free your darlings

Ebisu Bridge over the Dotonbori canal in Osaka. Image from

Ebisu Bridge over the Dotonbori canal in Osaka. Image from License: CC BY-SA 3.0 I would like the Metaverse to be like this. A place to hang out. Cozy crowded with shops and hangouts everywhere.

Published: 2022-11-07

My thoughts on the Metaverse

Mark Zuckerberg, are you taking notes?

Everyone seems to be talking about the Metaverse without really knowing what it is. Me too. But I know what I want it to be. I want it to be a place to hang out. A constantly evolving place packed with people and details so that I can walk down the same street twice without getting bored. I have a lot of ideas for the Metaverse. Prepare for a long read.

The Egg world

In the early 1990s when I first read about the Internet, it was described to me as a place where you could meet other people, communicate with them and go visit places. I realised that actual people could not meet, so they had to be represented by some symbol or shape. In my head, everyone was represented by an egg. The eggs could roam free in a 3D world. I had seen 3D graphics in music videos, computer games and possibly in some science TV shows. So naturally 3D was how I envisioned the Internet. To get to different places in the Internet world the eggs would travel in egg cartons. The information would be displayed on building-like structures and you would just pull up with your egg carton and read it. My vision was not very precise as there were no pictures from the Internet at the time. Seeing the Internet for the first time did not really live up to the expectations. It's still not. Hearing about the Metaverse makes me think we might finally get there.

The basics

Some say Roblox is a Metaverse. I can understand why but I don’t totally agree. I think of the Metaverse more like one giant world, and more VR (Virtual Reality) oriented. Not just playing games on the iPad. However, the idea that the Metaverse does not require VR goggles, is probably a good start since it can bring more people in from the start. The Metaverse just needs to be prepared for the transition to proper VR later on.

To move about smoothly in the Metaverse, it needs to be able to render avatars and structures quickly. I think it would be a good idea to use some standardized basic building blocks to render distant views. Like Minecraft, but I’m thinking more in terms of rounded shapes. More Nintendo Wii. Textures, details and customized building blocks will be added and re-rendered as one comes closer.

When it comes to avatars, I’m not buying into the whole thing where you should customize an avatar to look like you. Having an avatar is pointless when everyone looks kind of the same. Like everyone would have the little picture on Facebook showing that no profile picture has been selected. I would rather see just a profile picture of the person I meet, and information like username, nationality, gender, favorite bands and other information he/she would like to share. A picture says more than a thousand avatars. Since the Metaverse is in 3D the profile pictures and other information needs to be displayed on a 3D object. We will probably sit down in the real world even if we move around in the Metaverse so maybe we should think of the avatars more like vessels. Vessels showing our profile picture and shared information like bumper stickers and patches. We could even have our webcam live stream projected on our vessel. Vessels could be little astronauts and our faces can be visible in the helmet. In a few years when technology can capture us in 3D, the helmet can come off, and we can look around in the Metaverse. We can start interacting like we do in the real world. Eye contact, looking over the shoulder as the woman in the red dress passes by. Reading people's body language and checking out their style is a big part of being out in the real world. I think that subconscious interaction like that will help make the Metaverse more interesting.

Just like in this video, I want the Metaverse to be full of details, people and sounds. Web radio streams are perfect to turn into background noise but also the people moving around will create noises as they walk or bump into something. And of course everyone's microphone can be piped directly into the Metaverse and enable speaking directly to those around. Every sound in the Metaverse should have a location. Just like the real world. If you are close, sound is louder and if you move away it gets lower. Cruising the streets of the Metaverse is also possible without sound. A headphones icon will be displayed on your avatar. If you want to show others what you are listening to, you can use a sticker widget to display what song you are listening to.

Content and wealth distribution

Many 3D-worlds share the same problem. There is not enough interesting content in there. The underlying problem is that content has to be added by a human being, preferably someone with the right touch, in order to be interesting or meaningful. A computer can easily generate new landscapes and add random objects, but there is still no AI with that magic touch to make it interesting.

