The term 'metaverse' was coined by science fiction writer Neal Stephenson in his 1992 science fiction novel 'Snow Crash', where humans, as avatars, interact with each other and software agents, in a three-dimensional virtual space that uses the metaphor of the real world. Stephenson used the term to describe a virtual reality-based successor to the Internet. Since then, 'metaverses' have become hugely popular, especially in the last few years, and many companies, including giants like Microsoft and Facebook, are developing them.
Metaverses are popular in the blockchain industry as well. Blockchain projects such as Decentraland, Cryptovoxels, Somnium Space, Bit.Country and others attract millions in investments and are deemed to be attractive among a new generation of investors. Crypto exchange KuCoin recently pioneered metaverse token placement in a separate category on its website, along with DeFi and NFT assets. We spoke with Johnny Lyu, CEO of KuCoin, about the future of metaverses and the blockchain technology.
Why did you decide to allocate a separate category to metaverse tokens?
Everything we do at KuCoin is for improving the experience convenience for our users. It's no secret to anyone anymore that metaverses are the future. Investment funds are pouring a lot of money into them, and large corporations are developing such digital environments, so we took on the mantle of providing our users with the ability to quickly and easily navigate the metaverse space.
When you say that metaverses are the future, what exactly do you mean by that?
Just look at the development of the internet and that of social networks since the 1990-s. Today, we all communicate, work, study, shop and get entertainment online, and it all started with the basic chats and message boards of the early web. This is the traction the internet went through from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0.
Metaverses are Web 3.0. That coming generation of the web will differ as much from the internet of today as the websites of the Dot-Com era differed from Facebook. The audiences of the network, the numbers of websites and internet-based companies, as well as the values of their shares in the past and today, are radically different. But that very retrospective helps us understand the scale of the dawning changes. And I'm not just talking about some sort of quantitative changes, I mean a quantum leap in quality that will propel the web to the next level. In fact, the attempts at virtual reality we are seeing today are an imitation of the stuff we saw in the science fiction films of yesteryear.
What role does blockchain play in this?
Blockchain contributes the intrinsic value of NFTs, the DeFi financial system, and smart contracts as building blocks that enable the construction of viable metaverses. Just look at how new applications are being found for blockchain technologies every passing year. And now, blockchain is turning into the infrastructure of the internet of the future.
How soon will we start delving into metaverses?
In my opinion, it will take five to seven years before we see the first operational metaverses, which will surely become as popular as the current generation of social networks. But there is still no clarity regarding the general development vector for the metaverses. As you know, the first version of the internet was deployed for the American DARPA agency, and then the academics stepped in and the space started taking shape as a real-time content-sharing repository. This time, it was the game developers who stepped in as the pioneers of metaverses, but some scholars were also involved in the process.
What do you think will happen to cryptocurrencies over that period?
Blockchain will become commonplace and the number of users will skyrocket by at least twentyfold. That's my forecast. Hard cash is likely to turn into a museum artefact by 2030, since it will likely be replaced by national-level cryptocurrencies. Each internet user will have a private key, and some part of global asset transfer-related information will be stored on the blockchain. Many experts are already talking about this happening sometime soon.
A very important milestone was reached for the metaverse market back in August with the launch of the Metaverse ETF. Does this mean that there is actual recognition of the importance of metaverse project traction taking place at the global level?
Of course, it does, since it's an exchange-traded fund recognized by trading venues like the New York Stock Exchange. The fact that such financial instruments are part of the publicly traded assets category means that they have received the approval of the regulators and the financial authorities. And that, in turn, means that we can already start talking about recognition on the global financial market.
Will this have an impact on the tokens of blockchain-based metaverse and NTF projects?
In spite of the fact that so far this index includes only publicly traded companies like Nvidia, this is still significant for any project working on metaverses. Blockchain projects are no exception either.
Would you recommend anyone to invest in a metaverse ETF?
Whenever something is launched for open trading on global exchanges, the industry of that something gets an instant boost in development and investments. This is important for metaverses, since people - retail investors - will start believing in the projects making this space a reality.
Stocks are the most direct way of getting investors onboard, so this index is likely to be a sort of offramp for the metaverse market.