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Nov 20, 2008



I would not be surprised to hear that their next foray into virtual worlds involves buying/creating an ad network and/or building an indexing service for an existing world. They are very good when they focus on their core competencies. If they applied their indexing know-how to a project like OpenSim, they could yet be instrumental in helping to build something big.


@Nexus Google already owns an in-game ad network called Adscape.


Первый сад создал Бог, а первый город - Каин.


Great post, great line on UGC & VWs: 'They are not peanut butter and chocolate, they are caramel and fish. You need a clever chef'. True!


I think its sad that the whole thing could have been a great opportunity to take the model of second life, and put a knife into the vampire capitalism that curses second-life, demonetize and thus democratize the platform.

Virtual world development, in my opinion, has been largely stillborn due to the mean-spirited spectre of market competition that locks up the creatie impulse by reproducing the inequalities of real-life in the virtual life.

If google lively had fixed this by removing the intelectual property and "linden bucks" straight jacket, it could have been the final flowering of VR potential.

We'll still have to wait.



I am intrigued by your comment about "democratizing the platform." While it is true that nearly every virtual world makes use of some form of currency, be it money, virtual goods, or some combination of the two, it seems to me that acquisition of these is one of (if not the major) motivating factor for participants of virtual worlds.

Playing the devils advocate, one could argue that competition fuels the creative impulse in many cases, where the lack of it stifles innovation.

I have not played Lively, but from what I understand it was democratic. It was purely a 3D social space, which seems to be one of the reasons it failed; text chat and email do just fine for communication.


Except when they don't, really. What virtual worlds bring to the table as a form of communication are a sense of place and person. Forums, text chat and email are entirely disconnected from that; they work much, much better for writing, but they're very poor mediums for talking. Even now, sharing our thoughts here, we're represented only by blocks of text on a sometimes changing page, dissociated from space and time. Virtual worlds as social spaces do a little to bridge the disconnected nature of online communication with the more organic flow of face to face conversation by giving users some sort of (disembodied) embodiment in a (nondimensional) space. Of course, there hasn't really been a major platform for a purely social, creative virtual world since the 90s/early '00s. Most developers now glance at Second Life, rub their mitts together and set about building virtual malls.

Two things seem to happen when developers want to jump on the social worlds bandwagon. Either a developer makes a list of all the things that no one really likes about virtual worlds ("realistic" environments and their inherent limitations, no avatar/environment editing or customization, monetized everything) and spit that out or, and I think this one applies more to Lively, they just haphazardly slap together a few not fully baked ideas and release it into the wild, hoping that brand recognition or, "Wiz! Bang! Pow! The future of the internet!" sensationalism will carry it. Or whatever Google were shooting for; the thing that really seemed to knock the hot air out of Lively was its unfocused, out of the blue, "Here's this, now do something with it." presentation. A miss but I'm still waiting for someone to call the swing.

Meanwhile, Second Life chugs on, content in its more or less monopoly on social online worlds, while all around it young upstarts fail completely to understand any of its appeals, tripping over DRM and locked content as they chase after those shiny little dollars just over the next hill. It's only cute the first dozen times.


Uh what? Second Life has a monopoly? We're talking about a virtual world with probably around 250k active people. The 3D socializing that occurs in pretty much every other MMO has Second Life beat especially with its fringe reputation. And it's pretty hard to argue against text chatting considering its popularity. This report says www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_Instantmessage_report.pdf that there are 53 million text IM chat users just in the United States.

Virtual worlds have somewhat a better way to express facial emoticons, but it'd be hard to say they're a superior way of expressing person and place, since the reality of the person is usually totally disconnected from their virtual avatar. I don't see how you can say that IM chat is such a poor medium, if virtual worlds are so superior, Second Life should be doing much better than it actually is.

Video chat and video-teleconferencing are much more popular than virtual meetings.


"Virtual world development, in my opinion, has been largely stillborn due to the mean-spirited spectre of market competition that locks up the creatie impulse by reproducing the inequalities of real-life in the virtual life." -dmx

Actually if anything SL's market economy has had the opposite effect. There are many people with various handicaps that have incomes that they otherwise wouldn't because of Second Life.

