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The metaverse. You’ve heard about it everywhere from The New York Times to your uncle’s posts on Facebook. But what is it exactly and how does it apply to you?
Consider how even the yoga world has become highly digitized. We connect with other practitioners around the world through social media, and take or teach classes through online platforms. We order yoga gear through websites and pay with credit cards without ever physically touching what we are buying. We download meditation apps and practice to yoga sequences on cell phones that have practically become an extension of our hands. We like and share posts to express our emotions and support. Meanwhile, companies collect all our data and make millions advertising more stuff to us.
A new landscape
The metaverse is an evolution of that digital landscape. It represents a new model of interacting with the digital space in which individuals own their content and the services they use. Web3, or the umbrella that encompasses the metaverse, is still in its early days of development. Bitcoin was created in 2009. Ethereum—the blockchain that allowed for dApps, DAOs, and NFTs to be created—was invented in 2015. These technologies around Web3 and the metaverse are still emerging, but they’re coming at a rapid pace. These developments brings lots of promise, but also lots of questions.
What will its environmental impact be? Will the early adopters control the lion’s share of coins and tokens for voting purposes, thus sidestepping the democratic promise of the technology? Do we want to take yoga classes in virtual reality? Can you mint a yoga sequence onto the blockchain as an NFT, granting ownership to a specific series of poses?
There’s a lot to get into around what all of these terms mean and how they apply to you, a yogi. Below is a glossary of terms that you may hear in relation to cryptocurrency, Web3, and blockchains—and how they may affect your practice and your business.
Web3: the new internet
Web3 is an online ecosystem that’s a new version of the web—literally Web 3.0. Much like you use Google Chrome, Firefox, or Opera to access the Internet today, you will access Web3 through blockchains such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Solana.
It’s based on a decentralized model that doesn’t rely on Big Tech. The people who use the W3 “web browsers” and “websites” own and control the blockchains; big companies and conglomerates don’t. Web3 relies on bloggers, TikTokers, YouTubers, and other creators monetizing their skills and artistic ideas to expand the creator economy.
As a real-world example of the creator economy, you may be familiar with the term “demonetization,” an order by YouTube or other streaming platforms that bars your account from being able to receive ad revenue. In the creator economy, you receive compensation directly from the people who interact with your content, so your compensation isn’t in the hands of someone else.
Buzzwords such as the metaverse, cryptocurrency, NFTs, and blockchain technology also fall under the umbrella of Web3. Web3 can be understood as a house, and those keywords are the pillars that live inside of it and keep Web3 standing.
Web 3 gives yoga teachers a new avenue for reaching international audiences. They could mint NFTs that act as entry passes to their classes, and receive payment via cryptocurrency from students all around the world—without any international fees.
Below, BitFury CEO Brian Brooks explains Web3 to Congress.
The metaverse: applied Web3
The metaverse is what individuals experience when they interact with digital worlds. It’s generally accessed through a virtual reality (VR) headset. The digital world is a “website” within Web3. You put a VR headset on and, through it, enter a digital landscape reminiscent of a video game. In time, rather than taking a yoga class by viewing the instructor through Zoom, you’ll find yourself in a virtual yoga studio where you can see the avatars of other people practicing the poses that the instructor is cueing. Already in the metaverse, you can make an avatar of yourself, purchase a yoga mat for your avatar with cryptocurrencies, even dress your avatar with NFTs of the latest yoga gear.
While some of these exact capabilities are still being developed, some VR hardware allows you to see and control your hands and feet from a first-person perspective, just like a video game. Immersive Virtual Reality (IVR) can put you in an entirely different body and location from your own, so you can have the experience of someone else. As a yoga student, you’ll be able to take a class with other students—even if you’re home on your own yoga mat. You actively manipulate your avatar to copy your movements at home. As a teacher, you’ll see a class full of virtual students in poses that mimic the body positions their live people are taking in their homes.
A blockchain is a continuous system of recording data. It stores groups of information, such as how many people registered for a yoga class, onto “blocks,” forming a digital ledger that starts at the moment of creation of the blockchain and continues in perpetuity. Each time information is added, the “chain” continues. Think of blockchains as strings of information.
This system is distributed across a network of computers, meaning that no one person or group controls the blockchain. It functions because of thousands, if not millions, of individuals and their computers running nodes (think of them as small servers) that store, distribute, and safeguard the data found on the blockchain. Blockchains are open-source and can be built upon. This means that anyone can see the information stored in every block, and can create new applications that use the original blockchain as the foundation. But it can’t be tampered with, so it’s super secure.
