Nov. 25, 2021

Phillip Wang and Nate Foss: Gather, and building the open metaverse

This is a conversation with Phillip Wang and Nate Foss about Gather and building the open metaverse.

This is a conversation with Phillip Wang and Nate Foss two of the co-founders of Gather.

Gather is a video chat platform that puts you and the people you're communicating with in a virtual space - and gives you the ability to move around and interact with them based on your locations in that space, just like in real life. It's had a ton of traction over the last year and is being used by millions of people around the world. It's one of the coolest products I've personally used in recent memory.

As you will hear in this conversation, Phillip and Nate are two incredibly thoughtful and mission-oriented people — and they plan to build Gather into a progressively open and decentralized system. So in this conversation, we went deep on what this could actually look like. We talked about how Gather is architected under the hood and how they think about decentralizing the game engine and the tech stack. We talked about identity, login, and social graphs. We talked about business models. And lastly, we talked about the metaverse and the path dependence of how the future unfolds from here.

I hope you enjoy the conversation.

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Sina [00:00:18]:  Hey everyone, welcome to another episode of Into the Bytecode. Today I sat down with Phillip Wang and Nate Foss, two of the co-founders of Gather. Gather is a video chat platform that puts you and the people you're communicating within a virtual space and gives you the ability to move around and interact with them based on your locations in that space. Just like in real life. It's had a ton of traction over the last year and is being used by millions of people around the world. I think it's one of the coolest products I personally used in recent memory, having built a product that's unlocking new behavior. The reason I find Gather interesting is that the team is deeply aligned with the Web3 ethos, and philosophy. They're planning to build Gather into a progressively open and decentralized system. So in this conversation, we spent a lot of time going deep on what this could actually look like.

We talked about how Gather is architected under the hood and how they think about decentralizing the game engine and the tech stack. We talked about identity, how to login and the social graphs between different people might work in this world. We talked about business models, and we talked about how Phillip has been inspired by theory and how he's thinking about where Gather goes from here. We also talked about the metaverse and the path dependence of how this future unfolds. We actually recorded this conversation the day after Facebook announced their new name and vision with Meta and so he also touched on that. Phillip and Nate are two incredibly thoughtful and mission-oriented people. They have a vision for the future. And it was really cool to talk with them about this. So without further ado, I hope you enjoy the conversation. Let's start with the basics. Could you explain what Gather is to people who aren't familiar with it?

Philip [00:02:15]:  Yeah. So Gather, long story short, is building towards the metaverse. We're starting with this app that's kind of like a cross between Pokemon and Zoom, where it's like you're in this 2D environment, you have this character and then you see in here these people near you. And so it's a primitive that you often do in real life, where you might have multiple people in the same space and walking in and out of conversations. But more than that, it is just a way for people to get together in all these different contexts. So it's kind of hard to explain without seeing it firsthand. But just to give context, in front of our whole team, 70 people across 12 countries work in this virtual office, where everyone will have a desk and you kind of come in the morning.

And then if you ever need anyone you'd like walk up to them. Or you might bump into people in the hallways, or you'll see people create event venues where you create like, all the talks and all the sponsored booths and all the hallways. And then you'll even see all sorts of other creations of like, wedding venues of people getting married in Gather. So just to give a picture, it's just a very kind of general-purpose first take on the metaverse focusing on like what can you build today?

Sina [00:03:23]:  Yeah, I really think it's one of these products that the very first time you use it, it definitely gave me personally a sense of this is different. And just seeing these 2D avatars and you can move with your arrow keys across the screen. And we've actually been just like, right before our call, I was in a Gather space, which is kind of cool. So we're doing this sprint until the end of the year with a group of teams that are building early-stage Ethereum projects. And I've been kind of grappling with how do you best coordinate with a group of 20 people so they can come in and have conversations and get together around different topics and Gather just seems more and more. The more I'm becoming familiar with the tool and the matchmaker and all this stuff I'm like, oh my god, this is amazing.

Phillip [00:04:19]:  Yeah, I think one thing that's always so awesome is when people come in for the first time and at first they're like, what is this? And then they first see someone walk up to them, they're like, whoa, and then they get like a serendipitous interaction where they’re like, they bumped into someone in a hallway. That's when there's like, just a ton of joy, and they really get it. So glad you all are using it, too.

Sina [00:04:38]:  Yeah. So how does that work with your office? Do 70 people show up to the Gather space and you have kind of private spaces for different people or?

Phillip [00:04:51]:  Yeah, basically. So everyone has their own desk. And we have all these settings so that, for example, you're kind of like working there all time and if you're not looking straight up at the tab, it will mute your own audio and video. But someone can still walk up to you, you might hear some ambient noise in the morning or someone might say, Good morning. Your desk mate might say good morning to you. And then we use it for everything you would normally do.

Sina [00:05:13]:  Yeah, we call that GM in this world.

Phillip [00:05:15]:  Exactly. Exactly, and you probably kind of do everything you'd normally do in a real-life office there. So we do all our meetings in there. We have like social rooms in there like an all-hands room. And basically, we still use Slack just to give us a sense of like how it gets used. We still use Slack. We use it in the same way that you would normally use that in a real-life office. So you might message people, but if you wanted to like walk up to their desk you just do that. Or if you want to like play poker, we have tables where you can do that, et cetera. So there's not really exactly one exact use case for it.

Sina [00:05:45]:  Yeah, super cool. So you started by saying, Gather is building towards the metaverse. And I'm curious because I've heard you briefly talk about this before and either of you feel free to jump in here. How did you come to land on this product as the first step on this longer path? Why there's instantiation of it?

Phillip [00:06:11]:  Yeah, maybe I could first start by like talking about what we mean by the metaverse because I think increasingly, over the past six months or so it's gone to mean anything from like, just NFT's generically to these VR Worlds and whatnot.

Sina [00:06:26]:  And since yesterday, also...

Phillip [00:06:28]:  And since yesterday.

Sina [00:06:30]:  Yeah, we'll, get into as well.

Phillip [00:06:32]:  Yeah. So what the metaverse means to us is kind of like this virtual layer over the physical world, that's about how people connect with each other. And we see people in the future connecting across all these different use cases. Things that are kind of like not just a game, for example, our team is actually working out of here, right, or we've seen people in the past year, after you go to class in here, or interact with their communities or their friends or their family. And the reason to build this is to create this opportunity and connection for people no matter where they are. Traditionally, you would kind of live 30 minutes from where you work. And that determines so much in terms of what family did you have to move away from or which friends do you stay close with or what lifestyle you have.

And even for some people who can't move in the first place, they wouldn't have these opportunities. So that's kind of really why we're building the metaverse kind of how we got here was a long story. Basically, me and one of our other co-founders had been working for a whole year before the pandemic on like, a social version of this, like how do you stay close to their close friends and family, no matter where they are. And our conviction had initially come from VR, and we got really excited about it. That's where the metaverse all started coming together in our heads. I remember talking to Nate about this. We found that after like a year of not talking to both conversions, like the metaverse is the next most interesting thing to work on. And I was like, I'm ready to strap down and work on this for five years and wait for the headsets to get better.

