Blogger Publishing Errors
Two years ago I jumped enthusiastically into the Metaverse, with Second Life booming and media were eager to cover every company entering this particular Virtual World. The past year we've discovered -too the disappointment of many - that we were living the Gartner Hypecycle curve. At the close of 2007 I've pondered what was going on and what the challenges for 2008 would be. Due to family circumstances I've stepped back from the Metaverse for almost 6 months now and found some time to reflect on the industry. The title of this blogpost has been in my head for months, but only recently I was triggered to actually start writing it.
The trigger was the announcement of the Virtual World Newsforum and VW Conference Organisation announcing the introduction of the Virtual World Innovation Award. Although my good friend Christian Renaud (CEO TechIntelGroup) is on the jury, I have to be sceptical if I look deep down into my heart.
The thing is... There hasn't been any real innovation in this business for years.
Innovation in my book is a big thing. New breakthrough technology, new insights, exciting new products. When I look at the Virtual World Industry I see a whole lot going on. I see hundreds of new startups over the past year but truth is, I don't see real innovation there, despite the billions of dollars invested into the industry. If I were to nominate candidates for the Virtual World Innovation Award, there would be only three true Metarati: Neil Stephenson, Tad Williams and Ron Britvich , the guy from WebWorlds.
Neil Stephenson is an obvious candidate. In the early 90's he wrote the novel 'Snowcrash' in which he pretty much invented the metaverse. I doubt there is anyone questioning the nomination of Neil Stephenson. A second name, often mentioned in the same breath, is William Gibson, author of the cyberpunk classic 'Neuromancer'. 'Neuromancer' was innovation, it was the start of cyberpunk, but it doesn't deal with the Metaverse, so despite popular believe, I wouldn't count Gibson in with the Metarati but rather fill that spot with the nomination of Tad Williams, author of the 'Otherland' series.
Both the novel 'Snowcrash' and the 'Otherland' series have created the image of the Metaverse and still hold some very interesting ideas, key elements that in my opinion could well open up a new window on Virtual Worlds. From these works we can learn what might work and what won't. Although both are quite dystopian in their full setting (a thing that happens a lot with novels dealing in the future), they do hold a promise, and in their dystopic setting a warning at the same time.
Aside from the ideas presented by Stephenson and Williams, the first breakthrough in the field was in 1994 when Ron Brevitch created WebWorlds, predecessor of Active Worlds.
In the summer 1994, Ron Britvich created WebWorld, the first 2.5D world where tens of thousands could chat, build and travel. WebWorld operated on the Peregrine Systems Inc. servers as an 'after hours' project until Britvich left the company to join Knowledge Adventure Worlds (KAW) in the fall of that year.
In February 1995, KAW spun off their 3D Web division to form the company Worlds Inc. Britvich was eventually joined by several other developers, and the renamed "AlphaWorld" continued to develop as a skunk works project at Worlds Inc, internally competing with a similar project known internally as Gamma and publicly as Worlds Chat. While AlphaWorld was developing a strong cult following due in large part to Britvich's open philosophy of favoring user-built content, Worlds, Inc. favored Gamma for the company produced contract projects for Disney and others.
On June 28, 1995, AlphaWorld was renamed Active Worlds (from Active Worlds Explorer) and officially launched as version 1.0. Around this time, Circle of Fire (CoF) was formed to create content for the Active Worlds universe. This company played a pivotal role in the future of the product. [Wikipedia]
The creation of WebWorlds was innovation. Everything we've seen between 1995 and 2008 is merely spin off.
In this series of articles I'll try to explain why I haven't seen any real innovation and why I call everything since WebWorlds a mere spin-off, What the challenges of NVE's will be for the (near) future and why Virtual Worlds don't work yet.
We all know companies aren't as eager to enter Second Life as they once were (over a year ago), but every once in a while one does enter, and this time it's the worlds' largest Steel company:
"ArcelorMittal is the largest steel company in the world, with 310,000 employees in more than 60 countries. It has led the consolidation of the world steel industry and today ranks as the only truly global steelmaker. The company was founded in 2006 when Arcelor and Mittal Steel merged. It ranked at 39th position in Fortune Global 500 companies list. The company is headquartered in Luxembourg City, in southern Luxembourg, the former seat of Arcelor."
Somehow you don't see a steelcompany to be a hip, Web 2.0 ready company, but Arcelor is doing the social Jive. In 2007 it launched its own Web TV, and inaugurated their virtual presence on June 17 this year. Here is the account from the ArcelorMittal blog:
"On June 17, ArcelorMittal held its annual Individual Shareholder Event. Whether in Japan, Russia or Europe, shareholders were able to listen in, ask questions
and access information - all in real time - as they were transported into a virtual ArcelorMittal world!
