JanusVR Shuts Down Its Corporation, But the Platform Will Continue

JanusVR CEO and co-founder James McCrae posted a letter to the JanusVR subReddit, announcing that the company behind JanusVR is shutting down:

I write to inform the broader community of our intent to dissolve the corporation, Janus VR, Inc., at the end of Q4 2019. It is no longer feasible to maintain our corporation status in Canada and the US given the expenses this will incur each year (as it relates to legal, accounting, patent/IP filings, etc.)

It’s not all sad news. I remain committed to do all I can to maintain our existing services and underlying infrastructure that the community enjoys, such as our default presence server, build servers and our Vesta hosting service. While I would love to see a sub-community emerge around supporting essential Janus services such that it would be self-sufficient, with an appointed group of custodians, it is my intention to take this on as a personal expense in the interim.

I think I speak for everyone on the team when I say we take great pride in what we have built as a result of our interaction with you, our community, over the past five years. A fact some may find surprising is that Janus VR has had hundreds of thousands of unique users since it was created. It is an incredible feeling to have built something that captured such attention and delighted so many people, or at least introduced them to our unique interpretation of the “immersive web” – even if that vision was a little “early”, “different” or “ahead of its time”. 

You can read the letter in full here. The open source JanusVR project will continue (here is the guide and GitHub), maintained by a cadre of volunteers. One commenter on the RyanSchultz.com Discord said:

It’s a shame they had to close down, but not surprising… They had no viable business model. None of these VR organizations seem to be trying the nonprofit route, even though it has worked out well for the Blender foundation. Maybe Blender is just an anomaly, though.

Thanks to Jin for the heads up!

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Virtual World Economies: Developers for Anarchy Arcade, Cryptovoxels, Exokit, and JanusVR Have a Panel Discussion

I’ve been meaning to blog about this for a while now, and someone reminded me today on Twitter (in response to my recent blogpost about the state of current social VR) that there was a nearly two-hour-long YouTube video of a panel discussion held in September in VRChat, where four smaller social VR developers talked about various aspects of virtual world economies.

According to the video description page:

We’ve gathered an incredible cast of lead developers building VR platforms to discuss virtual economies. How can creative people make a living inside these worlds? What ingredients are missing to catalyze a thriving user-generated content economy? What’s the landscape look like? How can startups compete with big tech?

The four panel speakers are:

James Baicoianu: Working on Elation Engine since 2011 building web based virtual worlds and JanusWeb for past few years as a framework for anyone to easily create social VR experiences. Bai has 20+ years of web dev experience, is a webgl / threejs contributor, and a part time internet archivist.

Ben Nolan: Built scenevr which lead to aframe, worked at Decentraland for awhile building their first web client. Currently developing Cryptovoxels full-time, a browser based virtual world owned by users via the Ethereum blockchain.

Avaer: Created a minecraft clone on the web about 6 years ago, ran into browsers at the time. Took C++ background and built own web browser named Exokit just doing WebVR / WebXR. Now focused on bringing people together and incentivized to work on proper Metaverse with Exokit Web.

SM Sith Lord: Lead developer of Anarchy Arcade, a 3D desktop with VR support. Has been using 3D desktops for 10 years and streams to Twitch regularly to show it off on twitch.tv/anarchyarcade.

I must confess that haven’t watched all of the video myself yet, but I wanted to share it with you, in case you were interested in some of the smaller companies’ perspectives on virtual world economies (and before I forget to post about it yet again). Enjoy!

Which Social VR Platform Has Been the Most Successful at Raising Money?

Image by Capri23auto from Pixabay

There’s been a very interesting discussion taking place today on the RyanSchultz Discord server. One of the regular contributors to the many conversations that take place there, Michael Zhang, pulled together the following information from Crunchbase:

Today I Learned: Building social VR, MMOs, and virtual worlds are a lot more expensive than I imagined!

