• Panelists at Blockworks’ DAS London event discussed the future of the metaverse, and agreed that it is more than profile pics with unsustainable valuations
  • But with Facebook’s push into the Metaverse via its rebranding, panelists wonder if that’s the right direction to build the industry while capturing the ethos of Web3

Digital Asset Summit 2021, London — Don’t think NFTs are just limited to Bored Apes, Chubby Penguins, and CryptoPunks, panelists said during an NFT and Metaverse-themed discussion at Blockworks’ DAS London event. These are merely the first examples of digital ownership.

“It’s not super sustainable to have profile pics traded at hundreds of thousands of dollars or even millions. NFTs are very early on in their journey,” Alex Svanevik, the CEO of crypto analytics firm Nansen said on stage.

“We’ve only scratched the surface of what we can invest in so far.”

Svanevik argued that the uses for NFTs are nearly infinite, and applicable with any circumstance where you need to prove ownership and identity.

Alex Svanevik, Nansen
Alex Svanevik, Nansen; Source: Ian Walton for Blockworks

Matteo Perruccio, Partner at Wave Financial Group gave an example from Korea, where the city of Seoul is building out a virtual replica of itself in the Metaverse. The reason? To reduce burden on the city’s infrastructure by encouraging citizens to do some things virtually and reducing urban congestion. Perruccio gave the example of going to court virtually, and having subpoenas or evidence delivered as an NFT.

“To properly represent these things virtually you would need an NFT as it’s non-fungible and can provide a true record of ownership,” he said. 

Martha Reyes, head of research at Bequant, added that NFTs are the first example of virtual property rights and title — both things that were important to the historical development of the non-virtual economy.

Martha Reyes, Bequant
Martha Reyes, Bequant; Source: Ian Walton for Blockworks

Will Facebook’s meta move help or hinder the industry?

Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to rebrand social networking giant Facebook to Meta in October could be seen as the ultimate vindication of the broader Metaverse thesis. But, at the same time, Meta-Facebook might also hinder its development. 

Min Teo of Ethereal Ventures argued that this presents a “trade-off” that’s worthy of an industry-wide debate. 

“The connecting pipes of Web3 can be quite brittle, but the benefit is you actually own them,” she said.

Min Teo, Ethereal Ventures discussing digital ownership
Min Teo, Ethereal Ventures; Source: Ian Walton for Blockworks

Meta is sure to make this a sleek user experience that could easily scale, but that comes with a cost —  it will be Zuckerberg’s walled garden. 

“Imagine if Zuckerberg owned your house and decided to take it away from you. That’s a pretty horrible experience,” she continued. “What’s the trade-off, is it worth it?”

Perruccio believes that the play by Facebook to rebrand as Meta is a desperate cry for help from the company, which is seeing younger users migrate away from its social apps. 

“It’s counter-intuitive; Web3 was built around decentralization. I don’t see it being adopted by the very audience that’s creating the Metaverse. It’s going to be full of middle-aged people,” he said. 

But Facebook isn’t the last company to announce a Metaverse strategy. Bequant’s Reyes thinks that while it’s a defensive move driven by a need for the company to constantly reinvent itself, she points to the fact that so many other fashion and tech companies are doing just the same.

“Every brand will have a Metaverse strategy,” she said.

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    Sam Reynolds is a Taipei-based reporter, covering digital assets and regulation throughout Asia. Before joining Blockworks he was an editor at Forkast News and an analyst with IDC.