Inventing the Future: Jasmine release

Croquet is still being designed. Personally, I’d like to see something useable this summer, but that remains to be seen.

There is a “developer’s version” available now, called Jasmine, but there’s some confusion as to what Jasmine is in relation to the real thing. I’m going to try to straighten that out here.

Croquet is being developed by a group headed by six overworked architects in a couple of different organizations. Although releases (including this first version) are free and have completely open source under an MIT-style license, the development is not open source. There is no host with a source tree where interested parties can look and see what’s coming next, or work on the next bits. As much as we’d like to Tom Sawyer folks into producing more functionality, the core of the real thing is just too fluid. We need to keep focused on moving forward without having either too many cooks in the kitchen or spending time fixing a lot of bugs in code that might not even ultimately be used.

Some aspects are already quite real, especially including the 3D rendering. What the architects wanted was a way to get folks working with the functioning parts so that advanced external developers can prototype some working use cases. To accomplish this, they made some huge simplifications:

  • Small numbers of machines working in the same collaborative space. (Maybe 10 instead of millions.)
  • Everybody in the collaboration is on the same local network.
  • All the code needed for a collaborative space starts out already installed and running on each machine. In fact, each machine has identical code that is initialized in exactly the same way.
  • No security requirements.
  • All the users are actually highly skilled developers that do not need support.
  • Only the crudest persistence is needed, invoked and distributed by hand by the skilled developer/users.

These simplifications allowed some pretty darn smart guys to put together something that lets folks explore some of the aspects of what real-time collaboration in Croquet is like. But the mechanism is very different than what the real thing will have.

Alas, we’re don’t have a lot of information to give to developers about using the parts of Jasmine that will be replaced. Why document what is not staying around? For example, I don’t think we say anywhere that to have multiple users in the same space, you must start up the same environment on each machine. Before doing any movement or anything else, each user must manually connect using the tools hidden at the bottom of the display. No machine should be running any firewall.

Nor can we tell folks a great deal about how the real thing will be different. Some things we don’t know. (Or at least, I don’t know.) On some subjects there is much to say, but we’re busy implementing it. And then there’s the very reason for Jasmine itself: we need more experience with a Croquet-like environment in order to design Croquet. The questions that folks ask are invaluable in filling out that design and its presentation.

About Stearns

Howard Stearns works at High Fidelity, Inc., creating the metaverse. Mr. Stearns has a quarter century experience in systems engineering, applications consulting, and management of advanced software technologies. He was the technical lead of University of Wisconsin's Croquet project, an ambitious project convened by computing pioneer Alan Kay to transform collaboration through 3D graphics and real-time, persistent shared spaces. The CAD integration products Mr. Stearns created for expert system pioneer ICAD set the market standard through IPO and acquisition by Oracle. The embedded systems he wrote helped transform the industrial diamond market. In the early 2000s, Mr. Stearns was named Technology Strategist for Curl, the only startup founded by WWW pioneer Tim Berners-Lee. An expert on programming languages and operating systems, Mr. Stearns created the Eclipse commercial Common Lisp programming implementation. Mr. Stearns has two degrees from M.I.T., and has directed family businesses in early childhood education and publishing.


  1. Thank you. I’ve been wondering about such things, actually, as Croquet begins to develop some buzz.

    You say there are six architects. Is that the total team? Or are there worker bees also?

    Are you all in Wisconsin? What’s the geographic distribution?

    What’s your sense of adoption rate? Are people downloading now, or waiting-and-seeing?

    Meself, not being a “highly skilled developer” I’m waiting and seeing. But Croquet does sound increasingly intriguing, given the web-app trends of the last 12 months or so.

  2. I guess I’ll have to finish the draft blog I started on who the players are and what their organizations are up to. Stay tuned.

    As for adoption, that’s not quite the right term. How do you adopt a preliminary proof-of-concept, which is what Jasmine is? But there are adopters anyway. Berkeley has already produced a virtual museum. (http://jlombardi.blogspot.c…) Boston U. is producing an educational app. Japan’s National Institute for Information and Communications Technology has just contracted with us at U.Wisc. to develop additional tools within Croquet. A small company has already produced some information visualization tools. (…)

    In all, there are 374 folks on the active developer’s mailing list. A couple of the architects had put a much earlier snapshot that got killed by slashdotting a year before. For the Jasmine release last October we used bit torrent and survived the subsequent second slashdotting.

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