The metaverse has emerged as a new application that has captured the world’s attention in recent years. This virtual world that is completely constructed on computers is expected to change the way humans live.
Technological development does not happen overnight; rather, it is a gradual incremental process. Take semiconductors for example, the advancement in scale from microns to nanometers and soon to sub-nanometers has been a journey of more than half a century. Home broadband has evolved from bandwidths of 14.4Kbps to Giga bps in the two decades it took to progress from cable to wireless 5G broadband. New online use cases have emerged on high-speed broadband, which when coupled with innovative technologies such as big data, semiconductors, high speed computing and artificial intelligence, have brought the Internet to the dawn of its next generation, the metaverse.
The original idea behind AI emerged in the 1960s. After half a century of development, AI use cases are now emerging and thriving across industries and in every part of life. The metaverse is also gradually entering our life as if from the plot of a sci-fi movie. The economic ecosystem of the metaverse can be analyzed from four aspects:
1. Metaverse pioneers
As in the real-world economy with its providers of all kinds of products and services, the metaverse is the virtual universe for pioneers who operate in different fields and domains. B2B (business to business) and B2C (business to consumer) business models as seen in the real world are also present in the metaverse. Leading social media (e.g., Facebook) and large ecommerce companies (such as Amazon and Alibaba) have all begun to plan their own metaverse presence. Perhaps government agencies will soon jump on the bandwagon.
Currently, there are some creators selling physical or digital artworks in conjunction with NFTs (non-fungible tokens) in the metaverse. Some companies provide digital real estate in the metaverse, and some property investors are establishing a footprint here. It is expected that in the future, suppliers in the metaverse will continue to come from the real-world economy or be native to the metaverse. Individuals and businesses looking for business opportunities will also continue to seek to expand into the metaverse.
2. Metaverse residents
The initial activities in the metaverse came from game players such as online gamers of Roblox and Second Life, digital content creators (e.g., YouTubers) and digital currency owners. These early settlers of the metaverse are adept in the control and manipulation of the ecosystem of virtual worlds. That said, the biggest difference between the metaverse of tomorrow and the Internet today may lie in the loss of anonymity. The metaverse is an environment that integrates real and virtual, by bringing individuals and real identities to the metaverse. Hence, identity authentication will be required for activities in the metaverse in the future.
However, it is also possible for everyone to have multiple digital avatars in different domains. Only the main avatar could be an active participant, i.e., able to interact in real time. Other digital avatars would simply serve as information gatherers. In other words, the volume of information in the metaverse of the future leaves plenty of room for imagination. Metaverse residents will also become the creators and pioneers of the metaverse. Just imagine a wilderness at the outset of development. The first settlers initially plan and build the infrastructure. Then, once business activities start to take shape, merchants will come and stay. And with the emergence of business opportunities, come the consumers.
3. Metaverse currencies
Money is a key resource for economic activity. Cryptocurrencies play a pivotal role in the creation of the metaverse. Cryptos have been in circulation on the Internet for more than ten years in a decentralized manner using the encryption technology of blockchain.
Due to the decentralized mechanism supporting the circulation of cryptos, there are currently no regulators, but there are plenty of trading platforms. The issuing of cryptos via digital encryption is handled by a large global population of miners. As anyone or any organization can issue cryptocurrencies, it is difficult to determine the value of cryptos. More well-known cryptos may have corresponding prices in fiat money. Bitcoin and Ethereum are the top two cryptocurrencies measured by global market capitalization. The circulation of digital currencies is what keeps the economic system of the metaverse in motion.
4. Metaverse domains
Currently, the most of websites are operating as one-to-many connections. Each website attracts numerous users who interact with each website independently. However, the metaverse can be seen as a digital kingdom, a region of cyberspace not controlled by any individual or company. Each domain has its own language, currency, legal and political system, economic activities (from agriculture, fishery, industry and commerce), education and culture, medicare, leisure and entertainment and transportation. A domain is created collectively by the metaverse pioneers and the residents. Once the metaverse currency takes shape, residents will have the identity authentication mechanism. Each domain will have its own governance mechanism, and different domains will have an exchange mechanism. It is imagined that in the future, there will be various domains existing as individual utopias in the metaverse.
Looking forward, the metaverse will surely develop into a virtual kingdom. Under the continuous development by the metaverse pioneers and residents, many technologies, business opportunities and domain governance mechanisms will be gradually developed. However, as in the real world and on the Internet, security will pose a challenge in the development process of the metaverse. This goes beyond the information security risks we know today. It is not just limited to concern about cyberattacks and computer viruses, and in fact, it even goes beyond the technological issues. During the development of the metaverse, creators and settlers must consider the security issues they face and the potential responses. This in itself will also be a business opportunity.