And then when the pandemic happened, I was like, oh, there's a version of this that it can start being useful today. And you can already start solving a lot of the metaverse problems that are not just around VR, but how do you interact with these worlds? How do you interact with each other? And how does this show up in real life? And so that's kind of like where we started with Gather and obviously like Nate was a really great person that I wanted to bring in. And then we had another co-founder, Alex, who has also been super instrumental.

Sina [00:08:36]:  Yeah. Nate, how did you get involved? Because I read that you were working on a decentralized social network project for a long time?

Nate [00:08:39]: There were sort of two different really big projects that I was excited about one was the social network and one was the metaverse. And the metaverse was a lot bigger and harder. So I was working on the social network mostly by myself, just like I was over the summer and during this semester of school, but then when Phillip called me up and it was clear that there was like a team forming around the metaverse that definitely seemed like it was the opportune time to actually, go for it and build it because the team is everything.

Phillip [00:09:10]:  Yeah, I remember I really had to convince Nate to stop to like, pause his work on a decentralized social network to come and join. But also, what I also remember is at least a few months before we actually started Gather, where we were reconnecting, I had some slight inklings of I'm sure we'll talk about this more, but like, why the metaverse should look more decentralized. I hadn't actually read too much about any blockchain stuff. I vaguely knew about it. But I had the intuition that oh, it should look a lot more like the web, where you have Chrome extensions and innovation at every layer of the stack. And then when I talked to Nate he sent me his blog post about why decentralized social networks are really important. And I was like, oh, this person understands more than I do.

Sina [00:09:56]:  Yeah. So before we jump into all the decentralization stuff, Phillip, you mentioned, even before the VR stuff is ready there are all these patterns of interaction and design patterns and things to figure out. What are some of the things you've had to grapple with? Like some of the unknowns, some of the new territory that you've opened up and you're like, we don't know what this should look and feel like, and then you've had to think through that?

Phillip [00:10:25]:  Yeah, totally. So one of the things I was always saying when we're starting with the metaverse, or speaking in general was, the metaverse what it is bottlenecked by is social acceptance, right. We actually, want to have this world that impacts the world all the way as I say, it's like, how do you actually create a world that you can actually work on those? How does that show up in people's lives? What does the exact value as a unit do? Then you go beyond that. Let's say you walk into our office, and it goes to the broader city, and maybe there's Ethereum’s office in there, we have a lot of crypto startups we have offices. And what if you put them all together in this town? And that's a community space. It's kind of like the virtual Silicon Valley, except in the metaverse, if you will.

And then there are all sorts of questions there in terms of like, how do people decide whose office goes where? What are the access controls? Who determines what the policies are going to be? So there are all these sorts of questions. And then even beyond that, there's a whole other layer on like, maybe what are the side layers of the metaverse in terms of identity? In terms of like, oh, I want to know if one of my other friends is around the metaverse and open for me to kind of drop by. And then there's a whole other thing of like creation and how that works. So to us metaverse never meant exactly VR immersive worlds. It's more meant, how do people interact with each other and the spaces they create. And that is something that you can already start defining without VR.

Sina [00:11:58]: I'm curious. So yeah, you talk about leaving the Gather office and walking into the city and there is metaverse I guess, is such a broad word. And more and more it's being taken for different visions of the future. I'm curious, if you fast forward five years or 10 years into the future, what kind of world are we living in? And how do the physical and the virtual melts together in that world?

Phillip [00:12:29]:  Yeah, so I guess the first thing to remember is that it is hard to exactly understand the timescales at which this works at. You know Gather actually, only existed for a year and a half. And it's been a crazy wild ride. But generally, I think the question of like physical versus virtual our belief is also that people generally think of like the real world versus the metaverse. I think that's the wrong framing. It's more like the metaverse will integrate very closely with the physical world and they shouldn't be thought of as separate. And I think there's even some design choices already made today, where it's like, there have been virtual worlds in the past seem like Second Life or some of these like games that I actually grew up on playing that where the point was kind of that you had a separate identity.

And here it's not really like our offices everyone is showing up as themselves, specifically kind of like I am here to work in this context. And so that's one way that shows up. I think in the future, we really want to see a world where it's not as if like everyone is all interacting only through the metaverse, right. It's like, for the people that I can see in person, maybe socially, I'll do that. But for the people who have not an option, that's what the metaverse is for. And hopefully, eventually, you can actually get the two to blend, right like we hang out in real life people who can't be there physically, like beam in through the metaverse and same across like all the use cases as well.

Sina [00:13:48]:  Yeah, totally. I think we're getting an inkling of this in the crypto world too with the social interactions that open up, when you're a community rallying around the particular NFT, however frivolous that might be, it's just bringing together a whole bunch of people who are having fun, who are connecting, who are all under different pseudonyms. And it's something that you couldn't recreate the same thing in the real world or it's an addition to what's possible in the real world. It's opening up like new space of possibilities.

Phillip [00:14:27]:  Right, right. So it's interesting how the community is so, key to crypto. And I think that's why Gather has resonated a least around the crypto communities because this is like the media. It's easier for them too.

Sina [00:14:41]:  Yeah, I'm curious like, how are people in the crypto world using Gather? Have people discovered it? Like I've seen people talk about it, but it still feels a bit under the radar.

Phillip [00:14:53]:  Yeah, I honestly feel like and we'll talk about this more when some of the stuff that Nate is working on with opening up making the worlds fully programmable and everything, you'll see like a next layer of kind of use cases. Today, what it looks like is there are a lot of crypto companies who use it as their office. Sometimes they'll use it for events that they're hosting. And then some of the more interesting, but the kind of newer use cases, for example, there's one of the public spaces is called Crypto Arcade. So they’re putting a bunch of empties around there and like just people from the community, just using it as a space to hang out. And they have like arcade games in there as well. There are some other ones like crypto communities in Southeast Asia, who also have similar spaces. And it's just, again, a community space.

Nate [00:15:40]:  Right. Yeah. So far, I mean, a bunch of people have just been using it. Like, through what Gather is good for like, nothing crypto-specific. It's just like, oh, you need a place to like, meet up with some people, and have higher fidelity person-to-person interactions than just like over text or Twitter or whatever else, right. But there are a couple of teams that we've been working with, as we open up the API, and make Gather more programmable, that we are working on things that are like really, actually more crypto native. So not just gaining a space based on [16:40 inaudible] membership, or something like that, like controlling access to a Gather space based on some crypto primitives, but even stuff like controlling what your outfit can be in Gather based on whether you own like, what [16:51inaudible] and stuff like that. And so like, yeah, so this is all in the works. And the coolest part about this is that we're not even building it. We're deliberately enabling this kind of stuff. But just like trying to open up the Gather system, more and more, although people have shown tons of willingness to like, there's all this cool stuff on top of it and we're really happy to be enabled**[17:00 inaudible]**

Sina [00:17:01]:  Well, I know you guys are thinking about things in a decentralized way. So I'm curious, how is all this architected under the hood? Like when you're making Gather programmable what's actually happening under the hood there?

