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Zuckerberg's metaverse: Lessons from Second Life – BBC News

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By Joe Tidy
Cyber reporter

This week, I travelled back in time to visit the future.
It has been about 10 years since I first entered the virtual world of Second Life, arguably the internet's first attempt at what every tech giant is now racing to build: the so-called metaverse.
The term metaverse was coined in the 1990s in a science-fiction novel, Snow Crash, where it served as a virtual-reality successor to the internet, where people live large portions of their lives in virtual environments.
Second Life peaked in the late 2000s with millions of users and hundreds of excitable headlines about people devoting hours of their daily lives to live digitally.
Since then, I assumed it had died a slow and quiet death. But how wrong I was.
The platform seems to have a small, loyal and potentially growing community of "residents", as they call themselves, logging on to experience what our metaverse future could look like.
So for this week's Tech Tent podcast, I dipped back in.
In terms of visuals, it is far from groundbreaking.
It is more akin to the blocky and pixelated world of Roblox than a blockbuster game built around gorgeous immersive environments.
But the difference here, of course, is that, like Mark Zuckerberg's vision of the metaverse, Second Life is not a game. There are no gaming challenges or quests or storylines. It is just a place to hang out.
One resident I met was Rei.
Our avatars bumped into each other after teleporting to a seaside world modelled on a strange rundown 1960s Scottish fishing village. He told me he had been spending time in Second Life for about four months after "getting curious about all this metaverse stuff".
Rei is not a fan of Zuckerberg's vision of the metaverse.
"They'll want to control everything. But I think the people should be in charge and it should be fully open," he told me.
Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of the newly renamed company Meta, addressed these concerns when he announced his grand plans.
"It's a future that is beyond any one company. That will be made by all of us," he said in his Facebook Connect keynote.
Other large corporations, including Microsoft, Epic Games, Roblox and even Nike have announced plans to enter the metaverse in some form.
Rei's concern about a metaverse monopoly is one shared by many, including Anya Kanevsky, vice-president of product management at Linden Lab – the company running Second Life.
Anya has watched with interest as several tech giants have started to talk about the new idea of a life online. Second Life has been going since 2003.
"I'm a little bit concerned about the dystopian nature that the conversation seems to be taking on right now," she says.
"The entry of a slightly oversized and outsized player into the space seems to signal to people that they are not the owners of it, that someone else is going to be setting the rules and kind of running the show and they will just be the consumers."
Second Life, then, is much like Roblox – a place where users build environments and invite others to play – although it has far fewer participants.
Roblox's record for concurrent players is estimated to be around 5.5m compared with Second Life's 90,000.
Mark Zuckerberg says he, too, wants to put a community of users at the heart of his metaverse but he does not have any residents yet.
Instead, he has pledged to take on 10,000 employees across Europe to build his worlds.
Some argue that it's not even about allowing users more control: a metaverse should be built entirely by communities.
John Carmack, the consulting chief technology officer of Oculus, Meta's virtual-reality headset division, believes that setting out to build a metaverse "is not actually the best way to wind up with the metaverse".
As reported by Ars Technica, he said: "I doubt a single application will get to that level of taking over everything. I just don't believe that one player – one company – winds up making all the right decisions for this."
Second Life's story also has more lessons to teach Mr Zuckerberg and others.
At its peak, the site attracted negative headlines after high-profile virtual riots, Ponzi schemes based on the in-game currency and even issues around child grooming.
Even in my short exploration this week, I caught glimpses of the moderation challenges that Second Life faces. Those would be amplified if a metaverse went mainstream.
Searching for events or places with certain keywords such as "porn" or "drugs" is blocked.
However, searching for "sex" took me to virtual strip clubs where I was offered digital lap dances in exchange for in-world money.
"The approach to governance in a virtual world is complex," says Ms Kanevsky.
"Some of it can be automated away but a lot of it must have the human touch. It's not all just escapist behaviour and pretty dresses and gorgeous avatars."
Back in Second Life, I asked Rei one last question before I logged off: why does he keep coming back?
He answered: "I like to dream with my eyes".
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BlackRock digs further into crypto with metaverse ETF – FinanceFeeds

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Lamina1 Presents Inaugural “Open Metaverse Conference” Connecting the Worlds of Blockchain and the Metaverse for a Next-Gen Internet – Business Wire

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Featuring a keynote from co-founder and futurist Neal Stephenson, the first-of-its-kind event aims to empower creators and coders to build the Open Metaverse together
LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Lamina1, a Layer 1 blockchain optimized for the Open Metaverse, today announced its role as founding sponsor of the Open Metaverse Conference, a first-of-its-kind industry event bringing together the worlds of the Metaverse and Web3 to build a more open and immersive Internet. The two-day conference will take place from February 8-9, 2023 in Los Angeles, California, and will gather experts and builders spanning Metaverse experiences, Web3, and entertainment.

