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Mozilla’s Servo Team Joining Mixed Reality (servo.org)
138 points by qdot76367 on Mar 9, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 119 comments

> Coming in to 2018, we see virtual and augmented reality devices transitioning from something just for hardcore gamers and enterprises into broad consumer adoption.

Every time I see phrases like this I just cringe. As someone who spent a ton of time in the gamedev/3D UI space I've yet to see anything about VR that points to be being successful in anything other than small markets. I think there are some amazing applications in architecture and gaming but I really don't see something you have to strap to you face making the mainstream in a meaningful way.

I really hope this doesn't dilute Servo's effort too much because they've been doing awesome stuff lately.

Forget "useful" for a moment. How does good VR make you feel? Have you not had any "wow" moments?

I'm constantly surprised how blown away people are when they try (real) VR for the first time. That's what makes me optimistic about it as a medium.

The problem I think, is how many people will actually pay that money to be "blown away" one time, and how many people will pay to be "blown away" multiple times after.

We had few "VR experience center"s in our little city, they were popular when they just opened, but now most of it are closed.

So, I think "blown away" is not enough, usefulness is important.

I remember playing a VR game at a mall kiosk in the 90s. I realize that the component miniaturization that came along with mobile phones has huge ramifications for the cost and quality of VR, but it's not like there haven't been people thinking about VR content for 25 years.

Maybe the barrier to entry for VR hardware is low enough now that some small team will invent something that makes it a must-have, but I remain as skeptical now as I was when Oculus first hit the hype train. I haven't really used an Oculus or a Vive, so I hope this isn't coming from a place of abundant ignorance, but VR just feels like hype feeding hype. I haven't heard a VR concept that justifies it yet. The only one I even want to try is Tilt Brush.

> I haven't really used an Oculus or a Vive, so I hope this isn't coming from a place of abundant ignorance,

There's only one way to find out. I'm over a year into VR ownership and it still fascinates me.

"usefulness" feels like a very limiting word. If (as I suspect) VR will become a new creative medium then it's an odd word to pick. Are movies and symphonies "useful"?

I'd prefer to use words along the lines of "inspring", "enchanting", "compelling" if we're going to discuss the potential of VR.

(I'm not belittling the large number of practical applications of VR in healthcare, training, education and content creation - but I don't think they will drive mainstream adoption in the way that creative, immersive applications could)

> VR will become a new creative medium [...]. Are movies and symphonies "useful"?

Watch out when comparing current typical art mediums with VR, a technology still in the property of a 2-3 big tech companies, paired with countless patents, and which costs hundreds of dollars, not including the top gaming rig that you also need to have.

Currently, if you want to convey a message, or exprime yourself creatively: - via music, you can buy any kind of instrument off the shelf. - via movies, you can just start with a $200 camcorder and record stuff. In both cases, consuption can be done with any device compatible with the digital format.

right now it's not possible with VR, at the state of things.

Blown away, followed by intense motion sickness, has been my general experience.

What did you try? There's been a lot of work done on what does and doesn't make people sick and most games or experiences aimed at the non-hardcore are pretty forgiving.

(of course a badly set up machine can cause problems. If the frame rate tanks or the tracking is messed up then all bets are off)

I tried the oculus rift at an FB event for the first time and I was not impressed. I didn’t feel like “wow” but more like “cool, this is nice”. Perhaps I had high expectations and maybe I need to try once more. I thought the VR experience could use more “clarity” (objects appeared grainy) and faster “reflectivity” (my mental model of objects moved faster than my perception).

I was blown away by 3D movies too at first and now don't ever try to see one.

3D movies and TV = new way to view existing content

VR = an entirely new medium.

Just look at the number of arts projects that use VR. I hear about something new weekly. I don't recall artists around the world getting excited about 3D movies.

(Yes - VR has some similarity with games and other interactive content but cinema has some similarity with theatre and the novel has some similarity with poetry)

That may well be true, but your original claim was that we should consider how amazing the experience seems and my point was that based on historical precedence this is not a particularly strong argument.

I happen to think that VR will not disappear as it clearly already is useful for certain applications. It might even be widely-used by general public some day. I am reasonably sure that day will not be in next 3-5 years.

Maybe when I said "That's what makes me optimistic about it as a medium." I should have said "That's one of the factors..." My brevity undermined my point which I regret.

I do however find comparisons to 3D TV/movies glib and unenlightening.

Glib? That's a lot to read into a comment why I don't trust my first impressions.

I agree that VR is a different medium and that 3D movies probably aren't, but you lost me at why that should matter. I still don't understand that, but that's fine as I also lost interest when you made this personal. I will not respond to any further comments in this thread.

Btw, I think we have common friends in Brighton. Your name occasionally came up when I used to work at Aptivate.

> Btw, I think we have common friends in Brighton. Your name occasionally came up when I used to work at Aptivate.

