Sci-fi Author Neal Stephenson Wants to Build a Metaverse Open to All

The science-fiction author who coined the term metaverse in his 1992 novel “Snow Crash” is going head-to-head with Meta and Microsoft to create an open-source platform for creating virtual worlds.

Many developers are still working to lay the groundwork for a metaverse, though, that can be built, and controlled, by the communities that use it. An Open Metaverse Alliance has also sprung up to support the effort.

One member of that alliance is Kalila Lang, founder of open-source metaverse software platform Vircadia. She says open-source architecture is vital to the future of the metaverse, but the idea of seamless interoperability between worlds is “dumb” and largely unworkable.

“When it comes to interoperability, when you make a character or when you make an item or when you make a world, one does not necessarily fit the other,” she says. “If I tried to take my character’s guns from Call of Duty and then put them into Assassin’s Creed, it’d be ridiculous. It would break the whole game. Nothing would make sense, right?”

What does make sense, says Lang, are open standards that allow the creation of open worlds free of the control of technology giants. She says that Meta using “metaverse” as a product name after decades of common usage caused “ill will” in some quarters, but that it had a silver lining in that more attention was now being paid to virtual worlds.

Meta wants to have people build worlds on top of their construct, says Lang. “Whereas what we want to do is basically be the WordPress of VR. You know, WordPress powers every kind of website imaginable, right? People extend it, hack it into whatever shape they want.”

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