Metaverse: I'll Get You Paid on Spot for Flight Seat-Swapping
Crypto Asia 100 Vol.4
In the past two years, Shanghai, which remained mostly silent during the first wave of crypto and blockchain startups, suddenly became active thanks to the likes of Qtum, NEO, and VeChain. They have gained their own share of attention, while a public chain project called "Metaverse" shows an unusual tendency to stay out of the spotlight. We managed to find the founder of Metaverse, Eric Gu, in an attempt to dig out their approach to the industry.
BIANCA: Metaverse is dubbed "China's No.1 public chain." Tell us about it.
ERIC: It's likely because we are the first. We planned everything in the summer of 2016. Back then, no white paper in China had quality on par with the better ones in the world. Then, we went through fundraising, and the main chain was live on February 11th, 2017. Most Chinese projects we see today didn't even have a white paper at that time. We were also the first public chain in China that attracted retail investors. Thanks to them, our token was priced at 40 RMB by May 2017, forty-times that of NEO--they hadn't launched their main chain yet. If people want to think we are No.1, those are probably the reasons.
BIANCA: Competition is fierce among public chains now, but we are yet to see a killer app. What do you think?
ERIC: First we need to understand there are different types of public chains. There is the general public chain. They only care about the underlying technology, not applications. Here is a simple analogy. Turn on the TV; you will see car ads--beautiful women, handsome men, successful business people, driving a car. But you won't see highways advertising themselves, saying "hey we built a highway from here to here. Come try it!" Metaverse is the infrastructure in the same sense of a highway. People say we are low-key. We are not. It's just hard to advertise us. Similarly, NEO, VeChain are the general chains. All we do is building the infrastructure.
There is also the vertical public chain, such as a blockchain for gaming, or one for the supply chain. Personally, I favor the general type over the vertical ones, which is why I steered Metaverse in the first direction. Using the same car-highway example: have you seen a firm that manufactures cars while building highways at the same time? It doesn't make any sense to me. Let's say your specialty is supply chain and you want to create a public blockchain for it. I'd like to know how you are going to allocate your resources. On the supply chain itself? Or on the network security, consensus, the tokenization of digital assets and digital identity, all the blockchain stuff? To me, if you are good at logistics, you should keep focusing on logistics. Leave the blockchain building and all those issues to our professional blockchain team. So I believe the general public chains have an edge here.
BIANCA: What is the difference between Metaverse and other general public chains?
ERIC: We are the first to propose the digital identity in China. We have always felt the killer app of blockchain will not come from payment, gaming, supply chain, or any vertical area for that matter. Those apps are the very top layer. The killer app is the underlying infrastructure. It has to be the application to serve other applications, which I think is the digital identity. Whether gaming or supply chain, they have to rely on the digital identity. Any blockchain application without it seems shaky to me. Our biggest difference from competitors is we make a big deal out of it. You will find me more vocal about it since we launched our digital identity layer, called "Avatar" in June. We are probably the only public chain in the world with both digital assets and digital identity. Now if the two of us want to transfer smart tokens between each other, we no longer have to remember a long digital wallet address. You can simply put in "Eric Gu." That's it, my digital identity. And I will put in "Bianca Chen" when it's the other way round. That's how convenient it is.
BIANCA: We know Metaverse has teamed up with an airline to document travel points with blockchain. Can you tell us about the cooperation? What other possibilities are you exploring besides travel points?
ERIC: Our reasons for such cooperation boil down to digital identity. We plan to develop the world's largest digital identity network. How do we achieve that? The logical answer is to look for partners with a substantial existing customer base. Among them are the Airlines. FAT Taiwan has millions of passengers regularly fly between Taipei and Penghu, Taipei and Kinmen. Their businesses also cover hotels, restaurants, and holiday resorts. They realize all these loyalty points can be integrated through blockchain. And it goes beyond that. I'll give you an exciting example. Suppose we need to book a flight. During the peak season, you might want to book your ticket three months in advance, because the price would be much higher if you buy the ticket three days before travel. So can we make the transaction into a smart contract? Since the actual passenger authentication won't happen until check-in, I can choose to either board the plane or sell my ticket on blockchain through a smart contract when there is a price surge. That's one of the use cases. Additionally, I don't think you should charge 32A the window seat and 34D the aisle seat for the same price. So I end up boarding the plane, and I am sitting in 34D. There comes a guy, and he says, "can we switch? My wife is sitting next to you." I like my seat quite a bit. I might oblige out of courtesy, but deep down I don't feel too happy. But if he proposes to swap seats by paying me ten tokens, it can be a different story. Not just tickets. Why can't we have different prices for hotel Room 513 and 512? It is also solvable with a smart contract.
We can quantify everything--our preferences, even our willingness to change seats or rooms with others, for better customer satisfaction, which is what we are trying to do with FAT Taiwan. In return, Metaverse is one step closer to building our digital identity network.
BIANCA: BaaS (blockchain as a service) has become a buzzword. Part of Metaverse's vision is to make Baas widely available in China. How do you differentiate yourselves from other BaaS projects?
ERIC: I think BaaS is the future. Like I said, if you specialize in the supply chain or gaming, then focus on what you are good at. You may not be knowledgeable enough in network security or consensus mechanism. That was why Beauty Chain [BEC] got suspended due to a series security bug. They didn't know blockchain well enough. We always try to talk project partners out of meddling with the infrastructure. Leave it to us. Let us help you. Microsoft's BaaS is something different. Their so-called BaaS is loaded onto their cloud servers. In the end, it becomes a cloud service. To be honest, I don't think that's a good idea.
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