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What is the Metaverse and the role of NFTs?

January 2022

The term ‘Metaverse’ is increasingly being used in the vocabulary of the blockchain and cryptocurrency space. Whilst not exactly a new term, it’s one that hasn’t seen a significant amount of use until recently, and as such it makes sense to explore its meaning and context.


Without getting too in depth, the Metaverse can be thought of as the virtual environment where people can interact with both the digital world and each other. A reference often used to explain the Metaverse is ‘Ready Player One’ - the novel by Ernest Cline - which is a great example of an imagining of a Metaverse - a digital environment where people can meet, interact, work, shop, play, build and anything else they might want to do.

Access to the Metaverse can be through various forms of technology such as screens of basic computers, virtual reality devices, software providing augmented reality, or any other methods of accessing online, connected infrastructure. Naturally, the way most of us access the Metaverse currently is via standard PC technology, or video games consoles, but blockchain, IoT, AI and similar technological developments are naturally expanding the Metaverse, providing new ways to access it, new opportunities to interact with it, and measures to make it more secure.

The Metaverse, in a basic form at least, can be considered to have started existing ‘in the real world’ (as oxymoronic as that statement may seem), rather than in Neal Stephenson novel ‘Snow Crash’, around the same time the internet was invented. Online forums might be regarded as an early version or precursor to the Metaverse, but it’s in gaming that we see the first glimpses of the Metaverse’s potential really coming through. Early online gaming (Second Life, World of Warcraft, Roblox etc.) allowed people to create ‘avatars’ to represent themselves, interact with a three dimensional online environment, cooperate on shared goals, compete with each other, develop creative ideas and much more.

The benefits of the the Metaverse are many and varied; creating online worlds and communities encompasses a scope of possibilities that are almost limitless, but examples of potential uses might include:

  • Online, virtual, interactive learning. 
  • Creation, collaboration and displaying of art. 
  • Providing online spaces for shared working environments that anybody (or, conversely, only those permitted) can acces. 
  • Ways to escape and unwind. 
  • Employment and revenue opportunities for digital creators. 
  • Creation or actualisation of new economic models. 
  • New ways for existing businesses and industries to interact with users and each other.

Whilst we’re still in the early days of the Metaverse, we’ve already seen a huge explosion in online gaming communities, people making a living designing and selling virtual goods (and not just with the latest NFT craze in art), virtual concerts, virtual work spaces during the Covid pandemic, and dozens of other small ways in which the Metaverse can improve or enhance the way we live our lives.

In fact, despite the recent NFT usage and media attention in the art world, NFTs have a much wider and more important role to play in the metaverse. Where cryptocurrencies act as fungible tokens and enable payments and the trade of value across blockchains and the metaverse, NFTs enable a variety of essential components of the metaverse to function by providing a means to claim or transfer ownership of discrete items, or even higher concepts such as identity. Thanks to the inherent properties of blockchains, such tokens can’t be stolen or fraudulently copied, acting as a permanent record of who owns what; with these properties, NFTs are essential to creating trusted environments for communities and social interactions.

Whilst people are enjoying the early benefits of virtual spaces and the Metaverse’s promise during the pandemic, or dreaming of a future where we can access our very own personal dream world with everything we could ever want or imagine at our fingertips, there are potential issues that arise when considering the Metaverse’s future. Chief amongst these are concerns around how to ensure identity and safety in a virtual world. Without a trusted and secure method for people to identify themselves, and also to identify both real-world and virtual assets, there is no real way to prevent fraud, protect intellectual property, or interact with the Metaverse in a meaningful way; unless there are safety measures in place, when a person is known only by an avatar there is no guarantee that they are who they say they are - leading to issues such as identity theft, con artists, fraudsters and possibly even worse explotiations of the system such as enabling organised crime or terrorist financing.

This is the aspect of the Metaverse that Blockpass seeks to secure, by providing humans, devices and objects (whether real or digital) a means to prove their identity and protect themselves in the Metaverse. The services Blockpass provides are designed to give people control over their own identities, be interoperable between different platforms and services, and be fast, simple to use and secure. The issue of privacy is one that is a top concern for Blockpass too, and the collaboration we have been undertaking for the past few years with Edinburgh Napier University (in the form of the Blockpass Identity Lab) seeks to provide methods of ensuring identity verification can take place without exposing personal information to other people. A number of companies are already using Blockpass to provide identity services as they seek to expand and develop the Metaverse and Blockpass is proud to be here at such a key space to ensure safety and regulatory compliance for all involved.

The Blockpass platform is fully automated and hosted in the cloud, with no integration or setup fee. Businesses can sign up to the KYC Connect console in a matter of minutes, test out the service, and start conducting identity documents verification, KYC and AML checks. Sign up for FREE at console.blockpass.org.

By Matthew Warner