Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Muxlim Pal: Gone before the wind?

Social Virtual worlds like Second Life often resemble Sodom and Gomorra. I remember the days that most headlines made by Second Life were about the slease and dirt and sex empires. No wonder Muslims were out to seek a world of their own in which the name of the prophet would not be slandered, and every one walks the walk and talk the walk of the Koran.

Being a christian, I haven't felt the need to deeply explore this world and haven't blogged it before since I didn't want to fall into cynical "72 vestal virgin heaven" kind of jokes, but Muxlim Pal, as this world is called saw the curtain fall before it ever saw the light of day.

Muxlim Pal is a 2.5D virtual world, launched earlier this month by the Muxlim community site and, as they themselves describe it:

Muxlim Pal is the first Muslim virtual world providing a new kind of family friendly social online environment for your entertainment. In this Beta phase we are giving you a taste of what we plan to be a continually growing online and getting your feedback on how we can make your experience here fun and even more enjoyable.

However, I noticed a tweet flying past by Rikomatic who found out the world had already shut down due to griefer attacks. As Rikomatic wites on "The Click Heard Round the World"

Unfortunately, it looks like they have had to restrict access to Muxlim Pal because of griefers. Here's the message on the site:

Welcome to Muxlim Pal. As you know, muxlim.com are committed to providing all our users with a respectful, open-minded and family-friendly environment, in which to learn, exchange information, play and work. Unfortunately, we have had a short down time, as a small number of destructive elements were sabotaging the site for everyone else. [my emphasis] The site is now up again and users are enjoying it. With these attacks going on we have had to make the difficult decision to temporarily restrict access for new members. All new members are welcome complete this form (below) to trial the site or wait the standard activity and waiting period used for messaging features on the rest of the site. We are sorry for the inconvenience.

The Muxlim Team

I can't imagine the difficulty of moderating a virtual world populated by Muslims. It must be a magnet for every anti-Muslim bigot with broadband on the planet.

Well, for what it's worth, a few screenshots:
Down below is a map of the Muxlim Pal world, with a Beach Cafe, which will probably only serve non-alcoholic beverages, even if virtual.

Dressing up is an important part of the Muxlim Pal world as well, however I haven't seen Taliban approved Burkas yet.

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Saturday, October 04, 2008


The people I hang out with are either dedicated gamers (people that play World of Warcraft, Warhamemr, Lord of the Rings Online or Rapelz), or metaverse enthusiasts that explore virtual worlds and do interesting blah blah on interoperability and portability. In neither community we take 3D chatrooms very seriously and why should we? Those are just chatrooms, not entire worlds. When we chat, we use twitter, msn or skype.

I guess that's not fair on the chatrooms. Let's be honest. What have we seen of corporate use in virtual worlds sofar? Most users to Second Life do little else than using it as a social hangout to chat or do other social stuff which could easily have been done just as good in a 3D chatroom.

We can laugh at most of these 3D chatrooms and wave them away as being niche things in the industry. This is true for a number of these environments, as some can barely reach 2.5D or have a sole focus on sex, like Rapture or Naughty America, but there's one that stands out among its peers: IMVU.

I Envy You

You just can't miss IMVU these days. Whereas the majority of 3D related ads was taken up by World of Warcraft about a year ago, lately the ad market for 3D products seems to be dominated by IMVU. In the picture below a screenshot from the IMVU website, and 5 different IMVU ads I encountered in the last 5 hours at technorati.

Aside from the addvertisements, I don't hear a lot about IMVU, but it's serious business out there. In the past year they've grown rapidly - without much fuzz overtaking even Second Life in users - growing to over 20 million registered users, with about 600K active users every month. So what is IMVU exactly and why is it so succesfull

IMVU is a graphical instant messaging client with over 20 million registered users, and over 600,000 active monthly users, as of June 6th, 2008. Currently, it is in public beta, and has been available since April 02, 2004. It is developed by IMVU, Inc., founded by Will Harvey, a video game developer and founder of There.

IMVU has world’s largest catalog of virtual goods with over 1.5 million items, produced by over 100,000 content creators. It has generated $1 million in revenue per month, 90% of which comes directly from consumers who buy IMVU credits and virtual goods.

