Neal Stephenson’s Lamina1 Publishes New Metaverse-as-a-Service White Paper — But Do Consumers Really Want Its Alternative to Walled Gardens? CPO Tony Parisi Replies

Here’s an epic new white paper on the Metaverse-as-a-Service platform from Lamina1, co-founded by literal Neal Stephenson (who I interviewed about it here).

The paper itself is co-authored by Lamina1 CPO Tony Parisi, who’s pretty much been striving to build the Metaverse ever since Snow Crash was published in the 90s, starting with the web-based VRML

Sample section on how Lamina1 will offer a blockchain-based payment solution to current metaverse platforms:

Specialized metachains allow for the creation of blockchain-based applications and experiences in ways that overcome the limitations of today’s monolithic chains.

Additionally, they allow for a much wider variety of businesses and use cases than today’s metaverse “walled gardens,” empowering the users and the market –– rather than a centralized, risk-averse entity focused on specific business models –– to decide on the value of things that get made…

All of this could one day lead to a world where metaverse experiences are actually interoperable, are accessible and usable, and are able to persistently scale, adapt, and grow – no matter the size or scale of the endeavor. Which brings us full circle back to the mission of Metaverse-as-a-Service: To provide builders and creators with a usable, flexible, and decentralized framework to create the next generation of online worlds.

I love the idea of empowering users and creators for sure, but whether blockchain and other web3 concepts are the solution there remains very much in doubt — read this incisive guest post on that very topic by virtual world pioneer Richard Bartle.

As for “walled gardens” — i.e. Roblox, Fortnite, Second Life, etc. — this brings up a question on my mind for years: Consumers actually seem to prefer them, especially when it comes to metaverse platforms.

Here’s how I put that point to Tony — and his response:

Why does Lamina1 believe consumers don’t want walled gardens? The very largest virtual worlds in terms of users are walled gardens, while the many attempts to deploy non-walled garden virtual worlds (such as on the web) have failed to gain actual mass market traction.

Tony’s take:

“Consumers want great experiences and convenience. Convenience in particular dominated the era of web2. But consumers are beginning to realize the cost of that convenience in terms of privacy and freedom of choice in the long run.

“Additionally, it’s not all up to the consumer; creators have a say in how their work is distributed and how they get compensated for it. After a period of courting the best creators to help launch their businesses, inevitably web2 era platforms put consumer convenience and their own business models ahead of the needs of their creators and squeezed them on fees.

“A big driver of web3 is to change that dynamic so that creators can dictate the terms of how they are compensated, what tools they use and so on. That will ultimately determine what types of infrastructure ‘win’ in the era of the open metaverse.”

As for why an open standards approach hasn’t succeeded in the past:

“There are many issues there, from business models to support open standards initiatives, to entrenched interests actively fighting those efforts, to a lack of imagination in the game industry to solve what (IMO) aren’t really hard problems if people just put their minds to it. It’s all changing, which is why we now see standardization efforts backed by nearly all big players in the industry, in multiple organizations like Khronos, Metaverse Standards Forum, OMA3, IEEE and W3C.” 

Much of my book is devoted to this challenge, so for now, I’ll briefly just say this: Virtual world communities are what make metaverse platforms thrive, and virtual content/experiences is generally only valuable to them within the context of their shared virtual world. Or if you like, inside their walled garden.

Anyway, read the whole whitepaper here.

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