Also, because there is a real economy, there are real charities that have benefited greatly from the generosity of SL's residents.

Also for the most part the most demonetized virtual worlds seem to be the least democratic.
They tend to provide fewer opportunities for user generated content and self expression.

Granted, I have my own personal biases. I could not imagine a virtual world as valid without:
1. An immersive environment for social interactions and collaboration
2. Tools for user generated content
3. A real economy

I have always seen Stephenson's Metaverse as the most compelling model for a virtual world. This is why I tend to scoff when companies like Sony come out with a press release claiming that they are making a Second Life killer.

Now that I've confessed to my own biases, I am curious about yours, DMX. What is it about capitalism that chafes you so? What would your ideal virtual world look like?


The Livelyzens (Lively users) are coming together to appeal to Google to keep Lively alive.

Lively is a great platform for interaction as well as creativity. It is easy to use, browser based, embeddable on webpages to bring a 3D experience right on your website. While Lively has been in beta and has limited capability in terms of the objects and avatars available, the Livelyzens have been able to come up with very creative ways to create art from what is available. All this in a "clean" 3D world thanks to Google's vigilance in getting rid of rooms with inappropriate content. More than anything, Lively has become a place to make friends for life – from all over the world with wonderful people.

Please visit our website http://livelyzens.com and participate in the Lively Machinima contest we are conducting to show the creative potential of Google Lively. Please also sign our online petition http://livelyzens.com/petition.aspx

We kindly request netizens to support us in reviving a wonderful 3D world that is a kid friendly and a creative space for art and interaction amongst adults.


"What is it about capitalism that chafes you so?"

I can take that one.

It is as simple as making information -- which would be free -- proprietary. And then, related but not exactly the same, there is the tendency of capitalism to favor collusion, which in turn favors interdependencies over independencies.

This latter, I daresay, is the most obvious and root flaw of current mmo implementations.

If Stephenson is the caramel, then Vinge is the fish: "There were so many ways that an intelligent race could make itself extinct. Deadlocks and runaways, plagues, atmosphere catastrophes, impact events — those were the simplest dangers… even with the greatest care, a technological civilization carried the seeds of its own destruction. Sooner or later, it ossified and politics carried it into the fall." ...from A DEEPNESS IN THE SKY.


Information is free in SL, it's only shoes that cost money, and even then not always. Lively's problem it seems is that nobody even wants to talk about it. For me, I couldn't get it to work when I tried it, and I wasn't patient enough to persist.


"Playing the devils advocate, one could argue that competition fuels the creative impulse in many cases, where the lack of it stifles innovation"

Why does it require (financial) competition to create diversity?

The IT industry seems to provide plenty of counter-example to the boorish notion out of american capitalism that you need to have fiscal competition to foster creativity.

Linux was bourne specifically out of the notion that cooperating rather than trying to crush alternatives via the market will produce more options. And it was right. Across the Arts you constantly see the same things with the most innovative outpourings coming from collaborative projects and environments.

In research, the most durable studies all seem to come out of universities.

I keep hearing certain schools of economists continually claiming that you *need* financial competition to encourage competition.

There problem is, there just isn't any evidence that this is true at all. Heck, the Soviet union, the most anti-competitive regime of all was astonishingly creative at times, even when dishits like stalin where trying their hardest to stop that.


As the Web took off, there was a debate within CERN about whether to try to profit from it. Berners-Lee argued strongly against this idea: without an open standard, he reasoned, there would end up being several incompatible forms of Internet media, backed by Microsoft, AOL and others. Making the Web royalty-free made it more attractive than any proprietary alternative. "Without that, it never would have happened," he says.

-- http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/Berners_Lee.html


I'm okay with shoes becoming information. When information becomes shoes, then SWOOSH goes the weasel.


I don't think a 3D social platform needs to sell trinkets. Users can make, sell and buy trinkets between themselves.

