According to Dirk Lueth, co-founder of the Upland Metaverse, the colonization of the metaverse by tech giants and the building of so-called “walled garden systems” is not sustainable. Lueth argues that instead of “locking users in,” the metaverse should usher in “a future where they are free to move between platforms and can easily take their assets and identity with them.”
‘Walled Garden Systems’ Not Sustainable
While interest in the metaverse has seemingly dissipated as evidenced by Meta’s decision to focus on artificial intelligence (AI), Dirk Lueth argues that AI tools can still “provide very interesting enhancements for the metaverse in general.” The Upland co-founder also told Bitcoin.com News what he thinks about “infinite land” metaverses and scarcity.
In an interview with Bitcoin.com News, Lueth also shared his thoughts about the multichain metaverse as well as his organization’s plans to create a metaverse super app. Below are the rest of the Upland Metaverse co-founder’s responses.
Bitcoin.com News (BCN): Neal Stephenson, who is said to have coined the term “metaverse” is known to advocate for a free and open metaverse. However, some say that tech giants are also working on their own metaverse projects that could potentially lead to them colonizing the metaverse and building walled gardens similar to the current Web2. Do you think the metaverse will eventually be controlled by a small number of centralized entities?
Dirk Lueth (DL): We don’t have all the details of how the big tech giants will build their metaverse projects and if they will lock their users into walled gardens. I believe that walled garden systems are not sustainable over time and that the power of the people, in combination with property rights, will be much stronger over time. This is also, by the way, why I co-founded, together with other decentralized projects, the open metaverse alliance for web3 (OM3). Instead of locking users in, we want to ensure that there is a future where they are free to move between platforms and can easily take their assets and identity with them.
BCN: The blockchain industry is multichain, and users would expect to have the freedom to move their assets to whatever chain they want. Do you think a multichain metaverse is a real possibility?
DL: Technically multi-chain standards could be possible already today. You can have some assets on one blockchain and other assets on another. What is more important is to have standards which define metadata, the look & feel and other characteristics of an asset. Once we have these standards, it will make it easy for users to move their assets around. And this is what we are working on at Upland and OMA3
BCN: What would you say are the different economic opportunities for entrepreneurs, developers, and the not-so-tech-savvy users in an ecosystem like that of Upland?
DL: Entrepreneurs or “Metapreneurs” are Uplanders who operate their own businesses in Upland called “Metaventure.” Here they can resell assets from our partners like FIFA, the NFLPA or other assets from Upland. Soon there will also be shops where they can sell their own creations to other players and make a living in Upland and potentially also in real life.
Developers are individuals or companies who provide their own experiences and apps to other Uplanders. One example is “World of Football” which allows Uplanders to play a Rocket League type of game that is directly connected to Upland. Users enter this app by moving their game piece to a virtual property, i.e. a virtual street address in Upland.
The not-so-tech-savy users onboard to Upland as described above. They can start buying and selling properties to other players with the objective of completing a collection like “king of the street.” Completing a collection means that they can increase the yield they earn for owning the properties. They can use these earnings to travel to another city or buy a race car or outdoor decor item. As you can see, it is easy to get started with very simple game engagement loops and then dive deeper into the many possibilities of Upland.
BCN: After having invested billions of dollars, Meta recently laid off over 10,000 people to shift its focus away from the metaverse to AI. In your opinion, why is it seemingly so difficult to build a metaverse that users find interesting, as Meta seems to have found?
DL: I can’t comment on Meta’s strategy and how much they have really shifted away from the metaverse. The truth is that AI tools will provide very interesting enhancements for the metaverse in general. At Upland, we are super focused on creating engagement points and utility of digital goods for our ecosystem of users, developers, designers and brand partners. So far this has proven to be working well for us making Upland one of the leading platforms for the metaverse. Can we get better? Of course, we’re only getting started.
BCN: Your metaverse is said to be mapped to real-world cities. Why did you choose to go this path when others have virtually limitless land assets, and what would be your advice to users buying land and other assets in the “infinite land” metaverses?
DL: Being based on the real world creates a natural scarcity, just like in real life. When something is scarce, market dynamics develop, which is the base of the real economy we’re building in Upland. But there are other advantages, for example, we automatically had reference points, users can look up what a property looks like in real life, and they can buy an address that in real life is maybe close to the ocean or owned by a celebrity. Through this, we empower our users to play with their own imagination.
I try to stay away from giving concrete strategy advice to Upland or other users. All I share with them is trying to understand the economic foundation of the land you’re buying and run scenarios in your head when supply increased indefinitely – which is something we’re avoiding at Upland.
Metaverse Super App
BCN: Let’s talk about the so-called metaverse super app. Sometimes when one thinks of a “super app,” Wechat or Telegram comes to mind. Does Upland envisage becoming the Wechat of the metaverse?
DL: In general, a super app can be characterized as a comprehensive mobile application that integrates fundamental services such as messaging and payments, as well as an array of third-party “mini-apps” spanning various sectors like retail, dining, and government agencies. This is especially true for the world of Web2 mobile apps. An app achieves super-app status when it seamlessly consolidates a critical mass of services, making it very easy for users to switch between them, even if the integrated services may not be as efficient as standalone applications.
As the number of available services grows, the app becomes more engaging and profitable. Typical for super apps is that they start somewhere. Wechat started with Chat, and Indonesia’s Gojek started with ride-hailing. Just like the Web2 predecessors, Upland wants to make it incredibly simple for users to work with a Web3 application. It is achieving that via multiple avenues.
First, Upland was built with mobile users in mind and is available on both the app stores and the web. Second, we’re obfuscating complicated blockchain technology by offering onboarding with email and passwords. And third, because we allow using credit cards, Paypal, (of course, also crypto) and in-app purchases, we make it even more convenient for the majority of players to engage.
In Upland, we offer a broad spectrum of social, commercial and entertainment services to our users. We also empower 3rd party developers to connect to our economy and community by adding their apps and experiences to the metaverse.
When you look at these features and services, you can see that we are indeed aiming to become a metaverse super app. But while Wechat and Web2 applications are driven and influenced by the owners of the platforms, we want to head in the direction of a user-controlled and user-owned metaverse super app – what Web3 is all about.
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