For all the hype surrounding the metaverse, it’s easy to forget that it’s still in its infancy. Although the term has only recently entered the broad public consciousness, its impact on our interaction with technology is already expected to be profoundly consequential. McKinsey & Company estimates that annual global spending within the metaverse could reach $5 trillion by 2030 in domains as broad as gaming, social media, fitness, commerce and remote learning.
The question of how to define and build technology with such broad capabilities is moving. While several games, such as Roblox, Fortnite, and Minecraft, have been hailed as early examples of successful metaverse platforms, a more holistic approach would allow for unrestricted interaction for the players of these games. Interoperability between metaverse platforms is a key component to consider.
A new way to socialize
Although it has only recently entered the public lexicon, the metaverse is not a new concept. The term was originally used to describe a fictional break from reality by Neil Stevenson snow shock. The popularity of digital entertainment increased massively during the pandemic. From games like Among Us to services like Netflix Party and Zoom, the chance to socialize virtually was very appealing to many during a time of deep isolation.
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These changes have fundamentally reshaped our ideas about how we socialize and work together, with lasting habits formed to connect and collaborate virtually, a major factor accelerating engagement with the metaverse. Virtual experiences like Travis Scott’s Fortnite concert have made positive strides in developing socially immersive in-game experiences. However, a cross-platform hypersocial virtual experience has yet to hit the market.
Moderation versus censorship
Freedom, community, and collaboration are all defining characteristics of the metaverse. To achieve this, an infrastructure is needed that can support the transfer of sensitive metadata across different blockchain protocols, metaverse platforms and gaming ecosystems in a combination of social networks, crypto wallets and decentralized applications. Therefore, before an interoperable metaverse introduces new business models and cross-platform capabilities, the issue of identity and multi-chain moderation must be addressed.
Decentralization brings with it the opportunity to experiment with community-led tactics, incentivizing certain behaviors and allowing the collective to dictate its own preferences. PubDAO, a publishing collective launched in conjunction with Decrypt, provides a good example of how these structures can work. Significantly, it makes a clear distinction between moderation and censorship. Adolescents are like-minded individuals, writers in this case, who are projected, incorporated and integrated into the culture of the community.
Scaling this model up to billions of people creates problems, as individual detection is unfeasible. Legacy social networks are plagued by this problem, deploying shadow bans and other censorship tools to deal with the problem. A common solution proposed by Web3 advocates involves algorithmic detection and incentivized moderation to counter abuse, but this ignores the nature of a multi-chain metaverse.
Even when done transparently and fairly, too many abuses would slip through the net. Using the same machinations as the infamous Tornado Cash mixer, the laundering tool of choice for 52% of non-fungible token (NFT) scams before being sanctioned, the origin of abusive messages could be hidden in the name of freedom of expression Even if the attacker got stuck in one chain, they could jump to the next. This is not the kind of metaverse anyone wants to inhabit.
NFTs make users traceable across chains
The potential solution lies in moving the moderation tools upstream. Twitter has successfully tested this process. By providing warnings before posting tweets, 9% of users were encouraged to cancel their posts. Overall, the study concluded that there was a 6% reduction in offensive tweets as a result of this mechanism.
Implementing a metadata standard and infusing decentralized identifiers (DIDs) could provide an avenue for ethical moderation, which does not enforce privacy but ensures accountability. This multi-chain technical standard would ensure that tokens minted on any chain can be traced back to their origin within the metaverse. NFTs could be imbued with verifiable credentials, allowing platforms to offer privacy to their users and define the terms under which those rights would be lost.
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More importantly, at a time when cybersecurity is an ever-increasing concern, a metadata standard would offer more protection to individual users. Data breaches in games are notoriously common, with more than half of frequent gamers being hacked, according to a 2020 report from Akamai. The wealth of victims and the prevalence of microtransactions in the game make it a lucrative target for cybercriminals. In addition to this, users often use the same password across all accounts, making credential stuffing a serious problem with the potential to spread across industries.
While certainly not a panacea, an interoperable standard would go a long way toward consolidating individual security needs. Web3 is configured to accommodate an identity system that eliminates the need to store sensitive data on centralized servers, making it difficult for hackers to access. In the event that personal assets are compromised, a metadata standard imbued with DID would allow traceability across the multichain metaverse.
Data standards will dictate the evolution of the web, so it’s important that we get them right. Interoperability is easier to install from the start than to adapt. By learning the lessons offered by the development of the Internet, together we can build a revolutionary metadata standard that fosters a positive and shared technosocial experience on the Web3.
Witek Radomski is the CTO and co-founder of Enjin, a blockchain technology company building products for next-generation NFTs. Witek is the author of the ERC-1155 token standard, the only token standard that allows the configuration of both fungible tokens and NFTs in a single smart contract.
This article is for general information purposes and is not intended and should not be taken as legal or investment advice. The views, thoughts and opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.