An automatic status update for Slack isn’t the only thing Mozilla has gained this week. On Wednesday, the company announced that it had snapped up Active Replica, a Vancouver-based startup developing a “web-based metaverse.”
According to Mozilla SVP Imo Udom, Active Replica will support Mozilla’s ongoing work with Hubs, the VR chat service and the latter’s open source project. Specifically, he sees the Active Replica team working on custom subscription levels, improving the onboarding experience, and introducing new interaction capabilities to Hubs.
“Together, we see this as a key opportunity to bring even more innovation and creativity to hubs than we could alone,” Udom said in a blog post. “We will benefit from their unique experience and ability to create amazing experiences that help organizations use virtual spaces to drive impact. They will benefit from our scale, our talent and our ability to help them bring their innovations to market faster.
Active Replica was founded in 2020 by Jacob Ervin and Valerian Denis. Ervin is a software engineer by trade, having held positions at AR/VR startups Metaio, Liminal AR and Occipital. Denis has a background in project management – he has worked for VR companies including BackLight, which specializes in immersive, location-based VR experiences for brands.
With Active Replica, Ervin and Denis sought to create a platform for virtual events and meetings built on top of Mozilla’s Hubs project. Active Replica sold virtual event packages that included venue design, event planning, live entertainment, and technical support.
Prior to the acquisition, Active Replica had not publicly announced any outside financing. Ervin and Denis have taken on new jobs at Mozilla over the past few weeks, now working as Senior Engineering Manager and Product Manager, respectively.
“Mozilla has a long history of advocating for a healthier Internet and has inspired us with its dedication and contributions to the open web. By joining forces with the Mozilla Hubs team, we are able to expand our mission and inspire a new generation of creators, connectors and builders,” Ervin and Denis said in a statement. “Active Replica will continue to work with our existing customers, partners and community.”
Mozilla launched Hubs in 2018, which it touted at the time as an “experiment” of “immersive social experiences”. Hubs provides the developer tools and infrastructure to allow users to visit a portal through any browser and collaborate with others in a VR environment. Adhering to web standards, Hubs supports all the usual headsets and goggles (e.g. Oculus Rift, HTC Vive) while remaining open to those without specialized VR hardware on desktops and smartphones.
Hubs recently expanded with the launch of a $20 per month service that removed the previously free service, but introduced account management tools, privacy and security features. According to Mozilla, the plan is to roll out additional tiers and reintroduce a free version in the future, along with kits for creating custom spaces, avatar and identity options, and integrations with existing collaboration tools. .
Mozilla’s forays into the metaverse have had mixed results. While Hubs is alive and well, as evidenced by the acquisition of Active Replica, Meta shut down Firefox Reality, its attempt to create a comprehensive browser for AR and VR headsets, in February 2022. Explaining why it decided to shut down Firefox Reality, Mozilla said that while it helps develop new technologies, like WebVR and WebAR, it doesn’t always continue to house and incubate those technologies for the long term.
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