The Text-based Metaverse: Part 1

A New Mental Model for Understanding Farcaster

The concept of the "metaverse" has permeated public consciousness, especially after Mark Zuckerberg rebranded Facebook to Meta in October 2021. In his announcement, Zuckerberg envisioned the metaverse as "an embodied internet" where you’re part of the experience, not just a spectator. This vision typically conjures images of virtual realities, complete with advanced VR headsets, animated avatars, and the latest in spatial computing.

However, as a fervent admirer of these technologies, I believe that defining the metaverse strictly in terms of virtual environments and cutting-edge hardware is too narrow. In my view, the metaverse doesn't need to be virtual. At its core, the term "metaverse" is simply a modern, enticing label for what we already know as the internet.

Consider the virtual nature of our current online interactions. How often do we replace in-person meetings with digital equivalents, like video conferences? Nowadays, interacting with technology doesn’t even require a keyboard or mouse—speak a command, and digital assistants like Siri spring into action.

While spatial computing may represent a natural evolution as our physical and digital worlds increasingly merge, I contend that the metaverse isn’t a future concept—it's our current reality. And we are actively participating in it on platforms like Farcaster.

The Social Internet

The internet is increasingly social. Over half the global population now uses the internet, and among those, more than 90% engage with social media platforms. On average, a third of an internet user's time is spent on social media, a figure that significantly increases when including platforms like YouTube and TikTok.

This trend shows no signs of abating. I anticipate that social media platforms will continue to dominate our collective mindshare as we seek to connect, coordinate, and collaborate globally. Zuckerberg’s vision of the Metaverse aims to facilitate this evolution, pushing us deeper into the future. Yet, this isn't an entirely new phenomenon; we are already connecting and collaborating online. While a virtual metaverse might offer a more immersive experience, enhancing our sense of connection, we don’t need to wait for universal VR headset adoption to achieve this.

Instead, our priority should be to develop the essential building blocks that will enable a smooth transition into virtual environments. At the forefront of these foundational elements is your social identity—your avatar, which extends beyond the simplistic notion of a 3D cartoon figure. Equally crucial is the concept of shared identity spaces, which shape how we present and perceive ourselves across various platforms.

Shared Identity Spaces

Growing up bilingual, I've noticed a peculiar social phenomenon: my personality shifts dramatically depending on whether I'm speaking Spanish or English. This duality might be difficult to grasp for someone who only speaks one language, but it's not unique to bilingual individuals. You might have observed similar changes in the men in your life who act differently when they're "with the boys" compared to their demeanor with family or in more intimate settings. Similarly, encountering a supervisor outside of work and seeing them behave more relaxed and "human" can be surprising, to say the least.

What I've realized is that as humans, we naturally segment ourselves into various "identity bubbles." Each of these spaces has its own set of unwritten rules, contexts, and dynamics that differ from one group to another. This phenomenon isn't limited to physical interactions.

Consider how we behave in digital spaces: the content you post on Facebook is likely quite different from what you share on LinkedIn, even if the same people might see both. Despite having similar connections on both platforms, the context changes, and intuitively, we adhere to the specific social norms of each platform.

Web3 and Identity Dynamics

Let's pivot our discussion to the realm of Web3. Have you noticed how your behavior changes across different Crypto and NFT communities on platforms like Discord or X? Does the way you communicate remain consistent from one community to another, or does it adapt to the specific audience and context? Unsurprisingly, it changes—sometimes, it even varies from one blockchain to another (I'm looking at you Solana bros).

This variability has been particularly evident to me in the channels on Farcaster. On Farcaster, channels act as distinct boundaries that define and separate one shared identity space from another (similar to subreddits on Reddit). Each channel cultivates its own culture, rules, and norms with intentions set from the onset by the channel's Host.

I postulate that the Internet’s capability to recreate these shared identity spaces is foundational for a fully embodied Internet. Your metaverse avatar, in this case, is not merely a cartoonish 3D figure in a digital realm; it represents the identity you adopt as you navigate from one digital space to another across the vast expanse of the World Wide Web.

What Does It All Mean?

I invite you to embrace the idea that we are already living within the metaverse and Farcaster is a text-based metaverse. A metaverse does not require virtual worlds and MMORPGs. Your avatar is the version of you that shows up in each and every one of the internet spaces you interact with.

With this framework in mind, I urge you to ponder the possibilities within this text-based universe. What kinds of innovative apps and experiences could we develop? What new and exciting games could we play? And importantly, what roles do blockchain and cryptocurrencies play in this evolving landscape?

Since the release of Farcastles, I've been deeply involved in exploring these questions and have numerous ideas to share. I'll save these insights for a future post. In the meantime, I'm eager to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment here or on Farcaster, and let’s continue this conversation!

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