Metaverse

When you woke up in the morning on 29th Oct 2021, you must be surprised to notice that Facebook has changed its logo into an infinite loop ∞, and its name to meta, thus announcing its official entry into the Metaverse. Instantly the stock markets reacted with a bang as metaverse related stocks Roblox, Nvidia and Unity spiked significantly. Compared to the stock market, the crypto market reacted even more dramatically. The blockchain metaverse pioneer Decentraland governance coin MANA rose from $1 to about $4, i.e., 400% gain within four days. Another metaverse coin SAND (The governance coin of the SandBox) from $0.9 to 2.6, about 290% gain in the same period. In addition, GALA and MBOX also spiked significantly.

In recent months, the term metaverse has sort of become the newest buzzword in the crypto and gaming space, and startups venturing into Metaverse are mushrooming around the Globe. These startups were able to attract investments from angel investors and VCs. The biggest news this year was the direct listing of Roblox on the New York Stock Exchange which the company’s stock closed at $69.50 per share, giving the company a market cap of $38.26 billion. Another sensational story was Epic Games, the company that built Unreal Engine and the popular metaverse game Fortnite has just completed a 1 billion round of funding to support the long-term vision for the metaverse. 

However, the most mind blogging news was the announcement by Mark Zuckerber that he wants to transform Facebook into a metaverse social media platform , even changing its name. In fact, when you woke up on 29th Oct 2021 , you will notice that Facebook has changed its logo into an infinite loop, signaling its entry into the Metavese. With Facebook going insanely big on Metaverse, and everyone so closely tied to Facebook, what will be the impacts on our personal life socially , economically and perhaps psychologically? We will no longer interacting in a 2D world but a VR, AR and XR mixed reality parallel world where you can meet your friends face to face, representing by your Avatars. However, things can turn ugly if you are not careful, friends you hate may suddenly appear and say hello to you, and he may just stab you from the back, though only your Avatar…

Metaverse is a term that first appeared in science fiction. The prefix “meta” means beyond, and “verse” means universe. The term was coined in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash, where humans, as avatars, interact with each other and software agents, in a 3D virtual space that uses the metaphor of the real world(Wikipedia). Fast forward to 2011, Novelist Ernest Cline authored a famous science fiction, Ready Player One, which hits theaters in March courtesy of Steven Spielberg. While the story is set in the strife-torn meatspace of 2045, most of its action unfolds in a vast network of artificial worlds called the OASIS, an earlier version of metaverse.

The recent popular Netflix short series “The Billion Dollar Code” that was based on the true story also tell us that the early concept of Metaverse has indeed started to materialized in the 1990’s. Although the Virtual Reality technology was called Terravision invented by a group of artists and computer nerds in Germany, it is indeed the 3D virtual map that allows you fly and zoom in to any part of the world in real time. It was alleged that Google stole the technology to create Google Earth though the case Art+Com vs Google of patent infringement was rejected by a US court.

Metaverse would not have been possible without the invention of the Internet, in particular the World Wide Web that allows global citizens to access and share multimedia contents around the globe. On the 6th of August 1991, Tim Berners-Lee posted the very first public invitation for collaboration on the World Wide Web, the beginning of the connected world where people are connected and access information and enjoy multimedia entertainment, even monetize from it. It was also the era of the browser war involving Netscape, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Safari and more. Without a browser you could not access the web. Eventually IE won the war but lost to Chrome in the 21st century.

The early world wide web was just providing multimedia content, non-interactive and did not allow any tom dick and harry to create a website, you must be a little bit tech savvy to use the HTML code to create a webpage. This era is generally known as Web 1.0. Besides, the computer processors were much less powerful than even today’s mobile phone , coupled with slow Internet speed using the dial-up modem, accessing the web was a painful experience. It is no wonder Terravision encountered a lot of issues due to the limitation of the hardware and Internet bandwidth. Despite the limitations, many dotcom companies were formed trying to monetize from the web, even some early online business platforms were developed to facilitate online commerce, which later known as e-commerce. Some famous examples were eBay and Amazon.com. Internet Giants Google , Facebook and Alibaba were not even born yet.

Entered the 21st century, many dotcom companies and startups went bust as a result of the dotcom bubble happened at the end of the 20th century, leaving a few giants like Amazon.com and the struggling Yahoo! to carry the torch. However, the Internet infrastructure has become more robust with the invention of faster modem, router and other hardware and much more powerful computers and laptops. In addition, connecting to the Internet has become seamless as WiFi replaced the old dial up modem. Besides that, touch screen mobile phones were becoming ubiquitous , making mobile web possible. Now people can stay online 24/7. It is also the emergence of search engine giant Google followed by the social media giant Facebook. Users are not only able to access the information, they can create and publish contents easily via social media and interact with other users. The interactive web is hence known as web 2.0.

Early 21st century also saw the emergence of  massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) . It is a video game that combines aspects of a role-playing video game and a massively multiplayer online game. This type of game allows players to immerse themselves in a virtual world so it can be considered a precursor of Metaverse game. MMORPGs are stark different from single-player or small multi-player online RPGs by the number of players able to interact together, and by the game’s persistent virtual world which continues to exist and evolve even while the player is offline and exit the game.

Since many massively multiplayer online games share features with the Metaverse but provide access only to non-persistent instances that are shared by up to several dozen players, the concept of multiverse virtual games has been used to distinguish them from the Metaverse.

