Business in Virtual Worlds, Second Life, Virtual World Platforms

Google Launches Virtual World in Competition with Second Life

The rumours are true: Google’s plan to make a play in virtual worlds was unveiled today with the launch of Lively, their competing platform to Second Life and in particular, during its beta phase at least, other virtual social spaces. Google’s platform will run in a browser, differentiating it from client-centric worlds like Second Life and can be embedded in a Web site.

According to CNET, however, Google says that their virtual world is not intended as a separate destination but rather something that integrates with “real life”:

“It’s integrated with the Internet. It’s not an alternate destination,” said Niniane Wang, Google’s engineering manager for the project. “Our intention is to add to your existing life.”

Google’s launch of a virtual world, on the heels of today’s posting of positive economic data for Second Life, may put a sudden twist to the future outlook for SL. It won’t compete with the rich user-generated content of Second Life, but it will compete for the attention of a wider user base.

CNET outlines the platform and sees it primarily as social:

With Lively, you can set up you own online spaces–rooms, grassy meadows, desert islands, or, in the demo version I tried, simulated Silicon Valley office parks. You can change the clothing or form of your avatar (that’s your online incarnation, for those of you who missed the Second Life hype). And of course you can chat, do backflips, shake hands, and give high-fives.

The idea is to bring a better social dimension to online interaction, Wang said–something more sophisticated for expressing oneself than an emoticon on an instant-messenger status line.

This perhaps puts Lively more in line with applications like Vivaty, which just today announced its availablilty embedded in Facebook and AOL.

While the current version of Lively doesn’t offer Mitch Kapor’s 3D cameras or avatar morphing tricks, it does carry the unique advantages of the Google name. But it carries disadvantages as well. According to the CNET review:

A few other differences from Second Life: Lively doesn’t have money. It’s designed to be easier to use, with a drag-and-drop interface. And it’s not programmable, at least yet, so you can only select furniture, clothes, hairstyles, and such from the prefabricated catalog Google supplies.

Money and programmability are both items the company is seriously considering, though, Yang said. A Mac OS X client also is a high priority, she added.

Avatars of different types are offered including furrys and child avatars.

The Linden Lab “room domain” has already been secured on Lively, by Pathfinder I was told, and the SL crowd was there to test it out.

Overtaken by SLers:

Gwyn dances on the Lively bed:

Visiting JenzZa at Muse Island on Lively:

The application is definitely not without early glitches, however, including rooms that reach capacity at 20 avatars (although you can still enter, you’re just not embodied) and a tendency to, well, crash. Having experienced them myself, on a fairly high end machine, there might be more to the following statement on CNET:

“I had a number of burps and hiccups using Lively in my demo on a somewhat elderly but by no means ancient laptop, problems Wang said weren’t widespread.”

Widespread is, of course, in the eye of the person being crashed.

Lack of support for Macs also puts Lively in the early beta stage. And while current lack of user-generated content doesn’t put it anywhere near Second Life, and it’s really just a 3D chat room, it may compete for time and put a fire under sites like IMVU and Vivaty.

Related Post: Google’s Lively: It’s No Metaverse and What the TOS Tells Us


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