Let’s go back to the example of how many people registered for a yoga class: Say 10 people each paid 1 token on April 18th to take your Yin Yoga class. The blockchain forms a block that says “On April 18th, 10 addresses sent 1 token to be given entry to the class.” This information is set in stone. To track your growth as a yoga teacher, you can now look back through the blockchain and have solid evidence of how many people took your classes on any given day throughout your history of hosting virtual classes.
dApps: decentralized applications
Decentralized applications, or dApps (pronounced like DAPP) are essentially Web3 websites that are built on blockchains. These dApps serve different purposes. They can be decentralized exchanges where people swap their cryptocurrencies, or entire 3-D virtual worlds where players are able to purchase land and see other people’s avatars roaming around.
dApps are tied to the blockchain that they are founded and built upon. Whereas you can access any website on, say, Google Chrome, a dApp on Ethereum can only be accessed through the Ethereum blockchain. dApps have their own tokens which enable the dApp to function.
Cryptocurrency is a broad definition for any form of digital money. Different blockchains have different currencies. Think of Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Solana’s cryptocurrency as dollars, pesos, or rupees. Bitcoin’s currency is bitcoin or BTC, Ethereum’s currency is Ether or ETH, and Solana’s currency is SOL.
Cryptocurrencies are divided into coins and tokens. Generally, when a cryptocurrency is native to or created within a blockchain, it’s a coin. Therefore, the Bitcoin blockchain uses bitcoin. Tokens are various kinds of digital assets that are built on a blockchain. They may take the form of art that can be bought or sold. You can trade collectible trading card or comic book tokens. You can use tokens to play games or to vote on the governance of a dApp.
Cryptocurrencies can be purchased on exchanges such as Coinbase and Gemini, and transferred to a virtual wallet, just as you can purchase stocks through Charles Schwab for your portfolio. The coins can be used to make purchases just as you’d charge something on your credit card. Breath & Balance Bodyworks in Cedar Park, TX, already accepts Bitcoin and Litecoin as payment for yoga classes and other services.
Wallets and addresses
Wallets are where you store your cryptocurrencies and NFTs. You can have a “hot wallet” that connects to the Internet, or a “cold wallet” that’s more like a portable flash drive.
Every wallet has an address—a long string of letters and numbers that allow people to send cryptocurrency to one another. You transfer the assets themselves through the blockchain from one address to another, and the blockchain verifies that your transaction has occurred. When you send bitcoin, two people have bitcoin addresses and one person sends a set amount of bitcoin through the Bitcoin blockchain to another address. Think of this like sending money through Venmo. If you have $20 in your Venmo account and send $10 through Venmo to a friend for lunch, you now both have $10 in the Venmo app.
What makes this system of payment unique—sending cryptocurrency through the blockchain to a specific address—is that it’s instantaneous and doesn’t come with any fees. A yogi based in Canada could host a virtual class and someone in Ireland could take that class and send an entry payment or tip in bitcoin.
Decentralized autonomous organization (DAO)
DAOs, (pronounced DOW) are companies in Web3. They are decentralized, which means there is no single CEO or president. (Imagine a yoga studio owned by the people who attend, instead of by a founder.)
DAOs have their own tokens and anyone who holds some can vote on how the DAO operates. DAOs have a programmable set of rules and guidelines, like a constitution. These guidelines, usually established first by the developers, lay the foundation for which causes the DAO will invest in or donate to, what function the DAO serves, (pools funds, acts as a members-only community, decides on city planning for the landscapes of virtual worlds, etc), and more.
For example, imagine giving a studio $10 in U.S. dollars to take a class, and you receive 10 tokens as a result. At the end of every month, you are able to vote on which classes the studio will host next month, with every token being the equivalent of one vote.
There are many ways that DAOs handle voting. One person/one vote is one of the most common and familiar ways. One token/one vote is another—but it raises the complaint that someone who is able to afford or gain more tokens has an unfair advantage over other people in the voting process.
Non-Fungible Token (NFT)
An NFT is proof of ownership of an asset—like a digital deed to your house. The NFT itself is the piece of data that is associated with the asset. Most often NFTs are digital tokens, but you can attach them to physical objects such as a piece of art or a piece of property. But it would be illegal to print or create a physical version of an NFT. NFTs are stored on a blockchain.
People on social media have already started “showing” their NFTs. That means they purchased the digital ownership of an image, much like you might purchase an original painting at an art auction. Screenshots of the same image can also float around like posters of the original. In that case, the screenshot is the same as the poster, while the NFT is the original digital image.
Creating an NFT
“Minting” refers to the process of creating an NFT. To mint an “AN NFT, a file—which could be artwork, a video, a written article, or more—is added to the blockchain. The creator can include a clause into the deed that enables them to receive royalties from every subsequent purchase. Every time someone sells an NFT with such a clause, the original creator receives their established percentage.
In practice, if a photographer mints an image of a landscape she took at a yoga retreat, she could offer it onto a blockchain with the clause that she receive 5 percent in royalties from every sale. Whoever purchases the NFT becomes the new owner of that photo. If the new owner sells it for $100, the original photographer would automatically receive $5 from that sale.