A binary metaverse

October 3, 2023

I wrote about friend.tech in my first journal, which I published over a week ago. But in truth, I've been having so much fun on the app that I wanted to write a far more comprehensive overview from what I've observed so far.

If you don't know what friend.tech is, it's an onchain social network that requires users to buy a share of another user before they can talk to them. Shares are called "keys" within the app, and are subject to the same elasticity in supply and demand that governs all markets.

I used to think the financialisation of social apps would directly result in turning everything into an eToro derivative – a means for someone to gamble online, and although this might still be partially true, it's a theory overshadowed by the indirect results of integrating real monetary value exchange within a virtual social setting.

An experiment some of us are presently observing with the creation of friend.tech.

When bitcoiners talk about their beloved pet rock/store of value, they often liken it to being the gold of the digital age. And vice versa, with gold being the analog version of bitcoin.

I'm going to use the same analogy here, but reversed. A metaverse (whatever you imagine when you read that word should be accurate enough), is the digital version of friend.tech. friend.tech, being the analog.

The reason for this, is because friend.tech inherits some of the same important qualities of a metaverse, or a virtual world – just in a more binary format.

Now you say, but so do other social networks that are similar in design? Even if they aren't strictly run on a blockchain. And I agree with you, to an extent, so I've written this essay to highlight the differences between friend.tech and traditional forms of social media.


The most important quality friend.tech inherits, is presence. Social settings that exclude the ability for people to feel their own presence and the presence of others aren't nearly as convincing or satisfying as those that do.

How can this be accomplished without actually being in a virtual reality? With the creation and use of rooms.

The distinction between a group chat and a room is as simple as the fact that rooms have doors and those doors have keys (previously called "shares" in the app). People are able to walk in, announce themselves, witness conversations, and walk back out again.

Every time you log in, you might meet someone new, a complete stranger perhaps, and in the confines of your virtual room, this feels like a perfectly safe and pleasant experience.

This small but definition-altering feature cannot be replicated in an invite-only chat where identity is difficult to verify, and each individual chat requires abstract methods of evaluation to accurately price them.

This is because you can only really know the potential "value" of a group chat if the insiders imply its value, and you simply just have to trust them.

Because every room in friend.tech has a monetary price, the market can decide the value of each room, and users get to see who in question is spending their own social and monetary capital valuing it, in the form of a transparent order book.

Theoretically, at scale, this would create a near end to the infamous "paid group", where the owner decides the price, instead of the market.

If the majority of influencers reside on friend.tech one day, what would be the incentive for someone to pay to access a group format that is completely opaque in comparison? There really isn't one, unless that person has an unconscious predisposition to wanting to be scammed. It's probably a thing.

Positive-sum games

It's hard to think of a place within the crypto sphere where an online user receives a strong incentive to win through playing positive-sum games. Maybe on Twitter/X, sometimes. Say when a new and mostly undiscovered user receives recognition or promotion from a community who finds value in their content.

They suddenly, whether unknowingly or not, enter into a reciprocal relationship with the community. They continue to provide what the community deems valuable, and in return, they receive reputation credits and status (in the form of followers, likes or retweets).

But I think most would agree there is equally the incentive to tear profiles down, as well as lift them up. Because a vast majority of users, have nothing to lose, and reputational risk is still rare and usually only applied to those who came to the platform with it – likely tied to an already established real world identity.

But friend.tech encourages community governance in the form of users having skin in the game. It doesn't make much sense to hold the keys of a user who has a bad reputation, or malicious intent. The incentive to scam is lowered, along with the key price of those who resort to playing negative-sum games.


Up until now, this has been a difficult feat to achieve in a virtual environment that doesn't mimic the feeling of presence that we naturally have in real life. Can someone really feel empathy for an online persona that is 2D on the surface and 1D below – in the way that it only exhibits one or two facets of a person's underlying identity?

Likely not, and the majority of people online still don't even play these "identity games". [1] But friend.tech gives users the incentive to take more of a stake in their online persona, through enabling the crafting of reputation.

Reputation in the real world, is to some people, more valuable than anything merely monetary. Because tarnishing reputation risks the fracturing of interpersonal relationships as well, which is much more likely to be detrimental to the psyche than losing money alone.

At this moment in time, the permanency that reputation brings is difficult to craft online, and anonymity can enable identity to be a temporary and disposable facet of our virtual existence. You can always delete a social profile and create a new one a minute later.

This has led us to borrow signals that are well established within our physical world. The most prominent in the crypto subculture being, the institutional signal for intellectual capability.

But firms like Paradigm can't feasibly hire every Twitter/X anon. [2] Reputation online requires a more scalable solution, and one not just based on popularity (as was the case with the infamous blue tick).

It's important to know that friends or alumni can proceed reputation – especially if someone isn't particularly famous. This means the specific people who are holding your keys are an important signal of the type of network you are in, as well as its status.

A good early-on example of this is the fact that Facebook began as a college directory exclusively for Harvard students. I wonder how valuable some of those first profiles would be now, if they had a pricing mechanism similar to friend.tech.

A rising share value will in time be a better indication of intrinsic value than a badge achieved through obtaining a lot of followers, many of which may not even be active users. It also means that as the app scales its user base, social capital will gradually become less influential for increasing share value, as it isn't directly correlated with a users' reputation or their ability to produce value.

Just as Layer-2 protocols are increasing Ethereum's throughput and ability to scale on a technical level, friend.tech is building a system that enables anonymity to scale in an uncompromising manner, while integrating social filters such as reputation based on proof of work (value production) and proof of stake (keyholders).

What started as Paradigm hiring their first anon employee, has now transcended to an entire social graph giving anonymous internet users the same privileges as any doxxed member of the creator economy. [3]


[1] CL from eGirl Capital has widely spoken/meowed about the issues that surround enforcing negative repercussions for users within a virtual context.

[2], [3] Prominent crypto venture capital firm Paradigm has hired, on more than one occasion, anonymous developers and research engineers – explicitly from Twitter/X.