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Here’s a hot take: the Metaverse isn’t what Mark Zuckerberg says it is. This is not some place or alternate reality that we will all migrate to. This is not a game. This is not land grabbing (although it does happen). And it’s not just a huge branding opportunity (although there are plenty of opportunities for brands to thrive).
The truth is, the Metaverse is a decentralized system that has a lot in common with peer-to-peer services like Napster, Skype, and BitTorrent. Oh, and Facebook and Meta don’t.
Decentralized peer-to-peer networks are where all technologists come together and create the architecture that fuels innovation. And that’s also true for the metaverse.
I’ll give you two examples that are relevant to understanding the Metaverse (full disclosure, I had the pleasure of working with both companies earlier in my career).
Founded in 2003, Skype was part of a wave of technologies (including BitTorrent, Kazaa and Napster) that connected individual computers in an automated and reliable way. These networks were optimized for bandwidth and reduced bottlenecks to access popular content. Why has Skype been able to stand out from the competition as a key player in the market? Peer-to-peer technology. It created a network of nodes that enabled a hyper-efficient, always-on community and a connected network. This meant that it was not tied to the limits of a telecom operator.
Of course, when Skype moved to the Azure platform, the core technology changed. But when it arrived, Skype was revolutionary and sparked an incredible explosion of innovation that continues to improve our lives today.
Or take Spotify. Like Skype, it used peer-to-peer technology to store and distribute content. Decentralization helped the service acquire millions of users and provide great sound, and the service eventually became ubiquitous. The fingerprints of world-changing peer-to-peer decentralized innovation and disruption are all over the internet.
And that brings us back to the metaverse
The true promise of the metaverse is new, data-rich experiences and services that are faster, better, and cheaper, whether in finance, virtual socializing, business meetings, healthcare, or whatever we can imagine. The metaverse will encompass all of these use cases, and they will all be decentralized. In fact, decentralization isn’t just a feature of an open metaverse, it’s a fundamental principle that will avoid bottlenecks and enable interoperability that cuts across wall gardens.
Over the past 20 years we’ve seen peer-to-peer or decentralized technologies start out as marginalized technology designed for geeks by geeks, whether it’s file sharing, peer-to-peer music or crypto mining. But these technologies should be seen in the context of time and how they have improved the user experience, whether it’s enabling free calls and videos or enabling instant music services like Spotify. .
The next generation of peer-to-peer services will enable even greater participation from users who, in a decentralized metaverse, can work directly with each other and trust the network for things like money transfer and media. rather than relying on a centralized operator or service. We are watching you, Meta and Facebook.
Napster was a decentralized network with a central index. And that’s what Facebook is trying to build. Napster was at the center of the network and it failed. Whereas BitTorrent, a truly decentralized network, is a self-managed, self-sustaining technology that powers a rich ecosystem that has endured.
History shows that open networks win
The architecture of the metaverse will be more like that of BitTorrent – or even better, blockchain. Blockchain is decentralized and truly distributed. We don’t even know who created the registry. There is no central index. And blockchain has already unlocked an explosion of innovation that will only grow in the years to come.
You might be tempted to roll your eyes at blockchain, crypto, or NFTs, but don’t consider them fully formed commodities just yet. These are operating system prototypes for how we’re going to move forward.
And just in case you think the decentralized peer-to-peer connection is still overkill, consider who invested in the original technologies and who is investing in the same space today: Tim Draper. He was a big proponent of peer-to-peer technology at companies like Skype, and he also believes blockchain and bitcoin solutions are better, faster, and cheaper than fiat currencies. Same guy, different year, natural evolution.
We wouldn’t have free video calls if we didn’t have peer-to-peer. We wouldn’t have instant music all over the world without peer-to-peer. And we wouldn’t have cryptocurrencies without peer-to-peer. Even the Internet wouldn’t exist without it! All of these technologies that we now take for granted have their roots in decentralization.
And the metaverse is just the next stop on that journey.
Faisal Galaria is the CEO of blips, a technology company specializing in AR. He is also a former executive at Skype and Spotify.
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