VirtualNet Logo Virtual City: The Project

[Again, a document from 1993 which may not reflect the current goals of the project. The Virtual City Network Project as it stands now is dedicated to open protocols and an infrastructure to which anyone may integrate. 1/31/95]

About the Virtual City™ Network

The Virtual City™ Network is an ambitious networking venture which will link current Internet information technology with the emerging capabilities of virtual reality environments. Using existing software which implements shared, interactive virtual spaces we will extend the paradigm of the FreeNet community into virtual reality by creating online "cities" and communities in which people may share text, graphics, and multimedia in a cooperative real-time environment. These online communities will be able to make use of cutting edge tools such as multimedia electronic mail, online access to government data, networked library catalogs & facilities, electronic books online and Internet-accessible public data repositories. The Virtual City™ Network will also be a proving ground for privacy technologies such as public key cryptography and Digital Cash™.

There will be no charge for private individuals to access the Network; corporations and other for-profit entities may be charged membership fees on a monthly basis, as well as rent for virtual spaces in which to transact business. Non-profit and government organizations will be allocated space at no charge in the Virtual City™ Marketplace, Business District, and other public areas. Cultural attractions such as art galleries, museums, and music halls are placed throughout the Virtual City™ Network; space in these attractions will be donated to artists and community projects to publicize their work. The several museums will feature a growing number of online exhibits such as the Library of Congress' current Vatican Project.

Technology Base

We are currently using LambdaMOO, an object-oriented virtual environment designed by Pavel Curtis of Xerox PARC. Instantiations of LambdaMOO are already being used to provide virtual spaces in which researchers and educators can meet and interact online, such as MIT Media Lab’s “MediaMOO”. Various university and individual projects are adding the capability to access certain Internet information resources such as the 'archie' FTP search engine and University of Minnesota's Internet Gopher browser [Jay's House MOO]. Xerox PARC is working on a project called "AstroVR" in which extensions to the text-based MOO software allow astrophysicists to share graphical images and data. The PARC team is also working on MBONE extensions to LambdaMOO; these extensions will allow LambdaMOO users to use the Multicast Backbone to do real-time audio and video conferencing using tools which are being developed concurrently by the greater networking community. I am working on extensions which will combine the functionality of NCSA's Mosaic information browser with the virtual environment capabilities of LambdaMOO.

Mosaic is a hypertext browser through which individuals may access various Internet services such as World Wide Web, Gopher, WAIS, and archie. The World Wide Web in particular uses a format called HTML (HyperText Markup Language) to create documents which can access other documents with a single mouse click from the browser. I am adding the ability for HTML documents to be valid MOO objects; this single extension opens up a significant range of possibilities which represent needed interconnectivity between the MOO environment and the wider world of Internet information. Virtual spaces in the MOO can then lead directly to an information cache, and information browsers on the Internet can interact with MOO spaces as well.

VCMTA, the Virtual City™ Metropolitan Transit Authority, will be developed concurrently. This facility will provide authentication services for moving database objects between servers on different hosts, as well as implementing state-of-the-art privacy enhancements for secure communication & transactions.

Current implementations of MOOs and MUDS require that users be able to program at a fairly sophisticated level in order to enjoy use of the facilities and construct new objects. We feel that this encourages "second-class citizen" status for those virtual citizens who cannot or will not learn to program proficiently. Accordingly, the Virtual City™ Network is being designed with virtual storehouses of objects which can be drawn from and user friendly front-ends with which to customize those objects to create personalized and useful virtual spaces. The full power of the MOO internal programming language will still be available to those who care to use it, but those who have neither the time nor desire to do so will be able to interact as fully as the programming hoi-polloi.

Copyright 1993 M. Strata Rose, all rights reserved.