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.