Lighthouse: The Open Metaverse Navigation Engine
Most people envision the metaverse as an immersive and interconnected network of 3D virtual worlds. While the tech making that a reality is well on its way, today the vast majority of virtual worlds are disconnected from one another. Finding friends, common interests, places to go, and things to see across the growing number of virtual worlds composing the metaverse is a daunting and disjointed experience. Unlike internet search, where everything is accessible from a single entry point, metaverse exploration currently requires users to jump from world to world, hoping to stumble on something interesting.
We believe that if Web3 ecosystems continue on this fragmented path, the metaverse might end up closer to a dystopia operated by a single entity willing to remove all friction points at the cost of our freedom, than to the open canvas it has the potential to become. Through the interoperability that Lighthouse seeks to deliver, we aim to help bring to fruition the vision of an open metaverse — a decentralized, yet united ecosystem built on our shared belief that builders, creators and users should be the ones claiming ownership of the spatial web.
Introducing Lighthouse — Hello, World[s]!
For most users, finding which piece of land to visit, trying to meet their friends, discovering cool events, or simply knowing where to begin can be overwhelming. In a user-generated content universe in constant mutation, it is impossible for users to keep track of the ebb and flow of experiences available.
Lighthouse aims to solve all of this by building the open metaverse navigation engine. The Lighthouse solution, which will launch in Summer 2022, will enable users to search for places, events, creators, experiences, and even friends across and within virtual worlds. Beyond search, Lighthouse will offer a portal where users will see trending activities, build groups of friends to explore the metaverse with, see where their NFTs are usable and follow the work of specific brands and creators.
Indexing the open metaverse
To power its solution, Lighthouse partners directly with the worlds for which it provides search capabilities. While traditional search engines use crawlers to index the ever-growing collection of web pages, these crawlers are primarily designed to retrieve hypertext documents and have no ability to understand the content of interactive media. This makes real-time metaverse indexation undoable at scale without direct data integration.
Standard for navigation
Direct data integration at scale requires data standards. For now, these standards do not exist in the context of navigation across the open metaverse. To address this, Lighthouse came forward with a mapping of the data required to (i) create a rich, social and context-driven navigation experience for users and (ii) reduce to a minimum the integration burden on virtual worlds looking to become searchable. Lighthouse fetches data from two sources: on-chain data, retrieved using The Graph and off-chain data, which worlds can share from APIs or through a push connector. Virtual worlds that don’t currently have a subgraph served by The Graph (or that doesn’t extract the data to match Lighthouse’s data schema) can reach out to us so that we can work together to enable you and your users.
In the future, Lighthouse will release a standard interface guiding emerging worlds on how to map and transform data before sharing it. Until then, our initial ecosystem bootstrapping approach is to take the burden of standardization off of existing Web3 worlds’ shoulders and build this out for them. As Lighthouse approaches its product launch this summer, we will focus on meeting with the virtual worlds we haven’t had the chance to connect with yet. We do not believe in standards developed in echo chambers and are strong believers in the need to proactively build industry alignment to avoid duplicated and incomplete standard development efforts.
Beyond the back-end requirements needed to power navigation, supporting mainstream adoption of the open metaverse involves simplifying the user experience, an area that Web3 famously overlooks.
Below are some of the design choices we made around the Lighthouse Portal:
- Social: being mindful of the experience-centric nature of metaverse search, our flows are built to foster shared discovery and amplify relationships between users and creators.
- Privacy-centric: the metaverse’s nemesis is surveillance capitalism. User agency around data management is at the foundation of the Lighthouse Portal design.
- Partner amplifier: The Lighthouse Portal aims to provide as much value as possible to virtual worlds. Get in touch to learn more about some of the cool features we are building to increase the reach and distribution of the worlds we partner with.
- Dynamic discovery: Just how portals from the early internet (Yahoo!, Prodigy, AOL) introduced users to what was available before search engines really took off, Lighthouse mixes both the notions of proactive content discovery suggestions and intent-driven search.
There are a few reasons why we believe that now is the appropriate time to focus on building this piece of infrastructure we see as a public good for the ecosystem.
- The open metaverse is early in its lifecycle. The longer we wait, the more fragmented the space will become, making it harder to reach consensus on standards. We currently see about 50 Web3 worlds as great potential partners for Lighthouse. We expect that number to grow by at least 10x over the next 24 months.
- Web2 platforms are rapidly capturing mindshare, attracting users and creators in a closed system designed to fail them. We’ve seen the s-curve pattern too often to fall for it once again. Unifying the collective distribution reach of Web3 worlds is the best way to grow the GDP of the open metaverse and ensure that decentralized ecosystems win together.
- Inspiring builders like Sébastien Borget from The Sandbox*, Robby Yung from Animoca Brands* and many other respected voices in the space are actively pushing to support the creation of a sound unifying infrastructure for the open metaverse. We hope that their leadership will inspire others to follow and contribute.
Let’s get in touch
We invite the virtual worlds we haven’t had the chance to connect with yet to reach out and participate in creating this piece of infrastructure we see as beneficial to the entire ecosystem. We believe that the window of opportunity is now, and it is up to us to decide how to best structure our industry for the opportunities and challenges lying ahead. Hopefully, we can unite efforts to drastically bring down navigation friction for users and enable the open metaverse to become the place where our society orients the next phase of its great online migration.
The Lighthouse Team
* Both Sebastien Borget (through Sparkle Ventures) and Animoca Brands are investors in Lighthouse