Hey! It's so odd when the virtual and real overlap. :-) I'll be seeing Alan this week hopefully.

Agreed, although I think apple has it right in thinking that AR (i.e. overlaying digital information over the real world) is more compelling.

Absolutely not something that mozilla should be focussing on though.

There are some questions around Servo as a result of the announcement, so I just wanted to jump in and talk a bit more about what’s going on. tl;dr - Servo is Mozilla’s vehicle for web engine research, and continues to be a major source of new tech for Firefox. But we’re also adding a more direct path to product for Mixed Reality.

Servo has produced lots of great browser tech. We're seeing that tech make its way into Firefox with Stylo and the Quantum release, and there's on-going work to bring even more tech into Firefox, like the WebRender work that you can try out in the latest nighlies. Servo's goal is to create the best technology for working with both current and upcoming web standards, which means collaborating with multiple product teams, from Firefox to Mixed Reality to other, future explorations.

There’s still a long road to full compatibility with the existing web in all of Servo’s components, and it will take time to get there. In the meantime, though, there are emerging technologies where Mozilla believes it is vital for the open web to play a central role. One of these is Mixed Reality (which refers to both Virtual and Augmented Reality), a space that’s getting a ton of attention from all of today’s tech giants.

Mixed Reality is interesting for Servo in two different respects. First, it’s a huge opportunity: it’s early days and content is brand new, so there’s no long tail of web compat to worry about; we can get products built on Servo to market relatively quickly. By putting open web tech on the cutting edge, Mozilla can help ensure that Mixed Reality doesn’t become yet another siloed technology.

But second, the constraints of Mixed Reality will help us push Servo technology to the limit: we need to achieve 75 or 90 frames per second per eye to make a workable product. The research advances here will pay huge dividends back in traditional browser engines like Firefox.

In short, this is a “yes, and” shift. Servo continues to be about building the best browser tech, period, for use across Mozilla’s products. The increased emphasis on Mixed Reality represents an opportunity to push that tech further, sooner. And the organizational change within Mozilla Research reflects a closer collaboration between the teams needed to make that happen.

I distinctly recall Servo presentation in 2012. It started: "web browsers are written in C++. It is bad for humanity."

Web browsers are still written in C++. It is still bad for humanity.

Emphasis on mixred reality may or may not solve that problem sooner. Sometimes the quickest way can seem roundabout. But I am skeptical.

The OP blog entry is so inundated with PR speak it is hard to read the actual message from it.

What I'm reading from the top comment here is that the actual point is to focus Servo on VR and Mixed Reality, because it will pull Servo even more in the direction it was always supposed to go in. That is to create a browser that outperforms everything else by leaps and bound by being able to more easily take advantage of multicore processors. VR and Mixed Reality require 90 fps in order to work properly for users, so this is a very high and a completely hard baseline for Servo to have to hit. So it's about setting a loftier goal and a higher bar to meet in order to make sure Servo reaches it's original goal of great performance by way of parallelism.

I think, that does actually work out.

The problem for humanity is not that browsers are written in C++, it's that browsers have lots of security vulnerabilities.

Being written in C++ is not helpful with that, but it's not integral to the problem. It's not impossible to produce C++-code that doesn't have vulnerabilities, it just requires a lot of effort and often years of battle-testing to close all of them.

But Firefox's source code has for the most part had those years of battle-testing. It's probably safer than if you'd completely rewrite it in Rust, at least in the short term.

Where the use of Rust can deflect most vulnerabilities is in new code. And that's what Mixed Reality is. It's gonna need to be in the browser at some point in the near future and it is a big chunk of new code. It also has harsh performance requirements, meaning they'll have to work with parallelism, which is where C++ is particularly error prone.

So we continue to play wack-a-mole with the C++ codebase rather than develop in a language that makes whole classes of exploits impossible?

Firefox is not safe. It’s been routinely exploited by law enforcement and hackers alike.

Trust me, if Mozilla actually had a choice in the matter, they would opt for just having it all in Rust, too.

But there is no choice. Rewriting Firefox from scratch is going to take decades. Firefox has to continue to function in the meantime. They do occasionally replace components with equivalent Rust components from Servo, and that's so far been a great success, but it's still scary as all heck to take a software that millions of people depend on in their daily life and wholesale replacing the CSS engine, URL parser or media decoder in it.

Besides that, it's not like Chrome/Opera, IE/Edge or Safari are bastions of security. Users can't go anywhere that's decisively safer.

It was wrong then, it remains wrong now.

Plenty of warts in C++, but at the end of the day, along with C, it is the systems language that powers 99% of the world's computing infrastructure at any level that's not a CRUD app or a throwaway script.

Once again Mozilla does its best: derailing good projects in unrelated contexts for unknown (and weakly supported) reasons.

I would like to disagree, but I can't.

Firefox OS all over again.