Lively had a good tool set to make trinkets - all of its geometry and animations were created in Max and Maya with standard methods. Textures were painted in Photoshop, etc. in standard ways. Alas, there was not enough time to release the publishing tools to the general public.


Enough Time? Or enough forethought? If a lack of UGC was the main problem behind Lively's failure, maybe they should have made those tools a priority. Of course I accept that people don't necessarily see UGC as a good thing, but in the absence of a truly massive library of prefab stuff to build with or experience, I think it's something very useful for priming a virtual world. If you're not going to pay an army of graphic designers and 3d modellers to fill your world, I think you need to make those tools available to the public, or else the experience soon wears thin.


Linux and Web servers are platforms, not unlike the more open-ended virtual worlds (e.g. Second Life, Open Sim). I share your respect for the Open Source community, but I'd like to remind you of one of their common sayings:

"Free as in speech, not free as in beer"

Many of Open Source Software's biggest advocates make a good living for themselves by selling their expertise in the form of training and/or customized products for commercial use. Also while the above platforms are free, this doesn't preclude building commercial software to run on these platforms. Without Apache and Linux, there would be no Amazon, Google, etc. Many of these companies in turn support the Open Source community by giving money and other support to the software foundations, and giving their employees time to work on these projects. Their is nothing inherent in the Open Source movement that denies a person the right to earn a decent living doing something that they love.

That is exactly how I feel that it should be with virtual worlds (at least the ones that are platforms and not close-ended products). If we deny people the opportunity to make money creating content, we are ultimately limiting our pool of potential innovators to the rich and the bored.


Linux only started to really take off when the capitalists smelled money in it. Low-cost, enterprise-level server software that I can customize fully for my backend? Tell me more!

It's all well and good to trumpet the evils of capitalism and the eventual downfall of the free market, but it has worked remarkably well, both online and off. A free market of goods/items in a VW run by the players mean that the content that people demand to see are made, while the content that isn't very popular simply isn't made much.

As a result, in Second Life you have tens of thousands of choices of club-focused clothing, but very little flashlights.

Even more so, trends and fads wax and wane. If all you had were static content produced by a small team of creators, they wouldn't know how to react from week to week, much less month to month.

It's my humble and probably biased opinion that most VWs will be stillborn and a waste of venture capital if they do not allow UGC in some form. As has been said earlier, IRC and email do a fine job of communication.


Thats all good and fine Josh, but the major innovations in the LAMP stack, Linux, Apache, Mysql and Perl/Python all occured well before anyone was taking commerical interest in it.

The money came AFTER the innovation, not before.

In fact many think the money has drained the blood out of the linux movement. I dunno. Maybe?


DMX, We know what your against, but I don't think anybody knows what you are for.

Josh and I have both pointed out that Open Source Software in no way precludes commercial aspects. The reason that the LAMP stack began non-commercial is that Linus Torvalds was in college at the time. Eventually he had to have some way to feed and shelter himself and his family. And I disagree with your claim that money somehow drained the blood from Linux. Redhat was the best thing that ever happened to Linux because it dramatically increased the user base, and accelerated the innovations. Ultimately people who are going to dedicate themselves to coding still need to put food on the table and a roof over their head. I am one of the lucky programmers making use of Open Source software to pay the bills, so this isn't theoretical to me, its very personal.

To paraphrase my favorite recording of John Henry, if you want to completely de-commercialize virtual worlds or more broadly all software, what's your substitute for pork and beans?


Lively was a google employees 20% project - all employees are given 20% of their work time to start their own program. Google maps, gmail and chrome are all 20% projects; so it seems to be a system that pays off.. most of the time.


"In fact many think the money has drained the blood out of the linux movement. I dunno. Maybe?"

The same was said of Second Life when they opened the economy up to real money. It was so much BETTER and all the innovation happened BEFORE the money, you say!

But SL was, literally, a thousand times smaller than it is today with the money involved. Causation not correlation, etc. etc., but I know I sure wouldn't have stayed around and/or made much content if I couldn't possibly get paid for it. Maybe initially, but not five years later.

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