Cyberspace Engineers

Engineering Cyberspace!


Solar Système Segundo

Gnutella meets X3D

What Is It?

A colossal virtual 3D model of the Solar System, but colonised and terraformed in a completely ad hoc and entertaining way - by millions of people all over the world.

Why 'The Solar System'?

Because the work is already done. Why perform extremely complex modelling of an arbitrary planetary system, when we have excellent knowledge of our own?

And if you meant "Why have multiple planets instead of just one", well, yes, we can start off with a single planet (the Earth), but should people wish to go beyond its borders, we'll say it's 'the solar system' in order that additional planetary bodies are well defined (size, position, makeup, etc.).

Otherwise, you can consider the choice of the solar system as one having excellent educational potential.

How Does it Work?

We utilise a file sharing system called Gnutella in order to share the burden of storing the colossal amount of 3D scenery data that people will produce. In other words, people who produce 3D scenery (trees, houses, ships, etc.) will store it on their own PC, and anyone who is interested in viewing it will copy it to their own PC. So it's just like people creating and sharing MP3 music files, but this time it's 3D scenery.

We also utilise a standard 3D description file format called X3D. This allows people to have a common, standard format that will allow them to use a wide variety of otherwise incompatible 3D construction and viewing tools.

In addition to these two systems we define a simple means for people to specify which body of the solar system they are working on, and whereabouts on that body their 3D scenery should be positioned. Moreover, we also specify a means by which people can refer to other scenery or 3D objects within another scene, e.g. how a street may refer to houses, how a house may refer to doors and windows, how a door may refer to a door handle, etc. This is also done in such a way that the included scenery is limited by the includer's expectations, i.e. that a door handle must not exceed certain bounds.

Why Won't it Descend into Chaos?

The beauty of file sharing systems is that no one can destroy anything. All you can do is provide something more interesting than what you hope it will replace. This is because we can easily ensure that what people see will be that which is most prevalent (the version that most people choose to copy). If most people have one version of a particular type of car called 'Ferrari' and a vandal creates something with the same name that isn't very good (looks like a smashed up Ferrari, or a hippopotamus) then it will only be seen if the vandal can convince enough people to use that version of the file rather than the alternative.

Given this populist way of determining which file is used by default, one encourages a fairly democratic process of permitting changes. Initially, there will be a relatively rapid 'land grab', and then people will start forming communities to discuss and organise changes.

All versions of scenery and 3D objects will be available to viewers to choose from, but by default the one that will be used will be the most prevalent choice. It is only if someone knows that a less prevalent choice may be preferable that they will deliberately specify that alternative version. In this way it needs only a few keen people who are careful to make an informed choice in order to improve the quality for all - on the assumption that those most interested in expressing choice are those most likely to choose useful/entertaining content as opposed to useless/irritating content.

Moreover, by allowing people to sign their content (using public key encryption), people can create a list of 'favourite artists', i.e. content that is signed by these artists will always take precedence wherever it's available. Note that here we are using PKI to provide additional information. Whereas the breaking of PKI used in DRM creates a more valuable file (because it is then unrestricted), the breaking of PKI used in adding the value of authenticity to a file, removes value (creates garbage). This should lessen the attractiveness of such 'code breaking' efforts given the reward is only notoriety and ephemeral graffiti, as opposed to acclaim and persistent fame. When an artist's signature is forged, the artist will change their signature and people will amend their 'favourites' accordingly - normality quickly restored.

What's the Frigging Point Though?

Hey! It's a massive virtual 3D world that millions of people can collaborate in creating. Ok, so no-one can see each other, but X3D browsers will enabled people to explore this virtual world, and games companies can provide importers that will allow sections of the 3D world to be played in by several players at once, e.g. in games like Quake, Unreal, etc.

Think of it as the world's biggest sandpit or LEGO set. A global 3D playground, but with a degree of continuity, persistence and quality.


  • A way for game mods (player created adaptations) to be exchanged, e.g. maps for Quake, Unreal, Half-Life, etc.
  • A channel for games companies to distribute free levels.
  • A basis for the next generation virtual world, i.e. an interactive one.


Artists can sell their 3D scenery and/or objects via en masse sales facilities such as T'DAA.

Advertising. (Yeah. There's always advertising...)

Who Will Develop This?

  • A consortium of games companies?
  • X3D spin-off?
  • US DoD funding?
  • Initial development by a sole developer (CF) subsequently to be taken up by the Open Source community?

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