Genuine question: Are there non-toy-related uses for AR/VR that exist? Or is that typical assumption that the applications will emerge only once the technology exists?

Certainly, it's early stages, which is why we (Mozilla Research / Emerging Technologies) are investing in it.

We're seeing a lot of industrial use of AR in manufacturing and industrial settings, though consumer use is still less common. If you have't come across it, this HBR article is one of the best public materials: https://hbr.org/2017/11/a-managers-guide-to-augmented-realit...

VR is certainly still emerging as a platform and trying to get out of its hardcore gaming and training/corporate silos. We really believe from early user data and some more advanced markets (e.g., China) that standalone VR headsets and great cross-platform social experiences will help it reach more users.

All that said: I don't personally know what the "instagram of VR" will be, though I certainly wish I did :-)

It may not be Instagram-level successful, but BigScreen really impressed me. Sitting on a virtual balcony, overlooking a huge city while having multiple desktops scaled to different sizes showed me the direction that productive desktops will be heading in the next 10-15 years. I can see myself developing software in VR using virtual monitors rather than in my office with real monitors in the mid-term future.

The #1 problem with this vision is the resolution of the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. I haven't tried the HTC Vive Pro yet, but I'd say it's got to be about twice the resolution of the HTC Vive before I'll be able to actually use BigScreen the way it's meant to be used.

Once that happens, all bets are off.

You'd need to reduce the weight of VR/AR glasses to that of regular glasses, i.e. <100g. Clunky heavy headsets stand no chance for professional use, fatigues sets in after 1 hour and gets worse every day of wearing it.

You can already get close to this with near eye light field displays[1], but the resolution suffers massively. As a bonus though, it can correct for a glasses prescription in software.

1: http://research.nvidia.com/publication/near-eye-light-field-...

The vive fatigue is due to the non solid headmount. A PSVR style headmount like the Revive makes it infinitely less fatiguing as it no longer is supported by your face, instead it's held up by your spine and the deep muscles of the neck and upper back.

I think that's subjective. The Vive has been pretty good for me over the long term usage.

I get why people are excited, and maybe these technologies really will go somewhere this time. But the first commercial AR systems are 25 years old [1], and VR had a wave of popularity in the 90s as well . [2]

The only way we can really call today the "early stages" of either of these technologies is by imagining a future where they dominate. But that's the very thing we should be questioning. I note that pretty much anything 3D has a long history of being heralded as the "early stages" of a revolution that never came.

The most obvious example here is 3D video. We're at the tail end of a boom in 3D movies, a technology that now only gets applied to certain high-priced, effects-heavy blockbusters, and could well vanish. There was an even shorter 3D TV boom. [3] And of course there was the 50s boom in anaglyph (aka colored glasses) 3D. [4]

But previous to that there was the ViewMaster, which was imagined to have all sorts of potential. In WW II, the US military bought 100,000 viewers because they thought the magic of 3D would be better for training soldiers. [5] And this history goes back to at least the Brewster Stereoscope, which sold 250,000 units in the 1850s, and was also expected to be revolutionary. [6]

Given the many waves of hype in this era, I think we should be careful of thinking that we are on the path to some sort of destiny. Smart people have been fooled before. It's perfectly possible that this will be just another hype cycle whose main result is a bunch of dusty old hardware in the junk shops of 2050.

[1] http://www.augmented-reality-games.com/history.php

[2] https://killscreen.com/articles/failure-launch/

[3] https://www.cnet.com/news/shambling-corpse-of-3d-tv-finally-...

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3D_film#The_%22golden_era%22_(...

[5] http://legendsrevealed.com/entertainment/2015/08/24/did-the-...

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stereoscope#Brewster_stereosco...

Yes, we're definitely familiar! We have people on the team who have been involved in the area since the first commercial AR systems, and a substantial portion of the team (including myself) lived through the previous era of VRML and VR hype.

Eyes are definitely wide open!

> "The only way we can really call today the "early stages" of either of these technologies is by imagining a future where they dominate."

I'd suggest domination is not a prerequisite for success. Let's imagine a scenario where only 5% of the world population uses VR or AR on a regular basis. That's still a market of millions of people, but it's not at the level of world domination. Not every new technology has to replace the one before, it's far more common for old and new technologies to co-exist.

Maybe. But at this level of hype, I think that sort of niche success means people can't really call what's going on today the "early stages" of anything. Instead today would more be the bubble before the crash.

The ViewMaster is a fine example there. It's a neat novelty technology! I loved mine when I was a kid. People still love them today. Is it successful? Sure. Do millions of people own them? Definitely. But in retrospect the DoD purchase of 100k viewers doesn't seem like the early stages of anything.

Or think of satellite phones. The Iridium program was massively hyped, and it was a technical success. But commercially it never took off. Satellite phones are still available today, and there are circa a million subscribers. Was the 1990s hype the "early stages"? Again, in retrospect I'd say no.

