Is the Metaverse Standards Forum really all that it’s chalked up to be?
On June 22, the non-profit standards organization the Khronos Group announced the formation of a collaborative body called the Metaverse Standard Forum (MSF). Many major metaverse players, like Meta, Microsoft, Epic Games, Adobe and Nvidia, have come together to join the Khronos Group as founding members of the MSF.
The forum aims to ensure interoperability (ability to exchange information) across different metaverses to make it easier for developers to build across various platforms. As such, the MSF is free for anyone to join. Let’s take a deeper look at the goals of the WSF, what it means for companies in the metaverse space and whether it can actually accomplish these goals.
What does the MSF hope to achieve?
Companies joining hands to work together
One of the major goals of the MSF is to create an open and inclusive metaverse. At present, we understand the metaverse in a very company-specific way. For instance, we know that Nvidia, one of the founding members of the MSF, has a metaverse for engineers called Omniverse, and the gaming platform Roblox is a metaverse in itself. However, the metaverse isn’t meant to be individual virtual spaces “owned” by a particular company where one cannot communicate with another. It is eventually supposed to be everyone’s, in the sense that all virtual worlds are interconnected.
“No one really knows the final shape of the metaverse, but some things are already clear. And that is, of course, that a lot of different technologies are going to need to work together for all the different domains to work,” says the President of Khronos Group, Neil Trevett.
Founding member Meta agrees with Trevett’s statement. In a blog post, Meta’s President of Global Affairs, Nick Clegg, wrote, “…the metaverse will be a constellation of technologies, platforms, and products. It won’t be built, operated or governed by any one company or institution,” comparing it to a patchwork quilt.
Defining the metaverse
The company-specific metaverses we mentioned above make it clear that the term “metaverse” isn’t as well-defined as it should be. Many big companies today have created 3D experiences which may or may not fall under the purview of the metaverse. Just do a simple Google search, and you’ll see a flurry of articles about what the metaverse is and isn’t. Constructing standards of what the metaverse is or should be can help us come closer to defining it.
To do so, the MSF aims to work on implementation prototyping, hackathons and open-source tooling to develop terminology to define metaverse and related technologies and accelerate the speed at which guidelines are created and deployed. Despite the term “metaverse” in its name, the MSF intends to develop standards for other technologies within the metaverse space, like augmented reality, virtual reality, geospatial systems and interactive 3D graphics. Although all of this will help define the metaverse in clearer terms, the MSF concentrates more on providing developers the necessary tools to go out there and design virtual spaces rather than defining the term “metaverse”.
What the MSF means for the future of the metaverse
By making the space open and inclusive, the MSF will allow metaverse technologies to develop much faster, thereby accelerating the overall growth of all companies within the space. With companies working together, the overall costs of developing metaverse technologies could also come down considerably.
To accomplish any of this, the MSF needs all big players in the industry to come together and agree to share their resources. Yet, some of the biggest names in extended reality space (a crucial piece in creating immersive metaverse experiences), like Apple and ByteDance, are missing from the list of MSF members.
Other big-league companies, like Niantic (creator of Pokémon Go), Roblox, Decentraland and The Sandbox, also haven’t signed on as members. The absence of these companies makes it hard to imagine how the MSF will facilitate an open metaverse. Experts also say that it would be tough for the MSF to achieve its aim for an open metaverse because web 2.0 companies (like Meta) heavily rely on user data, and so their business model is incompatible with an open, decentralized metaverse.
Whether the MSF would actually be able to achieve any of its goals is yet to be determined. Hopefully, more members will join the forum, and companies will adjust their business to better fit the open and decentralized vision that the MSF has for the metaverse.
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Header image courtesy of Freepik