Something interesting is happening which I think is going to be a very hot topic for Web3 and the metaverse in years to come — digital preservation and persistency.
Right now, Google and Apple are cutting outdated apps across their app stores; estimates have Google Play cutting 869,000 apps and Apple removing 650,000. Google is already looking at hiding apps that haven’t been updated in 2 years from November this year.
With physical media being pushed aside in favour of digital ownership this poses a massive problem for persistency and preservation — because the idea of the metaverse would soon become a cluttered wasteland of digital artefacts that no-one wants or avatars and items that are abandoned in worlds but have to remain for the promise of persistency.
And data storage doesn’t come for free.
This means archiving procedures are going to have to become a process that is considered far more in advance than some decentralised world builders are willing to admit due to the data storage requirements — and that means turning to centralised services in order to achieve it.
Not only that but outdated virtual goods and services become more attractive to malware and attack because of their older code or the software used to create and maintain them.
We’re already witnessing older movies disappearing from the public catalogue because they’re not being made available in digital format — so what does this mean for the history of the metaverse and web3 if we are such a throwaway society?
Are we expecting creators to continually update their virtual world goods and services every time there’s a major platform update? We talk a lot about interoperability but that’s all fine and well today but what does that mean outdated digital items are no longer interoperable and therefore struck from the system?
Will today’s NFTs become completely useless in 5 years' time as the market and technologies shift? Will wallets even support them?
A really interesting solution is something like Arweave — completely decentralised storage, much in the same way that software like [email protected] operated on a peer-to-peer network utilising space compute capacity, Arweave uses decentralised space storage capacity.
Arweave is a network that connects those with disk space to spare with those who need permanent data storage. This system offers unparalleled levels of data replication and security for users, as well as financial incentives for those storing data, without a middleman.
Rather than operating as a traditional company or foundation, the Arweave network is fully decentralised, meaning that anyone can store data in the network or offer storage space, without there being a leader or centralised point of failure.
Through decentralization, Arweave offers a new standard of data archiving and storage: one in which information is globally replicated on hundreds of machines, impervious to fire, flood, or intentional damage.
When you think about the amount of data likely to be generated across metaverse platforms, not just real-time streaming information on user activity but the object and file data for all the digital assets supposedly we’re allowed to envision under the ‘creator economy’ then storage becomes a massive issue. File sizes for popular formats like .gltf can range from a couple of megabytes to 70MB for a bin file and upwards.
And with it comes the problem of digital preservation and persistency, especially where continual existence for every single bit and byte is a core tenet with pundits like Matthew Ball who defines the metaverse as a persistent and interconnected network of 3D virtual worlds…
Take Star Citizen as an example - an MMO that is a constantly evolving virtual online world where players interact and affect the environment around them, and those effects stay forever.
Adding persistence is a huge milestone and a crucial addition to the game that will affect nearly every aspect of Star Citizen. The backend functionality has been completed that will allow for things like purchased items, Alpha UEC balance, hostility level, and more to persist between play sessions. This means when you log out and return later, what you did in previous days will still be there!
This is no mean feat even for one single game to achieve, but to try this across tens if not hundreds of virtual worlds all interconnected and able to affect one another is asking the impossible from today’s client-server-based tech.
Arweave’s solution is a start but it needs to scale. 3bn people play video games globally and it’s accepted that games come and go, online game servers eventually shut down and all those assets disappear. With web3 we’re being promised perpetual ownership of those assets somehow, where is that all going to live?
It’s funny watching what’s happening across today’s largest platforms being completely ignored because these problems will persist and manifest on tomorrow’s platforms soon enough.
Blockchain doesn’t solve this. Crypto doesn’t solve this. But we’re going to have to think about this right now and I really hope the
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