The proto-Metaverse is composed of siloed digital worlds. Different worlds may require different hardware for users, most assets cannot be transferred from one platform to another, and development in various worlds may call for the use of multiple engines, SDKs, and environments. While blockchain technology is conducive to creating truly open and interoperable digital worlds, the Metaverse as currently constructed still has a long way to go.
Interoperability is a prerequisite to building interconnected experiences that provide new opportunities for economic, social, and cultural change. These immersive experiences will enhance events, entertainment, social spaces, and working environments. As individuals and collectives across the globe begin to build, experiment with, and participate in increasingly engaging experiences, it will become progressively more important to remove barriers to creating these experiences. We must ensure a composable, scalable ecosystem of interconnected and interoperating products, services, and knowledge to augment and transcend physical events, environments, and experiences.
Creators and investors will benefit from an interoperable Metaverse as their creations and investments will become world-agnostic and transcend the limitations of specific realms. This will provide builds, scenes, wearables, experiences, and in-game assets with value beyond the platform that they currently reside in. Gamers have spent several billion dollars on Fortnite skins. Although they technically "own" these assets, they cannot trade, sell, rent, or collateralize them nor transfer these isolated items to other games or accounts. Avatars, wearables, spaces, and experiences that could be seamlessly deployed into any world ranging from Decentraland to Grand Theft Auto would have far more utility than assets bound to a particular platform. This interoperability will enable all participants to control their digital identity and assets, taking them to whatever worlds they please.
An interoperable Metaverse will also increase the portability and permanence of the assets within them. Being able to move assets from one platform to another will allow for these assets to be independent of any individual world, allowing for true ownership (unlike MMORPGs such as Star Wars Galaxies or The Matrix Online). Rather than being dependent on the fate of the platform that a particular build, scene, or experience may currently reside in, these assets will be able to be retained and deployed in an ever increasing number of worlds and DeFi applications.
It will be vital to adopt open standards that can be deployed across the Metaverse. These standards are the building blocks of the Metaverse and are essential to foster interoperable collaboration in the Metaverse, acting as a catalyst for creativity, innovation, and adoption. Much as the Internet is built on open standards and composability for the benefit of all participants, we must work to collectively build the Metaverse in the same manner. Developing and establishing shared terminologies and vocabularies, accepted file formats, a standardized scripting system, and deployment guidelines will be necessary to build the Metaverse with interoperability at its core. Open standards enable consistent implementations regardless of platform and address diverse users, use cases, and costs, enabling healthy competition and widespread access. Providing builders with the necessary conditions, tools, and workflows is crucial to remove friction to participation and creation, unlocking the next generation of shared experiences in the open Metaverse.
While it may be difficult for organizations to coordinate and adopt a shared standard, this practice will be necessary to realize the full potential of the Metaverse and ensure interoperable, composable, and inclusive digital worlds. Collaborative initiatives that bring companies and standards organizations together to co-create and define foundational standards will be crucial connective tissue in the Metaverse ecosystem.
One example of such an initiative is The Metaverse Standards Forum. This initiative brings a constellation of international standards organizations, including the Khronos Group, World Wide Web Consortium, Open Geospatial Consortium, OpenAR Cloud, and the Spatial Web Foundation, together with companies such as Adobe, Google, NVIDIA, Unity, Highstreet, MetaMundo, Everyrealm, and Samsung to collectively build consensus on which Metaverse-relevant interoperability problems can be improved today through standardization. Open to any organization, the Metaverse Standards Forum provides a venue for constructive dialogues and coordination between standards bodies and companies to accelerate the development and deployment of interoperability standards for an open and inclusive Metaverse. The Open Metaverse Alliance for Web3, which counts Decentraland, The Sandbox, Voxels, Superworld, and Animoca Brands as members, is a Web3 focused initiative.
Rather than dictating standards themselves, these consortiums will coordinate requirements and resources to spur the creation and evolution of open standards. It is crucial that companies (of all verticals) and standards organizations come together to contribute with the use cases and experiences from their respective technological domains to identify key requirements for open Metaverse standards. Reaching consensus on the optimal standards for interactive 3D assets, rendering, user generated content, avatars, identity management, geospatial systems and more will require the cooperation of multiple organizations to coordinate resources, contribute to common protocols, and share knowledge.
When designing a protocol, it is important to consider and balance the tradeoffs being baked in. For example, the cost to implement the standard (borne by Metaverse platforms) and the cost to develop scenes according to the standard (borne by creators building scenes) must strike a balance that is workable for both parties. Furthermore, one must compromise between flexibility, which can give rise to incompatible or undefined behavior between digital worlds, and rigidness, which can restrict creativity. Other considerations may include iterating quickly vs maintaining backwards compatibility or bolstering ease of use vs prioritizing functionality. Coming to an agreement on these tradeoffs will not be easy, but it is necessary. Giving companies of all shapes and sizes a seat at the table when co-creating these standards may work to expedite the adoption of and adherence to them. These consortiums cannot force members to implement a standard – they will use the standards that add the most value to their business. A standard must be widely used to be a true standard, and these collaborative initiatives may be crucial to this end.
These forums that spur collaboration between industry leaders to define the interoperable standards and infrastructure are necessary initiatives to create a truly open Metaverse. If we are to create a space that is controlled by no one, is accessible to all, and empowers creators of all backgrounds, we must join together and work as a collective.
Ultimately, interoperability will be necessary to create an open Metaverse and a flourishing ecosystem of portable products and services. Standardization will be a fundamental step towards this end, and the companies that are beginning to cooperate to make meaningful contributions to these standards are indispensable. Beyond looking to solve these issues independently, we highly encourage companies to join standards consortiums such as the Metaverse Standards Forum, the Open Metaverse Alliance for Web3, and the Open Metaverse Interoperability Group that work to facilitate this process. Pangea is looking forward to being present in these conversations. Follow @pangeaDAO on Twitter to stay informed and join our Discord to participate!