital workforce. They will be able to carry out tasks on our behalf, provide services to us, and curate our experiences with other people in the Metaverse.
We’ve been moving toward this bot-assisted life for some time. A lot of people were introduced to bots by way of e-commerce iterations like AIO bot, KodaiAIO, NikeShoeBot, and GaneshBot. Generally called sneakerbots due to their widespread use in the rare sneaker market, these bots allow people to scoop up high-demand products the moment they are released to the public online. Many websites have “bot code” programmed into their website for quality assurance purposes. These internal bots run frequent, automated add-to-cart tests to ensure that their site is operating correctly. Sneakerbots exploit these lines of test code, allowing users to input their own billing and shipping information, as well as which products to target. The result is a hands-off, automated shopping experience for consumers to purchase high-demand products that are known to sell out in minutes, sometimes seconds. Culturally relevant brands—notably Yeezy, Nike/Air Jordan, and Supreme—that have bustling resale markets are routinely the target of these sneakerbots, which can be bought and used by anyone online. It’s a widely shared view among companies like Nike and Supreme that sneakerbots have tainted these exclusive product markets, and they are always working to prevent their use. But that’s a conversation for another book. Sneakerbots are an early example of having an AI-powered, digital companion that will do tasks on one’s behalf.
As society started adopting all-in-one communication platforms like Slack, Teams, Workplace, and Discord, the next wave of bots began taking shape. Workplace bots are now used to track co-worker progress, seamlessly schedule meetings, collect employee spending reimbursement, and more. Bots automate a lot of the simple communication tasks in the workplace.
Discord is one of the main communication platforms for the Web3 era. It’s used by nearly every NFT community and crypto-gaming-related community. With that, a new wave of utility bots emerged. MEE6 is a bot that will moderate communication and flag users who are using hateful or offensive language. Quillbot will paraphrase, summarize, and/or translate text. Apollo is a scheduling bot for coordinating events. The Dash Radio bot makes adding ad-free music streams to Discord effortless. GiveawayBot will coordinate an entire giveaway contest. Dank Memer is a bot that suggests the right memes to share at the right time. This list could go on for pages.
Today, there is a bot for augmenting nearly any digital task you can imagine from communication to collaboration to productivity. By 2032, these bots will find a new home in the Metaverse and play a companion role in making the Metaverse professionally and personally effective. Until someone figures out a way to bring keyboards into the Metaverse, spoken language will need to be the interface. This means that bots will play a crucial role in carrying out some of our actions there.
Think of R2-D2 or C-3PO in Star Wars. While they were ultra-complex robots with personalities and critical thinking abilities, at their core they are like the bots we use today in Discord to automate tasks. Likewise, our bots will visually manifest in the Metaverse in the form of digital humans—taking them out of running in the background and bringing them into our field of view through 3D avatars.
In other words, digital humans will give our utility bots a presence in our Metaverse homes. Companies like UneeQ, Synthesia, and Soul Machines have been designing lifelike, AI-powered digital humans for years. They’re an upgrade to the typical chatbots we encounter on the phone or on the Web, providing a visual interface to automated customer service calls. Notably, UneeQ designed a digital human for UBS (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UBS) that would deliver financial forecasts and updates to their clients at any hour of the day. Synthesia’s digital humans have manifested into the first AI-led meteorology team, delivering an entirely automated weather forecast. One of Soul Machines’ many use cases is the digital human named Yumi, which is a skin care consultant and ambassador for a premium Japanese beauty and cosmetic brand.
The tech that is being used to create these lifelike, AI-powered digital humans will be overlaid on the aforementioned utility bots to give them an actual presence in our Metaverse homes. They’ll inhabit our spaces, only if we invite them, of course, sitting idly in the background until we need them to carry out a task. Imagine a Metaverse bot that curates new Metaverse experiences for you—finding events, games, and communities you may like. How about a bot that manages your schedule and also learns from your productivity habits?
There may even be bots that communicate on our behalf. For example, we’re reminded of a project created by Hassan S. Ali back in 2017 called the Boy Bye Bot. Women who were continuously hounded by men for their phone number could give them the phone number to the Boy Bye Bot, which would then take care of (hilariously) turning these men away. Similarly, around the same time, there was a chatbot platform that emerged called Replika. The project was created by Eugenia Kuyda in remembrance of one of her best friends who passed away unexpectedly. She designed a chatbot from her text messages with her friend and found that the chatbot learned his texting quips and nuances. It helped her cope with him not being there anymore. This eventually became the Replika platform, which is a chatbot that actually takes an interest in what you’re up to and how you’re feeling. Hundreds of thousands of people treat this digital companion as a close friend.
The Ubiquitous Metaverse
By 2032, each and every one of us will have the opportunity to easily build our own Metaverse homes and fill them with personal and professional tools. Bots will take shape as digital humans, helping us carry out and automate tasks. If our Metaverse homes are our own personal curated environment for productive digital work, connecting with new people, and organizing around interests, then the Metaverse bots are what will help us make these interactions happen.
Of course, there is a lot more to the Metaverse including NFTs and digital assets, gaming, collectibles, brand activations, commerce, avatars, digital identities, and much more. Throughout the book, we’ll color in this vision of how the Metaverse will manifest in our lives. This is just a taste; one flavor of the Metaverse that will help bring it to ubiquity.
These personal Metaverse homes are what will help us organize our favorite parts of the Metaverse. The Metaverse bots will help us be more productive and effective. Both of these will help lay the foundation for services, brands, and products to enter the Metaverse and create mass utility.
John Riccitiello, in the previously mentioned interview with The Information, explained that “Apps like Instagram that rely on touch screens and games like Grand Theft Auto that use controllers just won’t work well on headsets.” He said, “All of these things are going to have to be reinvented for that market because the user interface, the way you immerse yourself in those devices, is so radically different.”
News sites like The New York Times or Washington Post may manifest as newspapers that show up at our Metaverse homes’ doorstep. Instagram may port us to the Metaverse homes of our friends. Salesforce may become a Metaverse bot that operates as your CRM (Customer Relationship Management (CRM) utilizes technology to help companies improve business relationships, stay connected to customers, streamline processes, and improve profitability) assistant in your Metaverse home office.
The Metaverse is changing how we interact with everything digital. Our relationship with all of the digital conveniences, content, services, and interests will find its way to this future landscape. Coca-Cola had the idea to show up in virtual environments as far back as 2007. Fifteen years later we can confidently say that they were on the right track. And a decade from now we may call them one of the true visionary brands of the Metaverse.
What Is the Metaverse?
Given enough time, technology imagined in science fiction will eventually become science fact. We’ve witnessed it time and time again. These phenomena are a mix of incredible visionaries and storytellers literally imagining the future, but also of creators and technologists being inspired by the science-fiction entertainment of their youth.
Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon mentions a light-propelled spacecraft nearly four decades before flight was achieved and just shy of a century before the first spacecraft left our atmosphere. In 2010, Japan’s IKAROS spacecraft was the first to successfully demonstrate a propulsion method called solar sails that use radiation pressure exerted by sunlight on large mirrors to propel the spacecraft.
Throughout the early 1900s, Edward Stratemeyer dazzled young readers with the tales of Tom Swift—a teenage inventor who routinely had to stave off evildoers from stealing his inventions. One such story published in 1911 was Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle, which featured a stun-gun-like invention Swift wielded throughout the story. When former NASA engineer Jack Cover invented the first stun gun in 1970, he aptly named it TSER after the “Tom Swift Electric Rifle.” The A was later added to help the invention roll off the tongue. After all, “taser” does sound better than “tser.”
Following the 1964 World’s Fair, Isaac Asimov wrote an article for The New York Times predicting what inventions would be on display in 50 years. One of his prescient takes was the idea of “robot-brain cars,” which would be capable of self-driving. Today, Tesla is worth nearly a trillion dollars by market cap, largely building its brand and cult following with its innovations in self-driving car technology.