So sure, domination isn't necessary for success. But I think future domination is necessary to retroactively justify the hype and investment of our current era.

Regarding justifying the hype, people are always going to hype new tech they're interested in, regardless of its commercial potential (I realise VR is nothing new, but this current generation of devices has already made further inroads into the mainstream compared to their predecessors). I don't think hype requires justification, it's just a reflection of what humans get excited about. To put it another way, imagine someone you know told you they were going on holiday to somewhere you've already been before, and they were really excited about having the chance to go there. Even if you didn't think this place was that great, would you expect them to justify their excitement?

As for investment, you have a point. Perhaps the level of investment will prove to be a mistake, but at this point in time we don't really know how big of a demand there will be for VR and AR. I'd struggle at this stage to predict how it will end up, but what I can say is that I can see evidence supporting the prediction that they'll be mainstream, as well as evidence supporting the prediction that they'll be niche. We probably won't know with any certainty until after the second or third generation of current devices is on the market, as that's the point where they're likely to take off commercially if they're going to. Speculation before that point can be fun, but I don't think it'll change the outcome.

Excitement is a feeling, which nobody has to justify. Hype is a behavior, and people can and should be held responsible for their behaviors.

Especially so given that hyping something is "to promote or publicize (a product or idea) intensively, often exaggerating its importance or benefits". It's not a neutral act. And in the commercial context, the purpose of hype is generally, in one way or another, to put money in the pockets of the person doing the hyping.

> "Excitement is a feeling, which nobody has to justify. Hype is a behavior, and people can and should be held responsible for their behaviors."

Depends who's doing the hyping. If it's a potential consumer, then hype is derived from excitement, and the same rules that apply to the justification of excitement would apply to the justification for hype. On the other hand, if it's a company hyping their products, then they may not be led by their feelings, but I don't see the harm in it either. What do you lose out on if a company is hyping their products?

If you honestly cannot imagine any negative effects of a hype cycle, especially when I just quoted the fact that hype involves "exaggerating its importance or benefits", then I really don't think I can help you.

Do I think there's anything wrong with the current hype cycle for VR? No. The way I see it, If someone knows they're being sold to, then they can assess that sales pitch accordingly.

What's more interesting to me is that you're implying that this hype (a.k.a. advertising) is having a negative impact on you, even if you don't intend to buy the product yourself. What's the worst case scenario here? That some investors make a bad investment?

If you honestly cannot imagine any negative effects of a hype cycle, especially when I just quoted the fact that hype involves "exaggerating its importance or benefits", then I really don't think I can help you.

Repeating yourself just highlights you don't know how to respond to someone questioning something you hold as unquestionably true. It's not healthy to hold onto anything as unquestionably true, so you have my condolences. Perhaps we have different views of what the hype cycle is, but it doesn't look like you're willing to explore that further. If you were willing to explore it further, picking a previous example where the hype cycle has either ended or is coming to an end, such as for smartphones (which appear to be largely seen as a commodity now), how would you describe the damage caused by the hype cycle?

It's not my job to educate you. It's not that I don't know how. It's that I think it's a waste of my time. I made that clear once and you ignored that. I repeated it because you apparently wouldn't take the hint. Which you ignored again, with more lazy, entitled waffle.

If you would like to make it my job to educate you, my casual consulting rate is $250/hour, 10 hour minimum, paid in advance to MBO Partners in Virginia. Until then, adieu.

> "If you would like to make it my job to educate you, my casual consulting rate is $250/hour, 10 hour minimum, paid in advance to MBO Partners in Virginia. Until then, adieu."

Forgive me if I pass on being enlightened on something as trivial as hype. I hope you teach something more substantial to those clients paying $250 an hour.

Imagine my relief.

I'd imagine ignorance is bliss.

Comparing VR today, in a world where portable devices dominate, to VR even a decade ago, in a world where cell phones were only just starting to be commonplace, seems really useless.

The world is an extremely different place. This is, in my opinion, still very early days - by which I mean that we are still in an exploratory phase.

We've never been closer to having the technology necessary for it to take off - resolution was always one huge blocker, portability, weight, 'culture' in terms of computing being something everyone has access to, GPU power, battery, etc.

I'm not really comparing VR. I'm comparing the hype of VR. Because 20 years ago there were plenty of smart people just as confident that it was on the edge of becoming a giant thing.

As far as taking off, we might be close, and we might be far. It's tautological to argue that VR is coming soon because we're close to the level of technology that means VR is coming soon.

And it may never take off. Maybe we'll get to a particular level of technology where everybody is wowed by the tech but in day-to-day use nobody actually cares. That has happened over and over again with 3D technologies. We are definitely in an exploratory phase, but a great number of explorations don't end up going anywhere interesting.

