Since the release of Ready Player One, you’ve probably heard the word ‘metaverse’ more than a dozen times. Initially coined by Neal Stephenson in his book Snow Crash, the Metaverse refers to a ‘digital universe’, a collection of virtual worlds, that can be accessed through a special device. You might think of the metaverse as something similar to The Matrix, or the Oasis, where we would live alternative lives with our avatars – and the future might well be like that.
The Need For VR Interoperability
The truth is, you are already very familiar with the first metaverse: the web. The World Wide Web, invented by Sir Tim Berners Lee in 1991 is a standard protocol to navigate the web via browsers. Before the web, the internet was more akin to static servers, without interface, or easy way to access it. The internet era can therefore be divided in two phases: pre and post World Wide Web.
Similarly, we believe that virtual reality’s (VR’s) history will be divided between pre-Metaverse and post-Metaverse era. Right now, we stand in the pre-Metaverse era – like the old internet, the number of VR experiences is limited, and there is no way to communicate between them. We need to build the equivalent of hyperlinks in VR, for users to seamlessly teleport between apps, as a first step towards interoperability.
Technically speaking, interoperability is about compatibility between differents worlds, just like the web enables users to go navigate from site to site. In VR however, the worlds of tomorrow are currently being built by various companies such as High Fidelity, VRChat, Sansar, Janus or SomniumSpace, and do not currently have a common standard. To avoid a highly fragmented VR ecosystem operating in silos, and be able to communicating across platforms, interoperability standards are needed, and fast.
[For Disclosure: We (Admix) are currently working with High Fidelity on a teleport unit, admix.in/oasis.]
The 3 Pillars
At a high level, interoperability goes beyond technical compatibility – it’s about freedom. The freedom of movement across platforms, to build real relationships anywhere, to build, communicate, learn, explore wherever you please, across the VR universe.
In the real world, Freedom of movement is an official article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, stating that citizens have the liberty to travel, reside in, anywhere they want, within the limits of the law. Practically speaking, to be free to explore the real world, three things are therefore needed: a document attesting your identity; a currency for expenses; and some belongings. Identity, currency, and inventory, are the defining elements of your freedom.
This isn’t any different in a virtual world. Whoever they decide to be online, citizens’ identity, currency and inventory should be maintained across worlds. In doesn’t mean that they’ll necessary have the same appearance in each world – that is just a disguise – but their right to personal identity states that they’ll be recognized as the same citizen of the metaverse.
Each world might have a different currency, but local money can be traded against the currency of other worlds, and citizens can own virtual goods anywhere in the metaverse. Goods might not be usable in each world – just like the law of certain countries will prevent carrying firearms, for example – but they still belong to the citizen, per their right to property.
Building Digital Freedom
Enforcing identity, currency, and inventory standards across VR experiences is therefore the first step towards the post-Metaverse era, bridging the gap between multiple nodes of a fragmented ecosystem. Companies like High Fidelity and Janus VR understood this, starting the Virtual Reality Blockchain Alliance. They understood that interoperability also profits content owners and platforms, as audiences will be cross promoted between worlds, instead of competing against each other. Open borders will accelerate the development of the virtual economies, enabling trade between worlds which wouldn’t otherwise know each other, or unable to do deals for compatibility reasons. The metaverse is about globalisation.
Last year, virtual world Second Life reported that $60M was paid out to their developers. Imagine if there were multiple platforms like Second Life and they could all trade with each other – the total economy would be greater than the sum of its part, as per the Metclafe law. It is especially crucial in the early days, to increase traffic through each world and facilitating more transactions.
Over the next decade, people all over the world will invest their time and resources in building hyper targeted VR communities centered around their passions. Let us work together to build these communities as an open world, that transcends the interest of a single company. Let us build digital freedom.