Co-founded by Neal Stephenson, renowned futurist and science fiction author who originally coined the term “Metaverse,” and cryptocurrency pioneer Peter Vessenes, founder of the first VC-backed Bitcoin company, Lamina1 will provide the infrastructure to empower rapid expansion of the Open Metaverse. As the founding sponsor of the Open Metaverse Conference, Lamina1 will provide a forum for critical conversations around identity, privacy and interoperability, while exploring how audience engagement, creative storytelling, and the technicalities of blockchain can work hand-in-hand to make the vision of the Open Metaverse a reality.
The Open Metaverse Conference will feature keynotes from renowned technologists and storytellers who are pioneering visions for the next era of the Internet. Attendees will hear from Lamina1 co-founders Neal Stephenson and Peter Vessenes, as well as Philip Rosedale, founder of virtual world Second Life (Linden Lab) and co-founder of virtual platform High Fidelity, John Gaeta, Oscar-winning VFX pioneer (The Matrix) and CCO of character persona company Inworld AI, Cathy Hackl, Metaverse and Web3 strategist and founder of design consultancy Journey, and other industry crossover leaders to be announced. Keynote sessions will be complemented by diverse speakers and side events spanning games, art, entertainment, and commerce. To connect these key areas of culture with the technology that enables them, the Open Metaverse Conference will also facilitate technological deep dives for attendees from leaders in Web3, immersive computing, and technology standards groups. Presenting partners include the Metaverse Standards Forum, the Open Metaverse Interoperability Group, and the Open Metaverse Alliance for Web3 (OMA3), all organizations fostering interoperability.
“We are at a moment in time when developers, creatives, and producers can finally design the seamless and persistent experiences we’ve dreamed about,” said Jamil Moledina, Vice President of Games Partnerships and Media at Lamina1. “The Open Metaverse Conference will serve as the big tent for everyone who’s thinking about creating never-before-possible experiences that allow creators and consumers to enter unique virtual worlds on a level playing field.”
“OMA3 is pleased to collaborate with Lamina1 and the Open Metaverse Conference in promoting interoperability,” said Robby Yung, CEO of Animoca Brands. “OMA3 looks forward to developing talk tracks to encourage the creation of a more open and immersive internet.”
The conference will encourage interdisciplinary dialogue through debates, pitch sessions, roundtable discussions, and networking opportunities to help drive new ideas and connections.
“We felt a real sense of urgency to facilitate discussion with our colleagues and creators across the spectrum,” said Rebecca Barkin, President of Lamina1. “We know that the Open Metaverse will be built collaboratively and with a set of shared values, and we’re happy to provide this forum to address the needs of the community and to solve big problems together.”
For more information on the Open Metaverse Conference, visit www.openmetaverseconf.com.
About Open Metaverse Conference 
The Open Metaverse Conference (OMC) is an industry-first event presented by Lamina1 focused on bringing together the Metaverse and blockchain technology. The conference gathers key stakeholders spanning developers, creatives, producers, product owners, and executives to ask and address big questions around the development of a truly Open Metaverse that leverages open-source, collaborative principles and blockchain decentralization.
About Lamina1 
Lamina1 is a Layer1 blockchain optimized for the Open Metaverse. The brainchild of legendary futurist Neal Stephenson (who first conceptualized the term “Metaverse” in his 1992 best-selling novel Snow Crash) and Peter Vessenes, a foundational leader in the crypto space from the early days of Bitcoin – Lamina1 is on a mission to deliver the blockchain technology, interoperating tools, and decentralized services that will establish it as the preferred destination for creators building a more immersive Internet. It is the first provably carbon-negative blockchain in the world.
K.C. Maas
Wachsman
kc.maas@wachsman.com
K.C. Maas
Wachsman
kc.maas@wachsman.com

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