Phillip [00:17:06]:  This is one of the reasons why I was really, really, really trying to get Nate. We need someone who understands decentralization because this is going to be important for the metaverse. And I remember, in the beginning, we had a ton of conversations around, do we start decentralized? Or how do we make sure that we can get there? So again, we really believe it is really important in terms of how people probably innovate on it, how you get the best version where there isn't one person who owns too much of it, but rather like the whole thing evolves all on its own. But our philosophy has been, we start centralized in many ways because we're not yet sure on the abstractions yet. And then, progressively, as we become more sure of it, it becomes - And they can go more into how that actually looks like.

Nate [00:17:50]:  Yeah, totally. So the first system to open up and one that's like, I think we’ve found the correct structure for is the back end, like the game logic, making the game logic programmable so that concretely how you would interact with the Gather API right now is there's an SDK, you connect to the game server over WebSocket. And you can subscribe to all of the game events and send actions back, I mean, you have to be an owner of this space, you can't just be anyone changing the map data. But basically, you get the [18:29 inaudible] of the whole flood of everything that happens in-game. You can react to it whatever way you want, just write whatever code you want. And send basically arbitrary state changes back so you could have something like this person tries to walk into this other room, but they don't have any loot or they haven't linked their Ethereum address or something yet then you like teleport them back to the lobby until they have some loot, and then you can also put them in an outfit corresponding to their loot and stuff like that.

And that's all programmable, right. We don't have to enable any specific thing. We just open up this API to say, here, and if they're like game events that you can listen to and hear all the different things that you can do in response to that. And people could just run arbitrary code on their side and control it that way. And this is just the first step. So obviously, letting people do arbitrary stuff server-side and change around the map data and stuff like that is like an important component like that’s only a small fraction of it, right. Future stuff is, we want people to be able to control the UI more, not just what the map looks like, and what outfits people are wearing, or whatever their status is, or something like that. But even the interface itself and like make sort of more complex interactions with the space and interactions with each other. One thing that therapists wanted forever is to be able to implement Pokemon and Gather and have cut scenes, where you're battling Pokemon with each other and stuff like that. And so this is the next phase of where we open up. And yeah, the plan is kind of just as we figure out what the correct abstractions are how these systems should approximately be separated, or just like separated out one at a time. Let other people swap in whatever they want if they don't want to use our default logic or default UI or whatever else. And eventually, we end up with a system where we're a good option for your metaverse browser or your metaverse UI or your metaverse hosting or whatever, that you're not tied to Gather in any way. Like if someone invents a new thing that's better than what we do then it'll replace us.

Phillip [00:20:39]: I think some other examples of different layers of the stack we're basically trying to do this at every layer of the stack one is like even our map creation tools. The ones that we use ourselves are open to people, but also the API that people use is open. And so we've actually seen people create their own versions of our mapmaker, like some of the businesses that are built on top of Gather**[21:00inaudible]**

Sina [00:21:01]:  Oh, no way. They are alternative mapmakers.

Phillip [00:21:04]:  Yeah, they're specialized for their use case right now. But it's like, for example, there's a conference management company that has started on Gather, right, and they do very specific things when it comes down to like setting up posters in a conference room correctly or like doing...

Sina [00:21:18]:   Yeah, like macros or scripts that they run.

Phillip [00:21:21]:  Exactly, yeah. And so if you just give me 150 posters, and I'll figure out how to assemble them right, how to put your talks in the right place and that's exactly what we want to see. Another thing we've done internally is we have many different use cases. And I think the right long-term organization here like they're different websites on the metaverse, and so what we've done internally is our remote work use cases, one of the big ones events is another big use case, they're actually separate in code. And it forces the underlying platform beneath all of it to like, build in the right way. So that in the future, there could be a third-party use case like education, someone else builds that in the same way, our current remote work team builds all the features specific for remote work.

Sina [00:22:04]: How are these use cases different in terms of how they're using the platform? Is it not the same objects on the same game logic at play?

Nate [00:22:13]:  Yeah, I mean, there are a lot of the same underlying core components. But the reason why we split in the first place is because we found that they were differing in pretty interesting ways. And so one, like really core way, in which remote work is different from events is just like, a lot of remote work is actually passive presence and thinking about something as basic as just who you're connected to, and how loud they are, and how of course they are, and stuff like that. This is like you want a totally different system when you're just sort of sitting around in your office and maybe you want to like ambient background conversation to be audible so that, you can walk over to someone's desk if they're talking about something that you're interested in or you can just ignore people and stay focused. Whereas events like, it's so important to have natural flow between different conversations, where I mean, Zoom breakout rooms are one extreme where you're all the way into one conversation only or all the way into another conversation only.

And so one of the things that we've been thinking about, and that the events team now fully thinks a lot about is like how you blend that more naturally. So like in real life you could have the much more flowing thing where some conversations maybe like, you know, a little boring, or it's going off track or something. And then if you hear something from the other side of the room where somebody is talking about and you're like, oh, maybe I'll go over there. And you can just sort of like migrate between bubbles more naturally. And it's not just this like all-in or all-out kind of thing and that's way more important, right, for social synchronous things than like work where you're deliberately talking to someone in a meeting, or you're not.

Sina [00:23:57]:  Yeah, one of the moments where I was like, Whoa, I had another moment of realization when it came together was when I saw how you could have tables and like the conversation is scoped to the people who are sitting around the table together, even if they're in the same space. And that just allows you to move in and out in a much more seamless way. But then there's a whole other layer of complexity that you have in the real world, which is you could be sitting at a dinner table with six people and you could literally choose to focus your attention on this conversation or on that conversation. And it happens. And we take these sorts of things for granted but like to recreate that in the virtual world seems incredibly complicated.

Phillip [00:24:46]:  Yeah. And as you kind of like philosophically to this point, this is kind of the right way to figure out where the boundary lies between platform and website, I guess. Where it's like, we've architected it so that you know, there's these different use cases with all these different needs in different, you know, as Nate mentioned, like different considerations. And over time as we see people develop, they'll start to learn like, oh, actually, we need these parts to be able to be differentiated between use cases. So I think the answer to your question was like, we don't know exactly how they're going to be different. But this is how we figure it out.

Sina [00:25:20]:  You give them that extra degree of freedom and see how they differ from each other?

Phillip [00:25:24]:  Yeah.

