Virtual Worlds boom – and There.com goes Mac

This week There.com announced Mac support, plus an instant messaging client and facebook integration. Second Life (which has long been on Mac and Linux too) announced their IM client as well. Looks like they’re responding to Google Lively, which itself may have been launched early to respond to Vivaty. Virtual worlds are back with a vengeance, with $345 Million invested so far this year – with companies releasing free content-creation tools and solid server platforms hosting actual users, lots of ‘em. A flurry of new metaverses came to SIGGRAPH this year – but that’s not the whole story. Social networks, instant messaging integration and cross platform support (YES, I mean Mac) are underpinning mass adoption, this time around.

Below, I’ll report from the field on the new wave of virtual worlds and what they mean to us.
I had the pleasure of attending Chris Thorne‘s MUVE Moot (Multi User Virtual Environments – meeting?) at SIGGRAPH a few weeks back. The heavy hitters were there – Michael Wilson, CEO of There.com, Doug Twilleager from Sun’s Wonderland Group, Don Brutzman from the Web3D Consortium and the Naval Postgraduate School, Peter Schickel, CEO of Bitmanagement (the home of the Blaxxun technology), and Tony Parisi, Chief Platform Officer of Vivaty. Plus Mick Brady from the Serious Game Design Institute and Rafhael Cedeno, CTO of The Multiverse Network. The surprise presenter was Greg Spencer from Google’s just-announced Lively. Linden Labs didn’t field a presenter, but a few Second Life developers were in the packed room and piped up during the session. The buzz around these is palpable, but they’re not even the whole story – here’s what looks like a more comprehensive list of new virtual worlds from techcrunch.

I still think we’re a few raindrops short of the perfect storm. First, Mac support is crucial to mass-market adoption. Not to keep the 10% (or whatever) of Mac users happy – but because this is the Web, and these are social spaces, and Vivaty doesn’t do Mac. So – we have Mac support in SecondLife, and it’s been announced (but not released) for its PG counterpart There. Google is Windows-only for now, but reportedly only 20% through their first round of development budget, and everything Google does is cross-platform, so I expect they’ll go Mac within the year. Great – but those are walled gardens. The release of the SecondLife and There IM clients breaks the wall down somewhat – almost there now. The final step is to do what Vivaty is doing, and make scenes which are URIs. The link makes the web.

That’s what will make the perfect storm. We need Mosaic 0.1b – a rudimentary client that works on every platform, allows anyone to host anything, and supports the link. Right now, we’re still looking at the equivalent of some really really shiny AOL clients and waiting for the Real Thing.

6 Comments »

  1. cristal-fae turbide Said,

    June 28, 2009 @ 10:09 pm

    hi i recently converted to mac but i’m having trouble finding a realistic virtual world that is compatiple. I tried second life….but it was too complicated. i like vivaty….so any suggestions?

  2. Darin McKinnis Said,

    August 13, 2009 @ 12:01 pm

    Google Lively died at January 1, 2009.

  3. Steve Nelson Said,

    August 20, 2009 @ 11:40 am

    Oh, good, in about a week we can celebrate the first anniversary of their announcement of Mac support, which garnered a lot of publicity for Makena and there.com. No Mac support however, but they got a lot of mileage out of the announcement!

  4. Steve Nelson Said,

    August 20, 2009 @ 11:43 am

    Vivaty has also said Mac support was on the way. About a year or so ago, too. I think they wanted the same publicity that there.com got! Meanwhile, Vivaty says they do support the Mac. But irst you have to go to the store and buy a different operating system for your Mac, then download Bootcamp, then reboot your Mac so it really isn’t a Mac anymore, then you can run Vivaty!

  5. Toby Said,

    September 20, 2009 @ 4:55 pm

    Oh joy, Mac support for There. But where is it? I have emailed them about this and they said they have no idea when it will be out but they are working very hard on it. Hmmm, it doesn’t seem so… Considering that they promised us a Mac client by the end of 2008 and it is now almost the end of 2009. Kudos to Second Life who have been running cross-platform for years, something Makena can’t seem to figure out. For now, I have to use Boot Camp for There which is increasingly frustrating to have to see Vista on my shiny MacBook screen. I bought a Mac to use OS X not Windoze.

  6. Houston Animation Studio Said,

    June 4, 2010 @ 9:33 am

    Great point, we definitely do (need mosaic 0.1b).

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