Is a decentralized metaverse good or bad?
There are pros and cons to any story, or at least sides that can eloquently argue for or against any given idea. The same stands for the idea of a decentralized metaverse as well. Enthusiasts embrace it as the answer to everything that’s wrong with the current web 2.0, while skeptics raise concerns about some aspects of decentralization.
What’s up with the idea of a decentralized metaverse, in the end? Bottom line, is it good or bad? The answer, as with most truths worth pursuing, isn’t very simple or super straightforward. We’ll try to shed some light on the matter of decentralized metaverses and let you come to a conclusion by yourself.
What is decentralization in the web 3.0 context?
Since all web 3.0 are built or planned on blockchain (though in the future new shapes of systems might be born), decentralization is a functional principle built into them. Blockchain is basically, in laymen’s terms, synonymous to decentralization, by virtue of how the connections between users, network nodes and servers are built.
As defined by FreeCodeCamp.org, web3 applications either run on blockchains, decentralized networks of many peer-to-peer nodes (servers), or a combination of the two that forms a crypto-economic protocol. That’s why you will see many web 3.0 applications calling themselves DAPP, or decentralized apps. By the very nature of blockchain and decentralized networks (think of file-sharing sites that run on torrents, it’s the same principle of peer-to-peer connections and exchanges), the metaverse will be decentralized.
But that doesn’t mean the community of users in any metaverse is truly decentralized in a way that matters, qualifying as a Decentralized Autonomous Community (DAO). Here’s what we mean.
What is a Decentralized Autonomous Community (DAO)?
You can think of a Decentralized Autonomous Community as a democracy of digital users. Basically, the community of users that are present in the same space (like a platform they use) also rules it. There are no imposed ways in which the platform functions, if the majority of users disagrees with them.
Every active rule, or new feature to be implemented and so on — all of these are up to the users to vote on and decide. You can still have forbidden actions or moderators or banned users, but it’s not the platform or its CEO who call the shots, it’s the community itself. That’s why they call this type of community decentralized and autonomous, because it depends on no one else to legitimize or approve its ideas and initiatives.
Aren’t all metaverses decentralized by the very nature of blockchain itself?
Yes and no. To put it bluntly, it depends on who is doing or undoing the decentralization.
As explained above, the nature of blockchain indeed lies in decentralized systems, from an Information Technology point of view. But while all metaverses will probably be based on blockchain, some may limit the effects of decentralization in ways that will impact the UX. Those metaverses will not, therefore, be decentralized in any way that matters.
For example, Facebook is working on its Horizon Worlds project. That metaverse will be decentralized as far as backups, feedback loops and connections go, but it will not give users the autonomy to constitute a Decentralized Autonomous Community or DAO. At the end of the day, it will still be Meta in charge of the meaningful decisions.
What are the advantages of a decentralized metaverse?
The pros to a decentralized metaverse, as you may have gleaned already, are almost too numerous to count. We’ll start by highlighting only the most important of them in a straightforward way.
· User and Economic Autonomy: decentralization, as the acronym DAO indicates, will bring tremendous autonomy and independence to users and to economic growth trends;
· Security and Privacy: the nature of blockchain guarantees them and decentralization means that big tech can’t do anything to erode them for its own gain;
· Economic Dynamism: with more power to the users and less regulated (but secure) exchanges of services and goods, wealth can bloom for the many, not just the few;
· User Empowerment: rules of functioning that represent the will of every users;
· Ownership: users retain copyright of everything they create in the metaverse through NFT applications that can’t be alienated;
· Smart Contracts: the same as for the ownership above, smart contracts are embedded in blockchain applications and guarantee less fraud, more freedom and more benefits for everyone;
· Limiting the potential for abuse from Big Tech: Big Tech companies won’t be able to exploit users and take the lion’s share from their work and simple online presence;
· Limiting Big Data and user profiling: the same as the point above — Big Tech will not be able to make a profit selling your data and aggregating it into user profiles, thanks to the embedded privacy of decentralized spaces.
What are the cons to a decentralized metaverse?
Some people still express some reservations towards the ideal of a decentralized metaverse, and their arguments are not without value. Wired journalists, for example, while agreeing that decentralization it itself is a worthy goal, because what they call excessive centralization “can stymie coordination and erode freedom, democracy, and economic dynamism”, raise some valid concerns about the type of decentralization the metaverse will bring.
In their paper, they call for nuance when discussing decentralized metaverses, because they feel that current web 3.0 projects advertise the degree of decentralization rather than the type. Wired argues that the type of decentralization brought on by the metaverse should concern us more than the degree of decentralization, and we couldn’t agree more.
Yes, decentralization can go wrong if the project builders are preoccupied more with the degree: think of the metaverse as a type of human society, because in the end that’s exactly what it will be like. If all that a country can promise is full and complete freedom, without any kind of decentralization and no rules, doesn’t that sound like complete anarchy? It certainly doesn’t sound like a place you’d enjoy living in.
But in a decentralized metaverse that makes user empowerment the cornerstone of its decentralization, things will look good. That decentralization will take the shape of more community empowerment and it will regulate itself to better and better self-governance, even if the community doesn’t get it exactly right from the start.
What is the decentralized metaverse tor content creators going to look like?
The metaverse and its decentralized communities have a huge potential to be useful in various areas of human activity, but never more so than for content creation. All expert reports indicate that content creation will have a golden age with the dawn of the metaverse, some even going as far as saying that being an artist will become a high-earning profession, something which humanity hasn’t really seen from the age of Maecenas!
But that empowerment of users in the content creation sphere won’t come simply with the transition from one web age (web 2.0) to the next (web 3.0). It will come by virtue of DAO mechanisms and it will be guaranteed to stay also through the decentralized way metaverses are built. Otherwise, a fresh start would soon be confiscated again by Big Tech and we’re back to square one (web 1.0 and 2.0).
For our part, we are building Meta Studio, the business metaverse for content creators where they can finally retain their full earnings and have fun while working, connecting, selling their services or buying others. If you’d like to find out more, feel free to visit our straightforward presentations for investors and for content creators. We’re more than happy to welcome you to the decentralized metaverse community that we feel will change the way we work, for the better.
There is still debate around the topic of a decentralized metaverse and it’s wise not to dismiss it, as things are rarely black or white. However, in this case and based on the facts we walked you though above, we dare say that the balance shifts decisively towards labeling decentralized metaverses as positive rather than harmful.
It will all vary from one specific metaverse instance to another, until more unification can take place, but by and large, the idea of a decentralized metaverse is definitely a worthy goal to pursue, one that can do tremendous good for users and communities. Sort of what the internet was meant to be all along — a place where power, opportunity and knowledge are democratized and work for the users, not against them.