In 2002, the precrime unit imagined in the film adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s Minority Report showed us a future when predictive analytics might allow our police force to stop crimes before they happened. Today, Palantir’s Gotham software is an AI-powered operating system for making sense of large swaths of data, helping (mostly) government agencies make better decisions. Although Palantir was named from a different story, namely, the “seeing stone” in The Lord of the Rings, Palantir is far and above the leader in predictive analytics and the only company we’d currently bet on to bring the idea of a precrime unit to life.
And then there’s Star Trek, a show featuring countless technologies that they envisioned ahead of their time, giving brainiacs and science-fiction nerds enough mental fodder to invent for decades, possibly centuries, to come. There’s the Replicator, which could materialize almost any object out of thin air. Today, 3D printers can create everything from jewelry to food to houses. The PADD, or Personal Access Display Device, featured in the 1980s iteration of Star Trek utilized a smooth, touch-screen interface that bears a strong resemblance to the tablet computers of today. There’s Star Trek’s medical tricorder, which inspired a $10 million USD competition called the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE to push this Star Trek device into existence. We cannot forget about the Communicator, which not only showcased a mobile communication device but also looked like the flip phones we eventually would all carry around in our pockets for a period of time. While the cell phone’s inventor, Martin Cooper, publicly credits Dick Tracy’s wrist radio as the inspiration, it’s widely shared that it was actually Captain James T. Kirk’s use of the Communicator that inspired the Motorola cell phone unit to create the device.
What most of these science-fiction predictions all had in common was that the futuristic technology was a byline in the story. These visionary devices enabled the characters to act in uncanny ways, but the characters didn’t gawk at how impressive the technology was. No different than how we take smartphones and Amazon’s overnight delivery for granted, the devices were an afterthought, an assumption, for the characters. Ultimately, the devices didn’t change the characters. They still acted in familiar human ways. However, the technology always changed the environment in which these characters operated.
That brings us to the Metaverse.
From Snow Crash to Meta
Like the aforementioned technologies, the Metaverse also traces its roots back to a novelist. Neal Stephenson, in his book Snow Crash, envisions a number of technologies ahead of their time including mobile computing, virtual reality, wireless Internet, digital currency, smartphones, and augmented-reality headsets. But it’s the book’s setting, the Metaverse, that takes the cake as his most prescient vision.
The Metaverse in Snow Crash offers society an escape from a dystopian world overrun by corporate mafias and extreme class inequalities. Users access the Metaverse through personal virtual reality goggles or public ports and present themselves as avatars. Class systems manifest around avatars, where public port users have noticeably lower-quality avatars (which is oddly familiar to the current situation with profile-picture NFTs—namely, Bored Apes and CryptoPunks, which designate a higher digital class).
Stephenson’s Metaverse is a single hundred-meter-wide road called the Street, which extends for 65,536 km around the circumference of a featureless, perfectly spherical planet. Users can spend their encrypted electronic currency at shops, amusement parks, offices, and a variety of other virtual businesses. They can also purchase virtual estates from the real estate overlord, Global Multimedia Protocol Group.
The book’s main character, Hiro Protagonist, leads a drab physical existence in a shipping container, but in the Metaverse, he owns high-end real estate that he purchased before the Metaverse became popular. However, Hiro doesn’t concern himself with enjoying the Metaverse’s economies. Rather, the plot revolves around his mission to stop a computer virus called Snow Crash that causes Metaverse users to suffer real-world brain damage.
Aside from the numerous examples of Neal Stephenson being a sort of technology Nostradamus, his work on Snow Crash can count two objective claims to fame. One, he coined the term Metaverse. Two, he popularized the Hindu concept of “avatar” for describing digital representation. But in addition to the objective wins, it’s the subjective impact of his novel that continues to influence people today.
The designer of Google Earth, Avi Bar-Zeev, stated that Stephenson’s ideas in Snow Crash largely inspired him to create Google’s mapping technology. Two decades after his book was published, Neal Stephenson became the chief futurist at Magic Leap, one of the leading companies creating augmented reality headsets. But perhaps his largest influence will be on Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook.
For starters, Meta takes its name from the term that Stephenson created. But the influence runs much deeper. One former Facebook data scientist, Dean Eckles, wrote on his blog in 2014 that “at least for a time, product managers at Facebook were required to read Snow Crash as part of their internal training.” Of course, 2014 was also the year that Facebook purchased Oculus and its proprietary virtual reality headset technology. So it’s clear that “the Zuck” was preparing his employees for this company-wide shift to the Metaverse for quite some time.
Oh, and by the way, they aren’t calling them employees anymore. Now, they’re called Metamates.
Meta is going headfirst into this Metaverse vision. They’ve changed their internal values from past sayings like “Be bold” and “Focus on impact” to Metaverse-minded values like “Live in the future,” “Build awesome things,” and “Focus on long-term impact.” Additionally, they’ve announced plans to hire 10,000 high-skilled workers in the EU over the next five years to help build this successor to the Internet. Lastly, in 2021 they committed more than $10B USD to their Metaverse division, Facebook Reality Labs, which they expect to continue investing $10B USD into, at the minimum, for the next several years.
But what exactly is Meta’s vision for building the Metaverse?
At the core of Meta’s plans are the Oculus VR headsets. While Meta shares the common vision that accessing the Metaverse won’t rely on VR headsets, it’s clearly a major part of their plans to own the hardware on which the Metaverse is largely experienced. Qualcomm CEO Cristiano Amon mentioned in November 2021 that Meta had already sold 10 million Oculus Quest 2 headsets. Since the devices run on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon XR2 chipset, it’s a figure that we believe to be true.
Still, the Oculus hardware is just one part of their plan. The real Metaverse-building will take place on Horizon Worlds. This is their social VR experience that allows users to explore public Worlds created by the community, in addition to offering tools for anyone to build their own Worlds and deploy their experiences to the public. Since Horizon Worlds was unveiled to all Quest users in the United States and Canada back in December 2021, the company reports that its monthly user base has grown by a factor of 10x to 300,000 people experiencing and building on the Horizon Worlds platform.
The website XR Today outlines the key functionalities when users enter Build Mode on Horizon Worlds.
Code blocks: Code blocks are a collection of ready-to-use code snippets and scripts that allow you to define automated events in VR. For example, users can trigger an event to take place when they first enter a VR world.
Gizmos: Gizmos are prebuilt object and avatar properties that users can associate with the different elements of a VR world. Users have a Spawn Point gizmo to control where they first land or “spawn,” a Text gizmo to superimpose text on VR objects, a Portal gizmo to define spots where they can teleport, and much more.
Sounds: Meta Horizon Worlds includes three types of prebuilt sound effects—event-specific effects, background sounds, and music. Creators can define specific properties to customize the sound experience such as the pitch and the distance at which a sound will be heard.
VR physics: Physics effects in Meta Horizon Worlds allow users to create objects that behave like real-world items. These features let you define gravity, object density, bounciness, friction, the ability to grab objects, and other such naturalized interactions. You can also select materials with physics properties like hardwood, ice, and others.
Animation effects: Using the tools in Meta Horizon Worlds, you can make an object move around and record the movement as a custom animation. The animation effects can be slowed down, accelerated, and controlled in other ways.
Although there are hundreds of third-party VR apps on the Oculus platform, Meta wants people to build the Metaverse through their Horizon Worlds platform. They want people to experience live events like concerts and conferences on Horizon Venues. And they want people to collaborate professionally in dedicated workspaces on Horizon Workrooms.
Ultimately, Meta’s vision is to create the next great communication tool. They’re building the Spatial Internet—a successor to today’s digital experiences where we are fully immersed in our entertainment, digitally present with our work teams, and “phygitally” next to the people we spend time with online.
The idea that the Metaverse will take over the current iteration of the Internet is a belief shared by many. This bold vision is gaining steam because sales of mobile phones have plateaued and total addressable market (TAM) has been reached. New iPhone releases have become predictable. That’s why Apple has been working on an XR device for years. We haven’t had a revolutionary app come out in a while because app innovation is dead. That’s why creators are now opting to build NFT-based projects, blockchain apps, and DAOs (more on that later in the “Changes to Digital Identity” section). Lastly, our social communication channels are widely believed to be corrupted. That’s why Facebook is now Meta and focusing on the Metaverse as the new social communication tool.
