Playcanvas Terms Of Service and the FOSS philosophy

Having recently found Playcanvas during a search for online interactive 3d content solutions that I could self host, i’m generally impressed with the ease of use, functionality and expand-ability. It’s much more powerful than sketchfab, which i’m replacing. It also opens up new avenues I hadn’t considered due to the flexibility of it.

My other alternative was Unity webgl and…lets not go there. It does work. Its something I could use if I had to, albeit begrudgingly.

I’m paying for the ability to self host. Reading your terms of service about acceptable content i’m not sure if and how those rules applies to me. As an artist I’m not looking to be subjected to someone elses interpretation of what amounts to me freedom of speech. I’ve had problems with sketchfab’s unclear rules and arbitrary enforcement of such and that’s why I’m searching for other avenues.

I don’t mind paying for the software, it’s worth that and more. I was paying the same amount for sketchfab pro. The Playcanvas team has done a great job.

Now, Playcanvas claims to be free and open source but you keep key components, such as the .json conversion, behind lock and key and run on your servers. That does feel at odds with being open source and is perhaps misleading. And also the main cause of my concerns.

So can someone clarify all of this for me? As someone who only self hosts, am I only beholding to not breaking actual laws regarding content. Do I need to worry about something I make not fitting with what someone else might feel is acceptable? Is the .json conversion to forever be a secret and out of our hands? Can we pay a little more to just run everything locally?

Thanks for your time,

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Firstly let me say that I’m a developer, self hoster and not associated with PlayCanvas.

I guess there are a couple of points here:

  • The Engine is open source, not the Editor
  • If you use the Editor then you are hosting that data on a business’s server for the purpose of editing and creating your content
  • There is no universal right to Freedom Of Speech - PlayCanvas is a UK business and while the UK is signed up to Article 10 of the EU convention (until 2019) there are huge numbers of overrides and modifications to that.
  • The business must clearly protect itself from inadvertently hosting truly offensive and illegal content in it’s hosting areas and thereby opening itself up to prosecution.
  • Cloud hosts frequently refuse to take certain kinds of content that push the boundaries of acceptability in certain areas - see recent developments around CloudFlare.
  • The Editor is all sorts of complicated when it comes to it’s requirements for communication between multiple clients, I can’t see it ever becoming open source or runnable locally.

That said, I’m sure there are ways you could ensure that content was only actually hosted on your own servers by:

  • Dynamically loading images at runtime and storing mocks on PlayCanvas
  • Dynamically loading OBJ files at run time
  • Dynamically loading text at run time
  • gitF format is being added to the Engine so you’ll have a chance to load SketchFab models directly when that happens.

I would agree that the .json format conversion should be an open source utility.

I have sympathy for your desire to create content that pushes the boundaries of taste and acceptability and that would seem extreme to some people. I hope you find a way to create what you want.

Well nothing that would be illegal in the United Kingdom, or even Twitter or Tumblr to be honest :sweat_smile: I’m just an artist

I guess i’m a bit lost about the difference between the editor and the engine though. You’re not going to get very far with the engine without the editor and without their custom .json format. Still seems a bit dirty. I actually don’t need cloud functions with the editor, thats why Unity is an option.

Without some kind of assurance from staff that content that is legal in their country is ok then i’m not wasting my time.

A lot of people use the Engine without the Editor. It’s a very common pattern. It’s much more developer based in that way though and as I like the Editor and it improves my productivity I use it too. For an artist I guess it’s pretty much a necessity though - that said when your stuff runs self hosted it is on the open source platform.

You can use the editor to convert to .JSON format only for the purpose of then downloading it I guess and you can load .OBJ files without conversion.

I’ll let Will or one of the other PlayCanvas team address issues around their view of acceptable!

I’m in agreement with @whydoidoit

The engine is open source much like three.js and babylon.js and can be used much the same way. The JSON file format is documented ( so a few people have written their own converters like this one from blender

There is also a pull request in github for gltf support. Edit: there’s work being done on gltf support in @Will’s public account. It’s not actually a PR yet.

If the editor is still a pull, then Blend4Web sounds like it be a better fit for you as a standalone tool to produce WebGL content

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There are new features being added pretty often that I don’t want to rely on something that’s detached from playcanvas, but its nice to see there are tools. Also I keep forgetting about blend4web. I do use blender so I’ll look into it.

After two weeks I didn’t get any response from an actual playcanvas employee about it so i’m just canceling. Will try to stick with blend4web. Maybe in the future they can offer a product that doesn’t require using their cloud.