Science-fiction author Neal Stephenson predicted cryptocurrencies and virtual worlds – even coining the term metaverse – in his 1992 novel Snow Crash. Now, 30 years later, he is combining the two ideas by launching a blockchain-powered open metaverse. It is a move that sets him against big tech firms with their own metaverse plans, so why is he doing it and what even is an open metaverse?
Developers have pushed various versions of the metaverse for decades, but nothing has stuck. Its time may have come, though: last year Facebook rebranded as Meta with founder Mark Zuckerberg promising to spend billions of dollars to create a new virtual world in which everyone can interact, while Microsoft is also investing billions in its own version of the idea.
Stephenson, however, is proposing to build a metaverse linked to a blockchain – the technology behind cryptocurrencies like bitcoin – so that it is entirely decentralised rather than being owned by someone. He has launched a company and blockchain called Lamina1 with the purpose of acting as a core for the open metaverse. It would handle interoperability between worlds, verify the identity of users and handle financial transactions.