1.4. Blockchain, the "Trustless" Layer
Although the idea of “metaverse” goes all the way back to 1992, and virtual worlds like Second Life or Roblox have existed since the beginning of the 2000s, there is a reason why the Metaverse movement has gained traction only recently: maturation of blockchain technologies.
The blockchain is a shared public ledger collectively maintained across computers, governed by consensus rules enshrined in code and enforced through crypto-economic incentives.
In the context of virtual items interoperability, before the advent of the blockchain, there is no alternative other than to trust a party (or a group of parties) to maintain the virtual item “instances” [6] in a database. With the blockchain, besides the ability to have “trustless” [7] digital currencies, its “trustless” property will also extend to anything that is maintained in its shared public ledger.
For the first time ever, instead of virtual worlds needing to trust a central database as the source of truth for the data integrity of their “instances”, the blockchain enables them to ‘trustless-ly’ put their “instances” on its public ledger, certain of the fact that no one can ever tamper with its resources and permissions without their explicit consent, as well as being rest assured that ownership of each “instance” can be transparently verified by anyone.
In its early days, high transaction fees and nascent smart contract development scene means that blockchain technology is not yet viable to support any prominent use case other than simple transfers of high-sum values. Within a few years, the industry has managed to significantly lower transaction fees down to cents and pennies, while at the same time experienced a major influx of talent from outside the space. As a result, blockchain technology has matured to a point where the Metaverse as a concept is now a viable opportunity to pursue.
Just like how the Internet relies on a common standard (now known as the “Internet protocol suite”, or TCP/IP) to communicate across networks and devices, the Metaverse will need to rely open protocols and standards built on top of the blockchain to enable open trade and interoperability of virtual items across virtual worlds.
With NFTs to represent “instances” and cryptocurrencies as the “trustless” digital money, the blockchain opens the door for the proliferation of sovereign virtual worlds, imbuing these worlds with the power to decide their own fate without needing to put trust on any central intermediary — allowing players to trade their virtual assets in a completely peer-to-peer manner and experience creators to experiment with novel cross-world mechanics and collaborative monetization models through interoperable virtual items.
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