Sina [00:25:24]:  And it makes sense. It's like they have slightly different physics, like rules of the game, like how your voice carries or something is different. Going back to this question around the architecture just to make sure I understand. There's this game engine that's progressing, it's kind of keeping the physics of this virtual world together, people can walk around, their voice carries their videos, like open and close. And this stream of events is opened up to a developer through a WebSocket API and you can subscribe to that. And level one right now is that you can have these callbacks that change things on the map, right? Or you can run any server-side code that you want on your side. So you could check if this user, you know if their ETH address holds a particular NFT or something like that, and then you could use that to allow them to enter a room or not or to make their character transform in a certain way.

Nate [00:26:29]: Yeah, totally. And you could do just as much to the maps and stuff like that. So you could have a dungeon where like, when everybody has walked into the next stage, there's like, some rocks fall behind you, like close off the doorway, or something. And you have to, like, keep going and exploring this dungeon, or whatever else, right. Or something more of remote work E, we would be like, we could have something where when our events are about to start every day, we could put confetti around the map or something and be like, you know, and even play a sound, right. Like, it's all hands tied, or whatever, or something like that. You could have Yeah, it's really [27:06 inaudible]

Sina [00:27:07]:  That's cool. So I guess if I'm taking, like the fully decentralized lens on this, it would be where is the game engine living, right? And the fully decentralized version of it would be that the game engine is hosted on some decentralized network, right, and that's what ultimately, structurally allows anyone to permission [27:33 inaudible] write to it, and not allow a platform to gate people in and out. Well, that's obviously like a very complicated thing, right, like if you're thinking about this decentralized overtime type of progression. How do you think about that? Is that the right way to think about it?

Nate [00:27:55]:  Yeah, so there are a couple of ways that you could fully decentralized this backend game engine in the limit, obvious, like, it should just definitely be possible to have a totally peer to peer system. We shouldn't bake into the system that there must be a game server or something like that, right. There should be some way to run client-side code so I**[28:14 inaudible**] if IPFS has a JavaScript implementation, right. So you can just like have no back end at all, and stuff like that. This is great. And so that should be possible. At the same time, we actually started out peer to peer for our video, not for the game [28:27 inaudible] itself, but for video, and peer to peer. But it doesn't scale very well, in a lot of cases. And so there needs to be some other way to have a really low latency, high throughput kind of system. And actually having a central server where each person has a single connection to this one server, and it just sort of synchronizes everything really fast. It's going to be hard to beat that peer to peer.

But you can still do this in a decentralized way, where like if the server is untrusted, and maybe like housed to attach proofs that the state update that it's doing is legal and it's totally fine, right. Then if the server is swappable, right, like their servers, you know, there's nothing special about it. It's just sort of doing the job for you. But you could swap it out with another one if it starts to misbehave or something like that. Or if it fails one of the validations that's like pretty decentralized. And this is like probably the best of both worlds where like, you can have, you know, in the good case where someone is behaving, you just get the super-fast benefits of some centralized server, but you don't have to trash them, you just verify that what they're doing is correct. And then in the bad case where they're misbehaving, you can swap them out. And you know, the network pause it, or the space pauses for a half-second, while you switch to a different host.

Sina [00:29:43]:  Yeah, it's not feasible to run a game engine. That's like having ticks updated like hundreds of times a second on some sort of a super decentralized blockchain. But I guess what I'm taking away from what you're saying is there are systems like crypto in general is not going to work in that way in the future too right. You can't have billions of users interacting with websites all on a decentralized network like Ethereum. Most of the interactions are going to move to layer twos where, you know, the operator is posting proofs that they did the work correctly. And all of the users have baked-in rights to exit. And this like it game theoretically keeps the system safe and sound and it allows for other parties to spin up. But ultimately, it is like a server or multiple servers that are processing the transactions.

Nate [00:30:45]:  Yeah, for sure. And this is already kind of the architect well, almost the architecture that we're in, right. It's the case that the core Gather game engine, sort of enforces there, like physics of the game and enforces that, you know, only editors are allowed to change the map data and like permissions like that, but you're just trusting us. Tons and tons of people could be writing these Gather [31:07 inaudible] like that third party logic that, you know, do all kinds of wacky stuff. And you don't have to trust them like you can enter any space. And you can have any sort of extension to your space like that you add on that some other personal untrusted code or whatever. And you know that because like, it's the Gather core engine that's enforcing it, you know, early editors can edit the map still.

You can imagine a world in which now with every game event, like the server attaches a proof that it did it honestly, you know, this would be kind of expensive to verify on the client-side. So you'd maybe want to do some sort of like compression or roll up or something that. The server could just attach proofs to things that say like, oh, yeah, the person who did this action is indeed an editor, here's a witness. And then you don't even trust our servers, right, and that's like...

Sina [00:31:55]:  Yeah. I think, Philip, when you and I got to hang out in Seattle, one thing I was really surprised by was how seriously you were taking these sorts of ideas, right. Like you are thinking about Gather as an eventually, like, decentralized type project. I mean, just the stuff we're talking about is this the direction you see the project going in?

Phillip [00:32:23]:  Yeah. So I guess just to give some context of like, where we came from at all like there was actually never any real intention to build a company. When we started out, all we wanted to do was build this idea of the metaverse and in fact, we had some reasons to believe it should not be a company, right. The closest analogy we had to the metaverse was the internet. We got lucky that started with only like open protocols and all these people kind of like building it just for the goodness of their hearts and, like explicitly was not one company it was much like volunteers and the government-funded a lot of the research. And so in the beginning, we're just kind of like, well, we wanted to push for the metaverse as best we can, like maybe this should actually be like a nonprofit, or like an open-source collective. And that's where we started. And I think over time, what we realized, like was like, Okay, actually, we need a lot of research to build this.

And the part that we're missing today is not like the lowest layers and the protocols, but rather the higher level of stack like Google apps that people actually use first. But then our intention was to remain the same. You just want to build like the best metaverse to us that means like definitely many aspects of decentralization many aspects of like, other people being able to innovate and less like platform lock-in or like less closed protocols that other people can't really have any say in. So yeah, definitely over time this is definitely the vision we want to push this forward. But the way that I think our approach kind of looks like higher level is like, again, we are focusing on like, a higher and a middle layers of the stack, we're high is kind of like what are the websites people will use if we're using the internet analogy?

And the middle layer is, you know, what are these game server abstractions? Where are these map creator tools? What do they all look like? And then we were looking at, what is the lowest layer? So that's why, for example, Gather has been trying to figure out how they can contribute to some of the people in the ecosystem, some of the [34:15 inaudible] people you've talked to before it first of all, who like contributed to the most recent, research organization they created because really,  some of them are going to be necessary.