Adding stuff from scratch is a lot of work. I suggest we reuse what is already on the Internet to take some of the workload off. Just adapt it to the Metaverse. Let early adopters claim a bit of land in the Metaverse and become mayor of a city to be. Mayors will be the city planners and just like in SimCity they will add buildings and infrastructure. A building tool provided by the Metaverse will suggest and automatically generate areas, buildings and establishments based on Internet content selected by the mayors. A group of YouTube videos will result in a cinema theater, online games becomes an arcade, an image gallery generates a gallery where the pictures are hung on the walls and web shops naturally become shops. The building tool has a large selection of ready-made modules that will use the content from the Internet and build and adapt structures automatically. All structures can be edited in every detail afterwards by the mayor.

The building tool can be used to add feel good details like trees, lamp-posts, fountains, monuments, street signs too. All added structures can of course be edited in a 3D program and re-introduced into the Metaverse. Mayors have a lot to plan for. There needs to be room for visitors and city residents to hang out. Squares, parks, sightseeing boats and cafes. Commercial areas and public spaces. Just like our real world cities. Variation is the key and hopefully a wide spread of mayors result in many interesting cities.

Each mayor can build the city in his or hers own taste by picking Internet content they find interesting. This will give people with similar interests a place to meet and hang out in the Metaverse.

Every resource on the Internet, with some exceptions, can only occur once in the Metaverse. This means that a specific YouTube clip can only be viewed in one place in the Metaverse. A certain shop can only be found in one place. The mayor to first claim a resource gets to decide how it is used in the Metaverse. Should an image be used as a billboard, wallpaper, gallery piece or a graffiti wall backdrop? It is up to the mayor to decide.

In the early days of the Metaverse there will be anarchy. Later on, as real world people and organisations get more involved, they can claim ownership of their content even if it is used to build the Metaverse cities. By uploading a file they can prove ownership and connect their domain to a Metaverse id. That way they can control everything loaded from their domain. With this approach the Metaverse can quickly expand and be populated with interesting content in the beginning and also give something back to content owners when they are ready to join. They already have a Metaverse presence and their content could convert into wealth and power depending on its popularity. Content owners, if they like, will be stakeholders in the Metaverse by default. How big their share in the Metaverse will be depends on how much content they contribute and how popular it is. Once content owners have control over their content they can decide where it can be placed, how it can be used or traded.

Content like newspapers, books and Internet radio is an exception to the rule that content can only be in one place at the time. This type of content is perfect to spread out in many locations. Magazines can be picked up in the street corners, books in libraries and Internet radio can be played in shops or hangouts. Live audio streams can be limited to certain places to create unique concert experiences in the Metaverse.

Creating advertising space will also be important. Allowing external advertisers can bring in real money. Allowing local city advertising will help visitors navigate the streets and it is a good way for content owners, tenants and managers in the city to get noticed. Anyone who controls an area or some space in the city can put up any sign they like within their own space. As you can see in the opening picture there can be tons of advertising space in the Metaverse and the signs can even form an inspiring backdrop.

Keeping a good mix of content, buildings, people and infrastructure will be a continuous task for the mayors and space managers. Large corporations can hire Metaverse managers just as they have Social media managers today. The managers will hang around the area where the company is based and try to engage visitors. Tiny websites can be just as important for the flavor of the city. Then can be turned into “hole in the wall” type shops or hangouts. An automated manager (chat bot) scans the website and can answer simple questions about the place.

Restrictions are vital

In the movie The Matrix, people were said to have a hard time accepting the matrix as the real world when everything was perfect. I think that the same goes for the Metaverse. Imperfections such as restricted access and time-consuming traveling can engage the Metaverse citizens and give them something to fight for. A sense that they can climb in the hierarchy, or get rich and pay for faster transportation better housing etc. An uneven distribution of wealth and power means there is a better Metaverse existence to strive for.

