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Last update: Sept 15, 2009
This manifesto is a response to fact which much astonished me: very few people seem to really understand the stakes and possibilities of virtual worlds. The wantonly closure of the «Deuxième Monde», the absurd management of Second Life (For instance when Linden Labs broke their most successful product the «open spaces», which very predictably resulted into the loss of much content and users), the very surprising inability of Google to provide an interesting system with «Lively», the shyness of IBM and Orange, all this points at a serious misunderstanding of what people do with virtual worlds.
Wondering what was going on, I conducted into Second Life some open discussions on «what people use virtual worlds for». Of course each attendee had his reply on what HE was doing, but only his peculiar one. There was no synthetic understanding on what virtual worlds can be used for, and especially not in which way they could be so helpful for the evolution of the persons and of the society. However an embryonic version of this manifesto was welcomed as an eye-opener by all the attendees. So I felt it would be useful to propose this full version, in order to foster a real understanding of what virtual words can be used for, and the conditions to achieve their full useability for all these purposes.
I wrote this manifesto as a sudden inspiration, the night of Christmas 2008. May it be a wonderful gift for everybody.
Reading it after, I realized that it is much more often speaking of control and discipline than of elvish marvel. However we must not misunderstand this: that everybody could have a marvellous experience is possible only if it is not wasted by beginners bugs, absurd management, or hopeless blokes who only come to be unpleasant (griefers). From here this manifesto, and also my position of guard into the Elves of Second Life. For that there could also be artists and bards telling inspiring beautiful stories...
New: (August 15, 2009): The manifesto now has its own dedicated site kailye.net where I shall be more free to develop the idea.
Detailed version (technical): moved on the site kailye.net
Creation date: December 25, 2008.
Last update: August 15, 2009. Modifid elements indicated into the text.
Links are toward the detailed version of the manifesto, for more technical discussion
This manifesto is about listing all the conditions and tools for having a fully useable virtual worlds system, whatever its intended uses. These tools and conditions will ensure that the 3D Internet, or the metaverse, will expand and live as the 2D Internet did. For this, a plurality of software solutions and content sources revolving around a common specification will ensure that everybody will be able to freely express in the virtual space, or will be able to find and see any available content.
At first, most today potential users today have no specific purpose when trying virtual worlds. But when they realize what they can do with them, and have enough learning, they engage into actions to fulfil a purpose: they have appropriated the virtual worlds system. It is often a serendipitous process involving learning and exploration of our inner self.
Motivations can be many, and often unexpected: socializing, having fun, games, having a dream place, gathering into groups, learning, science, work, business, etc. But the most striking possibilities of virtual words are:
1) We can BE what we cannot be in the physical world, and do things we cannot do in the physical world
2) They allow like-minded people to meet
3) They allow for interesting social experiences, or artistic, cultural and spiritual experiences, which may be a very good help for the evolution of the individuals and of society as well.
So the virtual world system, like the 2D Internet, must serve each purpose or motivation on an equal basis, and allow for everybody to visit and create virtual worlds, whatever their purpose, tastes, opinions, philosophy, religion, life style, etc. like the 2D Internet does. This is further referred as being content neutral.
Another key rule is that any user must be able to have his own virtual place, with a suitable neighbouring, or without having to bear any neighbouring.
The basic technical condition for interoperability of virtual worlds is a common communication system, referred here as the WEM (named WEP before August 15, 2009), between the viewers and the worlds. It must be free, normalized in the W3C, stable, and interoperable with the URL system of the 2D Internet.
The viewer must be modular, for ease of adding new functions, and have interfaces with most common programming languages. It must be able to work in a full window, on all important systems, including game consoles. It must be as reliable and good quality as allowed by the good programming techniques. It must be free, without advertising, easy to install, see native on the systems.
In a general way, this manifesto aims at implementing the capacity for any content creator to actually find an interesting solution, about prices, but also about rules, philosophy, themes and ambiance of each world. For this, experience showed that we must provide a plurality of hosting methods and hosting companies:
1) The simplest hosting solution is to have one's world on the local computer. Basic solutions must be affordable and easy to use.
2) Individual servers can host simple worlds, or be gathered in a network for larger worlds. This allows for individuals or groups to host their own worlds independently. Basic solutions must be affordable and easy to use.
3) Hosting companies could host large collective worlds or platforms, where individuals and groups may have each a place, at a better price or without the hassle of running a server. Second Life is the prototype of such a platform. However it makes no sense to oblige the users to live close together and hamper each other. Thus each individual user must be allowed to own his own island, even if very small. However communities (groups) of owners may have neighbouring lands, with common rules, to share a common purpose, vision or way of life. The purpose of having several such companies hosting worlds is to have a globally content neutral system, offering the possibility for everybody to implement or find his theme, like on the 2D Internet. Cost for renting place should be based on rendering cost and disk space. Some world owners or host worlds may request a fee for entering into the world.
4) Independent character and inventory hosting companies may manage our connection, inventory, body shape, money, authorizations, age or sex flags, etc. in order to ease the teleporting from a world to another.
5) At last learning companies would offer help to learn the virtual world's ways. A good learning is a key for the efficient appropriation of the virtual worlds and an appropriate behaviour in world.
It is important for the user to feel good and welcome into a virtual world. Shaping his virtual body is a crucial step into the user's appropriation of virtuality, at a time where he still has no skills or self confidence. Success of appropriation much depends on the ease and flexibility of building a loveable body shape. So the creation of the virtual body has to be made as fast, flexible and simple as possible, according to various methods: -simple selection of numerous ready made shapes, -interchangeable elements -more complicated edition of elements. Gender and other tags must be easily identifiable. It must be possible to create any desirable shape, and even no shape.