In the NFT space, it refers to shared virtual worlds where land, buildings, avatars and even names can be bought and sold using cryptocurrency. In these environments, people can wander around, play games, visit buildings, buy goods and services, and attend events, exactly like the real world. Let us examine some popular Metaverse NFT platforms. Metaverse has gained increasing popularity due to combination of NFT, DeFi and GameFi that form the in backbone of the Metaverse ecosystem.

To learn more about metaverse, please come back in my blog to check on updates on my current book publication date, the title is “Metaverse Made Easy: A Beginner’s Guide to the Metaverse: Everything you need to know about Metaverse, NFT and GameFi 

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What is NFT?

If you have been following the crypto trends in the past one or two years, you will know that Decentralized Finance has grown exponentially in 2020 where many DeFi platforms were deployed. However, enter the year 2021, the DeFi growth has somehow slowed and seems to have been overtaken by another emerging trend, the NFT industry.

The NFT craze started when Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s founder, and CEO, auctioned his first-ever tweet(on March 21, 2006) as a nonfungible token (NFT) and was bought using ETH for $2.9 million. Since then many NFTs were successfully sold for astronomical dollar values, like the artwork named “Everydays: the First 5000 Days.” by the artist Beeper which was sold for $69 million!

So why do people are crazy about NFTs and willing to spend so much money on them? What is NFT after all? According to Wikipedia, a  non-fungible token (NFT) is a unit of data stored on a distributed digital ledger, aka blockchain, that certifies a digital asset to be unique and therefore not interchangeable. In contrast, a fungible token is a kind of digital asset that is not unique and therefore interchangeable. An NFT represents real-world objects like art, music, in-game items, videos, real estate, and more. They are bought and sold online, frequently with cryptocurrency, and they are usually encoded with blockchain technology.

The following table illustrates the differences between NFT and fungible tokens.

Fungible TokensNon-fungible Tokens
Interchangeable
A fungible token can be exchanged with any other fungible token of the same type. It is like exchanging a dollar bill with another dollar bill and the value is still the same.
Non-Interchangeable
A non-fungible token cannot be exchanged with another non-fungible token of the same type. It is like your passport or ID, they cannot be exchanged.
Uniform
Each fungible token is identical to all other fungible tokens of the same type. For example, your one-dollar bill is the same as John’s one dollar bill.
Unique
Each token is unique and different from all other tokens of the same type. For example, your bank account is not the same as John’s bank account
Divisible
A fungible token can be divided into smaller units and the total value is still the same. For example, you can divide a dollar bill into two 50 cents or five 20 cents and the total value is still the same.
Non-divisible
The non-fungible token cannot be divided into smaller units. The basic unit is one token and one token only. For example, your driving license.
ERC-20 Standard
The Ethereum Standard is used for issuance tokens to be used as cryptocurrencies.
ERC-721 Standard
The Ethereum Standard is used for the issuance of unique, non-fungible tokens. The most well-known case is CryptoKitties, which is a virtual collectibles marketplace where each kitty is unique.

NFT has several properties that help to improve processes and things. First, it can prove and authenticate the ownership of an asset or information, making it suitable for fraud and counterfeit prevention. Therefore, it can be used in the KYC procedure, issuing academic degrees and other educational certificates. Besides that, it can be used in areas that need authentication and proof of ownership and information, such as art, collectibles, badges, voting & elections, loyalty programs, in-game items, copyright, supply chain tracking, medical data, software licenses, warranties, real assets and more. Next, NFT is easily transferable and tradeable by capitalizing the blockchain network, without the need of intermediaries, all you need is a crypto wallet like MetaMask.

The history of NFTs began with the emergence of colored coins on the Bitcoin network(Opensea, n.d.). Rare Pepes, illustrations of the Pepe the Frog character built on the Bitcoin counterparty system, were among the first NFT projects. Some of them actually sold on eBay, and a set of Rare Pepes later sold in a live auction in New York. However the colored coins NFT projects did not gain traction in the mainstream.

Cryptopunk was the first Ethereum based NFT project which created 10,000 unique collectible punks with proof of ownership stored on the Ethereum blockchain. The is the project inspired that the modern CryptoArt movement. It was an inspiration for the Ethereum ERC-721 standard that powers most digital art and collectibles. No two punks are alike, and each one of them can be officially owned by a single person on the Ethereum blockchain. Originally, they could be claimed for free by anybody with an Ethereum wallet, but all 10,000 were quickly claimed. Now they must be purchased from someone on the Ethereum marketplace contract where you can buy, bid on, and offer punks for sale. To learn more, check out the website: https://www.larvalabs.com/cryptopunks

Though Cryptopunk was the first Ethereum based NFT, the first NFT project that made an inroad into the mainstream was the Ethereum based CryptoKitties. Launched in 2017, CryptoKitties featured a primitive on-chain game that allowed users to breed digital cats together to produce new cats of varying rarity. The first-generation cats were auctioned off and new cats could also be sold on a secondary market. At the height of the craze, sales of CryptoKitties nearly touched 5,000 ETH in volume, with Founder Cat #18 selling for 253 ETH ($110,000 at the time of sale). These high prices drew more users into the NFT gold rush.

Today, a couple of NFT platforms have been developed to help users create and mint NFT digital assets, the biggest one being Opensea. It claimed that it is the world’s first and largest NFT marketplace that lets users discover, collect and sell extraordinary NFTs.

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