Some geographical, spacial, economical and social restrictions are inevitable, and it is probably a good idea to add even more restrictions. I want teleportation to be limited. If users could just pop up anywhere at any time there will be no exploring or meeting strangers on the train. In my Metaverse the journey is the destination. If you are not there to hang out you can just use FaceTime to contact your friends and use your browser to shop for new shoes. Teleportation stations should be located outside the cities. This will open up visitors eyes to surrounding cities as well. Teleporting to a new destination should be like getting off at Tokyo station having no clue where you are going. Just follow some people that seems to know where they are going or follow signs that sounds promising.

Since the Metaverse is in 3D, locations and transportation can be full. Just like in the real world. This is a great opportunity to try a new place to hang out with your friends. Or you can choose to wait in line, like an online multiplayer game lounge. Maybe you see some familiar faces, or you can meet new people?

The mayor dictates the rules in his/her city. Could be that visitors have to pay taxes, behave well, refrain from street vending or talking about certain topics. The mayors can also assign managers to manage areas within the city. Areas based on Internet content are managed by the content owners or someone appointed by them, and they can set up the rules they like in their area. Some rules can be automated and it is up to visitors to accept or go somewhere. Rules that cannot be automated will have to be enforced by humans. Rules like making sure everyone is wearing a hat for the theme party or having their webcam switched on in the single mingle room. Maybe a Heineken sponsored event requires participants to open a bottle in front of their the webcam. Non-automated rules can actually make the Metaverse a friendlier place. Less automation and more human interaction. A manual control system like this means that sometimes rules can be broken without anyone noticing. Maybe someone wrote graffiti on a wall but did not get caught. Just like in the real world.

In situations of citizen to citizen violations, the victim can file a report, and together with city authorities replay the incident using a combination of data saved locally and in the Metaverse. The mayor or manager can then impose a penalty if deemed necessary.

Having a lot of restrictions and rules means that trust and privileges have to be earned over time. Like unlocking features in a video game. Over time you will have more freedom and can go to more places in the Metaverse. Privileges earned over time in combination with human access control will also make it harder for people to set up fake profiles. But just like the real world, too expensive or too controlled environments will make people go somewhere else. A good mix is key.

Howard Yeung from Hong Kong, Hong Kong,

Howard Yeung from Hong Kong, Hong Kong, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons I would like a view like this from the balcony of my Metaverse home and I would like to live close to the teleportation station.

Your home in the Metaverse

Citizens can have one or more homes in the Metaverse and are free to move anywhere as long as they obey the city rules and can pay for the residence. At home is where citizens start their Metaverse session. The surroundings is what they will see the most and what will become their neighborhood. One can either just hang out around the neighborhood or head for a teleport station and go explore some place new. If you are really lucky, home just where the action is, and you can just sit on the balcony and take it all in.

In your home you decide the rules. You decide who gets in and on what permissions. You can have friends over or run a B&L. (Bed & Location). In your home no sound comes out in the public and if you close the blinds no one can see into your place. On your balcony you can of course interact with the surroundings. You can invite as many people as you like to your place as long as there is room.

When ending your Metaverse session you can hit the autopilot-home-button and your avatar will find its way home. If you choose to just quit and leave your avatar in the middle of the street an automated bot police will show up and escort you to your home. If you don't live in the city you will be escorted to a holding facility just outside the city, and this is where you will start your next session in the Metaverse. You can choose to stay in a hotel or with a friend to avoid the holding facility.

This concept of home is another restriction and it is meant to make the Metaverse more like the real world. It is also important for the economy.


There is no role in the Metaverse that is paid by default, but there are no rules stopping citizens from making money from agreements with others or by monetizing resources at their disposal. The mayor could rent out space in the city, have visitors pay taxes or make other deals. Content contributors on the other hand wants to get paid by the mayor to stay in the city if their brand is more popular that the location. Visitors could get paid to hang out around sponsored billboards and influencers in the streets. I think it is important to let the economy form itself rather than deciding from the start how it should work.

