By Jon Newton 4/28/05

“Looks really interesting,” we replied in response to an email we’d had from Joaquin Keller in France.

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And it was interesting indeed because Keller was telling us about the release of Solipsis-0.8, a p2p MMORPG with truly astounding dimensions for a, “massively shared virtual world,” as Keller and his co-developers say in their Solipsis site. “There is no server at all: it only relies on end-users' machines.”

Jon Newton

A peer-to-peer world ----- with file sharing to come.

At the moment, however, Solipsis, open source and running under under the GNU Lesser General Public License, is in effect a vacuum, empty of all life.

No pre-existing cities. No people. No scenarios.

But it's destined to slowly evolve through a network of peers collaborating in real-time to populate and develop it.

And to make it really intriguing, “the system architecture clearly separates the different tasks, so that peer-to-peer hackers as well as multimedia geeks can have fun,” Keller told p2pnet.

Solipsis is scalable to, "millions, billions of users and entities and is meant to be as wide as the Web."

For now, it runs on Windows and Linux. But the Solipsis team plan to develop a Mac OS X version in the near future.

We had a brief email chat with Keller, and we’ll be posting a detailed paper on Solipsis by Keller and co-developer, Gwendal Simon, in the near future.

Read on >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

p2pnet: Whereabouts are you France?

Keller: In Paris. I work at the France Telecom Research Center of Issy Les Moulineaux

p2pnet: Is Solipsis your creation?

Keller: Yes. I came up with the idea around 1998. But the project really started in 2001 when it was funded by France Telecom.

p2pnet: Why did you decide on Solipsis for the name?

Keller: It comes from Solipsism, a philosophical doctrine that claims that reality only exists in one's mind.

Some people will find it wierd to imagine a world without God. In the Solipsis virtual world, you can have a local view only: no one can have a global view. It will, for example, be impossible to know exactly how many people are in Solipsis. "Objects" and people (avatars) are the same. They run the same code. They're peers - nodes in a logical network that will spread all over the internet.

That's the dream behind the solipsis project.

p2pnet: Who’s working with you?

Keller: In September, 2001, I recruited a student, Gwendal Simon, to work with me on Solipsis. Antoine Pitrou started working on Solipis in November, and Emmanuel Bréton in March. Most of the code running today was written by Antoine who's the developer of SPIP. Didier Gorges (monetization) and David Dugoujon (coding) are also working on the project.

p2pnet: What's the goal behind Solipsis?

Keller: The main idea is to enable a web-like cyberspace built by users' contributions and running on users' machines.

p2pnet: What stage are you at?

Keller: It's like we're now in early 90s with httpd + mosaic, but no webpages. The main differences are: 1) In Solipsis "mosaic" and "httpd" are indeed the same program (the node), so "readers" are also "content" providers (the next version will implement file sharing); and, 2) When you "surf" the web you are alone. In Solipsis you meet the other surfers.

I don't know if Solipsis will be the system that will work, but I'm sure that there will be in the near future a system like this one.

p2pnet: How did it get started?

Keller: Reading Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash science fiction novel 1998. Then I came up with the core of the algorithm in 2001. We had the first piece of code running in 2002 (Gwendal's work mainly). Solipsis became open source in early 2004 and I presented Solipsis at codecon2004.

p2pnet: I see you're under GNU. What does this means in terms of future development?

Keller: We hope other developers will join us.

p2pnet: Can (or could) Solipsis be used in contexts other than MMORPG?

Keller: Solipsis is aimed at social interaction. Gaming is not the primary intended application. Most people go on MMORPG to meet people. Getting points is not the main motivation. People will interact as in Instant Messaging but with previously unknown people. Solipsis is a meeting place. People will agregate according to their interests, so there will be places to talk about sports, other to talk about music or politics.

p2pnet: What are your future plans?

Keller: We'll continue to work on Solipsis. In a few weeks we're going to add "profiles" to entities. Profiles are sort of web pages with links to other entities. They'll give flesh to the world.

We plan to made web2solipsis and solipis2web links - ie, you click on a web page and you jump somewhere in solipsis.

p2pnet: Will Solipsis always be free?

Keller: It will. We also have plans to build a business on Solipsis and there will probably be opportunities for others to make money as well on Solipsis.


"I have the final pre-pub draft of my book sitting on my desk," blogs Edward Castronova, associate professor of telecommunications, Indiana University, on Terra Nova. "In it, there' are lots of places where I write 'Hoo boy, once P2P and MMORPG meet, it's going to be a hum-dinger'!"

Keller won his Master’s in Mathematical Logic from the University of Paris VII (Jussieu) and his PhD in network management and distributed systems from the University of Versailles. His interests include p2p systems, distributed algorithms and multimedia communications.

Gwendal Simon won his Masters in computer sciences, specializing in distributed systems and networks, from the University of Rennes I. His interests include distributed caches for web pages and multimedia streams. He’s taught computer programming at the Saint-Cyr School and is now studying for a PhD in videoconferencing and massively distributed shared VR systems at France Telecom R&D, and INRIA-Rennes.


Jon Newton is the editor of p2pnet.net and is a regular contributer to MP3 Newswire. Jon's site is devoted to the politics of digital music and his insights as well as those of his co-writers can be read there. We urge you to explore it.


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