A metaverse owned by companies taking a cut will never reach its full potential. Open metaverses built on decentralised blockchains unlock new possibilities for creativity and commerce that would not be realised in a centralised experience. Randy Ginsburg contrasts two organisations building the early stages of that vision.
What the metaverse will become, no one knows. And while many companies have their guesses, one thing is certain: a metaverse owned by a single company is far from favorable.
There is strong demand for an open-source metaverse in which companies and users alike have ownership over the content they create. But how the infrastructure upon which an open-source metaverse would be built remains an open question. Will it thrive on a layer one blockchain like Ethereum? An interconnected network of application-specific chains like Cosmos? A combination of the two?
Companies like Lamina1 and Klaytn anticipate a different future, where blockchains designed specifically for the metaverse dominate sector.
But while Lamina1 and Klaytn are similar in theory and sector, each company is taking a radically different approach to the market. While Klatyn builds for enterprises, those most likely to drive metaverse into the mainstream, Lamina1 puts creators at the forefront of its vision.
In a sense that’s no surprise. A team of experienced builders in web3 augmented reality, and internet of things, Lamina1 is co-founded and chaired by Neal Stephenson, author of the 1992 Snow Crash fantasy novel which defined how many in web3 understand the metaverse today. The author and physicist’s metaverse company was always going to integrate creativity into its core vision, with its multi-pronged approach to a creator-focused metaverse comprising the main blockchain, a metaverse-as-a-service tech stack, and economic incentives for creator and community participation.
In creating its main blockchain, Lamina1 has partnered with the Avalanche blockchain to employ a proof-of-stake chain customised to support content creators.
For the open metaverse to thrive, argues Stephenson's co-founder Peter Vessenes, it must provide high-scale infrastructure and payments support to sustain the creator economy. These tools will allow users to easily distribute rights payments amongst hundreds of thousands of recipients, each contributors to the open metaverse, safely paying them and allowing the metaverse to evolve into a truly community-created experience.
But to fuel this commerce, there must also be communication. Lamina 1 is focused on building an onchain messaging solution to enhance not only the coordination of numerous payments and smart contract interactions, many of which need to register almost instantly to make a game playable, but the sustainability of the entire ecosystem. For the metaverse to truly become a place where people can socialise, shop, learn, and play, latency-free communication isn’t a nice to have, it’s a necessity. Without free-flowing communication, the premise of the open metaverse is defeated entirely.
Beyond its dedicated mainnet, Lamina1 plans to bridge the vast ecosystem of layer one and layer two blockchains with a toolbox of interoperable and decentralised services that enables anyone to create a metaverse experience. The goal? Make the open metaverse as fast, scalable, and accessible as possible. All applications built using Lamina1’s Metaverse-as-a-Service stack will give developers access to a data storage layer, cloud and hybrid rendering, and seamless integration with game engines and web browsers.
To power the expansion of their community ecosystem, Lamina1 is investing heavily in community participation initiatives through funding Lamina creators and original Lamina IP. It is this content and community of makers that Lamina hopes will fuel its growth, driving fans and spending directly to the ecosystem.
Meanwhile, Klaytn sees a different road to the open metaverse: developing the enterprise-layer, onboarding major web2 players, and letting them bring web3 to everyone else.
A subsidiary of leading South Korean internet and messaging corporation Kakao, Klatyn is aiming its own proof-of-stake open metaverse chain at commercial clients. Because of this focus on major enterprises, Klaytn is built to deliver solutions that work as quickly as the web2 incumbents they are competing against, with near-instant finality.
They achieve this through employing a hub-and-spoke scaling model, where enterprises can create their own service chains (also known as sidechains) tailored for their specific application. Each service chain is anchored to Klatyn’s mainnet and can be nested within one another, creating additional hub-and-spoke sets primed for exponential scalability by distributing the load that each chain has to carry.
At the start of 2022, Klatyn became compatible with the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM), allowing protocols from other Ethereum-compatible environments to run seamlessly with virtually no changes in the code, making it easier for developers to build products in the Klaytn ecosystem.
The goal? Make the open metaverse as fast, scalable, and accessible as possible.
But like all things in life, there are tradeoffs. What Klaytn brings in speed, scalability, and compatibility, it lacks in decentralisation. The Klaytn network is largely secured by the Klatyn Governance Council, a group of 19 validators comprising mostly Kakao subsidiaries. Meanwhile, one of the few web3-focused organisations to sit on the governing council was Alameda, until the now-disgraced crypto trading firm declared bankruptcy alongside its sister exchange FTX (Kakao itself was not financially impacted by organisation's collapse).
Acknowledging the benefits of decentralisation and transparency, Klaytn is actively looking to bolster the security and transparency of its chain, aiming to increase the total number of Governance Council members to 50, with 15 of these being DAOs, whilst developing a more transparent onchain governance process.
What Klaytn brings in speed, scalability, and compatibility, it lacks in decentralisation.
Nonetheless, the advantages of pursuing scalability over decentralisation has helped Klaytn build an expansive developer ecosystem and ink partnerships with major web3 players. OpenSea integrated with Klaytn in early 2021, making it the first blockchain beyond Ethereum, where almost all NFT sales occur, to be supported by the world's biggest NFT marketplace, whilst over 50 game developers have committed to launching applications on Klaytn.
Since its inception, Klaytn has remained steadfast in providing developers with wallet products to improve the user experience, block explorers which make public blockchain data truly accessible, APIs to support developers, and bridges to let users move their assets across different chains. With easy access to these resources, alongside other products like oracles to verify offchain data, developers can spend less time building complex infrastructure and more time building quality applications.
As the developer environment continues to grow, the Klaytn Foundation plans to build a more extensive metaverse package for developers, including pre-built smart contract libraries and software development kits to help developers bring their ideas to life.
It’s too early to tell which, if either, blockchain will cement itself as a pioneer of the open metaverse, but Lamina and Klaytn are currently at the forefront of efforts to define what the metaverse looks like in reality. That in itself is a valuable contribution for a sector that has remained little more than a fantasy novel to date.
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