By Gonz Sanchez - email@example.com
To (I expect) no-one's surprise, it appears that I am on a Web3 roll. It's about time, I'd say. Web3, and the concept of a 'Metaverse' more specifically, is the most exciting thing to happen to the internet in quite a while. But here's the thing: it isn't an easy concept (or topic, or 'type of web') to understand or explain, but instead (I realise more and more) a new lens through which to look at the world. Or a new world entirely, if you prefer, with its own rules and component pieces, similar to those of Web2.0, but altogether different at the same time. Or, as VC and Essayist Matthew Ball writes: 'a successor state to the mobile internet.'
So here's what I am attempting to do: instead of tackling the Metaverse, or Web3 as a whole, head on and in a single edition, I am approaching the topic from the sides, looking at different sub-aspects of it, and hoping that in so doing I'll end up explaining it in its entirety. First came NFTs, quite a long time ago. Then there was DeFi and, most recently, DAOs. Now... Let's look at something stranger: Virtual Lands.
There's been virtual lands and worlds since before the Bitcoin whitepaper was even conceptualized. In fact, there's been virtual worlds since before the internet had a visual interface, back when it was all text and you could play text-based adventure games like Zork. The concept of a world separate from ours and inside our computers is as old as computers themselves; it's the beating heart of computer games, whether they mention this explicitly or not.
But let's fast-forward in time to right before the rise of Crypto and the blockchain, and the appearance of (and subsequent success of) games such as Roblox, Fortnite or, before that, Minecraft. These are all games in which players can build their own worlds, tailored to their preferences and, most importantly, with an embedded social element. Looking at Roblox's success might give you an idea of just how impactful this idea of 'building a world for you and your friends' can be: according to the company's earnings report, in the first quarter of 2021 users spent nearly 10 billion hours playing Roblox. More significantly, they spent $652 million on Robux, the games' virtual currency, buying digital assets such as weapons and clothes and hats for their characters. Fortnite has seen a similar level of engagement, cementing itself as one of the world's top games, with 350 million registered players.
These two games (virtual worlds, to be more precise, because that is exactly how they've been marketing themselves) have one thing in common that positions them undoubtedly within Web2.0, no matter how much they try to convince us of the opposite: in both Roblox and Fortnite, players can spend thousands of hours building worlds and thousands of Euros buying skins and weapons and in the snap of a finger it could all disappear; Roblox and Fornite are under centralized authority—they are owned by someone (a company), and can, without notice, simply pull the plug.
Which leads us to their Web3 successors and, by extension, the beginnings of what one day we will call the Metaverse: Decentralized Virtual Lands.