China names members of a second tech supergroup to define the metaverse

Goggle-eyed Beijing wants technical and identity standards

China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) released a list last Friday of 60 experts from academia, government and business selected by Beijing to define standards for the metaverse.

The working group list is open for feedback until February 18. Among industry members listed are representatives from telco equipment makers Huawei and ZTE, gaming companies Tencent and NetEase, AI-forward web giant Baidu, Alibaba's fintech offshoot Ant Group, and computer slinger Lenovo.

Members of MIIT, the China National Institute for Standardization of Electronics Technology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Peking University, Fudan University and other organizations were also selected for the list.

The list is a who’s who of China’s big tech players from the private and public sectors, plus academia. The likes of Tencent and Lenovo could carry Beijing's ideas far and wide thanks to their huge gaming and hardware businesses. The likes of Huawei and ZTE still have some friends abroad. Ant Group's payment services are prevalent across Asia. Others, though, don't have much recognition outside China.

Beijing announced its intention to set up this working group in September of last year.

MIIT stated it was particularly concerned about the use of sensitive personal information in metaverses, proliferation of digital identities, pyramid schemes, online violence and bad infosec practices taking hold.

The agency detailed that the group would formulate both general and technical standards – covering areas that include metaverse terminology, reference architectures, identity systems, digital content generation, and cross-domain interoperability.

China has long sought influence over the shape and narrative of the metaverse. As Mark Zuckerberg was seeking to be the self-appointed American big tech representative of the concept no one asked for in 2021 and 2022 – even going as far as to rename his brainchild to match – China was assembling its own joint research institutes to have a crack at the shared virtual reality's development.

The list of power players named last week echoes those selected to participate in China's 2022-era Joint Research Institute of Metaverse and Virtual-Real Interaction – Huawei, Tencent, Fudan, Peking and more were all on that list.

Metaverse hype is yet to translate into more than the occasional corporate adverts masquerading as experiences and novelty encounters that have not exactly seen fans clamoring for more.

Market intelligence firm Canalys declared in late 2022 that most metaverse business projects would be dead by 2025. And by 2023, the world had moved on to the next big thing in tech: generative AI.

But by staying the course and putting its power players behind standards development, Beijing may be playing a longer game. ®

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