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VAG and others respond to Pesce's Resignation
by John Gluck
Although Mark Pesce's sudden resignation from both the VRML Architecture Group (VAG) and the VRML Consortium has stirred the community, the general consensus amongst the members of those groups is that business of the two entities will continue as usual. However, his presence and personality will be sorely missed.

"The plan all along was for the VAG to be replaced by the VRML Review Board (VRB) in the VRML Consortium," says Gavin Bell, a VAG member.

"...the impact will be minimal."

Jon Hardenburgh of Netscape and also a VAG member confirms this, saying, "There is only one more meeting until the VRB is created within the Consortium. So, the impact will be minimal."

"Change is good"

"Change is good," says Timothy Childs of Curve, Inc. "Change keeps an organism growing. Entropic responses are necessary for long term stasis."

"It certainly doesn't help the Consortium," says Bell of Pesce's resignation. "But I think the Consortium will function with or without Mark."

"VRML standards may become more politicized"

Dan Greening of Chaco, however, says that "Pesce's resignation could damage the balance and fairness of the VAG in selecting the most viable and useful virtual world technologies. VRML standards may become more politicized. Inferior technologies have sometimes been backed by powerful industry players. They have threatened to retard market acceptance of VRML. Those vested interests will become more difficult to control with Mark gone."

"Mark has been instrumental in the formation of the Consortium"

Rikk Carey, a VAG member who is seeing VRML through the ISO standardization process says, "Mark has been instrumental in the formation of the Consortium over the last year. We were sorry to accept his resignation and hope that he will continue to play a major role in the future of VRML as a visionary, critic and educator."

In resigning, Pesce accused both organizations of being unduly subject to the influence of corporations. Larry Rosenthal, the New York VRML SIG chairman says, "The VRML community is at such an early stage that any ideas about being exclusive in terms of ideas and media development are shortsighted. Open standards must be developed but they must reflect not only the tool makers commercial goals, but those of the tool users as well."

"Commercial interests funded most of the development of VRML"

Bell gives some perspective. "Commercial interests funded most of the development of VRML . I hope that the Consortium will just be a more reliable source of funds for the development and infrastructure. It makes sense for the companies that have already spent millions of dollars making VRML a reality to get together and form a consortium. The VRML specification process is in dire need of some fundamental infrastructure."

"VRML is a product of many companies now", says Clay Graham of BigBook3D. "SGI, Microsoft, Netscape, Autodesk and SUN all have their hands in that pie. There is an economic future of VRML, which means it actually has a future."

"Commercial interests are important, because without them we won't have an industry or a market," says Greening.

"...the bigger goal is to work within the Consortium structure to affect change"

According to Childs, who also co-founded the non-profit VeRGe, "If you want a non-commercial organization, start a non-profit and be prepared to struggle. I think the bigger goal is to work within the Consortium structure to affect change."

Carey states that the VRML Consortium is in the process of being incorporated as a non-profit organization in the state of California. He adds that there are four types of participants in the Consortium: industry (both large and small companies), academic institutions, government organizations and individual contributors. He says that these groups are working together to form the Consortium and strike a balance between their shared interests.

"VRML is a strong community"

To counter concerns that Pesce's resignation will hurt the VRML community as a whole, VAG member Tom Meyer of First Virtual Holdings says, "VRML is a strong community that's worked together for over 2 years, is resilient and despite being stressed is staying together."

Additionally, Carey announced that The VRB will now open up seats for elected members -- two VRB seats will be opened up immediately for elections starting at the World Movers conference in January. Anyone is eligible to run for the VRB, individuals as well as technical representatives of VRML Consortium Members. To ensure continuity from the VAG, six VAG members will retain seats on the VRB, but be transitioned out over a 3-year period.

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