Extractive Platforms =/=The Metaverse
This week, Byrne Hobart of The Diff had an article about the US highway system aka “The Network Before the Internet” ($ link). The interstate highway system’s magnitude of impact on American society (cars, national chains, suburbs, etc.) has only subsequently been matched by the internet. As Byrne points out, perhaps the most important characteristic of the internet and the highway system is that they don’t have profit-seeking owners.
Platforms owned by a profit-seeking entity and public good ones produce such dramatically different results/incentives that they really should have different nouns–-not just adjectives. I feel the same way about the word metaverse.
The reason is the unresolvable tension between for-profit platform owners and those that “build on” the platform. Any action that generates surplus economic value for the builder/user creates the incentive for the platform owner to absorb the economic surplus, the direct features, or both. The insatiable drive for profits cuts both into the builders’ and the users’ value.
I can’t cite the exact etymology of the word platform as it relates to business models and software, but it seems it’s meant to evoke the idea of a solid foundation on which to build. For-profit platforms are closer to soft ground (with varying sink rates) than bedrock.
Chris Dixon has also written about this in the context of why web3 matters and highlighted the evolution in which platform owners flip to being extractive.
Meta can talk all they want about how their experience with the abusive smartphone platform stores will shape their creator- and user-friendly version of the “metaverse,” but their incentive structure means that story can only be temporarily true (if even that).
The metaverse will be the “The Network After the Internet.” It cannot have for-profit owners–-just like the internet and the interstate highway system couldn’t. The alternate history just doesn’t compute. The flourishing ecosystems built on these platforms wouldn’t evolve the same way with unstable ground.
So if the metaverse is going to be the thing that pervades every corner of our lived experience, whatever it is that Meta and their like are building need to be thought of and called something different. They are not building metaverses.
To be clear, this isn’t a call for abolishing for-profit enterprises in the metaverse, but for a societal acknowledgment of their proper place in the stack. With the right public goods protocol designs, we can promote more opportunity and healthy competition for builders which ultimately leaves users and society better off.
- We’re experimenting with different content pinning strategies on the Cadastre. Our goal is to make it as easy to publish to the Geo Web (on a decentralized content layer) as it is to publish on a hosted Web 2.0 site. This will definitely evolve over time, but for now, we’re going to be using Web3 Storage to offer free IPFS/Filecoin storage (https://github.com/Geo-Web-Project/cadastre/pull/182, https://github.com/Geo-Web-Project/cadastre/pull/183, & https://github.com/Geo-Web-Project/storage-workers/pull/5).
- We added a “copy token address/add to wallet” widget to theWrap ETHx modal on the Cadastre. Simple, but helpful (https://github.com/Geo-Web-Project/cadastre/pull/184).
- We’ve been getting very helpful feedback on our testnet from a couple of community members (shout out Kevvles & nickziats!). Remember if you post your feedback, questions, or anything useful in our Discord server, forum, or as a PR on Github, you’re eligible to receive payment via SourceCred. DM me if you’re interested!
- We’re also looking to expand our user feedback circle beyond “Geo Web fans” to really understand where we have work to do. If you have a friend or family member that’s crypto or metaverse-curious, but hasn’t gone deep, send them our way for a user feedback session. We’ll focus on the Cadastre and partial common ownership. We’ll pay 60 DAI (maybe their first crypto earnings??) for 60 minutes or less of their time.
- Finish the final “transfer” screen for the v2 Cadastre
- Reviewing our SuperFluid architecture
- User interviews and UX “stuff”