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The nonprofit Linux Foundation has established the Open Metaverse Foundation (OMF) to create the open source software and standards for an open metaverse.
The goal is to provide a collaboration space for diverse industries to work on developing open source software and standards for an inclusive, global, vendor-neutral, and scalable metaverse, said Royal O’Brien, executive director of the OMF, in an interview with GamesBeat.
Many thought-leading organizations and open-source communities have joined as founding members to support the effort to bring this vision to life.
These include the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, Futurewei, GenXP, Hyperledger Foundation, LF Edge & Networking, Open Voice Network and Veriken, among others. These constituents bring years of knowledge and experience to address initiatives spanning artificial intelligence (AI), cloud and edge computing, digital assets, transactions, identity, networking, simulations, security, and more.
“We’re still in the early days of the vision for an open Metaverse, and we recognize that many open source communities and foundations are working on vital pieces of this iterative puzzle,” said O’Brien. “While the challenges may seem daunting, I’m energized by the opportunities to collaborate with a broad, global community to bring these pieces together as we transform this vision into reality.”
The mission of OMF is to foster a strong community of developers, engineers, academics and thought leaders who will solve the difficult challenges of building the open metaverse through open source software and open specifications that enable portability and interoperability for an open, global, scalable world, which supports interactive and immersive experiences for the benefit of any individual or industry.
There are a lot of things to work out. And so it’s not clear when the work will be done or how many versions of it will be built. Will the chipmakers agree on common formats so that the standard software will run across all hardware platforms? That’s an example of work to be done.
“It is a foundation that is focused on building open source libraries and standards for the different components that we need in the metaverse under Apache MIT type licensing or Creative Commons,” O’Brien said.
That means that any technology contributed by companies to the standard will not be encumbered by patent rights. Others will be free to use the technology without paying royalties.
The group has already gone to work on a glossary, and it’s attempting to define the metaverse.
“If you try to come out of the gate and say I’m going to define the metaverse, you’re going to get hit by a lot of shrapnel,” O’Brien said. “To be quite honest, I think it’s something that, as a collective, as we define these different components are going to create the macro level terminology, it’ll start to become a little more obvious. But I have my definition, you have your definition. For me to impose my definition on someone else is probably more closed-minded than anything else. So I try not to do that.”
How long will it take to come up with standards for the open metaverse?
“I would love to see, in 18 months, just having a basic interoperability standard,” he said.
“The objective is to at least get to a first iteration of the vision of the metaverse,” O’Brien said. “There will not be a complete metaverse ready. We already know that, in reality, we have to go through iterations and we’re trying to at least create the building blocks and we’re not looking to reinvent the wheel. We actually have a lot of open source communities and open source foundations that are contributing code. And those are the starting points that we’re actually using.”
The group will collaborate with a lot of other organizations that have been working for some time. The group will collaborate with the Open Metaverse Forum started by the Khronos Group, another standards body. The Open Metaverse Foundation will develop a lot of code necessary for the standards.
The group already has some precedent. Matt White started the Open Metaverse Foundation back in 2006, but that group wasn’t necessarily getting traction. So White contributed its work to the Linux Foundation, which then decided to move forward with a large-scale project.
“We’re absorbing a lot of the history and elements that were built in what Matt was doing. But it is definitely something new with a very different approach,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien came from the industry and is familiar with its history of virtual worlds and massively multiplayer online games. Those games never really had much reason for interoperability.
OMF foundational interest groups
The Open Metaverse Foundation is organized into Foundational Interest Groups (FIGs) that enable a focused, distributed decision structure for key topics. FIGs provide targeted resources and forums for the identification of new ideas, getting work done and onboarding new contributors.
They are comprised of members from specific disciplines committed to advancing projects or scalable technologies within their topic as well as ensuring that code ownership of every identifiable subpart of projects (e.g., GitHub.org, repository, subdirectory, API, test, issue, PR) is addressed and managed.
The eight Foundational Interest Groups of OMF are: users, transactions, digital assets, simulations and virtual worlds, artificial intelligence, networking, security and privacy, and legal and policy.
You can connect with the community on Discord, and join the community at upcoming events, including the Open Source Summit North America, May 10-12 in Vancouver.
From blockchain to cryptocurrencies
The foundation will include technology like hyperledger, but O’Brien noted that a lot of people are “nervous” about some technologies such as blockchain, cryptocurrency, and non-fungible tokens. But those topics will be part of the ongoing conversation.
“We will be working with them as well,” O’Brien said. “The technology of interoperability and how to create a receipt from a transaction is the most important part.”
O’Brien expects the blockchain groups will form their own standards group that feeds into other standards groups. But the foundation doesn’t want fragmentation, which is often no better than proprietary technology.
“The reality is, if we wanted to create the vision of the metaverse, it has to be a level playing field so that smaller companies and incumbents can actually grow based upon their ability to execute,” O’Brien said.
Off hand, O’Brien expects that many different types of currencies, including cryptocurrencies, would be used in the open metaverse.
O’Brien doesn’t want to see a single company dominate the metaverse, and he doesn’t think it will be possible. That’s particularly true if the Open Metaverse Foundation does its job right. The group is currently in the process of signing up hundreds of companies and communities to help.