[00:34:26] Phillip:  Yeah, 0x PARC so that's going to be really relevant for like the lowest level, which are like middle layers built on top of for us to build the best thing here. So it's still to be seen which layers of the stack we ended up focusing on more over time. Whenever we're doing like all layers of the stack, except for the lowest levels. And I guess we'll see it's really like what is needed from us. Our best-case scenario is that more people come in and are building websites on top of the Gather and we focus on the middle or maybe they come and build the middle, and we focus more on the top. It's really just like, how can we push this forward the best?

Sina [00:35:02]:  Yeah, that makes sense. You've gotten a full-stack system off the ground that has a really solid amount of usage and product-market fit. And you're kind of exploring and iterating on all these layers both at the user layer, where you see what sorts of things people want from the metaverse and what this thing needs to look and feel like to the developer layer to how it's actually architected. And where the data is stored where the game engine is running, like all of this stuff.

Phillip [00:35:33]:  Yeah, yeah. And I do think this is actually kind of philosophically one of the right ways to build the lower levels too. It's like, you kind of want the lower level of the platform, be informed by like the use cases, and you kind of want to trickle down the whole way. And so that's why that's kind of nice that we have all these users using it today. And then hopefully, we can get different builders building on top of [35:54 inaudible] that will like inform us in different ways.

Sina [00:35:57]:  Totally, yeah, that's a really powerful feedback loop to have going to be both the users and then use that to inform what the platform underneath looks like.

Phillip [00:36:07]:  Yeah.

Sina [00:36:08]:  I guess one of the things we touched on was, I'm curious, like, what are the big puzzle pieces here? So the infrastructure and how it's architected is one, then there is identity we talked about. How do you think about that? What does that mean?

Nate [00:36:26]:  Identity is always the trickiest thing. Yeah, like with everything, very unclear what the end state is. We can hypothesize that, like, you know, for example, some things that will be useful is if you could say, you know, prove that you're over 21 to get into a bar without revealing your birthday, that kind of thing, right. Like the classics, zero knowledge proof, this kind of stuff. And prove that you have access to a space without revealing your identity or something like that, right. This kind of thing seems like the kind of thing that should be possible, and requires sort of, like a powerful kind of identity that you can use as your knowledge proofs and stuff like that. At the same time, people just have lots of different identities in different systems and stuff like that. Probably, whatever we choose is not going to be totally sufficient for everything.

So another way you can login with X, where X can be any number of things is like, probably approximately correct because different identity systems are better for different things and different use cases. You know, consistency across different spaces, or like experiences and stuff like that. And how much of your Avatar and items and everything translates between all of these different spaces is like super inherently tied to identity, but also to how much cohesion we even expect, and like the rest of the ecosystem. Like, you want it to be the case that people can experiment with different game engines that the trade-off for that is like, maybe this pick axe that I got at this other space doesn't have an equivalent rendering in some other game engine, where it's like balancing the cohesion, and expressiveness. And how much you can change seems like, that's going to be a delicate balance.

Phillip [00:38:22]:  I think the identity piece is one of the things that it seems more clear that it shouldn't be a part of Gather, I guess. It's like, you really want it to exist outside of Gather, and what exactly is in there, hopefully, will be determined by the ecosystem as time goes on in terms of like, what do people actually want? Do they actually want their goods attached to it? Do they want their access controls? Do they want all these things a part of it? And I think it's what we're kind of waiting for. I mean, I think the way our approach is basically, like, we're going to have a Gather identity system where we want to make it easy to over like, another kind of third party identity system in the ecosystem comes about, we can like migrate to that.

People can kind of like pour-over to that. And then hopefully, it's not just us deciding like, what identity looks like. And I think this is generally our ethos around developing all of this stuff. We're building our versions today because there isn't a version otherwise, but then hopefully other people come in and help define what this looks like and there are other alternatives they can use. Not just Gather Chrome, it's also like Gather Internet Explorer or Gather with different browsers basically.

Sina [00:39:34]:  Yeah. Yeah, identity is a particularly big one. I totally agree with you. Because, yeah, it comes bundled with ownership like everything the other person owns, like, ownership over their own data, potentially, the social graphs, the relationships between the different identities is probably kept within this external or decentralized identity system. So that's a really important one.

Phillip [00:40:05]:  Yeah, I think it is important for it to be the identity and the social graph to be unified in a very meaningful way, though because that's kind of, the thing about the metaverse like the unit is like people showing up. You don't want it to feel stratified across metaverse, right. So like, if I'm in a Gather version, Gather clients of the metaverse, and there's like another client metaverse that someone else was in, you kind of want to be able to text each other or communicate or do like a phone call. So that they could send it over a link, whatever that may mean, and like, teleport to where you are, right.

Sina [00:40:40]:  Totally, I'm sure you're kind of tracking how identity in the crypto or in the theory world specifically is evolving, but it's been a kind of interesting second-order effect of, you know, we all have wallets that we log into these websites with and our addresses are gradually becoming our identities, right. I mean, even what we were talking about earlier on, where if there's this external, you know, developer server running that checks if you have a particular NFT and lets you enter this room, that room would be all of the people who own that particular NFT. So that is like the identity and the social graph being imported from this external system.

Phillip [00:41:26]:  Right. I think another interesting point that people don't think about as much is that there is definitely also multiple social graphs, even in the world where all these social graphs are decentralized, like there actually are just the LinkedIn social graph is just a completely different social graph than your Facebook one, which is really different than, I don't know, I don't know what people are using nowadays.

Sina [00:41:46]:  And you don't necessarily want them to actually be connected with each other, right?

Phillip [00:41:51]:  Yeah.

Sina [00:41:52]:  And that's actually it's a cool area of work. I mean, talking about zero-knowledge proofs and whatnot of linking identities to each other, or, you know, in zero-knowledge ways, like pseudonymity, at a core protocol level.  I know that it's this message came from one of these 100 people like that it for sure came from one of these people, but I don't know which one it did. And then that just opens up a whole world of interesting stuff.

Phillip [00:42:25]:  Right. And of course, you want to make sure that all these things are private enough too you don't want everyone to know all your connections and all that kind of stuff. So yeah, there's a lot of exciting developments in an ecosystem that we're keeping track of and tracking how we can push it forward.

Sina [00:42:41]:  So want to pivot a little bit, one thing I'm curious about is, which I think is a key part of these questions is business model. Because that has effects on what emerges ultimately. So how do you think about that?

Phillip [00:43:01]:  Yeah. So first off, given that [43:03 inaudible] multiple layers of the stack, it's also like you have different business models at each layer. So for example, or what it looks like today, and we kind of honestly just slapped on a business model in the very beginning because we didn't want to take on VC's funding in the beginning. I felt like we just kind of slapped one on, started making money and we haven't really changed it yet. And actually, it's not too bad. Basically, people just pay directly for us for the event product. And most of the social use cases today are free under like, you know, under 25 people in a space at the same time you can just have for free. And we like this because it's aligned, right. It's just like, people pay for it as much as it gives you value. But over time, I think you need different kinds of monetization for each layer.

