Steven Davis posted an interview with Matt ("Iron Realms") Mihaly that provides good insight into one of the oddly surviving niches of the virtual world ecosystem: text mediated worlds. Raph's mention emphasizes their virtual goods/ RMT / business model that apparently inspired the Puzzle Pirates' Doubloon system.
My question for here is different. Are text worlds virtual worlds? More specifically, I wonder about the representation of space and geography in text worlds...
The question is a strawman.
I personally believe that the Iron Realms and MUDs are virtual worlds, and my suspicion is that most of us here believe this too. [I have to say this else risk the wrath of Richard. Kidding aside...]
Yet sprinkled in and amongst comments in recent discussions (e.g. the one here) as well as in the past seems to be a basic confusion about what a virtual world is and how it differs from an 'imaginary world.' Often attributed to 'virtual worlds' is a requirement that one provides a coherent presentation of place and space. It is uncertain what such a presentation must be, though the extreme cases are clearer. For example, the requirement that a virtual world graphically simulate a Vermont countryside is too restrictive.
One might argue that in the classic text world paradigm, a MUD, the rooms are organized around at least an abstract map. Yes. But so too is a hierarchical chat room. Then the counter point might be that there is an imaginary spatial/geographic component to that map. Etc.
GeoBliki is an Open Source Ruby-on-Rails application that integrates many other open source components including Community MapBuilder and supports many of the OGC web services: WFS, SAS, WNS, SPS, WPS...
A GeoBliki is a sensor-data node publisher. Data can be published in various forms, which can be made accessible to local or remote users for free or for a fee. Users can register to existing subscriptions around areas of interest and be notified via email/IM or GeoRSS feeds when new data, comments/annotations on the existing data become available.
Local users can access the data blog and/or the geo-wiki. The blog gives a
chronological perspective of the data while the geo-wiki allows for hierarchical
views based on user-driven topics or specific geographic features of interest. Users are encouraged to interact with the data and/or other users about the data. Chat and forums are built-in. Map/data annotations will be coming very soon.
Maps, chat, social-networking 0verlay, chronological ranking, hierarchical user-defined topics, geographic category publishing (and subscription)... oh my, did I say maps?
What is spatial and geographic takes on a different meaning when viewed in conjunction with other abstractions. Is a graphic world where you teleported everywhere more or less a virtual world than a text one where you walked everywhere - albeit in a strange textual spiderwalk?
Or we can just give up and say everything is a virtual world.