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What Exactly is the Metaverse?

An article we liked from Thought Leaders Liz Harkavy, Eddy Lazzarin, Arianna Simpson of a16z crypto:

7 Essential Ingredients of a Metaverse

There has been a lot of buzz about “the metaverse” since its coinage in the ‘90s, but especially during the pandemic (given the surge in online activity), and even more so after Facebook changed its name to Meta.  What is Metaverse

Is this just a bit of opaque marketing-speak? What is a metaverse exactly? How does one define the term, and where does one draw a line between a metaverse and, say, just another virtual world? These are common questions that people ask about the metaverse, so we thought we’d outline how we see it and how the metaverse intersects with web3.

In many ways, the metaverse is just another name for evolving the internet: to be more social, immersive, and far more economically sophisticated than what exists today. There are, broadly speaking, two competing visions for how to bring this about: One is decentralized, generous with property rights and new frontiers, interoperable, open, and owned by the communities that build and maintain it. The other vision — too familiar to many people today — is centralized, closed, subject to the whims of corporations; and often extracts painful economic rents from its creators, contributors, and inhabitants.

The key dimension to compare these two visions is open vs closed, and the differences between them can be conceptualized as follows:


An open metaverse is decentralized, allows users to control identity, enforces property rights, aligns incentives, and ensures value accrues to users (not platforms). An open metaverse is also transparent, permissionless, interoperable, and composable (others can freely build within and across metaverses), among other criteria.

Achieving a “true” metaverse — one that’s open versus closed — requires seven essential ingredients intrinsic to this sought-after state. We argue that these are necessary to meet the minimum requirement to be called a metaverse. Our goal is to clear the fog of misinformation about what is and isn’t a true metaverse for builders and would-be participants, and to provide a framework for evaluating early metaverse attempts.

1. Decentralization

Decentralization is the overarching, governing principle of a proper metaverse, and many of the traits that follow depend on or result from this main concept.

By decentralization, we mean not owned or operated by a single entity or at the mercy of a few powerbrokers. Centralized platforms tend to start friendly and cooperative to attract users and developers, but once growth slows they become competitive, extractive, and zero-sum in their relationships. Often these powerful intermediaries engage in user rights abuses and de-platforming, and they host captive economies with aggressive take-rates. Decentralized systems, on the other hand, exhibit more equitable ownership among stakeholders, reduced censorship, and greater diversity.

Decentralization matters. Without it, anyone can get “rugged” at any time — a precarious situation that dissuades people from building on top, hampering innovation. Because centralized platforms cannot make the same kinds of strong commitments — controlled by...

Read the rest of this article at

Thanks for this article excerpt and its graphics to Liz Harkavy, Eddy Lazzarin, Arianna Simpson of a16z crypto.

Photo by Buro Millennial from Pexels

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