We are ready for the next big consumer tech product as devices that fit in your palm aren’t providing that novel experience anymore. However, these XR devices that sit on your face and give you access to this promising place called the Metaverse are offering up something completely new.
Before we get into describing all of the nuances that the Metaverse may offer, we would like to leave you with one prefacing statement from Neal Stephenson, whose ideation of this place called the Metaverse sparked the hype for all of this.
In an interview with Vanity Fair, Stephenson summed up his prescient storytelling that is now seen as tech gospel as “just me making shit up.” Innovation comes from human tenacity aiming to turn dreams into realities. Science-fiction writing, on the other hand, isn’t limited by rules or engineering boundaries. It is a forbearer for the future of what humans can only dream of until technology catches up.
We want to remind you that the Metaverse is a fictional concept written in a book from 1992. Before the Internet bubble was even a fear in the hearts of Silicon Valley. Before consumer-grade virtual reality headsets were anywhere in sight. Before the movie Avatar showed us just how realistic computer graphics could be. Even before social media and texting dominated our attention.
Even though the Metaverse is a fictional place imagined long before our current consumer tech obsessions, the idea has manifested into real progress. The term Metaverse owns real estate in the heads of every single technologist, future-thinker, and CNBC-watcher who wants to understand how to capitalize on the next phase of the Internet.
While the Metaverse is far from a finished destination, there are thousands of people building it every second of every day. Regardless of how we label the creation of the Metaverse or Spatial Internet, there are innovations happening that we simply cannot call Internet companies because they are so different from anything we’re used to seeing. From scarce digital assets to decentralized autonomous organizations to Web3 identities, these are all tech concepts that don’t fit into a normal Internet bucket.
Meta’s vision of the Metaverse is significant and not to be ignored. But as we address throughout this chapter, the answer to the question of “what is the Metaverse” is a fiction that we all are writing as we go along.
Defining the Metaverse
The Metaverse is the buzzword of 2022 in the same way that NFT was the buzzword of 2021. Facebook changed its entire brand to Meta and is defining the Metaverse as a VR world with social and professional experiences accessed through Oculus headsets. Microsoft followed suit with a more professional-focused vision of the Metaverse, one that starts with the ability to change your video feed to an animated avatar of yourself in Microsoft Teams. And on the off-chance that you’re deep into NFTs, then you’ve probably invested in some NFT projects that promise a Metaverse gaming experience in the future.
Clearly, something is happening “in the Metaverse,” and many people have no idea what it is or what it is supposed to be. The definitions seem all over the place. The use cases are vague. And who in the world wants to live life through a VR headset?
Let me clear the air and first tell you what the Metaverse is not.
The Metaverse is not a single technology. It’s not just a place we’ll visit in VR. It’s not something that can be created and claimed by the next Bezos or Gates.
In fact, the Metaverse is about as boundless and unownable as the Internet, if not more so. Sure, there are entities that have contributed more to the Internet than others. Of course, there are innovations that steered the course of the Internet and influenced the experience of the Web. But we didn’t wake up one day with the Internet we see now. It was an ever-evolving thing.
In that sense, the Metaverse is not a destination. The Metaverse is a movement—a movement toward the digital-first livelihood we’ve slowly been adopting year over year, app by app. The Metaverse becomes more real every time we replace a physical habit with a digital equivalent. We, the digital citizens of the Internet, are manifesting the Metaverse by trading time in meatspace (the physical world) for time online.
I’m particularly drawn to how Shaan Puri described the Metaverse on Twitter (https://twitter.com/ShaanVP/status/1454151237650112512). Puri said that “the Metaverse is the moment in time where our digital life is worth more to us than our physical life.” Puri pointed out that for the past 20 years our work, social life, recreation, sense of identity, and practically every aspect of our lives has become increasingly digital. He points out that people are trading in their Rolex watches and skinny jeans for Bored Apes and Fortnite skins. More kids are playing Fortnite than both football and basketball combined. In another 10–20 years, we will be existing more in the Metaverse than the physical world. According to Puri, “Our attention has been sucked from physical to digital. And where attention goes, energy flows.”
While Shaan’s description is a little conceptual for my taste, he is absolutely right that the Metaverse is a metaphorical digital ecosystem that grows and becomes more real every day. Furthermore, it becomes more important to us with every single technology that makes digital life more appealing than its physical counterpart.
There are many digital behaviors that have become nearly ubiquitous in their usage. We find love through apps like Tinder. We file our taxes online with TurboTax. We follow the opinions of complete strangers when choosing our next meal on Yelp. We ask for answers to all of our questions on Quora and blogs. We trust our most precious pictorial memories to be secured by digital giants.
The Internet’s foundation is the relationship between creator and community. At every turn, this relationship is what drives its growth. It dictates how, where, and on what we choose to spend our time. The idea of the Metaverse extends beyond this simple view of the Internet to the belief that digital life will continue to outpace physical life.
So how does one prepare for the Metaverse?
Ultimately, being ready for the Metaverse comes down to being ready for the next major changes to the Web. These changes iterate on where we are today but will eventually be the de facto experience in the future.
The Metaverse Represents the Next Digital Shifts
By now, I hope I’ve made it abundantly clear that we are already living in a fragmented and basic version of the Metaverse. Think of it as a continuum, where on one end is an encapsulation of life without the Internet and on the other end is the Metaverse. These arrows stretch to infinity in both directions. As a society, we’re pushing the collective needle toward the Metaverse side—one where we’re more connected and reliant on digital escapes, digital solutions, and digital communities.
The invention of Google, which brought us a better way of parsing through digitized information, pushed the needle toward the Metaverse. The invention of Facebook, which invited us all to digitize our identities, pushed the needle toward the Metaverse. By contrast, the rising popularity of digital detoxes, programs that ask us to put down the tech and find better lifestyle practices, pulls the needle away from the Metaverse. On the other hand, apps like Calm, which digitize the experience of meditating and coping with our tech-stressed lives, in a subtle way pushes us more toward the Metaverse.
See what I’m getting at? The Metaverse is a culmination of many applications of technology. There is no one single thing that makes the Metaverse the Metaverse. It’s a build-up of technology that makes digital life more appealing, more convenient, more effective, or better in some way.
Therefore, I’d like to outline three major changes happening to the Internet that will advance us many steps on the continuum toward the Metaverse.
Identity: A change to how we’re identified on the Internet and thus how we experience the Web
Value: A change to how we perceive the value of digital assets
Immersion: A change to how we are immersed in Internet experiences from community to entertainment to services
These tectonic shifts have been happening for some time but are finally finding some traction in the popular discourse. It’s not to say you are behind the times if you haven’t already been thinking about them. In fact, you’re right on time, maybe even a little ahead by picking up this book.
Understanding these three major shifts, whether as a business owner, a creator, or a consumer, puts you in a position of power, one where you may be able to reap the rewards of these changes before others do.
Changes to Digital Identity
Identity is an important part of a functioning Internet. Think about how often you have to log in to a website before you use it. That login represents who you are and collects nuggets of information on how you behave on the Internet, whether it’s the articles you choose to read, the products you buy, the questions you type into a search engine, or the content you spend your time consuming. Even when you aren’t logged in, cookies and tracking pixels are working in the background to fill in your profile.
However, this ever-present identity tracking is changing. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) set the precedent that incessant third-party tracking would not be tolerated in the EU. Apple took a stance in 2021, giving iPhone users the ability to block apps on their phone from tracking them across other apps and websites. The advertising industry is preparing for an Internet where only first-party data (just what can be gathered on one’s own website) is going to inform all ad placements.
Generally speaking, this is the transition to Web3, which represents a major shift at the identity layer of the Internet and in many cases a move away from centralized services to decentralized systems. When we discuss the history of how the Internet has progressed, we refer to three eras: Web1, Web2, and Web3.
Web1 was the “Read Era,” where most Internet users could browse and read information on the Internet, but publishing anything required a steep skillset. Web2 was the “Read, Write Era,” which brought us social media platforms like Tumblr and Facebook and thus a simple way for Internet users to contribute their own ideas and information to the Internet. Web3 will be the “Read, Write, Own Era,” giving Internet users a means to own their data, the content they create or consume, the Internet services they frequent, and thus their digital identity as an Internet citizen.
