Photo by Stephen Picilaidis on Unsplash

Open Standards of Behavior

Avi Bar-Zeev

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One of the things we can all agree on about the Metaverse is that, whatever it’s called, no single company should control it. Even the big companies want to avoid the other big companies controlling things. But they all need to ultimately buy into the same set of standards to make that happen.

There are a variety of business models out there, some of them fairly pro-consumer, and some of them arguably less healthy for society. Given those competing ideas, we hear a lot of rhetoric about “walled gardens” vs. “open ecosystems,” as if this is the real fight.

But when some people say “open” they also quietly want to ensure there are no rules that might limit their “less popular” business model. So it’s less about what we add to the standards and more about what we don’t add, for them. I’d personally call that “open for business,” or “wild west,” which is not what most of us mean by “open.”

So how do we get everyone on board with common standards, when we can’t always agree on common standards of business conduct, in terms of privacy and protecting children, for example. That’s a big open challenge.

Turns out, “open” doesn’t necessarily mean anyone can do anything they want — just the opposite, actually — as we try to get everyone to follow a common set of patterns and practices to interoperate. Company behavior around protocols, not just the protocols themselves, is also on the table.

As to “Walled Gardens,” the shared concern is that they ultimately limit us, locking us inside. But when the world outside the garden is still a jungle or a desert, then the garden is actually a better place for many people to begin. It’s safer. It’s more cultivated. There’s more stuff and hopefully more well-behaved people in one place. And interestingly, the garden can and should use those same open standards as outside, but may selectively choose not to interoperate with the outside world — yet.

As the world outside the garden improves, the garden’s walls eventually need to come down, and they will — even if the garden-owner doesn’t like that. Otherwise people will leave.

So the key focus should be on making the world outside the garden the best place to be. I think that means making sure the standards support the most pro-consumer uses and curb the others.

In other words, the best way to counter any concerns about walled gardens or exploitive business models is to ensure that the World Wide World is maximally safe, respectful, equitable, and rewarding for all people.

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Avi Bar-Zeev

XR Pioneer (30+ years), started/helped projects at Microsoft (HoloLens), Apple, Amazon, Keyhole (Google Earth), Linden Lab (Second Life), Disney (VR), XR Guild