Project Athena (which I first wrote about here) is one of at least three forks of the open-source High Fidelity software code that have sprung up since Philip Rosedale’s company essentially pulled the plug on January 15th, 2020.* (The other two forks are Tivoli Cloud and an as-yet-unnamed project by Kitely.)
In a blogpost published today to announce the first alpha release of Vircadia, developer Kalila L. wrote:
The team has been hard at work to produce the first release of Vircadia, codename “Project Athena”. It’s a bit rough around the edges but it serves a great many functions effectively to fulfill various needs. We provide both desktop and VR, knowing full well that desktop is the gateway drug to VR.
What is Vircadia?
In short, Vircadia is a social metaverse platform and engine. It is completely open source and decentralized while still maintaining its always connected functionality. Think VRChat or Second Life except with far less restriction on your ownership and control. As a result, your creativity in the worlds have no bounds.
Because of the high efficiency and of the platform servers, the cost to run your own instance is very low. A basic world can run on a $10/mo server from DigitalOcean, which you can scale up as needed for events or to support more of your friends in the virtual world.
Vircadia is the only open source full-featured desktop and VR solution available which enables enterprise customization and security while simultaneously paving a way for every day social use.
What you do with it is up to you.
I spent some time this morning interviewing Kalila L. via text chat in Discord, and here is an edited version of that interview:
Ryan: So, why the rebranding?
Kalila: So, there were concerns about competing against say Intel’s Project Athena, and since Google is tougher on new entries it would take forever to climb past [Intel’s project], we figured it would be:
- Easier to pick a name completely unique to us; and
- Get one that’s short and sweet, so when you say it… it refers to us, no matter what.
Ryan: How big is your development team? How many people are working on this project and how many are former HiFi staff?
Kalila: The core team is six people, the wider development group is over 20 people. The core team has two former HiFi staff, the wider group has active (still working there!) and former staff. We are all volunteers, as always.
Ryan: How do you plan to differentiate Vircadia from the other two known forks of the open-source HiFi codebase?
Kalila: So the main selling point is: FOSS (Free and Open Source), an Apache 2.0 license means that we’re the only one that businesses can use if they want to protect their investments while keeping the door open for returning contributions, if they desire.
Vircadia scales, so we can support any business, large or small. Even just one or two people who want a co-working space for their little startup, or maybe your IRL work group needs a place to meet and share presentations. We currently have multiple small business/professional people looking into implementing the platform as we speak.
Secondly, we have a huge focus on open-ended ecosystems, so every vital component is open source and deployed, even the in-development launcher. It’s all there, so you have a secured social future.
Thirdly, our focus is UX and working towards making it a usable experience for enterprise and social in these troubling times.
This is alpha! So there will be bugs (and I’m sure you remember that HiFi left us with their own bugs…), but! No one who is FOSS (Apache 2.0) is as feature complete as us. So Vircadia is the best option if you need a deployable social platform.
Ryan: So could you share what you hope your roadmap/timeline will be for the rest of this year for Vircadia? You said it was alpha.
Kalila: I mentioned a lot about the open source and its licensing in the blog post so that can help explain that. So, our timeline is currently where we want to shorten the release cycle, so our next release will have less neat stuff, but we still want to get the same amount of updates/features/fixes out in the same amount of time.
Shortening the release schedule just means we get those interim points of progress out to everyone faster! We want to merge in many new features but I’ll give you more on that later, we’re still ironing out which features we want to add in and which we want to wait on. But I can say it’s pretty awesome what we’ve got in store on a technical level which will result in better, more vibrant worlds for all.
Our plans are to really grow the platform by focusing on groups and people who would like to use it for their various purposes such as holding meetings or get-togethers. But as always, all are welcome and our true goal is fully decentralized, social living metaverse.
If you want more information about Vircadia, you can
- Visit their website (from which you can download and test drive their latest alpha client);
- Join their Discord server; or
- Follow them on social media: Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
I have added the tag “Vircadia” to all my previous blogposts about Project Athena, and moved the link to the project from the P’s to the V’s on my alphabetical, comprehensive listing of social VR platforms and virtual worlds. Thanks for Kalila L. for answering all my pesky interview questions! 😉
* I did also ask today in the Vircadia Discord channel if I could still use my original High Fidelity user account to connect to Vircadia, and I was told that existing HiFi accounts can still access the original platform. However, I learned today that this relies heavily on High Fidelity’s infrastructure remaining active, and that it might be shut down at any time without warning (although the company actually did promise to keep it up until the last registered place/domain name expires, which will be closer to the end of this year). Kalila L. tells me that Vircadia has a new user account system under development.