At the core of Web3 is blockchain—a trustless, self-governing, peer-to-peer network that develops its security based on the distribution of developers and users on the network. Building Web3 services on the blockchain (also known as dApps, or decentralized apps) is about rewarding the early adopters and those who contribute to growing the service.
I’ll color in an example for you.
For many, Dropbox is an essential service. For a small monthly subscription fee, you can store more than a terabyte of files in the cloud and not worry about overcrowding your hard drive. Dropbox is a Web2 company that received funding to build out its own servers and thus offer data storage. As the user base grew, they bought more servers, stored more information, and continued their upward trajectory.
The Web3 equivalent of Dropbox would be Arweave—a decentralized data storage protocol that allows you to store documents and applications in perpetuity. The main difference is that the storage of Arweave is maintained by its network of miners who provide excess disk space in exchange for AR tokens (Arweave’s currency). In this sense, it’s a collectively owned service that incentivizes the participants.
dApps are the future of the Web. Name any company that provides a service on the Web and I’ll name a decentralized competitor. Spotify’s decentralized equivalent is Audius. Medium’s decentralized equivalent is Mirror. GoDaddy’s decentralized equivalent is Ethereum Name Service. The list goes on.
These are changes happening at the company level. While there will still be value and the need for centralized services, dApps will usher in a great amount of innovation. What about you, as a user?
In Web3, your identity is represented by your blockchain wallet address. And you use this wallet to interact with dApps. No more managing dozens of usernames and passwords. It’s one login for the entire Internet. Furthermore, your wallet address (and thus your identity) is entirely anonymous, unless you decide to publicly tie your identity to your wallet.
For most people, you’ll have one wallet you use across the entirety of Web3 dApps, which allows you to seamlessly carry your encrypted identity across the Internet. Your wallet is not just your login and a place to house your unified identity. It’s also your bank. Because your blockchain wallet can hold cryptocurrency and other digital assets, you can transact on the Internet with the same point of access as your identity. It eliminates that need for peer-to-peer financial apps like Venmo, third-party payments through PayPal, or putting your credit card on file with services like Amazon.
In this sense, your blockchain wallet becomes the only point of access you need to interact on the Web.
One of the most fascinating things that emerges from Web3 and blockchain wallets is the concept of a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO). DAOs represent the future of organizing people on the Internet. DAOs form around a mission statement. That mission could be to build a decentralized company. That mission could be of nonprofit nature. That mission could be to create the world’s best memes. It doesn’t matter “what;” the importance of DAOs are “how.”
How DAOs operate is under the principle that anyone can join and participate, but you’re rewarded for your participation through tokens. These tokens, in turn, represent your contributions to the DAO’s mission and allow you to vote on the direction and decisions the DAO must make. The more tokens one accumulates, the more they’ve contributed to the DAO, and the more of a say they have in decision-making.
DAOs work because of blockchain wallets. Because the same tech that houses your identity can also house your financials (in this case the DAO’s tokens), they’re one and the same.
Let me describe a DAO that a friend of mine is particularly excited for.
My friend is an avid NBA fan. Every night of the NBA season you can find him watching games and chatting with people in Discord rooms, on Reddit, and in YouTube comments about the NBA. On multiple occasions, I’ve heard him talk about how he could run an NBA team better than half these “schmucks.”
So, it should come as no surprise that when he heard about a DAO called Krause House, which is organizing around the mission statement of “we will own an NBA team,” he jumped right in.
There’s a lot that goes into the pursuit of this mission. More than simply raising funds, they need systems for marketing Krause House and growing the network of participants. They need to assemble pitch decks for NBA teams and current owners. They need to design systems for internal organization and how they reward participants. Thus, they have created the $KRAUSE token.
The $KRAUSE token is not purchasable at this time; it can be earned only by contributing to one of the many internal projects, some of which are listed earlier. Make a blog post about Krause House, earn a token. Contribute some design work to the pitch deck; earn a token.
One day, when they have all of their ducks in a row, they will sell off a portion of the $KRAUSE token pool to raise the funds to buy a team. And whether you purchased $KRAUSE or earned it over time, your share of $KRAUSE will represent your share of ownership in that NBA team.
You might be wondering how you can be sure that investing time and energy into accumulating $KRAUSE tokens can translate into worthwhile profits over time. That’s a fair question, and while there are no certain answers, a variety of factors affect DAOs, tokens, and blockchain wallets. We’ll examine some related aspects of this in the upcoming “Changes to Digital Value” section.
What is so fascinating about DAOs is that they align the incentives and crowdsource the efforts. Imagine if early Facebook were a DAO and every time you got more friends to join or created a post that went viral, you were rewarded with shares in Facebook. The early adopters, the ones who really grow a service, an idea, or a business, win right alongside the founders. Here are some examples:
PleasrDAO is a collective that acquires culturally significant NFTs that represent and fund important ideas, movements, and causes.
Mirror has created a platform for media DAOs, where users can vote and decide on newsletters and other media projects to fund.
The MetaFactory is a DAO focused on design and creating goods for virtual reality games (like the futuristic version of Peak Design).
DAOs combine the new frontier of developing the decentralized Web with this secure form of digital identity, which is why many people believe DAOs will be responsible for building Web3, creating niche communities, and much more.
I know that I just threw a lot of new ideas and jargon at you. We will clarify and color in these examples throughout this book. But I wanted to first and foremost show you the major shifts that are happening at the identity layer of the Internet and what that shift will enable.
Now, on to the value of digital files.
Changes to Digital Value
Digital files are the lifeblood of the Internet. Every time we send an email, we’re sending a package of data in the form of a digital file. Every time we open a video, article, or meme, we’re opening a shared digital file. Our entire existence on the Internet is an existence of creating, sharing, and opening files. However, what’s the value of a digital file?
One might describe the value of a digital file as a means for passing knowledge on. Maybe the file’s value is in the laugh it prompts. Or the action it inspires. There are many ways in which we place value on digital files. But one value that digital files haven’t encompassed is a monetary value.
This all changed with NFTs.
The year 2021 was the year of the NFT. More than $11B USD of NFTs were bought and sold over the course of 2021, successfully bringing the concept of buying and selling scarce digital files into the public discourse.
If you’re unfamiliar, NFTs use blockchain technology to issue a certificate of authenticity that tracks that file’s provenance and history on the blockchain. In essence, it’s a way to claim that a certain digital asset is the original, with the ability to verify that over time.
NFTs come in many forms. Some of the most popular include the following:
Avatars: Avatar NFT collections usually have thousands of unique avatars that vary in rarity based on their traits. In a digital world where social media and online profiles are mainstays, the avatar is a focal point.
Art & Media: These NFTs are one-of-one creations from artists, musicians, programmers, and creators. They’re the digital equivalent of art we collect today.
Trading Cards: From baseball cards to Pokemon cards, trading card NFTs can either exist for collectible pleasure or be used in an actual card game.
Virtual Worlds: Like a next-level Minecraft or Fortnite, virtual world NFTs offer people the ability to own a piece of the world that they’re existing in, whether it’s virtual real estate, avatar accessories, or goods.
Access: Access NFTs take the concept of the backstage pass to the next level where engagement with your favorite teams, celebrities, and entertainers is limited to whoever holds the NFT. Access NFTs are also great for gating access to any type of content, experience, or community on the Web.
DigiPhysical Goods: This category of NFTs comprises the ability to build and customize objects that are native to or imported to shared virtual worlds, in much the same way that players can customize their character in Fortnite, except with ownership and the ability to resell items. Think of them as digital Nike apparel.
Gaming NFTs: Blockchain games offer players a two-pronged experience whereby they can collect their NFT game components and also compete with their owned NFT items.
To the average onlooker, NFTs may seem like a wildly speculative market where people are coughing up thousands or millions of dollars on silly digital art. In some cases, they’re right. But what’s important is the massive change in mindset this brought on.