The current hardware is toy-quality, so most applications are toys. When the hardware gets to pro-quality, the applications are virtually infinite (imagine being able to create any possible experience for any person... having sex with their dead husband, commanding the battle of Thermopylae, Ender’s Game, playing basketball against Michael Jordan, visiting family thousands of miles away, visiting dead family thousands of miles away, business meetings, etc etc)

>> ...having sex with their dead husband...

I know some people claim pornography has been a driver of technology, but necrophilia? really?

HN is like an infinite pit into which all sarcasm falls, so just in case: pornography with live subjects isn't necrophilia just because the subjects have, since the time of recording, died.

Surely the more normal version is the one GP was talking about.

Someone lost 70lbs playing my VR game. I think fitness is a huge use case for this stuff.

What game? {{citation needed}}

Broadly speaking, given a choice between getting on an airplane and traveling a few thousand miles versus strapping a headset on your face, there are plenty of scenarios where one can make a compelling case for doing the latter, even with today's hardware. Meetings, presentations, training, and more. The hardware is a big barrier currently, for sure; expensive and clunky. But that will change pretty quickly. The ability to showcase something without physically being there is very valuable. And yes, naturally, a lot more applications will emerge once the technology becomes easier to digest.

Training maybe. But humans are too much social animals for meetings (we already have setups with HD tvs, cameras, and high bandwidth connections and still fly to and from, almost as if being able to do so, or demand that they come to you, is a show of force and status) and presentations (never underestimate the value of the mingling that happens before, during and after a presentation) to happen remotely, unless we are talking some kind of sci-fi holographics.

google glass has found a great application in heads-up displays for factory floors and other large industrial machinery. it's arguably a lot more exciting than anything they tried in the consumer space; it has the feel of a problem being solved thoroughly and well.


At Fearless we’re using VR to help people overcome fears (spiders, flying, etc).


I dont know what you would consider non-toy uses, but the company I work for uses VR as a means of demonstrating building structures and layouts to clients.

The model is built in Revit and using this method allows for easy fly/walkthrough and spotting of some issues that might not be as visible in the 3D viewer mode on your screen.

I really want to build a VR-based GUI for a Very Serious Program I'm writing in my free time. It's not a game.

So whether there are or aren't, there's clearly potential. It doesn't seem right to dismiss it just because it hasn't taken off yet - it's extremely early days.

Military has had their HUD which is a form of it. I predict you could sell AR/VR only to niche consumers and military and it will remain a gimmick for consumers like 3D television was. So it's a great move for Mozilla if their thought was joining MIC..

I've heard of a company very much looking to get AR going for CAD work.

And well, it is coming sooner or later. If as a browser, you aren't ready when they actually do, you might see an entire industry standardizing away from you.

Check out PTC Thingworx Studio. Many industrial companies are pursuing similar technologies - AR to visualize data streaming off machines in a factory or industrial setting

Theres a free 90 trial for ThingWorx Studio! https://studio.thingworx.com/ Disclaimer I work on the ThingWorx product

>Genuine question: Are there non-toy-related uses for AR/VR that exist?

No. It's why I've lost interest in VR/AR software development for now; the real work to be done is in hardware. Even the latest HMDs are too low resolution and bulky for any kind of productivity gain. AR will be amazing once the tech is there, but the current design paradigm of "smartphone-strapped-to-face" just isn't going to cut it.

Take regular glasses, and just make them a bit smarter, without changing their appearance much. Could be useful for displaying interface menu elements (e.g. your browser tool bar), this way you'd gain screen size and/or have more direct access to more tools at the same time, without clicking through lists and stuff.

Training of professional by using simulation. Already well established in military, aviation and shipping. I expect it to also do well in medical.

As the tech becomes more commoditized it becomes viable for other businesses that don't spend as much on training.

AR is being investigated for a bunch of commercial use cases. Context-aware heads-up displays (or even simple phone-based AR for some things) could be useful in maintenance work etc in many industries.

Sales and marketing. Especially showing previsualization of something that will be built to desicion maker. Like a house tailored to your specs, you can walk around inside it.

Does this mean Servo will exist only as a mixed reality platform, and they are abandoning the independent next-generation browser project? EDIT: Is it an organizational change - i.e., does the Servo team now report to Mixed Reality?

Servo will continue to be a next-generation browser engine and a place where we'll be doing a lot of experimentation on new standards and implementation techniques. I'm sure the community will also continue to use it for all sorts of cool things!

Joining up with the mixed reality team is more about how the Mozilla staff working on Servo will be focusing their time and some of the desire we have for things we want to do for mixed reality that are a little invasive and early-stage of the standards process to be experimenting with inside of existing production browser engines.

With regards to a full browser, there's still a pretty big gap before Servo could stand on its own in a browser (https://github.com/servo/servo/wiki/Remaining-work ). Filling that list out is not a higher priority for the Mozilla staff over getting the stuff done we need to experiment with delivering the web on VR & AR devices.

