Does a Free and Open Source Metaverse make sense? Ans: Maybe not?

My friends and I are considering to build a FOSS version of VRChat for fun, from scratch. Maybe just in case VRChat disappeared in the future. I trust that we have technical skills to do it. However, that gets me thinking, how would we run this place? It's likely building the software and infrastructure to be the easy part.

I mean, "the ideal" design we come up is a decentralized system. Where everyone has a home server which stores their identity, varified through some cryptography. When someone wants to start a new room/world. They send a request to their own VPS or a hosting provider. Which operates completely independently from the home server, even from a different orginization. Thus all critical components are not under the control of a single entity. However, there's a lot of problem with this. Namely

  • Users don't want to pay multiple times for a single service
  • Users don't want to pay for a service
  • Spams and general misbehaivour cannot be effictively banned
  • Malicious clients ('hackers' in normie terms)

By decentralizing the system. We deastically decreases the economic of scale for service providers. Instead of running worlds on a cluster of high performance servers. Now they can only afford running them on a few. Which causes much more due to race space pricing and networking costs. Translating to higher cost for the end user. Furthermore, users now can't effictively ban misbehaving users as there could be a lot of home sever providers, or even spawning a new one each time, to switch between.

The same challenges are also faced by decentralized social media like Masdoton and Diaspora*. However, I argue that information flow is much faster in VR than in text and image based social media. I don't know what's the solution. I believe in decentralizing and open source. But these acts directlly makes the user experience worse. I should mention that there are some partail solutions . While all of them have their flaws and can't compete with a centralized design.

The first and most obvious is a per-server moderation team. Like wha Masdoton and other decentralized social media is doing. Howerver, this suffers from decreased economics of scale and increases the overall cost. Another solution being client side herustics to automatically detect racism and other misconducts then automatically mute or ban them. The code should run directlly on the client and shall be easily modifiable by users. Yet build a good herustic is going to be hard and prone to abuse. The chaotic nature of online space makes it virtually impossible (yes, that's a dad joke) to distingush between genunine misbehaivour and socially acceptable ones[1] [2].

Again, I don't have a solution to this. Maybe the best solution is to not have an FOSS Metaverse. And start a company that promises to release the source code under GPLv3+ if it ever goes under the water. And write that into the EULA.


[1]: People have virtual one night stands in VRChat. Literarly have sex in a public world. Behind closed VR doors. This is acceptable

[2]: It's not too uncommon to see people yelling "fuck", "cunt", etc.. in VRChat. Espically like a pmitive in private worlds, goofing.

[3]: I trust no people and search engine on Gemini is gonna ban me talking about sex responsably in public. Heck, I own one of the search engine

Author's profile
Martin Chang
Systems software, HPC, GPGPU and AI. I mostly write stupid C++ code. Sometimes does AI research. Chronic VRChat addict
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