So while those continue to be kind of like a remote work app of the metaverse, you know, a regular SaaS subscription is probably fine. Once you start thinking about like the platform, then you want that to be aligned in a different way. And those are multiple things that we've been thinking about here. One could be like, a Unity model. So this is like Unity the game engine. And basically, what they say its pretty awesome they say if you're a small developer, Unity is free. And then if you make like more than 100k in revenue it cost this much and you make more than like, a million or something in revenue, you pay a little higher tier. And that's like pretty aligned, where it's like, basically, the more money the creators are making, the more money you make. That's one idea. What we kind of philosophically want is we own some on equity in ecosystem.

And so this is the model that Ethereum roughly is where it's like, now, you're incentivized to just grow the ecosystem generally. And you got some amount of compensation for starting it which is what that model represents. But again, there's like so many different kinds of business models that exist. This also could just be like Cloudflare is kind of an example of the internet somewhere in the middle of the stack that just pays a normal subscription for people who are doing a lot of volumes. So I think it might look like something like that. It might also look like commerce. And so there are many different ways you can think about it. We still haven't figured it out.

Sina [00:45:16]:  Yeah, interesting. The model you were describing where you have tiered, you know, based on how much financial success like a user of the platform is having, and then they pay more that definitely makes sense to me. It's one way to describe maybe the Ethereum model or the crypto model, right, of that one's a bit more radical maybe like the token model is where you kind of open you share the ownership of the underlying platform. So you own X percent of it, and other people own Y percent of it. But then like, the value of the whole thing goes up as other people build on top of it. So you have to bake in some way for growth of the platform translating into value capture by this underlying ownership structure, which like Ethereum, for example, didn't have for a really long time.

People don't really talk about this, but it didn't have a strong model for that. But with, for example, EIP 1559, which got merged in a few months ago, now, like every Ethereum block results in some amount of ETH being burnt, like taken out of circulation. And so the more usage the platform is getting, the more ETH is being burnt and when ETH gets burnt, that's good for the ETH price, because it's impacting the supply and demand. So that's how globally like on a global scale Ethereum, like ETH captures value from the Ethereum the network being used more.

Phillip [00:46:58]:  Wait, actually, sorry, maybe, this is a new question. How did that not already have the incentives aligned? Doesn't EF just own a bunch of Ethereum? It wasn't like, people were like minting it more or something like that, or?

Sina [00:47:11]:  So there is like a key distinction between Ethereum the network and Ethereum Foundation, like the organization, right, the entity. And the Ethereum Foundation played a key role in creating and spinning up the Ethereum network six years ago, or however long it's been. But from that point on it's been one entity amongst many that... And the kind of goal the strategic through-line of the Ethereum Foundation as an organization is this thing we call subtraction which I really want to talk about on this podcast at some point, which is that unlike in a traditional company that's trying to grow it has a growth primitive baked into it. You want to grow your revenues. You want to grow your headcount. You want to grow your impact. The Ethereum Foundation has a subtraction philosophy which is it wants to reduce in size and importance and impact and as long as that reduction is coincident with the network becoming more independent and growing.

And I think that's been the case at this where if you compare the Ethereum of five years ago, it was much, much more dependent on the Ethereum Foundation than the Ethereum of today. And if you fast forward five years, that's going to be even more the case. And at some point in the future, you know, the goal, at least in my view, is that we get to something like the Internet where there is no organization that matters. And we're close to that even at this point. Like the EF is funding some key research and public goods and a lot of the ETH**[49:02 inaudible**] work and other stuff is being pushed forward by the EF. So it would have a big detrimental effect on the ecosystem if the EF were to disappear today but at some point, that's becoming less and less the case over time.

Phillip [00:49:16]:  I'm actually curious, like, is there any way that this like, besides it being a core value that is really strong I love it, and I've gained a lot of inspiration from it. Is there any way that's institutionalized within the organization, like the way that it's set up?

Sina [00:49:30]:  Yeah, I mean, I don't speak for the Ethereum Foundation anymore. I don't formally work there. I've transitioned out. But I still keep in close contact with the people and I was there for some time, and I have a ton of respect for the Oregon and people there. I mean, maybe one answer that comes to mind is even around questions like hiring, this is something that a lot of people ask is how many people work at the Ethereum Foundation? It's a pretty normal expected question to ask. But the answer to it isn't super straightforward. Because the EF, you know, whenever the EF wants to make something happen, the model is to try to push it into the ecosystem. So it's to find some group that is interested and aligned and capable and making this happen, or it's somehow aligned with the vision of the world that they have, and then to empower them to do that. And that's by giving them grant funding by, you know, doing all of this stuff.

And maybe like 0xPARC is a good example of that. Where it's like, this group wants to do fundamental, you know, ZKP research and application R&D and so it's great an independent organization doing that is better for the ecosystem. So, an organization that wasn't set up in this way might think that, oh, like, we want the core research to happen in here because we want to own the results of it or whatever. In the case of EF and Ethereum, it's like, no, this is actually what we want, we push it out. And that's why the EF as an org is quite thin, not too many work in the EF. And the reason is that a lot of the people focus on giving grants and it's yeah, very, very interesting.

Phillip [00:51:33]:  Yeah. I love it.

Sina [00:51:35]: It definitely warrants a deep drive at some point.

Phillip [00:51:36]:  I love it because I feel like we have a lot to learn from the Ethereum Foundation. It's the first of its kind that intentionally created an ecosystem like this. I guess you could also say, the open web and the Internet kind of were as well, but they had 20 years to mature before a ton of people started using them and all these sorts of pressures from different ways. I feel like your question might have been something along the lines of like, how does this [00:52:01 inaudible] show up because I know we've talked about the subtraction value before. And I think, similarly, success to us would also look like that. We don't need to build at every layer of the stack anymore. In fact, other people are better than us at building certain layers. Because our view of the metaverse is just that there's so many problems to solve. So like, there's no point in trying to like, defend which problems like I particularly want to solve someone else could solve the problem. Great, we’ll go work on another one.

Sina [00:52:27]: Yeah.

Phillip [00:52:28]:  The reason why I asked about institutionalizing this within the organization is, it's not any stronger today than just a value that we repeat that, like, collective value is what matters is like, not about what we specifically do, but what is the metaverse impacting for humanity generally? In the future, I think we could imagine say like, the metric would be maybe the metric that people will start optimizing is not oriented towards it will be oriented towards the size of the economy, on top of this not which part are we capturing could be one example.

Sina [00:52:59]: And then there are incentives like business models like ultimately, what direction do these types of things lead? In the case of the Ethereum Foundation it's a Swiss nonprofit foundation and I mean, that's one big thing right there. And then it holds some ETH from the genesis of Ethereum. And so it wants Ethereum as an ecosystem to grow and flourish, right. It doesn't have any interest that isn't aligned with Ethereum the larger network. So I think that's super powerful.

