Mozilla Hubs is the company’s impressive WebXR social app which allows users from almost any device (VR or not) to jump into a virtual room with the click of a link. But the company’s ambitions go much further; soon Mozilla will take a major step toward achieving its “master plan” by launching Hubs Cloud.

Hubs is perhaps the most ambitious WebXR project to date—an entirely web-based, device agnostic virtual space that can be joined and shared with a plain old URL through a Web browser. By that virtue, Hubs is part of the Web itself—the vast network of sites accessible and navigable between one another. Most other social VR apps are built atop the Internet—the infrastructure underlying the Web—but do not interconnect with the Web itself.

Hubs developer Greg Fodor reasons in a recently published post that a global metaverse is most likely to succeed if it’s a genuine part of the Web; it’s that principle which has been guiding the strategy and development of Hubs.

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In the post, Fodor explains Mozilla’s “master plan” behind Hubs, which includes the eventual launch of Hubs Cloud (coming “soon”), an open-source version of Hubs which can be hosted on any Web server, by anyone.

Much like how a website is hosted on a server, Hubs Cloud would thus be decentralized and could be tailored to the needs of each entity using it, while continuing to be part of the Web. The “master plan” for Hubs is as follows, according to Fodor:

  • Create an easy-to-use avatar communication tool for mixed media, globally addressable spaces
  • Create easy-to-use tools for creating 3D environments and avatars
  • Build it to run in the browser, and embrace the culture of the web
  • Open source all the code
  • Make it cheap and easy for anyone to run their own decentralized server

This is a wholly different approach to other metaverse projects, most of which aren’t part of the Web (even though they use the Internet to connect users). Mozilla believes that a global metaverse won’t be a closed platform designed with top-down use-cases in mind; rather it will be a network of decentralized servers hosting virtual spaces which are customized to the needs of each host. By that virtue, Fodor says that Mozilla has specifically avoided building certain features into Hubs, expecting that such features are best built from the ground-up based on user needs and by leveraging existing Web-based tools and capabilities.

We have deliberately not included [in Hubs]:

  • Dynamic scripting and rich applications
  • Large, continuous open world ‘land’
  • Collaborative editing tools or world building
  • Transactions or e-commerce

Though we fully expect these additional things to emerge, they seem unnecessary to deliver remote social presence and shared spatial awareness in mixed media environments.

Fodor does make a compelling argument for why a metaverse built as part of the Web is more likely to succeed than one that’s not, and Mozilla’s approach to the metaverse is definitely forward-thinking.

My take? Although I agree with most of Fodor’s points, the Web emerged in an era before anyone truly understood its world-altering implications; had governments and corporations of the era known just how important the Web would become, they would have fought tooth-and-nail to ‘own’ it and have centralized control. Today the global influence of the Web is known, and it’s more obvious now that owning the metaverse of the future will bestow the owner with incredible, global influence.

Similar to the social networks of today, the first metaverse that reaches scale—whether open or closed—seems likely to win and continue to hold its ground thanks to the network effect. While I think an open and decentralized metaverse is vastly preferable to one owned by one or a handful of corporations or governments, companies like Facebook (which is already building its own metaverse project, Facebook Horizon) are able to focus far more resources on ‘capturing’ the metaverse than any ground-up decentralized approach can muster.

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That said, I hope I’m wrong. The decentralized nature of the Web is a critically important feature that should extend to the metaverse to ensure that no single entity gets to make the rules for the entire metaverse.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
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    1. What is a metaverse.

    2. It’s almost like Facebook having a monopoly with their closed garden and at cost hardware is a bad thing and an existential threat to VR. Although Horizon looks pretty mediocre.

    • Anonymous

      Metaverse is from “Snow Crash”, a 1992 novel by Neal Stephenson about Virtual Reality.

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    • Dan Lokemoen

      Waah. I don’t like Facebook and I’m going to post it every day on every VR website. Yeah, Oculus is the only VR headset and Facebook has a monopoly — in your nutcase imagination. Let me guess, you don’t like Microsoft or EA, either, right? So original.

  • Rob Farthing

    I didn’t even understand half of the terminology and even after reading this article twice, I have no clue what a ‘Metaverse’ is. I am a developer also so I am used to most complex terminology around describing software, ‘Metaverse’ just sounds like fluff.

    ‘globally addressable spaces’ sounds like something a Marketing Executive would cough out when poked with a stick.

    • Dan Lokemoen

      …and I keep scratchin it but it keeps bleedin [mouth breath].

      Dude, it’s a VR room that you access through your web browser. Which part of that is beyond your understanding?

      • Tony_Neville

        Oh, yeah??? Understand THIS!

  • kontis

    There will never be a single dominant 3D metaverse. There will be multiple competing and separated solutions from both, megacorporations (targeting “normal” users and “normal” use cases) and small, niche companies (more like online games but core concept is similar; good chance that teenagers will flock there instead of using the “normal” apps, just like tiktok and minecraft or fortnite versus facebook).

    In other words: no such thing as a true metaverse will ever exist. THANK GOD.

    Having one big solution is also not a good thing, even when open. Similar risks and trade offs as with extreme globalisation – dilution of cultures, choices affecting whole globe etc.

    Also something many people forget or don’t want to accept: decentralization is NOT superior to centralization (unless you are just talking about morals). It’s a different paradigm with different trade-offs.

    I fully agree with that dark, terrifying notion that web invented today would be just a few closed gardens by megacorps, but the web in the 90s was also quite bizarre and let’s not forget that web became accessible and frictionless ONLY when it became more centralized. People often prefer DMs over email for a reason. The public exchanges possible on Twitter would never be possible via email.
    Mastodon is an unusable, complicated mess because of decentralization trade-offs.

    There are some “experts” who think you can combine the good aspects of both without having the problems of any of them. Twitter has some plans to become decentralized

    There are laws of mathematics at play here – they cannot be changed.

    Everyone being in “one room” is a blessing and a curse, but expecting that you can fix the problem it creates but at the same time still having that “one big village” convenience, accessibility and uniformity is simply absurd.
    You either have the cake or eat it. No way around it.

  • Cragheart

    There will be dominant metaverses with their own thematic “rooms”, like 2D websites today: Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Fandom, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Best Buy, Steam, Wowhead. There will be old players and new players in the space. I can see people in the year 2040 going to something like Reddit but in 3D VR and talking with other avatars and interacting with AI NPCs (not yet human level but getting closer every year). There may be a lot of objects, scenerie and animations made by automated software in 20 years. Many of the most popular websites didn’t exist 20 years ago. Metaverses should be accessible by AR glasses and VR goggles. By motion controls and brain computer interfaces, maybe even by traditional methods of input. It’s at a similar stage of development as WWW in the early 90s.

  • I’m 100% with your thoughts. Anyway, if Hubs become easy to be installed on any server, that’s a great news, because for now it requires a quite good technical knowledge to be installed.