The primary focus of IMVU is the ability to use personalized 3D avatars and environments that let the user interact with the person they are chatting with. The secondary focus of IMVU is allowing the members to develop content that can be purchased by other members for use in personalizing their avatars and environments. [Wikipedia]

In general the presscoverage for Virtual Worlds has been dominated by Second Life, both positive and negative. The people I've spoken to, working at other Virtual Worlds generally feel most impact of the negative publications about Second Life, and feel they have hurt the industry and hampered growth. Yet again, this does not seem to be true for IMVU. They've mainly steered away from the press and did their own things. IMVU started up in 2004 and it took them four years (!) to release their first press statement, or as IMVU's CEO Cary Rosenzweig said last June:

"Today we take a big step for IMVU as a company - we’re issuing our first-ever
press release.

We are starting public relations (“PR”) activities for the first time in order to tell the IMVU story to a larger audience. We want to reach out and attract even more people to IMVU so that you have more people to meet, more people to have fun with, more people to buy your items from the catalog, more people to become content creators themselves."

And this was only after they've hit the 20M user mark.

In November last year I made a short overview of chatroom. To see what elkse is out there, check out this blogpost.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Get your own 3D place to Hangout

Earlier this week I got an invite from one of the guys over at Hangout, one of the latest 3D startups this year. Hangout was launched for private Beta testing on september 8 (at the TechCrunch conference) and released a lengthy article on PRWire:

"September 8, 2008 -- Building on the popularity of social networking, online games, and digital media, Hangout Industries (http://www.hangout.net/) unveiled the world's first casual and immersive 3D social networking experience that allows teens and young adults to create and customize their own virtual rooms featuring real brand-name products, and where their friends can join them in a safe and secure environment, to hang out and have fun together. For teens, Hangout helps My Space become My Place." (full article here)

Especially in this business, with so many worlds and environments being released, I would be very hesitant to use the words "the world's first..." in a press release. However, the guys made it to the TechCrunch finals. Here's their Crunchy presentation:

Looking at Hangout I must admit they've done neat things with the $ 6,000,000 of VC funding, but. The graphics look very good and already they've managed to get a bunch of sponsors in, youth-focused brands which want to make sure that Hangout users can interact with their favorite products in the room including AllPosters.com, Cardboard Robot, Café Bustelo Coffee, Celsius, Dank Squad, Dim Mak Records, Dim Mak Collection, Imperial Motion, IS eyewear, Milo, Monster Energy, Mumz the Werd, Neff, Ogio, Pioneer, Pony, Rockwell Time watches, Sessions, Skullcandy, Suunto Watches, Triumvir, Zappos.com, and Zuriick. Colin Brickley, Director of Sports and Entertainment Marketing at Pony commented "Hangout's visual quality lets us present our brand online, with no quality compromises. If we can get kids to put our shoes on their virtual selves, they are that much closer to buying our physical product. We can't afford not to be in Hangout."

Did I already tell you it looked good? But will that be enough to survive in the business, as the concept in itself isn't new. It's up for heavy competition in the industry in which, I think, it is not about the world or 3D hangout itself anymore, but ultimately about its connectivity, its integration with social thingies etcetera. Looking forward to seeing where this one will end up.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

9/11 Commemoration today in Second Life: Giving virtual voice to those who were lost

There's this odd blog, which I read every once in a while, and almost always, it has great articles. The blog I'm referring to is "The click heard round the World" by Rikomatic. Today it featured a great story on the 9/11 commemorations.

"Today was a particularly emotional day for lots of people from around the world. However most of us don't have the luxury of sharing those emotions and thoughts in the middle of a workday with our friends and family. So virtual spaces like Second Life serve a potentially important role in providing emotional outlets and support for people on days like September 11.

I checked in briefly on the memorial service going on in New York NYC sim (click here to teleport). What I experienced reminded me again of what a special place Second Life is.

There were 70-80 other avatars present, beaming in from
who knows where. Several friends of mine were there, who I exchanged greetings with. Most folks sat on the grass in respectful silence, restricting communication to instant messages. A couple of avatars in soldier's uniforms stood at attention.

Believe it or not, it means a lot for a bunch of avatars to sit in silence. It just never happens, unless they are

Read the full blog here.

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Saturday, August 09, 2008

Google Lively

Through Bloomberg.com

"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. "

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Friday, March 21, 2008

RIPlounge moves into Beta

Earlier this week I got word that there's yet another Virtual World to be launched into beta. This time it's Riplounge. Now, I've been getting used to typical web 2.0 names like flickr, tumblr, xing and ning and so on, and virtual worlds do have their own peculiarities when it comes to finding an available url.... but RipLounge ?

You may think "Quod Nomen Est," but Riplounge. It immediately has several associations, like R.I.P. and Rip off, but that will probably not be the intend of the producers, Wyndstorm Corporation. If you look at the the typography in RipLounge and note the capitalised RL.

