High Fidelity Suspends Its Remote Workteams Project, Announces More Staff Layoffs, Closes Its Open Source Codebase, and Withdraws Its Apps, Effectively Shutting Down on January 15th, 2020

In a new blogpost titled Updates, and a New Beginning, Philip Rosedale announced some more changes at High Fidelity:

…we have been heads-down developing and testing the use of High Fidelity for remote workers. We’ve developed a streamlined desktop version which has been tested by teams from 75+ organizations. In total, we’ve logged thousands of hours in-world as these groups tried working in a virtual environment. We’ve learned a lot and it’s hard to imagine our team working in any other way.

We plan to continue to use our technology as our company’s primary virtual office but we have decided not to commercialize the virtual workplace application at this time. Simply put, having taken a close look, while we can see that remote work is going to continue on its growth trajectory and we do have customers using it—the opportunity is not big enough today to warrant additional development. 

The work we’ve done over the past six months has been valuable in helping us understand how to make a 3D VR environment usable, stable, and accessible to first-time, non-gaming audiences, and that is intellectual property we will take forward into future work.  

According to Philip, High Fidelity will be working on a new internal project, the details of which will be announced at some future point in time.

Another major announcement is that the company is closing its open source codebase:

One of the many reasons we opted to develop an open source virtual world is because we wanted people, particularly creators and developers, to have the peace of mind that they were in control of the content and experiences they built and not dependent on decisions made by High Fidelity as a company. We have succeeded in that mission having open sourced the most powerful virtual reality codebase built to date: It can handle large crowds, low-latency 3D audio, live editing, interactive content, open-format file compatibility, and users can host the content however they wish with complete control.

The existing community over the past six months has continued to use the platform and contribute code with little involvement from High Fidelity. Given this, and given that our new project will further reduce our ability to manage the existing open-source repository, we believe that the best course of action is to formally turn over control of the codebase to the community.    

As of January 15th, 2020, we’re going to make High Fidelity’s Github repository private. We want to give community leaders time to create their own repositories and systems as desired. 

We know this change will lead to many questions for users, so we have attempted to provide as many answers as possible here

Another major bombshell is that the company is laying off more staff:

Our new project is different and in early development, which led us to the sobering realization that the incredible and talented team we have built, isn’t the one to take us forward. Consequently, we will reduce our team size in half effective today. We’ll be giving those affected time and support to find new positions in the New Year—these people are brilliant pioneers in VR—developers, designers, program managers, marketers, and support professionals—but we just aren’t ready for their firepower. I’ve already thanked them in private but let me publicly state my gratitude for all their work. They have pushed the boundaries of VR and I am sure will continue to do so, as other successful High Fidelity alumni have done.

And, finally…

As part of the refocus, we’ll also be withdrawing our apps on the Steam Store, Oculus Store and our Virtual You: 3D Avatar Creator app from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. Since there are no High Fidelity supported environments, we’re not offering registration for new accounts which these enable. 

According to the FAQ, High Fidelity is withdrawing from the Early Access programs on both the Oculus and Steam stores as of January 15th, 2020. High Fidelity will no longer allow new users to create accounts on the platform (existing accounts will continue to work, however).

Also, HiFi is shutting down its Marketplace and will suspend cashouts of its High Fidelity Coin (HFC):

The Marketplace will close. The public Marketplace pages will be removed, you will not be able to purchase new items, you will not be able to add new items available for sale, and you will not be able to edit existing items’ details. We will also no longer offer cash-out of HFC after January 15th, 2020.

In addition, High Fidelity will no longer be providing any support services to users after January 15th, 2020, and they will be shutting down the official user forums on that date.

Essentially, High Fidelity will soon be a dead platform, the first major victim of the social VR wars (but probably not the last). R.I.P.

When I asked Caitlyn Meeks, who is hard at work on a fork of the existing HiFi open source code for her new company, Tivoli Cloud VR, if the news that High Fidelity is closing their code base means that they will have to scramble, she told me:

Not in the slightest, we’re mostly creating new infrastructure from scratch. The work we’re doing on the open source code is mainly subtractive, removing things to make a faster experience and making room for better features.

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2 thoughts on “High Fidelity Suspends Its Remote Workteams Project, Announces More Staff Layoffs, Closes Its Open Source Codebase, and Withdraws Its Apps, Effectively Shutting Down on January 15th, 2020”

  1. You could see this coming from their previous announcements. Sansar is next unfortunately. Sadly I can’t find a platform I want to invest the time in to build as they are all so financially unstable. We have to admit the entire VR world is just as unstable and as the country sinks into the next big financial downturn it is questionable if it will even survive. I think our only real hope is that the rising middle class of Asia will jump on the VR bandwagon and save VR tech. Let’s face it they manufacture it all. Try to buy a camera or headset not made in China and their cities are a vision of the future and not the rotting hulks ours are. All American companies care about is short term profits for the benefit of wealthy shareholders and VR development will not be in that category for a long time.

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