What Drives People to Build an Open Metaverse?

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One of the many people who participate in the discussions on the RyanSchultz.com Discord server is Jin, who is a passionate proponent of social VR platforms built on open, interoperable standards.

Jin has written up a document where he describes why he is so motivated to build an open metaverse. I strongly urge you to go over and read the entire thing yourself, but I will quote a few parts here:

We’re close to arriving into that universe of a massive, persistent, digital spatial reality adjacent to our own. These books have always inspired us from the beginning, it’s time now.

In these books the characters live a dual life between the physical and the virtual world. Ready Player One in particular has a pretty dystopian take on this potential future where their version of cyberspace is largely built and owned by a single company… We can not allow so much power to be in the hands of one company, especially with a medium like VR/AR which hoovers up more data about our surroundings, actions, and reactions to sensory information than any other technology before it. For this reason, Building the Open Metaverse is a Moral Imperative.

Jin takes a look at the current technology landscape, and there is plenty of gloomy news:

  • Five large companies (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google) are accumulating more and more control over people’s data.
  • Over half of all gaming titles and 60% of VR/AR experiences are made with Unity3D, a non-free gaming engine. 
  • High Fidelity and Decentraland absorbed 99% of venture capital funding for open source social VR. Decentraland has shelved VR support after seeing High Fidelity falter in its rollout.

But there are also some bright spots appearing on the horizon, as people create tools to support the building of an open metaverse:

  • WebXR, a device API specification for accessing VR and AR devices, that will evolve a metaverse from individual creators creating experiences that interoperate with other experiences
  • Exokit, a native 3D XR web engine which runs regular HTML+JS WebXR sites
  • Open source protocols: IPFS and Dat
  • Open source XR frameworks: Aframe / BabylonJS / JanusWeb
  • Open source compositors: Exokit and XRdesktop
  • Open source browsers: Janus / Firefox Reality
  • Filecoin, a decentralized storage network
  • Blockchain initiatives such as BitcoinEthereum, and EOS

As I said, it’s worth going over to Jin’s article to read the whole thing. He raises a lot of different issues relating to the open metaverse and the challenges that the endeavour faces. He concludes by saying:

Keeping the web open and free is the fight of our lifetime. I’ve given the past 6 of my best years to researching and building a decentralized metaverse because freedom f*cking matters. Nobody owns the internet or web, it just exists which is why they serve as an excellent foundation for spatial computing.

My hope is that together we can find a way to sustain development, through patronage or ethical monetization schemes, so that our work can reach and liberate the masses.

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Thanks to Jin for writing this article! It is inspiring to see so much work being done in these areas. It will be an uphill battle, but a battle worth fighting, nonetheless.

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