I'm really proud of what the Servo team has achieved and since I'm always looking at it from a big distance, I believe you are all able to judge this much better than me.

That said, this news do not sound good to me. Again, this is from a great distance, but from here, taking a future-focused team with great respect from the community, a team with an important and invaluable mission and that has successfully delivered over years, and shifting it (or forking it) towards complete uncertainty feels like a dangerous move that reminds me of the phone OS efforts.

Good riddance and may your vision be right. We need someone with Mozilla's goals looking deeper into VR so that we don't end up in the hands of the Big Corps in the near future, that is for sure, no matter if VR ends up being niche. How important that technology will be for the masses is yet to be proven and that's why I fear for the web, the battle proven real thing that faces the greatest threats from closed silos today. I don't feel it should be taken on equal terms with what is still fictional speculation. It needs full energy to make it to the future in good health. We already failed to deliver a beautiful, open and user centered internet to the future, we can't loose the open web.

>> Filling that list out is not a higher priority for the Mozilla staff over getting the stuff done we need to experiment with delivering the web on VR & AR devices.

So building a fully functional browser is not higher priority than getting the half-baked browser working in a niche environment? I'm half joking here, and half serious. How is a browser supposed to look differently in VR? And why does it need to be aware of the fact that it's in VR? People are still developing interaction and navigation methods in VR.

> How is a browser supposed to look differently in VR?

Great question! Some of the best early work on this was done by ex-Mozilla, current-Google employee Josh Carpenter - check out:

http://www.joshcarpenter.ca/declarative-3d/ http://www.joshcarpenter.ca/vr-browsing-explorations/

There's a lot we can do that is even beyond these early explorations to deliver new features to developers to experiment with and users to try soon via Servo, alongside GeckoView in new VR/AR-focused browser products.

If you take a look at the link I provided above on remaining work and rough estimates to get things just working in Servo (and not FULLY web compat), you're looking at an effort of several years for the entire team, and that's assuming the web platform both stayed still and went ahead and finished writing all the tests and specs for everything on the web that is today neither tested nor fully spec'd. I don't see that in the cards for 2018.

So is this the end of the attempt to make Servo into a fully web compatible competitor to go up against/replace Gecko, et al? Was that ever the goal, really? It seemed like Servo was a "let's see if we can do it" and now it's changed into a "what's the point of putting all this effort into making one more 2D web renderer when we can be at the forefront of 3D web renderers?"

Not passing judgement on anything with the above statement. Just trying to make sense of it all.

We're still working on web compatibility; that's not changing.

But I don't think we've ever had a concrete goal to have a standalone Servo browser. Parts of servo in firefox? Sure. Trying out new ideas? Sure. Embedding servo a la electron or WebkitView? Sure. But Servo as a standalone browser has always been a "maybe someday" thing -- we've never worked against it, but I don't recall us ever explicitly targeting it, though I think most of us have always had some hope that we'll reach that point eventually.

What about the concept of turning Gecko into Servo piece by piece?

That is, continuing the Quantum work until there is either no C++ code left, or the C++ code left can turned off via config option ("prefer perfect security over perfect compatibility") while still having a browser that works on the vast majority of the web.

Servo components will continue to be uplifted into Gecko (e.g. WebRender and Pathfinder are on track to be in Firefox later this year). But ever since Servo's original announcement people from Mozilla have been explicitly saying that people should not expect Servo to wholesale replace Gecko in Firefox.

We already built a full VR browser, part of the current YC batch: https://supermedium.com

I wish everyone on the Servo project the best of luck, and hope this new project will be a success, but I can't help but agree with other commenters who see this as a move away from something that could have provided a huge fundamental advantage to Firefox/Mozilla to something less impactful. This feels like the end of the Servo project in all but name.

I have my doubts as well, but one way to look at this announcement in a charitable light is that VR and AR are technically demanding use cases which will require the Servo team to keep a strong focus on performance. In one way, it's a good testing ground for further refining the high level of performance that Servo has already achieved, especially if the work aims to make the user experience of shifting between 2D and 3D content to be seamless (which could result in performance wins for 2D content as well).

I still have a hope that Servo will be used in a next-generation Electron competitor, as that's what I thought would be the best use of Servo (in the short term). Hopefully the developers can keep this use case open by maintaining the code that allows Servo to be embedded as a component in other projects.

To me, the promise of Servo was that we could incrementally rewrite Firefox in Rust, evolving Rust alongside it, and solve memory corruption in a browser, making a giant leap forward for security. Servo was the credible alternative to Chrome's approach of just adding more sandboxing. I'm just disappointed.

> "the promise of Servo was that we could incrementally rewrite Firefox in Rust"

That's what's already happening with Project Quantum, and that project is still ongoing (as far as I'm aware).



It already has provided a huge advantage via components that are already shipping (Stylo) and soon to be shipped (WebRender) in Firefox.