15 ArcelorMittal shareholders arrived at the snazzy lounge set-up at Luxembourg headquarters as Lakshmi Mittal, our
Chairman and CEO, hosted ArcelorMittal’s 2008 Individual Shareholder meeting. Another 60 existing and potential shareholders joined the event via Second Life – a virtual meeting centre which enables you to create your own character by choosing your physical features and your virtual name.
Another great advantage for shareholders was the possibility to consult the Company’s different publications (Activity Report, Fact Book, Sustainability Report, etc.) in one direct click from the meeting centre.
After a brief presentation by Julien Onillon, VP Investor Relations, outlining the Group’s growth targets and ambitions, shareholders were invited to put their questions to Mr Mittal via instant message. My favourite one? How do you make steel?!"
I haven't visited the facility yet, so I can't really show much more than a YouTube video of the meeting, but I think I'll peek in to see what they've actually built.
Here's a number of links to press coverage of this event:
Just read in MINT newspaper that Arcelor Mittal had organised shareholder meeting in Second Life, the popular online virtual world.
The result?? Well, the results were not even close to good, atleast that's what the newspaper reported. for this 90-minute long event around 50 avatars turened up. The event was confused and uncertain. The residents were puzzledabout what are they suppose to do. They kept asking so, what do we do now?
As for as the company is concerned they realized that it is difficult to find investors, especially on such sites!
So, What do we do now?? :)
Many will agree that Virtual Worlds are wonderful tools when it comes to visualising hard to explain stuff and offer a range of quite useful possibilities. Yet NVE's are still a niche market and have obviously failed as marketing tools. They don't hold the power to overturn the internet yet and become mainstream applications.
In my opinion the key lies in integration with mainstream and social networking tools. Virtual Worlds such as Second Life are still mainly social worlds, used for social interaction for certain special interest groups and in this regard they are a mere 3D Chat addition to social networks. In this day and age these social networks are in charger of the internet with Facebook, Myspace etc. holding vast communities. If Virtual Worlds are to stand more than a "snowballs' chance in hell" in this web 2.0 battle for numbers they have to bridge the gap.
I think I've mentioned Kaneva in the past as pioneering this with their user profiles with blogging, etworking features etc. to enhance the social power of their virtual world. I've mentioned integration a number of times in the articles here on MindBlizzard and in presentations I did in the past year and a half.
Just over a year ago I wrote:
"One of the great features of Kaneva is the personal homepage that you get as a resident - a good start to integrate Web 2.0 and Web 3D into one environment. Think of the power of integrating Second Life with Flickr, Blogger, YouTube, Twitter/pownce and Facebook all in one!"
We've seen a small Facebook widget appear last year in which you could linkup with your Second Life friends, an attempt to integrate Second Life with Joomla, but now the integration takes a step forward as Tribal One integrates Facebook and OpenSim in a first step towards a new approach to 3D/Web integration
As usual, UgoTrade, has a very extensive and thorough blog on this integration:
The picture above shows the in the left pane fetched pictures from Stefan’s Facebook photos. As Stefan explains a hybrid web app is talking to the region to change the picture accordingly and pull the photos into frames on the wall (for a more detailed technical explanation see here).
read more at: UgoTrade.
There's bound to be more to come on cross platform interfaces and 3D/Web integration. Check out Digado for example with it's accounts on the "Second Life Interface Debate", and here's a vid from Smashing Magazine on "Futuristic Interfaces"
VentureBeat has uncovered Conduit Labs' first project, LoudCrowd, a mix of social networking, virtual worlds, and casual games. Users can create avatars that, for now, seem mostly usable on a dance floor that's part of a rhythm-based casual game. Users dance to earn points that can be used for customization items and earn more when they're chosen by others as partners.
"Linden Lab has hired Frank Ambrose as SVP Global Technology, according to CEO Mark Kingdon in a Bloomberg.com article this week. The move reportedly comes as part of Linden's efforts to ramp up in the face of competition from the recently launched Google Lively. Although Second
Life is increasingly being used for collaboration and Lively seems, initially, like a social play, Linden is still hiring for competition. In addition to Ambrose, who previously oversaw network and technical infrastructure services as an SVP at AOL, taking over computer systems, Kingdon said the company would hire new sales staff to bring in more businesses to Second Life.
"Who wouldn't be concerned when Google comes after their business?" Kingdon told Bloomberg. "We want to supercharge that growth by making it more accessible."
"Google introduced a program last month called Lively, designed for users who want to mingle online. Unlike Second Life, which is one big world, Lively lets customers create many smaller chat rooms that can be linked to blogs. The service allows users to post YouTube videos and connect to other rooms and Web pages.
``The idea is to enhance the Web experience that you already have, as opposed to creating an entirely different life,'' said Niniane Wang, an engineering manager at Mountain View, California-based Google.
Wang, 29, created Lively about two years ago, starting it as a '20 percent' time project that engineers work on one day a week. She declined to say how many employees are devoted to the project. Google isn't making money from the service, and Wang wouldn't discuss whether Lively will show advertising -- the company's main source of revenue. "