Emerging Technologies

What is a metaverse identity?

Having a metaverse identity is different from having a 3D avatar.

Having a metaverse identity is different from having a 3D avatar. Image: Getty Images

Anna Schilling
Fellow, Metaverse Initiative, World Economic Forum
Matt Price
Fellow, Metaverse Initiative, World Economic Forum
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Emerging Technologies

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
  • We all leave a collection of digital crumbs online – these accumulate to form what we call a metaverse identity.
  • Metaverse identity includes three key aspects: representation, data and identification.
  • As technology advances, metaverse identity will evolve and extend beyond physical humans to include digital entities.

The metaverse has emerged as a vision for the future of the internet, built on our current internet and new spatial experiences. Given the relevance “identity” has had to the internet, central to the metaverse will be metaverse identity. An individual’s identity will enable a sense of belonging in the physical and virtual world. Metaverse identity will also be the foundation that privacy and security protect, and the building block that enables recognition of the movement of money and objects.

Plainly, metaverse identity is an extension of identity as it is known today, encompassing forms of representation, data and identification.

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Who has a metaverse identity?

Whether it’s composed of a photo, maybe a Facebook profile, a Reddit account, a picture, an IP address, a gamer tag or something else entirely, we all leave a collection of digital crumbs online. These accumulate to form what we call a metaverse identity.

Having a metaverse identity extends beyond having a 3D avatar. It encompasses our behaviours, preferences, movements, actions and decisions made in digital spaces – whether those spaces are AR, VR, MR, 2D webpages, or something else.

Even without a visual representation, our interactions and choices craft a distinct digital persona that may be linked back to our real-world selves through data points and forms of means of identification.

A double-click on metaverse identity

Metaverse identity includes three key aspects: representation, data and identification (ID). These work together to provide a sense of presence and belonging across the physical and virtual worlds.

1. Representation: This is all about how we express ourselves. It includes elements of personal, social and role-based identity, be it through avatars, pseudonyms or even how we choose to express ourselves through dress, speech and behaviour on digital platforms.

2. Data: These are the data points, generated by metaverse supporting hardware and software, that forms an intricate web of knowledge about us which can describe who we are through our digital footprint.

3. Identification: This is what other people use to validate who we are. This can include the forms of ID used to identify a person – be it through driver’s licenses, government-issued IDs, passports, birth certificates, attestations, labels, or usernames and passwords.

Key layers to address

As diverse groups across industry, regulators, policymakers and civil society create the future of the internet, and as we use our metaverse identity, there will be key layers to address so that each of the three aspects is executed responsibly.

(i) The Representation layer will require considerations around inclusion, diversity and accessibility.

(ii) The Data layer: will require consideration around the creation, collection and processing of “data about me.”

(iii) The Identification layer: will require consideration of how to manage identity and how to identify people.

Each layer will require the further consideration across dimensions of privacy, security, safety and interoperability.

How does our metaverse identity evolve with time

As we spend more time exploring, working and socializing with new digital experiences, a person’s metaverse identity will evolve. Just as today, our identity grows, develops and morphs over time as preferences, roles and we ourselves change.

As technology advances, metaverse identity will evolve and extend beyond physical humans to include digital entities. This will include a range of entities ranging from simple text-based chatbots to complex, human-like avatars and photo-realistic digital doppelgangers – or digital replicas.

Digital entities may represent humans (i.e., via avatars), systems (i.e., via chatbots), objects (i.e., via digital twins), or other abstract concepts, and are capable of varying degrees of interaction, autonomy, and behaviour within digital experiences. Digital entities will be an enabling aspect of metaverse identity, facilitating and augmenting our digital interactions.

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How is the World Economic Forum contributing to the metaverse?

Call to action

Metaverse identity broadly opens the conversation to include people from:

  • Design teams,
  • Academia,
  • Business leaders– in diverse fields ranging from security, marketing, and HR to strategy,
  • Government entities – such as policymakers and law enforcement,
  • Civil Society and stakeholders from other assorted backgrounds – such as standards associations, etc.

Given the broad socio-technical concept of identity, a multi-stakeholder, diverse group must come together to navigate identity challenges and sculpt a metaverse that is secure, beneficial, and equitable for all.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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Emerging TechnologiesDavos Agenda
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