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Coinbase Plans 'Identity Tools' to Access the Metaverse, Store Your NFTs

Coinbase has big plans for the metaverse, but it may have to be careful that it doesn't come to be seen as a Facebook-like overseer of Web3.

3 min read
Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong at TechCrunch Disrupt 2018. Image: Wikimedia

In brief

  • Coinbase's CEO published a blog post outlining the company's vision for the metaverse.
  • Coinbase wants to help users manage their metaverse identity with avatars and NFTs.

Coinbase is working on tools to let people access the metaverse—a loosely-defined term that describes an emerging digital world where we work, live, play, and shop.

On Thursday, Coinbase's CEO Brian Armstrong and an executive in charge of identity tools, Alex Reeve, published a blog post that set out the company's vision of the metaverse and its plans to operate there.

The most notable part of the blog post comes where they describe plans to provide users with NFT-based identity tools to enter the different realms that will make up the metaverse.

"At Coinbase, we want to help pull all the pieces of identity together—essentially creating an identity on-ramp into the Metaverse," reads the post. "That’s the idea behind our work with ENS, which makes it possible to create a unique username NFT that resolves to a wallet. Eventually, this will allow users to carry a unique ID across different worlds in the Metaverse."

Armstrong and Reeve added: "We’re also working on technology that will allow you to purchase your avatar, define and maintain your public profile, and establish trust. And we’re working on features like Sign in with [ETH/Coinbase], which could allow users to sign into every app in the Metaverse."

Coinbase's mention of "ENS" is a reference to the Ethereum Name Service, a fast-growing service that renders the complicated jumble of characters that make up a wallet address into a plain English term like "GeorgeWashington.eth" (or whatever name you want to register).

Coinbase has been heavily involved in a DAO (a community-run organization) associated with the ENS project, which is regarded as a key step to making the metaverse more accessible and user friendly.

If Coinbase does become a popular option for people to access the metaverse and manage their identity, it could come to occupy a similar role as Facebook did for an earlier era, where people used their Facebook account as a key to accessing a wide variety of other websites. This has given Facebook an enormous amount of power over the internet, and numerous controversies over privacy and censorship.

For Coinbase, the situation is different, of course, because the metaverse is being built as a decentralized platform over which no single company or authority has control. Meanwhile, its CEO Armstrong has long been a proponent of decentralization as a way to give people more freedom over their lives.

Nonetheless, if Coinbase does emerge as the go-to service by which many people access the metaverse and store their identities, his company may have to be especially careful to ensure it doesn't exert power over those who inhabit the metaverseor else risk bringing Web2-style gatekeeping to Web3.

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