How to build a responsible metaverse—starting now
The internet has been one of the most disruptive innovations ever. It changed how we interact with friends, family, colleagues and clients. It also opened the gateway to advanced virtual experiences that are poised to revolutionize the way we communicate, shop, work and even travel. But there's a single, overarching insight gleaned from our two-part global metaverse study spanning 19 countries and 17,500 respondents: People care about more than the front-end experience. In any environment—real or simulated—trust and safety are top of mind. This sentiment is consistent across age group, gender and geography. So, in this next evolution of the internet, we can't afford to play catchup on security, cyberbullying and everything in between.
Building a metaverse that people want to engage in and return to requires embedding responsibility across two dimensions. The first is trust—privacy, security, resilience (including high-fidelity and low-latency experiences) and intellectual property rights. These shape how technology, product policies and practices are designed and deployed. The second? Human dimensions—safety; sustainability; inclusion, diversity and accessibility; and well-being. These facets ground the design and build of the user experience. Users are more willing to engage with online platforms that they consider trustworthy. Applying this framework to the metaverse can inspire and incentivize widescale user adoption. There will always be unknowns in a space where innovation is flourishing. But we've identified areas of focus that leaders should start exploring and understanding today.
Privacy by design and by default: Companies that implement intuitive privacy defaults and innovative transparency approaches are more likely to succeed at engaging and retaining people in the metaverse. Strong data protection practices create a baseline for trust when novel kinds of data are being collected and processed. Organizations must also work together to actively shape the norms regarding digital self-expression by embedding inclusivity throughout the design process. Product teams must consider the full diversity of the users they aim to serve to address their needs—from different hair options and ethnic features to body types, neurodiversity requirements and more.
Tokenization and interoperability: Explore the full range of digital-asset options, including enterprise-grade platforms and solutions. Define what your target audience truly values and select trusted technology solutions and service providers that address concerns around privacy, security and safety. Innovations such as a universal digital wallet infrastructure that would allow people to tokenize identity, money and objects, and take these from one digital world to another, could enable greater interoperability. But achieving this level of interoperability will take significant time, coordination and financial resources.
Digital safety and sustainability: Companies, governments and civil societies must partner to overcome challenges to digital safety to help ensure that virtual environments do not compromise the well-being of users. These partnerships should identify and address online harms in the metaverse, build tools to combat harmful content and invest in talent to support platform integrity and community managers. Pay mind to real environments, too. Organizations should ask: How can I become more sustainable by using the metaverse? Identify the sustainability levers that your organization controls and determine key metrics that measure progress and drive accountability for metaverse sustainability across the organization.
of respondents agreed that robust privacy, safety and security mechanisms would impact their willingness to engage in and return to metaverse experiences.
The metaverse is already a place for consumers to try on clothes virtually before buying them and where colleagues can collaborate on projects. And it can and will be so much more. Of course, even with a responsible metaverse framework, building safe spaces will be an iterative, agile development process, requiring a broad range of voices and philosophies. Yet everyone can agree we have a rare opportunity to help ensure that a new, life-changing and enriching technology does not outpace society’s best intentions, and instead helps us realize them. Whether you’re using the technology to transform enterprise operations or engaging with consumers in new ways, your strategy should advance the following values to realize enduring success.
Designate a leader to help ensure your organization designs and deploys the metaverse responsibly. This individual will focus on privacy, security and safety, as well as embedding inclusion, diversity, sustainability and well-being to maintain trust.
Establish metaverse principles and guidance for its use across your organization. Leverage our comprehensive framework, bearing in mind that the eight trust and human dimensions are equally important. They are interconnected—one aspect shouldn’t be prioritized at the expense of another.
Trust and safety—and associated issues related to content moderation and brand safety—will become even more complex, and also more important in the metaverse. Decode the challenges the technology creates for your organization and apply a decision framework to help you navigate the metaverse responsibly and strategically.
If we build it right, the metaverse will not be seen as a way to withdraw from life, but an additional layer that enriches it.