The term ‘metaverse’ is overused and we all feel it. It’s vibrant, boxed in and doesn’t include how the underlying technologies could change everything from meeting to playing, working to shopping, and the general way we experience life. It is therefore imperative that we be careful about how we even refer to the metavers. The potential offerings have yet to hit the market, and companies fear over-promise and hype that could contribute to mass consumer disappointment, as we saw during the earlier VR craze.
While there is much debate about what the metaverse is, it is generally agreed that in order to be of utmost benefit to most people, it must provide a sustained, fluid connection between experiences – something that has never been done before. To achieve that goal, rather than companies creating more walled-in technologies and worlds, the most desirable route will be to deliver an interoperable metaverse that is open to both creating and experience.
No company should own the metaverse. We have the ability to create agnostic backbones, platforms, and features that anyone can use from the start of this next tech revolution. The approach enables all related efforts and businesses to work together, ensuring freedom of movement across a diverse variety of worlds with a tenacious digital identity. In this way, the true metaverse will have the opportunity to deliver gaming, music and all forms of entertainment, communication and collaboration that people and businesses will embrace and use.
Why interoperability is essential in the metaverse
As a technical definition, interoperability is the layer on which a network of virtual worlds relies to transfer the state of something or someone to its new state without wasting time. It’s a lot like teleporting. Imagine that in one world you dive deep into a dark green ocean, complete with an oxygen tank, and with a click you immediately go to another where you meander through the desert of a distant planet with a full canteen of water. For you and me, interoperability can be experienced as digital objects and/or states that exist seamlessly between different virtual worlds, however different.
To enable a simulated experience that is both playable and immersive, an optimal metaverse experience requires one thing in particular: continuity. Continuity in this case refers to the perpetual living “state” of a player or avatar (your digital identity), the surrounding world and everything within it. Imagine this scenario: I go to my favorite shoe store in the Metaverse and the Non-Player Character (NPC) shopkeeper helps me around. Then all of a sudden I get a notification to join my friend’s battle session. Because I don’t want to miss it, I immediately jump into a completely different world. When I return to the digital store the next day, the shopkeeper reminds me and points me to a pair of sneakers, which I then buy (with money I earned from yesterday’s battle). Then I decide to travel to another world where my new shoes aren’t a wearable item, but instead get me better seats at a concert, or maybe a shield to defend myself from a dragon. Time is arguably our most important asset, and for a player, losing progress in a game means that precious time spent in the game is lost. Plus, we keep what we buy in the real world, and we want experiences that reflect that in digital worlds, so…
Why has no one achieved interoperability yet?
Interoperability appears to be a simple, or at least an immediate need. When a single group or company creates a series of completely different worlds, they also provide connective tissue to seamlessly connect objects, activities, movement and more without too much effort. However, when trying to enable interoperability between different companies and developers, each with their own separate worlds and systems, problems arise. This is because each company can use different proprietary and closed sets of standards and methods to develop unique experiences for their users. Think Apple v. Microsoft v. Google and the mess that has sometimes been for the average person trying to get fluency between systems or browsers. It’s infinitely frustrating. A metaverse that is fully interoperable avoids this from the start.
By establishing a widely accepted infrastructure layer for businesses and other developers, and a consumer interface that allows all the different standards to work together as a compatible flow of information, we can facilitate interoperability and create bridges that serve all systems, makers and users.
Today, interoperability between creative forces is only possible through consensus – it exists in file formats and standards, such as the well-known acronyms HTML or SSL. In the near future, everything will be translated and converted in real time so that the consumer experience of moving between worlds will be as seamless as moving from website to website has become.
It is an exciting time for the computer industry. The metaverse as it exists today is as much a collective mindset as any number of technologies. For now, it is a driving force of innovation for the new generation of founders to transform software for the better. In the next three to five years, we will see creative people and companies demonstrate the human drive for innovation and an insatiable appetite for solving the big problems.
The metaverse isn’t really achieved until people stop using the word metaverse and instead use the name of the 10 groundbreaking products they can no longer use every day. Interoperability is one of the many features of these new products, and the future of the metaverse depends on it.
Ash Koosha is the CEO and co-founder of Oorbit.