Facebook announced today that it was officially changing its name to Meta, in a land-grab rebrand that positions Zuckerberg’s little startup as the biggest name in the metaverse ahead of its competition. A little over a week ago, I predicted that the new name would be “Meta, Inc.” because it seemed like exactly the kind of all-encompassing word that Menlo Park would use to signal the breadth of its ambition. For the folks reading this newsletter, the metaverse is not a new concept. Many of us have been experiencing it for years now on a personal and practical level by earning from P2E games, or farming yield in a DeFi pool. How are these different from the more conventional ways to earn money online? If you earn $$$ from Twitch streaming, designing logos on Fiverr, or selling gadgets through Lazada, doesn’t that mean you’re also participating in the metaverse? Not really, because you’re still being paid in conventional currencies.
The easiest way to differentiate whether something is happening “in the Metaverse” is to check whether (a) the thing being paid for is digital and online, and (b) it is being priced and paid for in cryptocurrencies. That might seem like a really simplistic way to think about it, but it’ll work for now because the ultimate vision for the metaverse — being able to live and earn in virtual reality — isn’t really there yet. And it’s often easier to define something new by defining the things that it is not.
So let’s talk through some examples. If you sell NFTart in Opensea for some ETH, that is a transaction that is happening in the Metaverse. If you sell a shirt on Threadless for USD, that’s a transaction in “meatspace,” which is the cyberpunk term for “the real world.” If you sell NFTart in exchange for pesos, you’re crossing between the Metaverse and meatspace. If you play Axie Infinity and earn SLP, you’re earning income in the Metaverse, and you’re crossing into meatspace when you convert that SLP into PHP. If you earn from subscribers on Twitch or on Facebook gaming, that’s meatspace. Even though the content you’re producing is fully online, your earnings are denominated in fiat currencies. These differences are not just semantic! The SLP you earn from Axie Infinity cannot be taken away from you once it’s in your wallet, whereas any centralized wallet system (Paypal, GCash, Paymaya, Unionbank) has the power to freeze your funds if you are not following their rules. The metaverse is a “return” to a world where people have direct control and ownership over the assets they use and the money they earn, a concept that became a lot less common when digitization and regulations became the norm. (The Verge has a nice primer on the vision for the broader metaverse here.)
Speaking of NFTart, Adobe announced earlier this week that it was adding minting functionality directly into Photoshop soon. It’s part of a much older Adobe-led initiative called the Content Authenticity Initiative (founded in 2019) which is attempting to connect the identity of creators with their online work in a standardized way. It’s basically the answer to the question I get asked on every single NFTart livestream: can NFTart stop art piracy? The short answer is that it can’t, because that’s not the problem it was meant to solve. We need a completely separate protocol for that, and I believe this Adobe initiative will be just one of several attempts to crack this problem as more and more organizations pour resources into building out the metaverse.
The metaverse is both a wildly lucrative and wildly dangerous place to be earning your income, as we saw this last week with the $130 million Cream Finance hack. If you’ve never heard of Cream, it’s a lending protocol, similar to Compound, that allows individuals to make their money available for loans in a decentralized way. It was hacked in February for $37.5 million and again in August for $25 million. It’s not clear to me why anyone would want to continue putting money into this platform — I suppose because the yields were just too good — but it’s yet another reminder that a lot of these metaverse platforms are not yet ready for mainstream adoption, and you need to be cautious if you want to start staking serious money.
Over the last week, the Cryptopop Art Guild (CPAG) broadcasted its first series of mentoring sessions, with Caroline Dy doing an awesome lecture and demo on fundamental art construction, and Cody Hernandez doing two sessions on Axie Infinity basics. You can still watch the recordings on our FB page for free if you missed them.
Have a great weekend, everyone! I’ll see you all in the Facebookverse.