With this new platform Wyndstorm is trying to add more social web 2.0 functionality to the realm of NVE's, and thus make the crossover from the Metaverse to RL (real life), perhaps that explains the naming and typography. This is a sound business plan in itself. 3D Social Networking will be the mashup for the next few years. The question is, will it work out in riplounge?

RipLounge opened up for beta signup this week (and so I registered) and is to open early april. The only thing we've got to go by is the promo video out on the web:

Riplounge.com Demo - video powered by Metacafe

It's a little early to tell which way it's gonna go, but judging from the promo I'd say Virtual World is a big word. It looks more like your avatar will be confined in a limited number of rooms, much like Stagespace for instance.

The world is set up around music and clubs, and is aimed at the more grown-up audience in the range of 25 to 35 year olds. Year end 2007 we saw an enormous increase and focus for (girl) teen worlds, and RipLounge is setting itself a difficult challenge as this agegroup is much more critical and not easily satisfied with a few gimmicks. In this agegroup the world has to attain some level of persistance. RipLounge promises to showcase independent music artists and offers advertisers “in-scene” advertising in order to attempt this persistance.

From a graphics point of view RipLounge doesn't seem to offer new and improved stuff either, probably best described by Tech Crunch:

"Having not yet tested the service it would be perhaps unfair to make an assessment based on the demo video, however why avatars waddle around like penguins in each scene was not made clear. Maybe it’s a special feature…or maybe not."

However, within the limited are (judging from what we have now) and the quality of the graphics, RipLounge will have a mountain to climb to grab a bit of the market.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Real Work in Virtual Worlds

One of the questions that have crossed my mind a lot in the last year is on how to make virtual worlds fit for business. So when I received Forrester's thoughts on this in the report "Getting Real Work Done In Virtual Worlds" (January 7, 2008) I was anxious to know how they would answer the question.

Here's the Executive Summary:

"Virtual worlds like Second Life, There.com, and more business-focused offerings are on the brink of becoming valuable work tools. Major companies and public-sector organizations — such as BP, IBM, Intel, and the US Army — are investing heavily in virtual world technologies. But it’s still early, pioneering days. You’ve practically got to be a gamer to use most of these tools — setup can bearduous, navigating in a 3-D environment takes practice, and processing and bandwidth requirements remain high. But within five years, the 3-D Internet will be as important for work as the Web is today.

Information and knowledge management professionals should begin to investigate and experiment with virtual worlds. Use them to try to replicate the experience of working physically alongside others; allow people to work with and share digital 3-D models of physical or theoretical objects; and make remote training and counseling more realistic by incorporating nonverbal communication into same-time, different-place interactions."

For me, the Executive Summary doesn't answer the question. The summary doesn't provide answers to how we should go about business in virtual worlds and why it is important. The table of contents holds a good promise though:

  1. Much Of Today’s Technology Leaves Communication Problems Unsolved
  2. Now Entering: Virtual Worlds As A Real Business Tool
  3. Virtual Worlds Can Reduce Costs And Improve The Work Experience
  4. Lots Of Fantastic Efforts Are Going On “In World”
  5. What’s Holding The Business Use Of Virtual Worlds Back?

You can find the Executive Summary and order the full report here.

To get into a little more detail: The problems of today's technology are challenges, such as working together in real time while in seperate locations, expenses and climate stress while traveling to conferences and events and training on complex equipment and hazardous environments are topics that could well be adressed by virtual worlds.

However, the future of Virtual Workspaces is not in naming the obvious. I think there won't be many people that see a 3 dimensional space as an added value to, let's say Real Estate development or as an extra medium for automotive companies to play with prototypes and receive user feedback.

The Forrester report offers quite a list of 'practical' situations in which you can use Virtual Workspaces to conduct business:

  • Holding new and improved virtual meetings
  • enhancing military training and simulation
  • providing therapy, counseling and medical information
  • recruiting from a worldwide labor supplu
  • conducting virtual trade shows and conferences

The report actually names a dozen more suggestions, and gives explanations, but you'd have to order report yourself to find out which ;)

The report doesn't tell me how we can conduct down to earth business. For example, in which way would Virtual Workspaces enhance logistical services, construction, food & beverage, law firms etcetera. When virtual worlds get more direct api's to office software (charts, spreadsheets, word processing) it seems the Virtual World has a lot to offer for every part of companies except the actual workfloor where the products are made.

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