Ten years ago there was a huge hype cycle associated with the boom in Linden Lab's Second Life. This was to be the metaverse as envisioned by so many scifi writers, they said. But it was not to be, largely because SL was a walled garden, a proprietary sole source provider that no sane company would risk their business on, and Linden Lab refused to be very friendly to other businesses despite their marketing, even rebuffing an IBM investment to enable SL to scale better for greater concurrency.
The SL platform was reverse engineered by open source advocates, and now there is an open source metaverse called the Hypergrid, using the OpenSim server platform and the same sort of viewers that people use to access SL. But this platform has failed to gain traction with the general public or with business, largely due to scalability issues and obsolescent graphics (the image shown at the top of this article is from the Opensim grid Kitely.com).
Linden Lab founder Philip Rosedale has founded a new company, High Fidelity, to create a whole new platform called Hi-Fi that will have the modern graphical capabilities of video games while enabling stronger user social interaction and content creation like virtual worlds, and also enabling VR headsets to be used for the first truly immersive virtual reality experiences. High Fidelity open-sourced the bare server code for their system, but is trying to maintain the same sort of proprietary control on user registrations, backend services, for high fees, that caused the stagnation of Second Life.
Unity has attempted to enable VR for web viewers to some extent, which has been able to create some compelling video games, but again, because it is proprietary, it has failed to gain traction with the wider market. Having a few hundred thousand or a few million users, at most, is not a success for building the metaverse, when there are billions using the regular 2d internet. Proprietary solutions are unacceptable, both to enterprises seeking to control their own content and access, and to users seeking to travel the metaverse as freely as they browse the internet.
The internet succeeded largely because of open sourced software. Ask any web developer. The primary core services of the majority of web servers out there do not come from a proprietary source. The LAMP stack (which stands for Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP) is the most common platform that websites are hosted on, and all four are open source server applications. Linux is of course the ubiquitous opensource operating system that Finn Linus Torvalds coded in the early 90's. Apache is the well known HTML web server, MySQL is the most useful database application, behind the success of websites as large as Twitter and Facebook, and PHP is the backend scripting language of most websites that generates HTML pages, constructs them from MySQL database content management systems.
Without the LAMP stack, the internet would be a far different place today than you and I know it as. It would be a lot smaller. A lot more proprietary, and would not have transformed the global economy nearly as much as it has.
This is also why the 3d metaverse has failed to take off. Because it has no equivalent of the LAMP stack. There is no open set of backend services. Not for SL, not for High Fidelity, and not for Unity. OpenSim has something like that, but they are really less than useful as anyone with experience in that platform can tell you.
But there is hope. Kitely.com, the largest commercial Opensim hosting company, is adapting High Fidelity code to operate independently of High Fidelity the company, using Kitely's own backend services stack. Kitely is dedicated to an open metaverse, and will release their adapted HiFi viewer and server to the public. Kitely will also have commercial HiFi hosting services available to the public months BEFORE High Fidelity the company will.
Kitely CEO Ilan Tochner has said, "It is just a matter of weeks. Exactly how many weeks before we launch our Hi-Fi service depends on how many backend services we want to include in the initial offering versus what we will add over time."
Hypergrid Business publisher Maria Korolev has rated Kitely as the most valuable opensim grid. Kitelys Marketplace, which currently sells over 60% of the 3d content in the opensim community, is part of this backend stack, providing for a content market that can deliver to any opensim or hifi simulator.
Kitely has treated its growth in Opensim as an R&D project in business development. Cash flow positive in the low six figures, this slim lean two man team is poised to take the VR world by storm while all the "smart money" is dumping hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars into failed VR startups like Magic Leap.
VR isn't a fad. Things are just starting to take off. This christmas, Samsung alone sold 5 million of its Gear VR headsets. Similar products from Oculus Rift, Vive, and others are starting to see similar numbers. As the VR headsets improve over time their cost will also drop as early adopters capitalize mass production, and as prices drop, user numbers will explode just as they did with smart phones, with social media, and other viral apps. Most market analysts believe that VR will see mass market adoption in 2-5 years.
This isn't something you can wait on to invest in. Going back to the LAMP stack analogy. The biggest player in web hosting today is Amazon with their AWS services in their datacenters around the globe. They achieved this hosting dominance by creating their AWS services years before there was a market for it, first for themselves as they found the existing web server hosting providers to be expensive, unreliable, and poor at scaling. They saw an opportunity more than five years before anybody else, and capitalized on that foresight, to achieve what they have today. Kitely stands to be the AWS and LAMP stack of the 3d open metaverse.
This is also why Kitely is sending out feelers for investment for a private placement offering. In my opinion, Kitely is the most undervalued/most valuable play in the VR space today.
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