Today animation of the virtual body must prepare the era of exoskeletons and multivators, which will ensure a much more complete and sensitive immersion than just sitting before a computer. For this a fast communication protocol must be created, referred here as the NRMP:// protocol. Right now it would add much realism to animations.
At last the simulator software must have interfaces for animations with most commonly used programming languages.
We must account with very different degrees in building skills, and provide a variety of methods.
The Second Life's method of «primitives» is easily appropriable by non-skilled builders. But there are more difficult methods, which give much better results. The use of common editing tools must be possible. The shape rendering system must be modular.
Use of best rendering technologies and state of the art viewers should be the standard.
Basically, all objects created by an user must remain his property. Only the actual creator must be able to set permissions for copying an object, modify it, use it in a group, give it or sell it, etc. Copyright is among the legal protections which must be true even in virtual worlds, and this needs tools to be implemented.
For this a full set of social and communication tools must be provided, in world and between worlds, such as chats, messages, groups, binding contracts, profiles, powerful search, authorizations, etc.
The very first purpose of virtual worlds is to escape the limitations of the physical society and life. From this very purpose, and also from virtual worlds being only simulations, many laws and moral rules lose their justification, and must be discarded as irrelevant into the virtual worlds, where they uselessly hamper the user experience. So laws about virtual worlds must at the very first recognize this fact and protect this practice, as an extension of the freedom of expression into a new situation and with new means.
However there is still a need for some general protection of the person, or when virtual activities have consequences into the physical world: -fundamental right to a stable and protected virtual identity, -protection of copyright and property, -protection of the person against moral violence, exploitation, etc. -A specific issue is about the simple representation of some extreme content, without the physical action.
To correctly legislate in this domain requires to understand the non-duality between freedom of expression and protection of the public.
So there is a need of an appropriate international set of laws, similar to the ones used aboard a space station or in Antarctica.
This manifesto opposes laws encroaching on Human Rights, or uses of the virtual worlds for war purposes.
It is very important for users to have a safe and pleasant experience, free of any small or large annoyance. They must also be able to achieve their purposes or desires in confidence. It is also important to know what they can do or not, and where. From this the use of, for instance, gender flags, sexual flags, combat flags, style flags, etc.
Each world owner can set his own rules, but the basic rules being often the same, it is interesting to propose a Common Behaviour Rule Set, known by everybody, which requires three parts:
-Be nice with other users.
-Not cheating in roleplay.
-Respect the theme of the world.
This lefts as only needs to define some additional rules or exceptions, and to set the theme.
Disciplinary actions in world aim at more or less limiting the power of an user who infringed the rules of a world. For this a variety of tools must be available, like ban, booting, marking the account, etc.
It is also important to set age categories for users. However this must not frustrate the youngest of the most interesting contents, which must be available to all. For this we must rather push potentially hasardous contents into peculiar places, rather than excluding the youngest from the society at large.
Roleplay may lead to consensual exceptions of some laws on respecting the person, such as in fight, some sexual plays, etc. However not all laws should have such exceptions, even in roleplay, such as for instance extreme violence or paedophilia.
Robots (Characters animated by software) can be very useful, or very harmful. Especially it is a great disparaging of our human experience to let them simulate friendship and love. So robots must be clearly identified as such, and a world owner may ban them, or on the contrary hide some robot identifications, for instance in a roleplay.
There is nothing intrinsically bad or questionable into virtuality by itself. Some questionable contents may be addressed by law. Implementation of some discipline tools will result into a very safe virtual experience. Virtual worlds are not a kind of political or moral revolution, they even not claim to change society, right on the contrary they can bring many good things, for individuals and for society as well. So the opposition to virtual words is just the usual idiotic opposition against any novelty. So advertising virtual worlds must emphasise on the (really achieved) safety and the realm of possibilities they allow.
We cannot sell virtual life by itself, and every attempt to impose such a model will fail. However companies can successfully sell software, hosting solutions, building, and services like disciplined worlds, themed worlds, games, character hosting and identity check. But above all the most important service to sell is being content neutral.
My job for now is to propose these clear guidelines.
To start this project requires a team of several persons who understand it, and are keen to involve, in order to become the International Virtual Worlds Management Council. I shall not accept inhuman geeks, puritans or people who think we can do anything we want.
To start this project will also require a serious engineers team, some money, say some tens of millions dollars, in order to define and test standards, develop a viewer, simulator and server software, launch a first Character Hosting Company, a first platform, and running it until reaching the turnover point. This sum is very few, compared to the huge amounts of money left unproductive or wasted into nonsensical things.
I don't fear the competition of Second Life. A buggy sim in Second Life, with the implicit roleplay of Linden Labs, costs 295 dollars a month, when french web hosting company OVH offers 2D servers of similar capacity at about 40 dollars a month, without any ideological prerequisite. The real price for 3D servers will probably settle in some average between the two. My guess is about 100 dollars in the beginning. Later, independent 3D servers cost will drop near the level of 2D servers. The equivalent in a serviced and policed platform will be about twice, while still retaining a large share of the customers. If in more we bring a better technical service, correct customer support and efficient discipline, most creators in Second Life will rush on any better solution. Users will follow as soon as there are some interesting communities running. If Linden Labs reacts in time, and lower prices while bringing its technical and human services to a correct level, then the purpose of this page will be fulfilled in another way... :-D
This page will be proposed to the W3C, so that they may protect the proposed standards, WEM and NCCS. I can propose specifications, but designing the standard themselves is a job for experienced engineers in networking, safety and virtual worlds.