People are beginning to find value in collecting digital content. They want to be the one true owner of a digital file. Whether that’s for bragging rights, historical significance, or to be a part of a community, people are collecting NFTs in droves. And this means a lot to anyone who offers digital services or creates digital content.
NFTs build upon some of the Web3 concepts described in this chapter’s previous “Changes to Digital Identity” section. Furthermore, it turns out that scarce digital files (NFTs) can serve many functions in the growing Metaverse.
Digital Respect and Signaling Identity
It’s become quite common for people to change their Internet profile pictures to avatar NFTs. The reasons are twofold. On one hand, it’s a way of signaling you are a part of a collector community. On the other hand, it can work as a way of showing off.
One of the most universally understood use cases of NFTs is the bragging rights associated with owning certain rare NFTs. In the same way that you might flex your wealth in meatspace by wearing a Rolex or driving a nice BMW, the digital world equivalent is owning and showing off your collection of rare NFTs.
For instance, one of the first collections of NFTs to ever be created in 2017 was the CryptoPunks—which are 10,000 pixelated characters with randomized traits, some traits more rare than others. Currently, you cannot purchase a CryptoPunk for less than 87 ETH (equivalent to about $400,000 USD). It’s a major status symbol to own one.
A couple of prominent NFT evangelists who own CryptoPunks have changed their entire Internet identities around the Punk they own. For instance, there is punk4156, punk6529, and punk2476. These three are all huge influencers on Twitter whose identities are based on these arbitrary, rarified digital collectibles. The Twitter user @Seedphrase rose to fame as an early NFT adopter by setting a record purchasing the only seven-trait CryptoPunk for $15,000 USD in 2020. That same NFT is now valued upward of nine-figures and Seedphrase dons this CryptoPunk as their profile picture with pride.
This cool factor has bled over into the celebrity side of things. Jay Z changed his Twitter profile to the CryptoPunk he owns. Steph Curry changed his to the Bored Ape he owns.
NFTs are an identifier.
Even if you don’t own an expensive NFT, an NFT can also work to show the community and beliefs you’re part of. For example, many have changed their profiles to the Fame Lady Squad NFT they own. This project was founded under the principle of the first fully-female-founded NFT project. When it was later discovered that a group of men were behind it, the community seized control from them. Today, owning and showing off your Fame Lady Squad signals you’re with the community of people who believe in women empowerment.
In Web3 our means of having a digital identity is changing. NFTs build upon this concept by allowing us to build communities around scarce and exclusive digital files. This is further shown in the ability for NFTs to unlock exclusive experiences.
Access to Exclusive Internet Experiences
Gating experiences on the Web is no easy feat. Whether that’s content like books or movies, articles on a publication’s website, or an exclusive Zoom call among professionals, the process relies heavily on the email + password combination we’re all too familiar with. Furthermore, it’s a one-to-one transaction where it’s difficult to transfer or give these gated experiences.
As previously discussed in the “Changes to Digital Identity” section, with the emergence of digital wallets as your Internet identifier, this all changes. Because now an NFT can act as the key to unlocking these gated experiences. Here are a few examples:
If you own a Metaverse HQ NFT, then you have access to an exclusive Discord chat group of 1,500 active NFT traders that are all sharing their insights and strategies for investing in NFTs.
If you own a Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT, then you have access to the BAYC Bathroom, which is a digital bathroom that you can write graffiti on.
If you own a MetaKey NFT, then you are given exclusive rights to mint future NFT collaborations with other creators they have in the pipeline.
Turning NFTs into access keys works by using tools like Collab.Land or Unlock Protocol, which provide ready-made software for checking people’s wallets to ensure they hold the Access NFT they require. Whether that’s a private Discord chat group, an article on a website, or a private party in a virtual environment like Decentraland, these tools will “check your wallet at the door” and admit you only if you hold the NFT that unlocks that experience.
This has major implications for media companies that want to monetize their content, communities that want to keep their admissions low, or anyone who wants to build something on the Internet that requires payment. In this transitory period where usernames and passwords are being replaced by NFT access keys, we’re going to continue seeing these products be over-monetized. It will feel as though everyone and everything is financializing access to their product, service, or content. However, this period won’t last forever. Ultimately, the need to attract users will outweigh the need to monetize you, the consumer, and free NFT access keys will be widespread.
We think the coolest part about it is that these access keys are transferable. If you grow tired of one of the communities mentioned earlier, you can sell it on an NFT marketplace and recoup your investment. In addition, you’re also the proud owner of an NFT that you can display and talk about. These are two concepts that don’t hold true if you were, let’s say, to purchase a digital subscription to The New York Times. There is, of course, always the option to create nontransferable NFTs, thus rendering the resale behavior impossible. However, it’s simply not in the ethos of Web3 creators right now to limit the transferability of NFTs. This may change when NFTs begin being used to include personally identifiable information (PII) such as a digital health record. For the time being, though, resale transactions and transferability are a major part of what makes the NFT market possible.
Kickstarter manifested the creator economy we know to rule the Internet today. In somewhat of a nod to Muhammad Yunus (the Nobel Prize winner for his concept of microfinance), Kickstarter showed us that a good idea, product, or story should not be stifled by what your local bank manager deems as a sound business plan and a safe investment. No, creators should be empowered by a community. Furthermore, that community can consist entirely of customers who buy something before it even exists.
What we’re describing is the idea of crowdfunding. For many of us, Kickstarter was the first time we were ever exposed to crowdfunding. Kickstarter showed that there were hundreds or thousands of people around the globe who experience the same problems and furthermore that there is actually a builder out there who is making a product without those problems.
Kickstarter may not get the shine or accolades it deserves, but an unfathomable number of products have been crowdfunded thanks to Kickstarter. Countless companies have been born on Kickstarter. While there isn’t anything inherently wrong with crowdfunding, other than a creator who raises money and doesn’t follow through with their promise, NFTs take crowdfunding to the next level. And that level is a sense of ownership in the project you help crowdfund. Effectively, this takes us from traditional crowdfunding to crowdfunding 2.0.
Take Daniel Allan, for example. He’s a music producer who has been working in the industry for some time and really thinking through his next move. As opposed to signing with a label and locking himself into how the label wants to grow him, he turned to a platform called Mirror that acts as sort of a crypto-based crowdfunding platform.
Daniel sold half of the royalties to his upcoming album, titled Overstimulated, in exchange for advance funds to help him fund the project. He issued 100,000 $OVERSTIM tokens and sold half of the supply, at the convertible rate of 1 ETH = 1,000 $OVERSTIM, which at the time was around $147,000 USD. Furthermore, he created three NFT packages at the price points of 0.1 ETH, 0.25 ETH, and 1.0 ETH, each NFT being composed of a visual collectible, the royalty contract details, and the respective amount of $OVERSTIM tokens.
In just a few days, 87 people purchased an NFT from him, and he raised a total of 50 ETH for his EP. He outlined how he planned to allocate the funds, the timeline for the EP, who was going to be featured, the royalty details, and so on. In the process of crowdfunding money for his project, he simultaneously crowdfunded a community of supporters. Each of these supporters was a marketing vessel. Those NFTs were in their wallets. They’d see them every day and think about how they could help promote and make the album go further. The incentives were all aligned.
The beauty of crowdfunding via NFTs is that all the royalty details are coded into the smart contract. There’s no way to cut people out of a deal or cheat anyone. It’s public information.
Others have used Mirror to crowdfund e-mail newsletters, such as Dirt. One creator by the name of Emily Segal used Mirror to crowdfund her next novel. Even a documentary called Ethereum: The Infinite Garden was funded on the Mirror platform.
Not all crowdfunding efforts come with monetary royalties. In some cases, the NFT fundraising either acts as an access token to whatever is being created or is more benevolent in nature—where holding the NFT is simply a way to show that you were an early supporter.
For instance, Stoner Cats is an NFT-based animated series with a star-studded cast including Mila Kunis, Ashton Kutcher, Vitalik Buterin, and Jane Fonda. They sold Stoner Cats avatar NFTs to fund the series. And only those who own one of the NFTs can watch the episodes.
