31. Januar 2022

Raph Koster’s Future of Online Worlds Applied to weblin.io

Raph Koster talked about the steep path to a unified metaverse. He raises many interesting points that address key points of weblin.io's architecture and design principles. 

A virtual discussion.

At the 2nd Annual GamesBeat Summit: Into the Metaverse 2 Raph Koster gave a speech about the future of the metaverse, about connecting virtual worlds, and about the steep path to a unified metaverse. He raises many interesting points.

The weblin.io project regards the web as a metaverse, if not the starting point for "The Metaverse". I would like to review the speech and comment the central messages with respect to weblin.io and the web metaverse. In other words: how they apply to the web as a metaverse.

Raph Koster talks about a high tech metaverse with 3D, AR, VR running on advance engines. Even beyond the engine, these worlds need sophisticated coding and modelling. Contrast that with the web metaverse which runs on a browser engine. This conventional approach makes things easier. The web metaverse gets away with much less complexity which creates lower barriers for interoperability. It turns out: things are much easier. We are lucky.

It is very interesting to apply the central messages of the talk to weblin.io because they address important features, the architecture, and design principles. Let's discuss:

Raph says: "The idea of taking multiple online worlds and cross connecting them with basically hyperlink connections, and […] hop freely between them with one client"

weblin.io comments: With weblin.io we are hopping freely between spaces with one client. The spaces being web sites, the one client being a web browser and freely hopping means clicking a web link. It's not 3D, no virtual worlds, not fancy. But the web metaverse is the biggest world in terms of content. It's the biggest world in terms of people. And most easily accessible by means of a web browser and some rather small client software, a graphical chat client with animated avatars as a browser extension or a native program that projects a social layer above all web pages.

Raph says: "Ongoing challenges include crappy voluminous user-generated content"

weblin.io comments: In case of weblin.io there everything is user-generated. It's the Web. It is often great and sometimes it is crappy. Speaking about "crappy voluminous" specifically: the web metaverse has a build-in check for content quality. Web content is produced to be used on the web, not specifically for the web metaverse. Hence, if it is good enough for the web, then it is good enough to make up a place of the web metaverse. Voluminous user-generated content will never drag down the web metaverse as it easily can in a virtual world other than the web that lacks such a built-in safeguard.

Raph says: "Play-to-earn have always had the risk of […] economy crashes due to […] mudflation"

weblin.io comments: Simulated economies with artificial money sources and sinks are difficult to balance. Play-to-earn needs a real economy, not a simulated one. It must be driven by real money that flows into the economy from the real world. Only real value creates a real economy because real money from the outside worlds is hard to get. It must provide a ROI for the outside world. That's the weblin model.

Raph says: "Players have not been that interested in item portability"

weblin.io comments: That is true in general. You won't take your WoW Hunter Bow to EVE Online. Different engine technologies, game mechanics, and balancing are strong barriers, that might be overcome someday, though. The real point is importing NFTs which have fixed real world attributes as in-world items. This needs a suitable mapping of NFT attributes to in-world features. If the mapping is transparent and stable, then real-world NFTs gain value and utility in-world.

Raph says: "The open web is a model for the kind of standard for decentralized creativity"

weblin.io comments: The existing standardization of web technologies makes the web a perfect model of a decentralized easy to access metaverse. The places are already there. Content is there. weblin.io adds people, and voila, the web becomes a metaverse. "decentralized creativity": that's what the web is about.

Raph says: "An enormous amount of the metaverse needs are going to be flat"

weblin.io comments: Often 2D is easier to navigate and a lower barrier. Navigating the web just needs a browser and a point device. That's an easy virtual world. No need to navigate in 3D to get to a document. Just a click and the document is full screen. And populated by people who happen to be reading the same document at the same time.

Raph says: "The art we see needs to break away from the notion that it is something baked into a client"

weblin.io comments: In the #Webaverse the content always comes from the server. The client fetches the content and projects a social layer on top where people meet. Check.

