The future of the metaverse hinges on interoperability

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The term “metaverse” has been overused, and we all feel it. It’s buzzy, pigeonholing, and doesn’t encompass how the underlying technologies could change everything, from meeting to playing, working to shopping, and the overall ways we experience life. It is therefore imperative that we are careful about how we even refer to the metaverse. Its potential offerings have yet to emerge in the market, and companies are fearful of overpromising and hype that could contribute to disappointment from mass consumers, as we witnessed during the earlier VR craze.

While arguments about what the metaverse even is are common, it is generally agreed that to be of highest use for the most people, it must provide a persistent, fluid connection between experiences—something that has never been done before. To reach that goal, instead of companies creating more walled-off technologies and worlds, the more desirable route will be to deliver an interoperable metaverse that is open to create for as well as experience.

No single company should own the metaverse. We have the opportunity to establish agnostic backbones, platforms, and features that everyone can use right from the beginning of this next tech revolution. The approach enables all related efforts and companies to work together, guaranteeing the freedom of movement across a diverse variety of worlds with a persistent digital identity. In this way, the true metaverse will have the opportunity to deliver gaming, music, and all the 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 that a network of virtual worlds relies on to transfer the state of something or someone to its new state without the loss of time. It’s a lot like teleporting. Imagine in one world you’re diving deep in a dark green ocean, complete with an oxygen tank, and in a click, you move instantly to another where you’re traipsing across the desert of a far off planet with a full canteen of water . For you and I, interoperability can be experienced as digital objects and/or states that exist seamlessly between different virtual worlds, no matter how experientially disparate.

To facilitate 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 notified to join my friend’s battle session. Not wanting to miss out, I jump straight into a totally different world. When I return to the digital store the next day, the shopkeeper remembers me and directs me to a pair of sneakers, which I then purchase (with currency I earned from yesterday’s battle). Afterward, I decide to travel to another world where my new shoes aren’t a wearable item but instead they get me better seats at a concert, or perhaps a shield to defend myself from a dragon. Time is arguably our most important possession, and for a player, if the progress in a game is lost, it means valuable time spent in the game is lost. In addition, we keep what we buy in the real world, and we want experiences that mirror that in digital worlds, so…

Why has no one achieved interoperability yet?

Interoperability seems a simple, or at least a straightforward need. When a single group or company makes a series of completely disparate worlds, they also provide connective tissue to seamlessly link objects, activities, motion, and more without great difficulty. However, when trying to enable interoperability between various companies and developers, each with their own separate worlds and systems, problems arise. This is because each company may 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 at times been for the average person trying to gain fluidity between systems or browsers. It’s infinitely frustrating. A metaverse that is completely interoperable avoids this from the beginning.

By establishing a commonly accepted infrastructure layer for companies and other developers, and an interface for consumers that allows all of the various standards to work together as a compatible stream of information, we can then facilitate interoperability, creating bridges that serve any and all systems, creators, and users.

Today, interoperability between creative forces is only achievable through a consensus—it exists in file formats and standards, like those familiar acronyms HTML or SSL. In the near future, everything will be translated and converted in real time, so the consumer experience of moving between worlds will be as seamless as moving from website to website has become.

It’s an exciting time for the computing industry. The metaverse as it exists today is as much a collective mindset as any number of technologies. For now, it is a driver of innovation for the new generation of founders to transform software for the better. In the next three to five years, we are going to see creative people and companies demonstrate the human drive toward innovation and an insatiable appetite to solve the big problems.

The metaverse will be truly achieved when people stop using the word metaverse and instead use the name of the 10 groundbreaking products that they can’t stop using everyday. Interoperability is one of the many traits of these new products, and the future of the metaverse depends on it.

Ash Koosha is the CEO and co-founder of Oorbit.

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