The Key to Allowing You to Own Your Identity in the Metaverse

Li Jun, Founder of Ontology, the project bringing trust, privacy and security to Web3

The metaverse has gained considerable traction as it offers a replication of our physical lives in the digital sphere. It is expected that the market will grow to $800 billion in the next four years, on a steady ascent from $478.7 million observed in 2020. The list of multinational companies entering the metaverse is continuously growing with recent additions including Disney, Intel, Gucci and Netflix and more.

The metaverse has achieved this popularity as it offers us the chance to hop through multiple digital experiences, just as we would in our day-to-day lives as we skip between our working, domestic and social lives. We can connect to any corner of the world around us regardless of distance as we immerse ourselves in a world without limitations.

At the foundation of the metaverse, lies the digital individual. The core attraction of the metaverse is the interactions digital individuals experience as they access multiple domains; interactions that one may lack in the real world. That being said, users have the opportunity to harness the metaverse as a means to express their true selves through digital counterparts. Millions of unique personalities now have a new space to interact freely. The rise of the metaverse has also come at a crucial time where we are finally seeing the end of a global pandemic. People can now feel the warmth of the social inclusion they have been deprived of, any time they like. Physical proximity is no longer necessary to meet like-minded people.

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However, the possibility of such expression across multiple metaverse platforms is currently limited. The metaverse lacks interoperability in the sense that we are unable to transfer economies, avatars and systems across different platforms. Currently, digital items are restricted to the metaverse they were created in. This results in users needing several wallets to keep track of their items as they travel across metaverses. Digital identities must be altered as the user has to reinvent their avatars in each world. This issue widens the gap between the real world, where we can move freely between locations with our assets and identity, and the metaverse, where we are restricted.

For the success of the metaverse to continue to grow, there is a fundamental need for decentralized identities (DIDs). The introduction of decentralized identities could see users bring their avatars and assets across different ecosystems, beyond the limitations of a single metaverse. The concept of decentralization enforces a self-owned identity, independent from any authority, just like in real life. Furthermore, digital identities should act as digital ‘passports’ that identify a user as they travel across metaverses. Using social media as an example: instead of using multiple log-ins for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, a unified log-in could be created and used across multiple platforms where the individual’s profile is carried across each. Digital identities would mimic this by allowing people to carry their information across metaverses.

The implementation of digital identity systems does raise concerns surrounding fraudulent activity. Some metaverses allow users to keep their real identities anonymous, as they hide behind avatars. Critics claim users could fabricate the identities of others in the metaverse through false profiles. To combat fraud and malicious activity in the metaverse, there is a  need for a universal identity authentication system.

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A recent report by Galaxy Digital found that many metaverses are not as decentralized as they claim to be. In reality, “decentralization” can only be achieved if action is taken to address digital ownership. A product of decentralization, self-sovereign identities (SSIs) may act as a solution to fraud by cryptographically associating a user with their crypto wallet address. Identity credentials should be stored in one’s wallet which will be recognised each time they enter a different ecosystem. As such, they will serve to increase trust, acting as proof of who each individual is, just like our real-life passports or driving licenses. It’s the key to allowing you, and you only, to own your identity. Not only will this approach ensure true interoperability, it will also instill a sense of security over our private data within these unfamiliar spaces.

The technology that has fuelled the much-hyped metaverse has reached its limitations. It is now time to focus on the implementation of interoperable, decentralized identities for the metaverse to continue to excel.

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