We’re creating the metaverse: a cross-platform, decentralized social network for the Immersive Web that centers open standards, self-ownership of data and content, and sustainable business models for content creators.
The internet as it exists today is a disappointment. When I was a teenager experimenting with and exploring the first era of the Web in the 90s, it was clunky and non-interactive, but it was exciting. Behind animated “under construction” gifs, there were new and interesting experiences around every corner. Each website you found was the opportunity to be surprised by something someone had made just to see if it was possible. I made one to host my programming experiments, littered it with adult search keywords and a racy header to get traffic, and reveled in the hate mail I received in the comments section.
Then the Web transformed from a tool for receiving content into a tool where everyone could contribute their own content. Exciting, right? All that creativity and self-expression from before but freed from behind the technical skill-wall? Well, not exactly. Instead, we’ve been conditioned to contort ourselves to fit the confines of rigid platforms that harvest our attention for ad revenue. On Twitter we compete for the wittiest comeback on a platform that rewards brevity and dogpiling. On Facebook, we yell what we think we recall as facts past each other without bothering to check our sources because the platform gives us no functional way to provide citations. All the while, our actions and interactions are surreptitiously tracked and compiled into internet-spanning data profiles that are used to try to sell us products, manipulate our emotions, and influence our politics.
So here’s the deal: the web is transforming again, and I don’t want it to suck like the social media era. This new era of the internet is the Immersive Web, rich 3D social experiences that can be not only visited by computer or mobile like a video game but also entered into with virtual and augmented reality equipment. Imagine logging on to see a list of your friends who are online, what they’re up to, and a link you can click to join them — to be transported into the same virtual space to hang out, play a game, or perhaps experience an immersive art installation together.
We dream of a democratized new era of the Web where creators own their content, users own their data, and no single entity exhibits undue influence on the community as a whole. Immers Space seeks to free the Immersive Web from past pitfalls by using a decentralized model based on open Web standards such that it cannot be owned and controlled by a tech giant oligopoly, bringing people together across platforms in live shared experiences, and providing content creators an alternative monetization model that respects user privacy.
The problem is urgent
While the metaverse, an internet of connected Immersive Web experiences, may seem like a science fiction future and its control a distant problem we have plenty of time to address, the reality is some of the dominating forces in today’s internet are already making big plays using their unfathomable wealth. In 2014, Facebook spent $2 billion to purchase leading virtual reality equipment manufacturer Oculus, and they’ve been gradually expanding invasive tracking and tightening platform lock-in ever since.
And that’s because our view of the platform as we think about it today is, for the most part, opaque to us what’s going on inside each one of the apps on the platform. We want to create a much more complete picture of all of these amazing worlds and places in our ecosystem. It’s a rich layer of meta-data that, if we know about it, we can use…
Facebook itself may decide to summon one of its employees if it sees something weird happening in one of the worlds. When this person is summoned,it gets to the Horizon world where there could be a problem, and without being seen by the others it can watch what it is happening. When one of the employees from Facebook is inside your Horizon world, you don’t get notified of his presence.
Yesterday, Facebook infuriated the VR world, announcing plans to require a Facebook login for future VR headsets. The decision broke an early promise from Oculus founder Palmer Luckey and was almost universally reviled online, with critics raising concerns about intrusive data collection, targeted advertising, and being forced to use a service they hated.
This most recent move to require Oculus hardware owners to connect their device to their “real name” Facebook account or else be denied even the ability to turn it on is openly hostile towards users and seems to indicate that they no longer fear any competition.
Winning by changing the game
How can we compete with giants wielding nation-scale wealth and power? We won’t beat them by building a better mousetrap. They can buy, copy, or crush any competition, and they have. We win by playing a different game.
- We’re not building a platform; Immers Space is breaking down the walls between platforms.
- We’re not extracting profit from store sales; Immers Space is instilling content creators with the tools to earn their own money.
- We’re not hoarding user data; Immers Space is giving people back control over their digital lives.
- We’re not concentrating power in a corporate dictatorship; Immers Space is distributing control over the next generation of the internet through democratic, collective governance.
When we play this way — the radical idea of giving people what they want instead of just trying to exploit them to get rich — it’ll be the corporate behemoths who won’t be able to compete with us.
Grant for the Web Flagship Project
We are thrilled to announce that Immers Space has been selected as a flagship project for the Grant for the Web program. Over the next 6 months we will
The immer protocol: This is the keystone of the metaverse. It connects Immersive Web experiences together by giving them a common language so that users (immersers) can bring their identities and avatars with them wherever they travel, and they can pick up friends and trophies along the way, but without dictating anything about how each world works or what technology it uses. Immersers will be able to broadcast their location to friends so that, with the simple click of a link, they can instantly join anywhere in Immers Space. We’re building it open-source, making it easy to plug in to all kinds of experiences, and using the ActivityPub open Web standard which means it will also link with popular federated social media networks like Mastodon.
Web Monetization for the Immersive Web: There’s a new way for content creators to earn money for their work without invading user privacy and cluttering their work with ads. It’s called Web Monetization, and it works by having users subscribe with a small monthly fee and then distributing that money to the different websites they visit based on how much time they spend there. We’ll be experimenting with various freemium models to help get immersers on board and sharing our findings and code with content creators to help them make their work sustainable. Creators will be in total control of the revenues they earn with no mandatory fees or percentages taken by Immers Space.
Integration with Mozilla Hubs: The makers of Firefox have built a phenomenal social hangout application for the Immersive Web that centers user privacy and safety. We’ll be using Hubs for our reference integration with Immers Space so that creators even without needing to code can deploy their own immer complete with voice chat, avatars, and a custom world builder.
Immersive Chess: Tying it all together, we’ll be releasing an Immersive Web chess game with towering chess piece figures and exciting battle animations, running on Mozilla Hubs with the immer protocol, and supported through Web Monetized freemium content.
The Immers Space collective: in order to keep the metaverse free, open, and responsive to constituent needs, we’ll develop a cooperative ownership and collective governance model for Immers Space. Our vision is that immersers, content creators, and developers will all be able to earn ownership and voting shares through financial or other contributions in order to democratically determine the future development and policies of the metaverse.
William Murphy — Immers Space core and Hubs integration. William is the former CTO of Immersive Web data visualization and collaboration company 3Data, author of the popular WebXR controller interaction A-Frame library “super-hands,” winner of WebXR hackathons, creator of the decentralized, cross-platform social groups ActivityPub app Gup.pe, and the team organizer for Immers Space.
Dulce Baerga — Chess game content. Dulce has 20 years of experience in independent Web content design and development, has mastered 3D modeling and animation for WebXR development, and is the winner of multiple hackathons in VR & AR technology.
Quinn Madson — Chess game development. Quinn is in the top tier of global WebXR developers with 3 years of experience as the lead software engineer at Immersive Web data visualization and collaboration company 3Data and a current XR exhibit at the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum.
Khullani Abdullahi — Strategy and marketing. Khullani is a veteran marketing consultant who designs and executes startup go-to-market strategies. As a full-stack marketer running a solo consultancy, Khullani is able to execute every function on a marketing team and most on the sales side, making her invaluable to startups who need to expand capacity without expanding head count.
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