From Crunchbase:

-High Fidelity raised $72.9 million over five rounds and is struggling with their recent pivot to enterprise.
-Rec Room raised $29 million over two rounds, $24 million only recently, so they lived off of $5 million for several years.
-Altspace raised $15.7 million over three rounds, went bankrupt and shut down, then revived when bought by Microsoft.
-Bigscreen raised $14 million over two rounds.
-TheWaveVR raised $12.5 million over three rounds.
-vTime raised $7.6 million over one round.
-VRChat raised $5.2 million over two rounds.
-JanusVR raised $1.6 million over two rounds.
-Somnium Space raised $1 million over two rounds.

In comparison:

-Epic Games raised $1.6 billion over two rounds, $1.25 billion coming after Fortnite.
-Mojang’s Minecraft launched in 2003, started making profits in 2007, earned $237.7 million in revenue by 2012, and sold to Microsoft for $2.5 billion. (Wikipedia)
-Roblox raised $187.5 million over seven rounds.
-Linden Lab’s Second Life raised $19 million over two rounds.

Then, another contributor named Jin put together this graph to illustrate how successful the various social VR platforms have been in raising venture capital (please click on this picture to see it in full size on Flickr, or just click here). As you can see, High Fidelity is far and away the leader in raising money!

Social VR Platforms Raising Money

(In comparison, Decentraland raised 24 million dollars in their initial coin offering. Jin also made a second chart including Decentraland, but I have not included it here because, unlike the other platforms, it does not currently support VR, and it is unlikely to do so anytime in the near future.)

Thank you to Michael Zhang and to Jin for their work!

JanusVR: A Brief Introduction

JanusVR is an interesting and different proposition for a social VR platform: a reimagining of webpages as collaborative 3D webspaces interconnected by portals. Started by James McCrae and Karan Singh in December 2014, it is named after the two-faced Roman god of passages.

I first explored JanusVR back in 2017 when I first got my Oculus Rift VR headset, but I never got around to writing about it for my blog until today. Here’s a brief promotional video for the project:

According to their press kit:

We are proud [to] introduce a major release of JanusVR, an immersive web browsing and design platform that reinvents the Internet as a connected network of 3-dimensional spaces. Users can experience JanusVR using virtual reality devices like the Oculus Rift, or on a conventional computer. 

JanusVR completely transforms Internet surfing, providing users with a multi-dimensional, collaborative browsing and building experience. 

Through JanusVR, websites become 3D spaces interconnected by portals. Users navigate, explore, collaborate and create content through a combination of traditional keyboard-and-mouse input, controllers, voice and gestures. 

“Internet content has moved well beyond traditional text, image and video,” said Karan Singh, a computer science professor at the University of Toronto and JanusVR’s co-creator. “Now people can experience rich three-dimensional models, animations, immersive audio and video, and amazing data visualizations in an intuitive VR context.” 

When you start off in JanusVR, you spawn in a pavilion filled with portals. Each experience in JanusVR has its own URL associated with it, just like a regular webpage. Just click on the portal, and wait a few seconds for it to load, then walk right through the door into a different experience!

JanusVR pavilion with portals to other experiences
(you can visit on your computer desktop here)
The Eternal Lab (you can visit on the desktop here)

The following video demonstrates how you can even teleport from JanusVR to Cryptovoxels! (Notice that your JanusVR avatar appearance does not come with you, though. Once you cross over, you appear as the default Cryptovoxels avatar.)

JanusVR is part of a project which comprises a complete suite of free programs, including web.janusvr.com (a WebGL-based version of the JanusVR client which runs in your web browser) and Vesta, a free web-hosting and content-sharing community.

You should know that JanusVR can still be bit buggy. I installed the client via the Oculus Store but it would not run for me, so I uninstalled it and tried downloading it from Steam. That version worked for me. Some experiences do take a while to load. And I did crash out of the program completely at least once. But you really can go down the rabbit hole in JanusVR, following portal after portal in much the same way as you follow link and link in the Web!

If you are interested in this project, you can follow JanusVR on Twitter and Facebook. You can also join their Discord server. And if you want to learn how to build in JanusVR, there is documentation available online. There’s also a GitHub for the project.