Metaverse: Why Neil Stevenson wants to build a virtual world open to everyone

Metaverse: Why Neil Stevenson wants to build a virtual world open to everyone

The science fiction author who coined the term Metaverse in his 1992 novel snow crash Compete with Meta and Microsoft to create an open source platform for creating virtual worlds


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September 29, 2022

Author Neil Stephenson has launched his own open source version of the metaverse

Aimee E. Price/Getty Images for SXSW

Science fiction author Neal Stephenson predicted cryptocurrencies and virtual worlds — even coining the term Metaverse — in his 1992 novel snow crash. Now, 30 years later, he is merging the two ideas by launching an open metaverse powered by the blockchain. It’s a move that puts him against the big tech companies with their own plans, so why would he do that and what is even the Metavir crossing open?

Developers have pushed different versions of the metaverse for decades, but nothing has stopped. It might be time, though: Last year, Facebook renamed Meta with co-founder Mark Zuckerberg promising to spend billions of dollars creating a new virtual world in which everyone could interact, while Microsoft also Investing billions in its own version of the idea.

However, Stevenson suggests building a metaverse linked to the blockchain – the technology behind cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin – so that they are completely decentralized rather than owned by someone. He launched a company and blockchain called Lamina 1 In order to serve as the kernel for open metaverse. It will deal with interoperability between worlds, verify the identity of users and handle financial transactions.

Neither Lamina 1 nor Stevenson responded to a request for an interview, but at A A technical document announcing the launchLamina1 says the first virtual world built on its own blockchain will be called “THEE METAVERSE” and will be designed by Stevenson. It promises “an interactive virtual world rich in imagination with an unforgettable origin story”.

Details on what exactly it will include are scarce, but when we’re talking about an open metaverse, there are two main possibilities. One is a metaverse built at least in part using open source software, even if it’s a commercial project like Meta or Microsoft, just as the open source Linux operating system supports many of the world’s largest commercial technology platforms. But each created world can be a separate entity.

The other option – the open metaverse – is an ecosystem of virtual worlds backed by open standards that allow characters to seamlessly move from one world to another, just as you would click from website to website in your browser, perhaps even being able to take virtual objects and digital money with you.

There is already evidence that open standards can be successful in VR and metaverses. The OpenXR . Standard It can describe virtual environments and how people can interact with them with support from Meta along with computer chip makers AMD and Intel. and the Metaverse Standards Forum It was created, including by members like software company Adobe, Meta and Google, to help settle common standards for things like how 3D models are represented.

Despite this promise, tech companies seem to be moving away from the completely open metaverse, potentially being able to control and monetize their virtual worlds.

Many developers are still laying the foundation for the metaverse, even though it can be built and controlled by the communities that use it. that Unlock the Metaverse Alliance She also appeared to support this effort.

One of the members of this alliance is Kalila Lang, founder of the open source metaverse software platform Vercadia. She says open source architecture is vital to the future of the metaverse, but the idea of ​​seamless interoperability between worlds is “dumb” and largely unworkable.

“When it comes to interoperability, when you make a character or when you make an item or when you make a world, one doesn’t necessarily fit the other,” she says. “If you try to take my character’s weapons from Call of duty Then put them in Doctrine killerWell, that would be silly. It will break the whole game. Nothing would make sense, would it? “

The logical thing, says Lang, are open standards that allow the creation of open worlds free from the control of tech giants. She says Meta’s use of the term “metaverse” as a product name after decades of common use has caused “bad faith” in some quarters, but has had a positive side in that more attention is now being paid to virtual worlds.

Lang says Meta wants to get people to build worlds on top of their own. “While what we want to do is basically be WordPress for virtual reality. You know, WordPress supports every kind of website imaginable, right? People extend it, hack it whatever they want.”

It remains to be seen if the metaverse will become a part of our daily lives. Given the wide range of methods being tested, there may be a place for them all in some form, even if the likes of Meta have the advantage of scale on their part.

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