> Filling that list out is not a higher priority for the Mozilla staff over getting the stuff done we need to experiment with delivering the web on VR & AR devices.

This is extremely disappointing.

I think the amount of users you can win back from Chrome with a Servo browser is much larger than any VR audience you can hope to gain in the near future. I simply don't understand how these things cannot be done in parallel. Mozilla has hundreds of millions in cashflow, right?

Looks like Servo will be another exciting Mozilla project that will be prematurely dropped after a ton of work and hype-up. RIP Firefox OS, Persona, Thunderbird, etc... :(

> I think the amount of users you can win back from Chrome with a Servo browser is much larger than any VR audience you can hope to gain in the near future.

A Servo browser product is not possible in the near future. That is very much a far future thing. Web compatibility is hard.

Servo has a lot more potential in platforms where you don't need to support the _entire_ set of browser features -- like as an electron replacement, or a platform for something like webVR, or Android embedding (which will probably come out of the VR work as well).

> A Servo browser product is not possible in the near future. That is very much a far future thing.

and an impossibly far future if the Servo team is now refocused on VR, no? how likely is it that these hard problems will be solved by fewer engineer-hours?

perhaps there's some external backer willing to bankroll VR and Servo is just an easy expense to curtail.

You still need webcompat for VR stuff.

Focusing on VR means that we may not be working on some kinds of webcompat things (the standard example is "IE6 table layout quirks") but there's plenty of webcompat work that needs to be done otherwise.

Yes, not everyone will be working on webcompat, but this has never been the case anyway.

> (the standard example is "IE6 table layout quirks")

if a new browser in 2019 could not properly render an archived 1996 Geocities webpage at time of launch, i don't think many users would care or even notice. there are almost certainly legacy bugs in Firefox that have been open for over a decade with little activity and yet it's in production.

It's not just old sites that depend on these quirks.

Seriously, web compat is very tricky.

So it is about team velocity vs standards compliance? I know the Servo team isn't large enough to make a whole new browser from scratch.

I'm not sure what you mean by team velocity.

We're still working on standards compliance, but we may focus more on the bits that are actually useful within VR.

> team velocity

Having folks spending months implementing the corner cases of standard might not researching and finding creative ways to use Rust to implement large systems.

Standards compliance probably follows some exponential curve wrt energy and results.

Why do they keep doing this?

From the way the title is phrased it sounds like the servo team is leaving servo to work on mixed reality, quite misleading.

Exactly what I thought, I'm still not sure whether it's another "Advancing our amazing bet".

Am I the only one thinking VR for consumers won't happen for the same reason 3D television didn't happen 5(?) years ago?

It's too clumsy. If you aren't gonna walk with it then it's 360 display that makes you vomit, and if you are gonna walk with it not every consumer has huge empty room where that's feasible. Most of us have couch or desk at home where we consume media, not empty warehouse. I predict whatever Mozilla thinks they are doing it will fail for the same reasons Google Glass failed spectacularly or why after years already spent on VR I don't see anybody outside koolaid-drinking techies owning one set.

Mozilla has one good consumer project that can realistically be completed (browser in type-safe language) and getting the team behind it bogged down with tech that's immature and doomed to failure is unfortunate.

Servo is actually not typically viewed as realistically completable. Even Firefox, which is being developed full-pelt, is behind on web standards (like any other browser is).

So, for Servo to catch up to the current state of Firefox and to then also keep pace with new web standards, it would have to be developed much quicker than Firefox is being developed. So, that would require more than double the development capacity that Mozilla currently has, as they can't drop Firefox development either.

There is some points that could alleviate this: <ul> <li>A smaller project grows quicker, <li>it being written in Rust might speed up development in the long run and <li>several components are now shared between Firefox and Servo, meaning that the development and maintenance work is shared as well, <ul> but it still is far away from realistically completable.

Which is also not what the project is meant to be. It's a research project. Trying out new things, creating components that can be used in Firefox, and doing experiments with VR or similar are exactly what it can be used for.

It's helluva more completable then any VR project Mozilla is going to try. It will be another Firefox phone project.

And you don't have to repeat 20 years of Firefox to complete Firefox, a lot of it were dead-ends like XUL (themed GTK would do), a lot of it were non-essential features like Pocket and a lot of it were rewrites and mistakes that they won't have to repeat and like you said being written in Rust should speed things along. Lastly, I don't care if Servo is released standalone or if Firefox gets replaced by Servo like the ship of Theseus, all I care about is browser that is less explodable, otherwise I'll continue on Chrome.

They already have completed VR projects: https://vr.mozilla.org/

Pocket required essentially no work. They bought an existing service and stuck a fancy bookmark for it into Firefox.

And well, I'm mainly just repeating what Mozilla devs have said. They are deeper into the matter than both us, they can better judge just how much work it is. And it's easy to forget just how complex web browsers are. None of the major browsers use a browser engine which's development started in this millenium for exactly this reason.

