The Metaverse, a virtual world where people can interact, explore, and build, has been a popular concept in science fiction for decades. In Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel Snow Crash, the Metaverse is a decentralized network where individuals can create and control their own virtual spaces like what developers envision with web3. In contrast, the Metaverse in Ernest Cline’s 2011 novel Ready Player One is a centralized virtual world controlled by a single corporation, similar to what Meta is currently aiming for.
In Snow Crash, the Metaverse is built on a decentralized network of computers that allows individuals to create and control their own virtual spaces. These spaces, called “avatar environments,” are connected by a network of highways called the “Metaverse Road and Rail Authority” (MRRA). Users access the Metaverse through “decks,” specialized computers that allow them to enter the virtual world and navigate through it. Technologies like IPFS and blockchains could help with this form of a Metaverse.
In contrast, the Metaverse in Ready Player One is a centralized virtual world owned and operated by a corporation called the OASIS. The OASIS is a massive online multiplayer game that allows users to create avatars and explore virtual worlds, but the company strictly controls the content and policies of the Metaverse. The OASIS is accessed through a special device called a “Virtual Reality Console Level One” (OVR), which allows users to enter the virtual world and interact with other players.
The decentralized nature of the Metaverse in Snow Crash allows for greater freedom and creativity, as users can create their own virtual spaces and interact with others on equal terms. This decentralization also allows for a more dynamic and diverse virtual world, as different users can create different environments and experiences. However, this decentralization also brings potential risks, such as lack of oversight and the potential for illegal or harmful activities to take place.
On the other hand, the centralized nature of the Metaverse in Ready Player One allows for greater control and consistency, as the OASIS corporation can regulate and enforce rules and policies within the virtual world. This also allows for a more stable and secure virtual environment, as the OASIS can monitor and prevent potential risks. However, this centralized control also limits the freedom and creativity of users, as they are subject to the rules and policies of the corporation.
Overall, the Metaverse in Snow Crash and Ready Player One differ in their decentralized versus centralized structures, each offering unique benefits and drawbacks. While the decentralized nature of Snow Crash’s Metaverse allows for greater freedom and creativity, the centralized structure of Ready Player One’s Metaverse offers greater control and security. Ultimately, the choice between decentralized and centralized Metaverses depends on the priorities and needs of individual users and communities. We could very well see a hybrid of a general decentralized network of many private networks (i.e, the “disneyverse”).