The meta-game is afoot! Bilibili to launch Blockchain-powered metaverse

The application, called Upowerchain, is being internally tested. Details are scant, but Bilibili might be in a good position in the NFT game.

Photo from CFP

Photo from CFP

By SI Linwei


Unlike on YouTube, where comments live in the comments section, viewers on Bilibili watch comments float across the video as it plays. When something funny or exciting is about to come up, a storm of comments gathers on the screen, warning “Qianfang Gaoneng,” or “Dragons ahead!”

The great chain of being

Bilibili has named its new blockchain-powered tool Gaoneng (chain), or Upowerchain in “English.” Although certain functions are already live, no launch date has been set. Upowerchain’s current focus is on IPR compliance.

Screenshots appear to show Upowerchain includes identity management, collectible transactions, and a virtual reality experience. It aspires to become an ID card and treasure trove “for institutions and individuals alike.”

Details are scant on the actual functions and underlying tech. What is known is that private keys, used for authentication and encryption on the blockchain, will be generated and stored on Upowerchain, and that users will be able to tokenize and display their art with little outside help.

Alibaba, Tencent and JD have their own blockchain applications, but this is the first time a Chinese tech company has attempted to marry blockchain and the metaverse, a hypothesized iteration of the Internet supporting consistent 3-D virtual environments which for now only exists in video games. While most of the technology is still lacking, some basic stumbling blocks, composed mainly of a few capital letters (NFT, DeFi, DAO, etc.) are already up and running, to some extent.

Do techies dream of meta-sheep?

Tech involvement in NFTs has been mainly on the trading side. When it comes to the actual collectibles, they still need “artists,” even if those artists have been dead for hundreds or even thousands of years. Alibaba has signed up the world heritage archeological site at Dunhuang. Tencent opted for trying to deal in unforgettable moments from a popular talk show.

But Upowerchain of course could access Bilibili’s huge reservoir of users and content, assuming that users agree. The platform’s quarter of a billion monthly visitors are young and they spend a lot of time, staring blankly at whatever dances across their screens for over an hour and a half each day. Over 10 million videos are uploaded every month, and some of them are worth watching, Bilibili claims that more than 90 percent of their content is professionally made but that is no guarantee of quality. Despite the tawdry nature of most of the content, every bit of it can be tokenized. Every vlogger or viewer can issue or trade an NFT.

“A metaverse would rely on a self-sustaining content ecosystem,” CHEN Rui, CEO of Bilibili, said recently. “No single company alone can create a virtual world. It needs a large group of content creators who benefit and profit from the platform.”

But at this point, no one even knows what a metaverse is - which may explain why different companies like Facebook, Disney, and Microsoft are approaching it in totally different ways - except that it sounds great and will definitely be a lot of very profitable fun for all…