I'm also not aware of Chrome being less explodable. I'd say, it's more explodable with its malware-filled extension store, default unencrypted sync service and annecdotally a vulnerability like this [1] being left unfixed for years and careless behaviour like this [2].

[1]: https://github.com/anttiviljami/browser-autofill-phishing

[2]: https://www.wired.com/story/chrome-yubikey-phishing-webusb/

Firefox used to have a worse security architecture, but it's essentially equivalent now. The only real difference that I'm aware of, is that Firefox by default groups processes for tabs, meaning if a webpage manages to exploit a major vulnerability in Firefox to gain control of the process it's being executed in, then it has access to 1/4 of your tabs and therefore might potentially be able to steal sensitive data, whereas in Chrome it would then also have to exploit a vulnerability in the OS to do that.

> They are deeper into the matter than both us

Or execs are driving a bus into the wall. It wouldn't be the first time that happened for sure.

> I'm also not aware of Chrome being less explodable.

It used to be. It only took them 10 years to enable sandboxing.

> with its malware-filled extension store

And no rational person installs extensions from it for that reason without first checking who stands behind the extension.

> then it has access to 1/4 of your tabs and therefore might potentially be able to steal sensitive data

So essentially not equivalent.

I’m more interested in AR at this point: overlaying content on the real world avoids the walking around problem and at least Pokémon Go shows there’s interest outside of techie circles. Mozilla has a vested interest in that happening on the web rather than in iOS/Android apps, which seems like an uphill fight.

Distraction does seem like a major risk but I like the way they’ve been pulling pieces over to Firefox. It’d be really nice if that model worked so they could avoid getting as bogged down in web compatibility.

"""We will continue to experiment with things like DOM to texture. It is still difficult to allow web content to be part of a 3D scene."""

This is the most important missing piece, are their bugs for this?

Until we have html/dom textures in vr I just don't see webvr being very successful.

Just like the headset isolates you from the room, the lack of normal web content in vr/mr is very isolating.

I think they will never do this for DRM and security reasons :(

DRM doesn't factor into this. canvas.drawWindow() has been a thing (for addons) since 2005: https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Web/API/CanvasRende...

That's pretty cool - so you can just render DRMed video to a texture and record that texture to get around the new DRM stuff?

You can also set up a camera in front of your monitor and just record the whole thing. DRM has never been functional. Best it can do, is deflect the average user from just quickly sending it to his friend. But anyone with any motivation can easily get around it.

I'm honestly really glad to hear this

The amount of negativity in this thread is crazy. With Microsoft pushing VR & AR right into the operating system, and headsets < $300 becoming commonplace, not to mention the iPhone X being built around the AR tech, you'd think people might get the hint that things have changed.

Anyway, I was just wondering if the Servo team had seen the work Elevr had done on basic interaction design? They lost funding last year but I thought they had a ton of work done.

"Things have changed".

That's being a bit liberal. Sure, [AV]R is going to be important in the next few years, but it certainly won't be mandatory. People will still be using flat monoscopic (not stereoscopic) displays.

The work Mozilla has put into Servo is clearly very useful right now. There is still a lot of work to be done on Servo, and on Rust itself. Are you really that surprised that some of us are wary of splitting that team's priorities to work on something like [AV]R?

> you'd think people might get the hint that things have changed

Or not. The amount of hype and investment isn't a reliable measure of future success. We've been here before. The moment when mass adoption is just around the corner.

Some things are conceptually exciting, but disappointing in practice.

When I first heard the announcement about Firefox OS a handful of years ago, I thought to myself “that’s a bad idea. They should stay focused instead of stretching themselves too thin.”

You’re still not as fast or battery-efficient as Safari on macOS, so for me, Mozilla has more work to do on its core products before jumping onto a new tech project (like Firefox OS) that doesn’t even have a clear use in the market.

You’re not Sony. You’re not Facebook. Focus on what you’re good at now, let those guys find the market and the killer apps, THEN jump into AR.

You still have more work to do where you are. Tell the product people to shut up. FOCUS. Fewer features, better quality.

> We will continue to experiment with things like DOM to texture. It is still difficult to allow web content to be part of a 3D scene.

Microsoft's Chromeffects did this in 1998. It was pretty amazing, but alas, got canned less than a year later.

And they still make something VR/AR on rustlang ;)

That's a pity. I was thinking that maybe Mozilla was getting back on track and making a no-nonsense web browser. Instead they're diverting resources to yet another gimmicky fad.

> making a no-nonsense web browser

I fear that ship has long sailed.

I really like all the questions and remarks being placed here by people who have experience with the challenges of MR or are unclear about the goals of Servo, and the Mozilla people interacting here.

For those of you simply dismissing whatever's happening because VR has been hyped before and it didn't pan out this time, I'd highly recommend this post: https://signalvnoise.com/posts/3124-give-it-five-minutes

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