Phillip [00:53:36]: Yeah, I think, one thing that is kind of nice is we have benefited from the larger kind of like Web3 culture becoming larger, I think. It's less controversial now to say things like, we don't care like how big exactly Gather is, we care mostly about how big the metaverse is. Because more and more people that are already on board with that. And that's actually, another interesting point that isn't related to Gather, generally, but it's kind of like some thought around culture matters more exactly than, a bit more than the right incentives necessarily. And that like incentives are for corralling a bunch of people who might not have the same worldviews together when everyone also just has the same worldview. You don't need to matter as much about like, what the right incentive models are. So maybe that's also how it shows up in the Ethereum Foundations like the culture is just set so correct that the decision that should reflect that in [crosstalk]

Sina [00:54:31]: Yeah, because Ethereum is an ecosystem, right. And I think maybe one definition for an ecosystem is that there are multiple distinct cultures. Like where they don't even agree necessarily on what this thing is. So you could go talk with five people from different corners of the theorem ecosystem they would just describe totally different things that are attracting them to this. Like someone you know a musician come in because they are excited about NFTs and how that can give them control, ability to make money from their arts in a different way in the defy world.  Like someone who is just stoked on financial engineering to someone who is living in a country with high inflation and wants to escape that and there is just so many different things. One analogy I've always liked is the blind men touching the elephant and trying to figure out what it is. And I think maybe that's one descriptor of a thing that's become truly decentralized or a true ecosystem where you can't really describe what it is anymore. There are fundamentally different ways to see it.

Phillip [00:55:51]: Right. Right. The same thing with the [crosstalk]

Sina [00:55:53]:  I'm also just riffing here.

Phillip [00:55:55]: No, I think it's true. You go back and you watch videos of Bill Gates trying to describe the internet on a talk show. And he's trying to describe, oh, you can kind of beam information however you want. And they're like, oh, have you heard of physical mail? And like, oh, no, but you can listen to a sports game in real-time. It's like, well, isn't that just radio? It’s like, there's a really hard like disconnecting exactly describing what it was. Obviously now, we all know what it is. But even then, like, I think if you asked your generic person who uses the internet, they wouldn't be able to describe exactly what it means.

Sina [00:56:30]: Yeah. There's no one way to describe the internet.

Phillip [00:56:34]: Yeah, I think the metaverse is still very early, but I feel like eventually, we'll end up like that. Already, for example, whenever we talk about recruiting, and sometimes people ask me, oh, what should the pitch be? And usually, I'm just like, well, there's a 1000 different use cases and 1000 different reasons to be excited about the metaverse. So you can just pick the one that you're most excited about and just say that one. Because it's also going to work a lot better. People are going to understand that it's genuine.

Sina [00:56:58]: Totally. Totally. So maybe one thing I wanted to talk about was, that there's a good version of this when we're talking about the metaverse. There is a good version of this future and there's a potentially less good version of it when it comes to decentralization ownership. Like I know you guys are thinking about these sorts of things. And I wonder is there path dependence to how all of this develops from here? Could we end up in different futures? Or is it pretty clear that it's going to shake out in one way?

Phillip [00:57:34]: Yeah, definitely not clear. Me and Nate were talking about this for hours last night about path dependencies. So when we say dystopian future of the metaverse, and there's multiple ways of thinking about it, I can talk about the ones that are not centralization first. I think a lot of people also think about, is this a world where I will never see people in person ever again? I'm strapped into a VR headset all day. And I think that one is really so, more so like, again to the vision of the metaverse will integrate a lot more with real life. And it's not here to replace all interaction, that's not the point. The point is to use it for people you can't normally see. And that's actually, like a huge improvement over status quo for a lot of contexts. I think the other one is the fear of it being owned too much by any one company. And what you see today with some certain platforms is that they make policies and they're not exactly accountable to anyone. There might be a platform that has all rule over 3 billion people. And none of those people really feel like they had any say.

Sina [00:58:38]:  We can name names, that's fine. This is being recorded the day after the Facebook and Meta. It's like the announcement.

Phillip [00:58:49]: Yeah, I didn't actually, mean to throw shade on Facebook in particular, actually, my personal stance is it's really hard for them to have known that much better. It's only been 15 years since they started or so. And it's really hard for them to understand how it would have turned out, like, you know, all the things that would have …

Sina [00:59:07]:  That’s insane that Facebook started 15 however many years ago, that it's crazy the rate at which these things can grow.

Phillip [00:59:15]: Exactly. And now they're at a point where it's hard for them to make massive changes too, right. And so I see it more as like we can learn from what we've seen so far. And yeah, I guess with that, I think it is something important to point out is that a lot of people are really excited for all what decentralized systems could do. But it's not like a given that they'll win, either. I think a great example is like the Internet came before phones. And yet, like phones weren't architected in a way, like apps are very siloed. And so you do have a lot of path dependence, you need to build a network effect across like a decentralized system so that when it comes time for other players to say Facebook, who maybe owns the whole stack from hardware down to the Apps Store to the apps themselves, it makes more sense for them to be a part of the decentralized system rather than build their own siloed thing.

For what it's worth actually, though it seems like a lot of the big messaging that Facebook is trying to say nowadays is that they really believe in interoperability and openness it is unclear. And this is what me and Nate were talking about last night unclear exactly what that means to them. And I think, the choice of their name actually really exemplified that were naming themselves Meta is kind of a way to like make it Metaverse synonymous with Facebook, which is like totally different than the theorem way of thinking about things. As we talked about where it's like, you kind of explicitly don't want it to be a big deal. You don't want it to be the whole point. So yeah, I think, just to wrap it up, it's really just like, you need to start building these decentralized systems and build network effects across them and get enough people on them fast enough so that everyone else, it will make sense for them to join onto that decentralized network.

Sina [01:00:59]: It's so interesting, this whole Facebook Meta thing. And also, yeah, I mean, I was talking with some people earlier today about how on the one hand, I have kind of deep respect for them for just putting a flag in the ground, like showing this much conviction and vision for a company of that size. And it's really badass in a certain way.

Phillip [01:01:26]:  I've never seen a trillion-dollar company pivot like this. It's actually pretty insane to see.

Sina [01:01:33]: Yeah, and it has this focus in it. And I mean, I'm sure it's been a rallying cry for people who are working at Facebook or Meta and whatever. But on the other hand, I mean, it's also quite worrying that they're going down this path, and part of me wants to believe that they're going to build a good version of this world. But then part of me also thinks that actions speak louder than words. And you can look at historically, what they've done, and the business models that are defining their company. And yeah, I mean, what do they mean by we want this thing to be open and interoperable?

Phillip [01:02:13]: Yeah, I've been trying to understand that myself. I've been reading all the interviews. I think really the only thing we can do is just build and build faster. And to go back to the mobile example, there's some amount of wind there were like all phones felt forced to put a browser on their phone. So there was a connection to the open Internet. And so hopefully, we can at least get that. Hopefully, you can get something further where it becomes clear to everyone else that they're better off coming onto this platform.