Another futuristic application of NFTs is Parallel Alpha, which is an NFT-based card game that sold NFT cards for a game that didn’t yet exist. The funds raised through the NFT release funded the development of the virtual environments where the card game can take place. And naturally, you must own Parallel Alpha cards in order to play the game.
Overall, issuing NFTs as a means for crowdfunding will continue to be a dominating reason that people purchase scarce digital files. It’s a more intimate and dynamic way of crowdfunding as a creator because you’re aligning the interests of collectors with your project. And the NFT in your blockchain wallet acts as a continuous reminder that you’re part of this crowdfunded mission.
NFTs can trace their roots back many years. As early as 2015, people were minting their digital files onto the blockchain. But it was only in the past year or so that people actually started to care to place a value on said digital assets. It was a behavioral shift.
The fact that people now care to own scarce digital files has major implications for the next evolution of the Internet. It changes how economies in video games function, allowing for players to sell their in-game assets after they’ve grown tired of them. It changes how we build communities, allowing us to create and reserve experiences for people who own those files. It changes how we crowdfund. It changes how we uniquely define our identities. And this is just the start.
The key here is that scarce digital file ownership builds upon the new layer of digital identity we’ll have with our blockchain wallets. And that makes immersive Internet experiences more possible.
Changes to Internet Immersion
In the end, we all want to hang out in places on the Internet where our friends are. We want to connect with people around our shared interests. As those niche communities grow, brands and companies will do anything to get in front of people (their customers) in those environments.
What’s become entirely evident is that the shopping mall has been replaced by Fortnite and Roblox. It’s where kids go to hang out and loiter with their friends. Both video games are constantly offering new experiences and ways to upgrade and outfit one’s characters. The games collaborate with brands and other media companies to merge what’s cool elsewhere on the Internet with an experience in the game.
Travis Scott launched an entire Astroworld concert grounds in Fortnite. Before Travis, it was the DJ by the name of Marshmello who had a concert in Fortnite. Ariana Grande has done the same. Other brands, such as Balenciaga have launched exclusive character skins in the game. Louis Vuitton made a similar play in League of Legends. It’s likely what spurred Nike to start filing a variety of patents on digital merchandise.
Let’s jump over to Roblox, a game with a lot more freedom to create and play mini-games within the Roblox ecosystem. Following the worldwide success of the show Squid Games on Netflix, people began creating Squid Games experiences in Roblox. One such game counted more than 700 million people who played it. It doesn’t take a genius to realize why Netflix shortly thereafter announced plans to roll out Netflix Gaming.
This is the future of Internet immersion: brands and companies showing up in cool ways where people are spending time. The experience of going to the Balenciaga website is vastly different from downloading and wearing one of their outfits in Fortnite. The impact to Balenciaga’s bottom line is still substantial in both instances, but in the Fortnite example, they’ve created an asset that can exist in perpetuity, making it a future-proofed product.
If we want to talk about the first people who will truly experience a shared virtual world, then it’s the youth today who are hanging out in Fortnite or Roblox. As they age and their tastes refine, their behaviors will still remain. Many may still prefer to socialize in virtual environments. They may prefer to work in the virtual setting. Therefore, capturing the youth is key.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t new immersive experiences for adults.
When it comes to networking, more connections are now made on places like Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces than on LinkedIn. These audio social experiences are a more intimate way of connecting with people than viewing someone’s professional profile and messaging them.
There’s the entire idea of a “corporate Metaverse” that a few companies are building. This corporate Metaverse iterates on the virtual work apps like Zoom and Slack. For example, Gather allows companies to build an 8-bit video game style office environment with desks and meeting rooms. Employees access it through their web browser, they walk around and connect with each other through their character, and it integrates live video chat as well to get your meetings done.
Both Facebook and Microsoft previewed new work-from-home features that bring the concept of avatars onto video calls. That way it offers employees a break from Zoom fatigue and also gives them a fun way to customize their avatar.
On an entirely different thread, Tinder showcased an interesting new immersive way to find potential partners. They launched a game called Singles Town, where users were represented by an avatar. They could walk up to other avatars (single people) and spark up a conversation with them.
Overall, the world is growing tired of interfacing with static websites and apps. We want to be wowed again, whether we know it or not. That’s the large reason why Facebook has rebranded to Meta and doubled down on immersive environments as a way to reconnect with the people.
But the question remains: what environment will house all of these new immersive Internet experiences?
Everyone uses the example of Ready, Player One, the movie that showed us a future where people strapped on a VR headset and could do everything from explore to socialize to game to work to build and more in one discrete place. In essence, it’s what a place like Decentraland is building. If you watched Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote on the rebranding to Meta, you might take the hint that they’re trying to build a sort of unified “Metaverse” where all social and professional opportunities take place.
However, in all likelihood, the next immersive Internet experiences will be built in silos.
It Starts with Web3 Communities
The implementation of a siloed Metaverse will likely take shape via Web3 first. This is because creating interesting virtual experiences is far more about the strength of the community you can bring to the space and less about what you do once you’re there.
For example, consider The MetaKey. A company has minted NFTs that act as keys to unlocking any experience that the MetaKey team wants to create. They have nearly 5,000 people who own one of their MetaKeys. This gives them the power of creating an experience and delighting 5,000 people whenever they want. They literally get to be the guides and hold all 5,000 people’s hands through “the Metaverse.” They could create an event hosted on a website and tell people, “Hey, pop up over here; we have this cool virtual event taking place.”
Another interesting Web3 community, for example, is MVHQ. The MVHQ team collaborated with another community called Royal Society of Players to create an exclusive poker tournament. Only holders of the tokens in either community were allowed to join this virtual poker night and have a chance at winning a prize. (This could’ve been a collaboration with a company like Heartland Poker Tour, who is still stuck in Web2.)
Immersive experiences make sense only where a community already exists. It’s why Balenciaga went to Epic Games to reach the millions of gamers in Fortnite.
Web3 communities will be the curators and onboarders to the new immersive Web. Here’s a hypothetical example. Take a food blog like TheSpoon. Let’s say they want to begin moving away from the static blog experience to a virtual experience. As opposed to creating an entire virtual environment on their own, they can collaborate with a Web3-ready Foodverse like OneRare. OneRare is building a food-related virtual world where players can engage in all sorts of food-related games and collectibles. TheSpoon can tap into that existing user base and create the next version of their media empire in OneRare’s Foodverse. And if TheSpoon wants, they can give access tokens to all of their current subscribers in order to bring them over to this new experience.
In other words, the effort that companies have made to build their current web presence isn’t entirely moot. But they need to think about how they can work with future-thinkers who are creating the Web3 equivalent. Ultimately, they must work together to win together.
As I’ve emphasized throughout this entire chapter, the Metaverse is built in small increments. We’re not going to just simply wake up to an entirely new virtual way of engaging with Google Docs, The New York Times, or Nike. These experiences will be upgraded and iterated in trial runs. We’ll get a small taste here and there.
This entire concept of a shared Metaverse, like Ready, Player One, showcased where all of these immersive experiences are accessed in one location is possible, in theory—but only if we can agree on a set of open-source protocols that make this portability between competing Metaverses possible. Surely, Meta would like to be the company to make that come to fruition. But in all likelihood, we’ll each get a personal Metaverse before that, in the same way everyone experiences their own personalized Internet of their Own Interests right now.
What’s the Metaverse’s Interface?
The question that everyone seems to be wondering is “where will the Metaverse be accessed?” Meta believes it is in their Oculus VR headsets. While that may be the unanimous place at some point, realistically the Metaverse will be device agnostic. Web browsers, mobile phones, and TV screens all work just fine to transport people into immersive experiences.
When I look at a conference like ComplexCon, which has transitioned to the virtual stage possibly better than anyone, that entire “virtual conference” can be experienced through a web browser. And it’s incredibly engaging.
Decentraland—which is one of the clear front-runners of creating a virtual world for gaming and socializing—is accessed only through your web browser.
Roblox and Fortnite, which are arguably two of the greatest use cases we have of a shared virtual world, are played on TV screens, tablets, and mobile phones.
Contrary to popular opinion, a VR headset or AR glasses are not necessary to fully immerse someone in an experience.