To reach the goal of interoperability, the metaverse will have to have standards around things like assets and metadata structures for interoperability of assets. The candidates in this realm include Universal Scene Description, an open source technology created originally by Pixar, and glTF, a 3D transmission technology for the web.
There are also areas like avatars, where companies like Ready Player Me have a headstart. Their technology could be used as a kind of defacto standard, but nevertheless it depends on what technologies solve the most problems and become the most popular.
“They’ve got a great head start. And if they get involved, having them actually contributing to some of these standards is fantastic. Because it allows us to have a larger starting base of knowledge that we need to know,” O’Brien said. “If they don’t, then it’s a matter of if they want to support a compatible bridge that allows their system to talk externally to other systems. So it depends on if they want to stay in proprietary or if they want to open some of it up for interoperability.”
He said that if you can get from an asset produced in one tool, and get that asset used in something else, with another tool, as long as that bridge is there, then everybody seems to be happy with that,” O’Brien said.
The good thing about joining the standards effort? Companies will have a vote on how to move the technology forward.
“The Metaverse brings exciting possibilities in revolutionizing the way we interact and engage, but with it comes immense technical challenges,” said Taylor Dolezal, nead of ecosystem, Cloud Native Computing Foundation, in a statement. “Through the power of open innovation, the Open Metaverse Foundation will foster collaboration and community-driven development to realize this promise. The Cloud Native Computing Foundation looks forward to contributing its deep expertise to evolve cloud technologies and infrastructure in tackling these challenges. Together, we’ll build a truly open, accessible virtual world, where anyone can participate.”
“Our industry needs innovation through interoperability driven by open source and open standards to realize the promise of the Metaverse—if we’re to build something that benefits everyone—just as was the case with the early architecting of the Internet,” said Anni Lai, head of open source operations and marketing, Futurewei, in a statement. “Futurewei believes in the power of open source and open collaboration, and we’re excited to engage in building the Open Metaverse Foundation community to extend initiatives we already have underway in XR, Web3, mobile gaming, and more.”
“The Metaverse isn’t some expensive VR headset. It isn’t NFTs. It isn’t even Web3. The Metaverse is an open set of data standards that enables shared, accessible, persistent 3D experiences,” said Vince McMullin, CEO, GenXP, in a statement. “The Open Metaverse Foundation provides a vehicle for industry-wide, community-driven collaboration to develop open standards and open source implementations for an open Metaverse. As leaders in delivering tools and technology, we enable new and extraordinary ways to experience, engage, and excite our users through interactive, immersive 3D experiences. GenXP is excited to join the Foundation to help make these experiences possible.”
“We are just starting to see the potential of the Metaverse. The impact of combining the Internet of place and value will be enormous if we work together to build open, scalable, decentralized technologies,” said Daniela Barbosa, executive director, Hyperledger Foundation and general manager, Blockchain and Identity, Linux Foundation, in a statement. “The OMF brings the proven Linux Foundation open development model to this complex but exciting new opportunity and gives the companies and developers shaping it a neutral home to fulfill their vision. Hyperledger Foundation’s distributed ledger and digital trust expertise and technologies will be critical building blocks for the effort.”
“The Metaverse is presenting unprecedented challenges for edge computing and networks. We expect the Open Metaverse Foundation to become the platform for defining the required technological solutions,” said Ranny Haiby, CTO, networking, edge & access technologies, Linux Foundation, in a statement. “Industry-wide collaboration is the only way to embark on such complex endeavors. The LF Edge and Networking communities are well suited to deliver the open source technologies defined by the Open Metaverse Foundation. We are looking forward to close collaboration with the new Foundation and foresee many potential synergies between it and our projects.”
“At its core, the Open Metaverse Foundation is all about bringing a diversity of industry experts and open source communities together to transform the concept of the Metaverse from promise to reality, while ensuring it delivers an amazing, immersive experience for all users,” said Jon Stine, executive director, Open Voice Network, in a statement. “This is about optimal choice, a rich development ecosystem, safety, and ease of use. That’s why the Open Voice Network – a Linux Foundation community developing open standards and ethical use guidelines for the inevitable interface for the metaverse, conversational AI – is delighted to link arms with the Open Metaverse Foundation.”
“The Metaverse will drive the demand for innovative digital products while providing the frameworks to connect creators directly with consumers, setting the stage for a disruptive opportunity not seen since the early days of the Internet,” said Chris Clason, CEO of Veriken, in a statement. “Veriken is excited to work with the Open Metaverse Foundation to create the open standards for digital commerce and property ownership necessary to accelerate the initial adoption of the Metaverse and protect the long-term interests of all stakeholders, including consumers, individual artists and enterprises.”
Founded in 2000, the Linux Foundation is supported by more than 1,000 members and is the world’s leading home for collaboration on open source software, open standards, open data, and open hardware. Linux Foundation’s projects are critical to the world’s infrastructure including Linux, Kubernetes, Node.js, and more.
O’Brien, who has been a programmer for 40 years, got involved at Amazon as the company was open sourcing the former Lumberyard game engine, now the Open 3D Engine.
“This is the thing that I want to work on for the next 15 to 20 years and really make an impact on,” he said. “I would do this as a hobby.”