If you want to build applications or services for the metaverse, you don't have to start from scratch. As the metaverse continues to gain attention across a variety of sectors, a number of tools and platforms are appearing to help coders develop for the metaverse.
Here, we take a look at seven such metaverse development tools and frameworks. Our picks also all happen to be open source — which will make them attractive for programmers who want to avoid being locked into the metaverse development tools of major businesses or proprietary platforms.
While it's too early in the history of the metaverse to say for sure which projects will dominate the open-source metaverse development scene, the tools and frameworks detailed here are strong contenders for becoming key resources for metaverse developers.
If you're a metaverse developer who likes open source, you'll love Webaverse. The stated mission of the platform is to "shift the power from a few big tech companies to users and creators" in the context of metaverse development. Webaverse aims to do that by offering a fully open-source, customizable "metaverse engine" that anyone can use as the foundation for building their own metaverse. You can host it wherever you want; the only requirement is having Node.js 17 or later available.
For metaverse developers inclined toward creating a decentralized metaverse platform, rather than one they host themselves, HyperCube is a project worth looking at. It's a blockchain whose intended use cases include powering the so-called HyperVerse, an "extended-reality" environment that you could consider a form of metaverse. The project seems not yet fully mature, but it merits consideration for coders who seek integration between metaverse apps and the blockchain ecosystem.
XREngine is an ambitious project that aims to make metaverse development "as easy and natural as making a website." To do that, the project bundles a variety of open-source tools to create a metaverse development framework that provides tooling for 3D world creation, voice- and video-based communication, user management, and much more. As of mid-2022, XREngine is probably the most important open-source development framework to know.
JanusWeb is another open-source, developer-friendly metaverse programming framework. It focuses on creating 3D environments that run in web browsers, with rendering powered by Three.js or WebGL. Because JanusWeb focuses on 3D world creation, its scope is currently more limited than that of XREngine, which aims to be more of a general-purpose metaverse platform for developers. Still, if creating 3D worlds is your main goal, JanusWeb is a good place to start.
WebXR Device API
Giving web apps direct access to hardware devices is critical for many metaverse development use cases. The WebXR Device API is designed to simplify that process by giving developers a standardized API that they can use to access virtual reality and augmented reality hardware from within web apps.
Open Metaverse Interoperability Group
To keep up-to-date with metaverse-friendly APIs and other resources in general, follow the Open Metaverse Interoperability Group, or OMI, whose mission is to collaborate on creating open standards for ensuring that metaverse development is open and that metaverse apps, services, and platforms can easily integrate with one another.
Blender, the open-source 3D modeling platform, came into being long before anyone was talking about the metaverse. But it remains the open-source ecosystem's go-to solution for creating and manipulating 3D visualizations, which makes it a key platform to know for developers working on 3D metaverse apps.
About the authorChristopher Tozzi is a technology analyst with subject matter expertise in cloud computing, application development, open source software, virtualization, containers and more. He also lectures at a major university in the Albany, New York, area. His book, “For Fun and Profit: A History of the Free and Open Source Software Revolution,” was published by MIT Press.