It’s important to note that Meta is making a huge bet on VR. And I don’t think I could ever bet against Zuckerberg or the amount of money his company is pouring into this endeavor. This is their chance to be the thought leaders once again and introduce the masses to a new technology. They have the user base. But then again, so did BlackBerry, Yahoo, and Nokia. Each brought us a new way of using technology, but they weren’t able to sustain their places as the leaders.
Ultimately, the next wave of the immersive Internet must create easy on-ramps for creators to build experiences, and they must design their products in such a way that the same kids playing Roblox today will be interested in what they have to offer in a decade.
Preparing for the Metaverse
We’re moving toward a more decentralized Internet, one where cookies and tracking pixels are made obsolete by a better form of digital identity management. Big changes are happening to the Web, and you need to be prepared.
The newest buzzword to capture the imaginations of creators and businesses is the concept of “the Metaverse.” And everyone seems to be scrambling to define it, strategize for it, and create their own version of the Metaverse. But the problem remains that nobody truly knows what the Metaverse will be.
In the late 1990s everyone thought that the Internet’s biggest businesses would be built on premium domains like Pets.com or Computer.com. We later found out that the true Internet giants would be built by enabling information sharing and through building bridges for niche social communities to form. Ultimately the name didn’t matter if your brand and your community were strong.
Today, Starbucks’ mobile app processes more than 70 million transactions per month, more than most banking apps combined. Who could’ve predicted that a couple of decades ago?
In all actuality, what we believe the Metaverse will be is probably not what we’ll come to experience. That’s just a reality of Internet innovation. The best thing you can do is to stay abreast of the changes happening to the Web. Web3 and blockchain wallets. Buying and selling digital files through NFT protocols. Designing immersive experiences atop existing games and virtual worlds. These are the main changes happening to the Internet today.
The upcoming chapters will help you better understand these tectonic shifts. We’ll highlight a wide array of creators at all levels who are building the next major changes to experiencing the Web. We’ll outline how innovators are thinking about the next iteration of the Internet. We’ll make it clear where the gray areas, the gaps, the unknowns exist—so that you can think about how to fill them in.
Every time we replace a behavior with a digital service or experience, we make the Metaverse more real. As a decision-maker, or as someone who has invested considerable time in digital, you need to foresee how digital life is changing for consumers, businesses, and creators alike. After all, our future depends on it.
Why You Should Care About the Metaverse Now
Interests carry us to new places and spaces. When we find something that catches our interest, it’s as if everything else takes a back seat. We put our blinders up and focus entirely on that interest every single free moment we have. It’s often referred to as “going down the rabbit hole” when you get sucked into a new interest.
Then there are what QuHarrison likes to call Interest Geeks, which is the type of person who gets so engulfed in an interest that it becomes obsessive. He considers it a personality trait, to some extent, as Interest Geeks routinely find themselves in cycles of fascination.
What separates an Interest Geek from the average person is the depth to which they dive into an interest. They take an interest and go where no person has thought to go before. They’re not afraid of the friction associated with charting new territory because the allure of the interest is so strong.
Millions of people consider the NBA to be a major part of their life. Most of them are perfectly content watching games, listening to post-game analysis on ESPN, and maybe managing a fantasy basketball team. Slightly higher on the NBA interest hierarchy are people who create content about their fascination with the NBA. Maybe it’s a weekly podcast, the occasional blog post, perhaps a meme page. But at the top of the NBA interest hierarchy, on a level that only a few occupy, is a YouTuber named JxmyHighroller (pronounced Jimmy Highroller).
JxmyHighroller is one of the few true NBA Interest Geeks. Every week he tells a unique story about the NBA through data. Furthermore, he uses data that is not widely available, to the point where you can’t help but wonder how he found it. One week, he’s covering the history of brothers who have played in the NBA simultaneously, using analytics to determine which pair of siblings were the most efficient in history. The next week he’s tracking every game-winning shot made from half-court or further, associating probabilities to find the rarest buzzer-beater of all time. And then he’ll rank every single championship run in history, using dozens of data points to build his case for the most challenging and easiest championships ever won.
JxmyHighroller took NBA fandom to a level that’s hard to comprehend, and it’s nearly impossible to predict where he goes next. Through movies like Moneyball, we’ve all come to realize how data analytics is changing sports at the management level. But we’ve never seen anyone use data analytics to tell such compelling stories about a sport.
What JxmyHighroller represents is the idea of an Interest Geek in the truest sense.
Most of us are fairly basic in the interests we choose to pursue. Thus, we benefit from having established communities and resources surrounding the interest. Golf, Jiu-Jitsu, skincare, collecting memorabilia, woodworking, gaming, gardening, fishing, yoga, and so on are all well-formed interests. The path to mastery of these interests has been well-documented by the many people who participate. In other words, they are highly Google-able.
On the flip side, there are rare moments throughout history where an interest has not quite broken through to establish critical mass. The number of people pursuing the interest is small and therefore an opportunity exists.
The Well-Timed Interest Geek
Being an Interest Geek in the right place at the right time can have a huge payoff. To be an obsessive creative during a time when there isn’t a lot documented about a given Interest is challenging and at most times discouraging. To see something the rest of the world does not see is hard in and of itself. But to then bet a large chunk of your time on that interest is something that most people would call foolish.
This is coming from coauthor QuHarrison, a guy who built a blockchain-powered digital art marketplace in 2015 (before the term NFT was even established). Believe me, you get called crazy and looked at weird far too often when you’re a well-timed Interest Geek. And history is full of these people.
We think about mobile app developers in the early days of smartphones. Apple’s App Store was taking shape, going from 500 available apps in July 2008 to 225,000 available apps in June 2010. During this time, “Mobile App Developer” became a role at every tech company. Entire studios popped up geared toward creating games and utilities for smartphones. The mobile app economy was entering public discourse. Then something changed around 2014. Through hearing numerous success stories of one app idea making a person rich, nearly everyone began having an idea for an app. The problem was that most of the resources for building an app weren’t geared toward the layperson, the person with no coding experience. Enter one of my favorite Interest Geeks from this period: Nick Walter. Nick lived and breathed apps. He recognized the need for entry-level resources that democratized the ability to create apps. Nick launched his first Kickstarter campaign in 2014 called “How to Make a Freaking iPhone App,” detailing how to create apps that enabled in-app purchases, geolocation, social integrations, camera functionality, and all the features you needed. His messaging was simple and fun: “…help you make complete apps that you can put on your phone, show your mom, I don’t care what you do with it.” For a few years, Nick continued to update these courses as new iOS software was released and introduced new courses for the Apple Watch. From the public data we can see, he helped more than 10,000 people build their first app. What’s special about Nick (and others doing parallel courses and walkthroughs during this time) is that he was an Interest Geek who went deep and then brought the knowledge back to the surface level. Instead of hoarding knowledge, he shared. And as a result, he introduced his interest to thousands of other people.
Another great example of a well-timed Interest Geek, to go back to the digital art example, is Beeple (also known as Mike Winkelmann). About 15 years ago, Beeple started a project called Everydays. As the name suggests, he set out to create and publish a piece of digital art every day. The initial goal was to get better at making art (the interest part), but it quickly grew into an exploration of what’s possible with virtual artistic design (the geek part). Digital art grew from an interest to an obsession to a profession, working for a range of corporate clients on advertisements, stage designs, and anything that digital art could express. Then, in 2020, Beeple hit paydirt. NFTs took off. And his collection of more than 5,000 Everydays became a perfect use case for NFTs being a mechanism to reward digital creators. Sure enough, his vast portfolio of Everydays was packaged into an NFT, put on the auction block at Christie’s, and sold for more than $69 million USD. This wasn’t a fluke, as he followed up that sale half a year later with the sale of Human One—a hybrid generative sculpture—for $29 million USD. Beeple is an Interest Geek who went deep, stayed productive, and played the long game at a perfect time for digital art. As a result, he’s considered a figurehead in this amazing movement of digital creators.