Since you start out from your home each session and transportation could be time-consuming or costly there will be a property market much like in the real world in the Metaverse. Locations close to teleportation stations or popular areas will be more expensive. Larger residences too. The mayor can only sell properties/locations. The new owners on the other hand can rent space out. Once a property has been sold the mayor cannot remove it without the approval of the owner/owners.

Things like area access, locations/property, advertising space, content control, transportation and labor can all be monetized. Sold or rented out using Metaverse currency. A lot of this functionality can be built into the Metaverse core. Transactions between citizens are allowed for any reason as long as it is legal in the real world.

Let’s fill the place with virtual artifacts too. Like in computer games where you can trade cute animals or buy status objects. I don’t get it, but others seem to love it. So bring on the virtual knickknacks. Let’s have shops where you can customize and add bling to your avatar too.

If you are low on Metaverse currency you can always top up your account using real money, but your reputation still has to be earned in the Metaverse. Making sure there is always a good balance between the two will be important for the success of the Metaverse.

Real world connections

I like the idea of reusing Internet content as a way to get the Metaverse started, and I believe that allowing other ways for the real world to blend in is probably a good idea to keep expanding it. Here are some ideas.

Branded clubs and getaways. Real world brands can rent locations in the Metaverse and reserve access for people who are either fans of or have bought their products. Checked either by human bouncers over the webcam or by scripts/bots looking up serial numbers. The products become tickets. Real world concert tickets can be used in the same way. Only those with tickets get in and can see the live feed. Scan a Lipton tea bag in your webcam to get in to the Lipton cafe or hold up a baseball trading card and a beer to get into the sports bar hangout. Maybe your avatar also has to wear a certain team sticker to get in. Promotion opportunities are endless.

If you have bought new sneakers and want to show them off in the Metaverse as well. Use a brand widget to capture the logo and model in the webcam and your avatar will be fitted with the same shoes. The items can be stored in your wardrobe in your home when you don't use them. Not everything can be carried at all times. This is part of the restriction economy in the Metaverse. Like in the real world, you have to choose your appearance for the occasion.

Sometimes your presence is important and having the webcam switched on might be required to access a location. Could be to make sure you are not a bot and/or of a certain age. Or if you are entering a single's party everyone else wants to know the real you.

By allowing real world ads in the Metaverse real money can be made by anyone renting out ad space. Even your avatar could bring in money if it is dressed in paid ads.

Anyone managing an area in the Metaverse gets to name it. For areas based on Internet content it is probably a good idea to use the domain name in one form or another. The building tool will suggest street signs based on the mayor's selections. Some sort of link back to the original source outside the Metaverse should always be available as a service to citizens and content providers.

Legal aspects

This version of the Metaverse is in a way just an advanced browser gathering and displaying resources from the Internet. The intellectual property rights industry will most likely disagree. They will claim all sorts of things and that is why we need some tech giant to back the Metaverse and take the fight.

Mark, did you get all that? Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.


10-15 years ago I was actually thinking of putting together a team and build something like this myself. Looking back I realize that it could have been a bit much for a side project with a few friends.

I also tried to pitch a few of the ideas to Notch, creator of Minecraft. I sent a letter to the Mojang office. I did not know that they were already a billion dollar company by then. I though they were just a few friends developing a really successful game. I never heard back from them :)

Even if this is a long article. The project is one of the simplest. Get someone who is building a Metaverse to consider the ideas in this article. Don't forget that you can really help by sharing this article. Please share it if you like my ideas.

20% Done
  • Present the idea (this article)
  • Share article widely
  • Have a Metaverse producer read the article

Meta seems to be looking into one of the problems with a VR Metaverse. How can others see your face if you are wearing VR goggles? Technology like this would be perfect if we want to feed a 3D-stream of our selves into the Metaverse at the same time as we are in it. Our avatars can take the helmet off, and we can have a look around like we can in the real world.