Nate [01:02:41]: Yeah, I mean, the ideal outcome is like, there exists a platform that sort of like expressive and interconnected enough that Facebook rationally wants to be part of that metaverse. And they add to it, right. By Facebook joining that metaverse that whatever Facebook builds gets better and that metaverse itself gets better. And so, I don't know what the challenge of the next couple of years is like to make everyone you know, to find a system where everyone gains more from contributing to it than from doing their own thing.  Regardless of Facebook, that's like the correct fabric of any ecosystem. But whatever metaverse ecosystem we come up with should accelerate people not force them to, you know, use this system because you're not allowed to put other App Stores on your device or something.

Sina [01:03:33]:  Right. Has this whole thing kind of impacted your thinking about your strategy, or how you're approaching things?

Phillip [01:03:45]: It's in progress. As you mentioned, this happened yesterday, me and Nate talked about it last night. I mean, our values definitely remain the same. Now the question is, do we try to make the underlying decentralized network even faster? And we're still trying to figure out, like, what can we actually do to help contribute to that?

Sina [01:04:02]  : It makes me think of, I think it was this article that Balaji wrote about India and Bitcoin and where he was making the case that there are two kinds of poles of power in the world being the US and China and they're each kind of trying to gain adoption of their currency as the world currency. Like there's USD and there's the Chinese one. And India has this… he was making the case that India could strategically adopt Bitcoin. And Bitcoin could become the third alternative that is not owned by either of these two countries. It's like the third independent decentralized currency for the world or the store of value for the world. And I feel like there could be something to that tune here around the “metaverse” where there's like the Facebook metaverse and this acts as a catalyst for everyone else to build the decentralized metaverse as an alternative.

Phillip [01:05:11]: Well, that's kind of interesting. It's like, as long as there are three-plus players in the space that are all equally sized like a decentralized network. That makes sense because it allows two of them to collaborate that is bigger and now everyone is incentivized to be a part of it.

Nate [01:05:27]: Well, we'll see if that ends up happening. Facebook is still buying up all the VR studios so.

Phillip [01:05:33]:  Yeah, but on the other hand, like Apple and Microsoft, and Snapchat, they're all talking about the metaverse now too. They’re not talking about it they're like, basically, talking about it, as are like many other larger companies, so and medium-sized companies and Gather.

Sina [01:05:50]: How do you feel about the word metaverse? Because this was another thing that people were talking about on Twitter yesterday.

Phillip [01:05:57]: I know. I mean, actually, that's another way it shows up too, is like everyone else uses a different term because Facebook is now called Meta. That's just another example of how everyone else jumps over to this new term and then that's the equivalent too. Now Facebook needs to also kind of do it too. Actually another thing we're throwing around last night and curious to hear your thoughts on it was like, the Ethereum community is also very large. What percentage of those people would channel energy into the metaverse if given the right starting tools and abstractions and ideas of like, what is missing? You know, maybe it's not clear to people what they could do to push forward the future of the metaverse.

Sina [01:06:37]: I think it's a huge focus for people like there are mad tweet storms flying around. Last night… [crosstalk] Yeah. Good energy. Yeah. I actually, discovered a couple of Twitter accounts that I hadn't been following who had really thoughtful takes to the tune of like things I was saying there is this path dependency like now there is a timeline, and we need to move on this. And, yeah, I mean, a lot of the building blocks are there. It's like the identity piece is there. The decentralized network is there the decentralized storage is there like ZKPs are there. At some level of zooming in you could call all of crypto like the metaverse. I guess you could call it a virtual world that you can walk around in but if you kind of open that definition up to interactions with each other, right, like DAOs, NFTs all of this stuff is a part of the metaverse. So I do wonder how all of this is going to evolve. I feel like it's probably going to be more and more of a focal point for the larger community to collaborate and build with each other.

And I think given your alignment with this philosophy and how you're thinking about Gather I think there's so many like Gather is like perfect for this world. The other day I wrote and we kind of had a quick back and forth around how cool Gather spaces could be for Dows. Very soon, I guess as soon as you have the API that someone can plug into and just check that someone holds a particular token you could literally have a space similar to a token get a discord, you can have a Gather space that DAO members can come into at all hours of the day. And all of a sudden you give this community that to this point has been kind of dis-embodied. It's just been user names in the chat group. Now they can actually hang out with each other. And I feel like that alone would be a huge thing.

Phillip [01:09:05]: Yeah. Yeah. We're very excited to just work with the broader community on what this might look like, and how we can all push for this feature more. And yeah, how do we get to the right metaverse, basically?

Sina [01:09:20]: Totally, on a lighter note, I saw that you had a pudgy penguin in your office.

Phillip [01:09:22]: Yes, this is part of our way of kind of trying to like culturally making it more prominent, like thinking more about the Web3 stuff because it's just going to be so important. And so, we bought a pudgy penguin and we put it in our office. What we might do for something like our holiday gift, and I hope this comes out after we give it to people. So look, no one’s watching and like learning the secret and I might try to give NFT that people can like put on their desks or something like that. We haven't decided exactly what. But yeah, like people have been asking[**01:10:02 inaudible]**I've been asking this for a long time, like can we put our NFTs in our space? Someone actually prototypes that internally and then we're like, well, actually the [01:10:11 inaudible] version allows someone to have built that and not build it in ourselves. And so that's what Nate's working on now.

Sina [01:10:19]: I wonder once when you guys are ready with your APIs and whatnot, like, just coming into some crypto hackathons like ETH global events and whatnot. I feel like that could be a really cool way to get the community jamming on this stuff.

Phillip [01:10:34]:  Oh, totally. We will definitely try to figure out how to do all that. Yeah. We'll have the hackathon itself in Gather. And if people can hack, in the [01:10:43 inaudible] space they're already hacking. You know, like, everyone's sitting in that space and all of a sudden, like a monster, pops out because someone programmed that or all of a sudden, like an impromptu among us game. And everyone is like, all of a sudden, the character in the [01:10:56 inaudible] anyway. We’re having a lot of fun with it. There are so many ideas. We're really excited to just interface more with the Web3 community, and I think it's going to be so important for building the right Metaverse here. And so check out Gather, drop us a line if you have any interesting ideas or collaborations or anything of the sort.

Sina [01:11:17]: What's the best way for people to start riffing on this stuff?

Nate [01:11:22]: We can put a link to the WebSocket API docs in the description. Yeah, or like a link to the community discord or forum or something like that.

Sina [01:11:32]: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Like joining the community and like maybe there's a Web3 corner of it where people can start riffing on these ideas. I'll definitely participate in that.

Phillip [01:11:43]: Well, thanks for having us. It was a lot of fun.