To stick with the theme of well-timed Interest Geeks in technology, let’s look at the idea of a technology influencer. Today, when a new piece of technology comes out, we have loads of YouTube tech reviews to turn to: Linus Tech Tips, Unbox Therapy, MKBHD, the list goes on. But back in the early 2000s, consumer tech was hitting an inflection point. Tech optionality was just beginning to take shape, meaning that anyone interested in devices began having a lot more choices to make. Blogs like Slashdot, Gizmodo, and Engadget provided real-time reviews and coverage that made diving deep into consumer tech an actual interest to pursue. But we also weren’t aware that over time we’d come to trust the opinions of a person over the opinions of a branded blog. The real winners of this particular interest in consumer tech were the YouTube creators. Marques Brownlee (MKBHD) started his YouTube channel—reviewing technology—in 2008. Today, he has 15.2 million subscribers. His opinion of the new iPhone or Tesla update holds more weight than the opinion of The Verge, Engadget, and TechCrunch combined. MKBHD is a well-timed Interest Geek.
Some may say these folks were just lucky. They discovered a trend before it was trendy and reaped the rewards. However, this diminishes the foresight and the hard work needed to actually capitalize on an emerging interest. Seriously, imagine trying to code a mobile app or a website as a layman before Udemy courses on the topic existed. The skills required to tinker and create when no one is advising you how is like charting open waters without a compass. There’s a high likelihood that you’re coasting in circles, but there’s no way to know for certain.
It’s one thing to be an Interest Geek in the right place at the right time. But it’s another thing to be a well-timed Interest Geek who is highly productive and willing to push an interest forward. As we addressed in the discussion of Nick Walter and app developers, if you geek out over an interest before it’s established, then you face a lot of friction in going deep on that subject. Resources are scarce, which means you’ll have to rely on self-guided learning. Software and tools aren’t yet designed with your use case in mind, which forces you to experiment with makeshift tools. But the one thing that often is present among these early adopters of new interests is tight-knit communities.
Interest Geeks tend to band together in the early days of an emerging interest, making the experimentation phase more palatable and collaborative. And so that brings us to the Interest Geeks of the Metaverse, a group comprised largely of VR enthusiasts who have been pushing this idea of digital immersion for years, some of them decades.
Interest Geeks of the Metaverse
At the risk of passing over the numerous influential thinkers who conjured up the idea of VR, I will kick off this discussion of the Interest Geeks of the Metaverse with Jaron Lanier.
For the unfamiliar, Jaron Lanier is credited with popularizing the term virtual reality in the late 1980s. But to say his contribution stopped at the naming of this technology would be a real shame. Jaron is truly one of the foremost visionaries and practitioners that set VR ideas into motion. After leaving Atari in 1985, he founded VPL Research, Inc., with Thomas G. Zimmerman, which would be the first company to develop and sell VR goggles. Most will credit him with co-founding virtual reality. Even though the VR headsets we use today aren’t Jaron’s, his fingerprints are all over them. Aside from the actual hardware, Jaron Lanier impacted how we think about VR and some of the dangers of it creating “behavior modification empires.” It’s difficult to sum up his ideas that span multiple books, written manifestos, TED Talks, and more. However, it’s safe to say that all of the following Interest Geeks of the Metaverse were directly (or indirectly) influenced by Jaron Lanier.
This brings us to Michael Potts. He’s not a household name, by any means, even for many Metaverse enthusiasts. But he’s a representative of the next class of Interest Geeks to follow after Jaron. Michael founded M2 Studio in 2001 to provide virtual design services. The consumer application of VR was not established at this time. However, many Fortune 500 corporations needed architectural renderings and animations for ads, websites, new projects, and so on. Michael’s sustained fascination with the Metaverse for two decades, without losing faith, is miraculous on its own. But M2’s staying power as a company to find themselves still in operation during the most exciting time for VR is a true miracle. Today, they benefit from experiencing the ebbs and flows of VR. They’ve seen which ideas work. And now they’re among the most trusted agencies when it comes to designing readymade Metaverse environments that clients can plug right into and offer to their audience. Michael represents one of the many Interest Geeks of the Metaverse who found their niche on the services side of things.
Now we arrive at the behemoth Interest Geek on Metaverse products: Palmer Luckey. During his early teens (2005 on), Palmer developed a unique obsession with VR, amassing a collection of 50+ VR headsets, most of which were developed in the 1990s. At that time, he began tinkering with headsets of his own design. Later, he joined BraveMind, which was a project out of a USC research lab, treating veterans with PTSD through VR exposure therapy. His fascination was growing. Then at the age of 19, in his third year of college, he took a break to start a company called Oculus VR. They succeeded in developing headsets that were cheaper, more visually engaging, and consumer-friendly. Oculus quickly caught Facebook’s attention, which would purchase them for $2B USD just a few years into its existence.
What Palmer pioneered with the Oculus platform ignited an entire wave of developers to become Interest Geeks in the Metaverse, creating a slew of applications and use cases for VR.
For example, you had comedy Interest Geeks like the Gotham Comedy Club developing a Metaverse application in VR for live comedy shows. For me, it was the first time I experienced live streaming in the Metaverse. I can remember watching the first show and comedians were addressing both the in-person crowd and the crowd in VR simultaneously. It completely shifted my mindset on concurrent hybrid experiences in the Metaverse and meatspace.
The next Metaverse experience on the Oculus that completely took me by surprise was The Thrill of the Fight VR application. It was a boxing experience that showed me the potential of fitness in the Metaverse.
More recently, with the onset of NFTs and the ability to own digital assets, we’ve witnessed a wave of designers and architects create readymade habitats that people can own, host events, and call their home in the Metaverse. For example, Krista Kim designed a virtual home on the Spatial platform called the Mars House (mentioned in Chapter 1), which made headlines when it sold for 288 Ethereum. Similarly, Cyril Lancelin and Benny Or designed a space called The Meeting Place, which is a meeting grounds in the Metaverse designed without the laws of physics limiting them. The idea was to freely think about architecture in order to inspire group idea-storm with the same freedom of thought.
Of course, we cannot forget about the thousands of creators that design games and spaces in Roblox, which is a sort of Metaverse in its own right. Meep City, Jailbreak, and Adopt Me! are just three of the top games in Roblox, which have each attracted more than 3 billion visits.
Coauthor DJ SKEE produced Paris World in Roblox—Paris Hilton’s own virtual oasis for hosting events and throwing parties. After hosting a New Year’s Party in Paris World, which had more attendees than Time Square, she said, “I had more fun on a computer throwing this party than doing one in real life. This is the future of partying.”
The number of people interested in the Metaverse has grown exponentially in just the past year, and our previous list doesn’t even come close to the number of Interest Geeks who have been experimenting here. It’s a sample of the variety of ways creators are approaching this new tech platform and the diversity of ideas that can exist in the Metaverse.
If you only read the headlines, then you are only exposed to the Metaverse advancements from big tech companies. You’ll miss out on all of the Interest Geeks that have been architecting the Metaverse for years, building experiences and spaces to make this technology more relatable and tactile for visitors. After all, the Interest Geeks of the Metaverse are responsible for helping virtual reality hardware manufacturers like Oculus and HTC keep users engaged.
Interest Geeks Over Power Brokers
We crave announcements from influential figures that they’re interested in, and investing in, an emerging market. The validation from an entity who has a lot more to lose than we do is just what we need to convince ourselves that this new, flashy object or opportunity is the future. For the Metaverse, this watershed moment has come from none other than Mark Zuckerberg.
Zuckerberg rebranded Facebook to Meta, aligned the bulk of their marketing around the Oculus VR headset, and pledged a minimum of $10B USD a year for the next several years to Facebook Reality Labs—their division tasked with creating AR and VR hardware, software, and content.
You should care about the Metaverse right now because Facebook said so. At least that is what popular opinion believes.
But these watershed announcements are not the most reliable sources to count on. Sometimes the timing is off. We remember the feeling among tech enthusiasts in 2013 when Google released the Google Glass AR headsets to the public. We thought that that was the Metaverse moment. Alternately, sometimes the entire prediction is wrong. Remember 3D TVs? After Christopher Nolan’s Avatar broke every movie…