NFT Passports In Virtual Worlds

February 16, 2022

I never understood people who didn’t travel. I’m not talking about the people who can’t afford it. I’m talking about those individuals that can afford to travel or move and simply don’t. You know, those kids who you grew up within your hometown and never leave. Or how we call people that live in New York but never leave the city, forever New Yorkers. Traveling has always been synonymous with adventure for me. Every destination is a new adventure. Even now, I’m writing this post from an Airbnb in Paris. For many of us, web3, crypto and the metaverse, is the latest adventure. Just like traveling in the physical world has its own set of rules and documentation, in the metaverse we will have a similar concept but instead of planes and paper passports, we’ll travel virtual worlds with the help of NFTs.

Interoperability In Virtual Worlds

Don’t worry, this isn’t an explainer on the metaverse. Especially when we’re 10 years+ out from a an actual metaverse. However, when we look at the explosion of NFTs and web3 as a whole, we can see the early rumblings and examples of the metaverse. Virtual worlds and the ability too easily navigate between them is still in the early days, but at some point, there will need to be a way to easily travel between them while maintaining our identity and data. In short once we reach a point of true interoperability, we’ll need a passport to easily verify and help people easily control their identity between worlds.

@dankvr Cross-linking Pt 2 HackMD
@dankvr Cross-linking Pt2 HackMd

Interoperability and the idea of traveling across virtual worlds isn’t new. Also, I am by no means a VR dev and i lack the technical knowledge to get into the nitty gritty of this topic. This me piecing together my experience playing MMOs for 14+ hours, collecting NFTs, and larping in Discord servers to weave together incoherent thoughts I believe will play out true at some point. For the technical rooted and knowledge hungry I highly recommend reading everything @dankvr writes. But in the context of this checkout Cross-linking Virtual Worlds Pt. 2.

The Metaverse wont be one place and won’t be one specific point in time. My bet (similar to Jin/@dankvr) is that it will be a collection of multiple worlds that you will be able to freely move between. I highlight this deeper in Seeds of The Metaverse. When you’re flying through the Metaverse like a Space Cowboy (where are my Cowboy Bebop fans at?), at some point we’re going to need know who you are, where you’re going, and how we can confirm that you’re actually you. The other layer of that is you’re going to want a way to easily manage and control what aspects of your identity and data you share.

Pinpointing Identity In The Metaverse

Hypotehtical stack for the future Metaverse
Hypothetical stack for the future metaverse

At this point it’s hard to count how many companies have announced their intentions to carve their lane in the metaverse. Most are noise but in Coinbase view on the metaverse we get an idea of the hypothetical stack of the metaverse. In the lane we’re discussing NFT passports, we’re really talking about identity. While that early instance of identity seems to be tied to ENS domains, I’m not so sure how that will hold up in the future. ENS domains are great but they live on Ethereum and we know that the future is multi-chain and multiple virtual worlds.

The ability to verify your identity to help you travel virtual worlds isn’t new. of virtual passport, ideally in an NFT form, comes from a 2008 patent submitted by employees at IBM. I won’t go into the gritty details of that patent, but you can checkout this classic essay on traveling between unrelated virtual worlds. On a brief note, that same patent highlights the issues surrounding the Metaverse and risk of it becoming a closed centralized. If brands own the Metaverse, it’s highly likely that interoperability will fall by  the waist side. But thats a conversation for another day.

Virtual World Teleportation
Virtual World Teleportation

Now to get back on topic. In IBMs patent they focus specifically on avatars. Since the patent is a little dated we don’t discuss the concept of land, pods, and a metaverse home. But for the purpose of an NFT passport, the avatar example works perfectly.

Binding Ownership

Every avatar will have a persona profile that contains info such as name, physical characteristics, criminal record, current location, destination, and more. Persona profiles, aka the record we would use to transport an avatar in virtual worlds can be an NFT. The NFT will act as a digital on-chain passport that contains this information. We could take this even further and adopt Vitalik’s concept of soulbound NFTs (your NFT cannot be altered/it’s permeant) and determine if it makes sense to make certain portions of a persons NFT passports/persona profile as soulbound.

Identification points such as a person avatar, verified account name, and other data points, NFTs can be the key or the passport to allow us to easily travel between virtual worlds. Especially worlds that are gated based on other NFTs an individual may own, a set of credentials, or other factors. NFT passports are one part of the equation when we’re discussing traveling between virtual worlds. The first starts with true interoperability. Once the Metaverse is alive and thriving, how do we create spaces that make it easy to travel virtual worlds without losing your identity between those worlds? The short answer are NFT Passports.


Building, creating, contributing or interested in web3? Say, hi @antoniogaryjr 👋

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