Raph says: "If we want a decentralized metaverse — one that is open and not controlled by one party — we obviously need to decentralize control"

weblin.io comments: Virtual words are usually controlled by one party. The web on the other hand is a decentralized metaverse, always was and probably will be. The social layer above the content that makes the web a metaverse in the first place is also decentralized. Every web content provider can host the social layer for their content by running a chat server. Once they operate the chat, they can enforce rules and moderate. In other words, they can exercise property rights. That's how weblin.io is built.

Raph says: "The biggest barrier to item portability is actually that every […] world implements that functionality in completely different ways […] There are zero shared data structures"

weblin.io comments: A common denominator of data formats might be a start. Viewed from a 3D perspective, common denominators lack the functionality required for a good user experience. But for our case, the web metaverse, typical web standards work perfectly as common denominators. For example, it is easy to make an in-world avatar available to the web metaverse. Inhabitants of virtual worlds can use an (animated) rendering of their in-world avatar on web pages to meet other people, even people from different games. From the point of view of the web metaverse all these virtual worlds are just sophisticated avatar creators. Avatars are designed in-world by all the means of the virtual world including the need to earn equipment or to buy vanity items. Then the avatar appearance is transferred to the web where people can present themselves by their game avatars.

Raph says: "[We might] take a cue from […] WordPress [the] plugin architecture [which] allows different platforms to implement the same applications programming interface (API)"

weblin.io comments: The underlying content of the web metaverse is already decentralized being provided by countless servers. Even the social content, users and game items is decentralized. Users can connect through their own messaging server. They can use an open-source client with a small set of interfaces. The reference implementation by weblin.io shows how pluggable item providers allow for decentralized game content on the social layer.

Raph says: "Just the coordination challenge of building that API is likely to be a multi-decade process of arriving at agreement on standards"

weblin.io comments: That's a consequence of the complexity of 3D worlds. The weblin.io project shows how small a set of APIs really needs to be to make the web a decentralized metaverse.

Raph says: "The need to coordinate and share multiple standards pushes towards a single platform owner that can force [necessary] standards into existence. But we know that isn’t the dream we all ultimately want"

weblin.io comments: No, it's not. The web is decentralized and relies on open standards. And the social layer that makes up the web metaverse is also built on (few) open standards. In direct analogy to the content part of the web where HTTP(s) provides data in HTML, JSON, and Javascript, the social layer that makes the web a metaverse is driven by XMPP, a distributed and standardized messaging protocol. Data formats on top of XMPP are the same as the ones that encode the web content. The standards of the web metaverse are already available. They are widely used and highly accessible. That's a perfect foundation to keep the web metaverse decentralized going into the future.

Raph says: "[Few] worlds […] have ever been willing to sign up [to] Rights of Avatars"

weblin.io comments: The webin.io project signs up. We neither control the social layer nor users and avatars. We are providing standards, an open-source reference implementation, and infrastructure to kickstart the web metaverse until content providers provide their own messaging servers. Content providers might control their space by exercising their property rights and users can connect through an XMPP entry point of their choosing. In particular (but without devaluing other avatar rights) we support the right of avatars to speak freely everywhere. And the right to "be secure in their persons, communications …". In the web metaverse users are anonymous, if they so choose, which is the default.

Raph says: "[Making the one metaverse of compatible virtual worlds] is going to be hard."

weblin.io comments: Acknowledged. The 3D case is hard. The weblin.io project approaches the problem from a different angle. We start with the web as the metaverse. The web is already there. It is easily accessible. It does not have to be built because it is already content rich. It is already decentralized. Web links even point into places inside virtual worlds. In that respect the web is a superset, the distribution platform, not just for web content, but also for 3D virtual worlds. Virtual worlds are part of the web. The summary of all virtual worlds and all web content is The Metaverse.

We want our avatars not only inside 3D worlds. We want our avatars to break free of virtual world boundaries. Not just between virtual worlds, but also between virtual world silos and the web. We want to use our virtual world avatars on the web. This is easier than it sounds because standards and formats of the web metaverse are simple. A virtual world developer needs just one week to write an exporter that lets all their users join the web metaverse, The Metaverse. 

Break free. Reclaim the web!


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