Why the metaverse must not become a walled garden

Gheric Speiginer
September 20, 2023

A Federated Metaverse

A literal interpretation of a corporate controlled walled garden. Created in Midjourney.

In recent years, there has been a lot of hype around the concept of the metaverse, a shared virtual space where people can interact and engage with each other and with virtual content. This idea has been popularized by companies such as Epic Games and Facebook, who are both hard at work attempting to establish their own metaverse platforms. While the concept of the metaverse is certainly exciting, it's important to critically examine the various approaches being explored for building metaverse platforms, and consider the potential consequences of these approaches.

One approach is that of a platform owned and controlled by a single company, in which users are subject to that company's terms of service and privacy policies. There are several problems with this approach to the metaverse. First and foremost, it is at odds with the idea of a truly shared virtual space. When a single company controls the platform, it can dictate what is and is not allowed, and users have little recourse if they feel their rights have been violated. This goes against the spirit of the metaverse as a place where people can freely interact and express themselves.

Another issue with the "walled garden" approach is that it puts users at the mercy of the company when it comes to privacy and data sovereignty. The company has access to all of the data generated by users on the platform, including their personal information and activity data. This leaves users vulnerable to data breaches and the potential misuse of their data by the company or third parties. By placing all of the control in the hands of a single entity, users are forced to trust that their data will be kept safe and that their privacy will be respected. This is especially concerning in the context of a spatial computing platform, where users may be sharing a vast amount of personal information and engaging in sensitive activities.

So how can we build a truly open metaverse that fundamentally respects issues of privacy and data sovereignty?

A more promising approach to building a metaverse would be to follow the model of the World Wide Web, which is built on a federated network of interconnected nodes rather than a single, centralized entity. This approach would allow for a metaverse that is truly global and open, enabling people, technologies, companies, and nations to connect and collaborate in a virtual space that respects users' privacy and data sovereignty.

One key aspect of this approach would be the use of decentralized technologies and peer-to-peer networks to ensure that data is kept secure and that users have control over their own data. Additionally, the use of open standards and protocols would allow for the interoperability of different metaverse applications, enabling users to seamlessly move between different virtual spaces and experiences.

Ultimately, the promise of the metaverse lies in its ability to bring people, technologies, and ideas together in a virtual space that is truly global and connected. By building on the open, decentralized model of the web, we can create a metaverse that respects users' privacy and data sovereignty while also fostering collaboration and innovation. This is the best way to ensure that the metaverse truly becomes a space for humans, rather than just a playground for corporations.

This article was co-authored with chatGPT.


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