Microsoft kills AltspaceVR and with it a piece of VR history
The social VR platform AltspaceVR will go offline in March. It could be a victim of Microsoft's cost-cutting measures.
On 10 March, the lights will go out at AltspaceVR. The social VR app was on the brink of bankruptcy back in 2017 when Microsoft stepped in as an investor and bought the platform to build and expand it as a leading social VR platform. Now AltspaceVR is bidding a final farewell to all users.
Over the past decade, our platform has played host to an astonishing array of virtual events and experiences: group meditations, LGBTQ+ meetups, faith-based gatherings, open mics, stand-up comedy, karaoke, concerts, and so much more.
It has provided a space for people to explore their identities, express themselves, and find community. It has unlocked passions among users, provided incredible educational opportunities and pathways to personal growth, and inspired many to create unique and wonderful events, experiences, art, and Worlds. People have formed cherished friendships, found love, and even married IRL.
It has been a pleasure and privilege to witness.
Altspace expertise migrates to Mesh
The fact that AltspaceVR is going offline right now could be related to Microsoft's recently announced cost-cutting measures. The company plans to cut up to 10,000 jobs by the end of March. The Hololens team is also affected; Microsoft is scaling back its efforts on the combat headset for the US Army.
Microsoft has also let go the development team of the Mixed Reality Toolkit (MRTK), an open-source developer interface for AR and VR headsets initiated by Microsoft.
Joining my teammates in sharing some sad news. Yesterday, the entire #MRTK team was eliminated from Microsoft. I can't express how grateful we are for our open source community and all of the amazing people we've collaborated with over the years. 1/x
— Finn Sinclair 🇺🇲 (@FNS_Developer) January 20, 2023
The AltspaceVR team does not give an explicit reason for the shutdown in its announcement. It also does not say whether there are any layoffs in the team. The software already developed will go to Microsoft's XR platform Mesh.
AltspaceVR was launched in 2013 before the big VR craze and was long considered a flagship app for social VR before it ran into financial trouble in 2017 and was bought out by Microsoft.
Microsoft's former XR chief Alex Kipman was reportedly involved in the negotiations at the time. After the acquisition, both companies announced that the goal was to build "world's best mixed reality community".
However, under the company's umbrella, AltspaceVR barely evolved and was quickly overtaken by emerging social platforms such as VRChat and Rec Room. Kipman had to leave Microsoft last year after 21 years with the company.
Those who want to download remaining photos and data from AltspaceVR can find more information here.