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Open Cobalt has its technological roots in the Croquet Project started by Alan Kay and David A. Smith in late 2001. Soon after, Kay and Smith were joined by David P. Reed and Andreas Raab, Julian Lombardi and Mark P. McCahill as the project's six principal architects. From 2003-2007 the core infrastructure of what is now Open Cobalt was advanced under the leadership of these six architects with financial support from Hewlett-Packard, Viewpoints Research Institute Inc., The University of Wisconsin, The University of Minnesota, the Japanese National Institute of Communication Technology (NICT), Duke University, and several private individuals. The technology was made publicly available in the open source as the Croquet Software Developer’s Kit (SDK) in early 2007. Soon thereafter, and with the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Julian Lombardi and Mark P. McCahill initiated a university-led effort to use the Croquet SDK to build Open Cobalt as a free application for accessing and sharing richly-provisioned and hyperlinked virtual workspaces in support of research and education.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee helps start the Open Cobalt project by presenting the
Mellon Advanced Collaboration Technology Award to Duke's Julian Lombardi