Business in Virtual Worlds, Second Life, Virtual World Platforms

Google’s Lively: It’s No Metaverse, and What Their TOS Tells Us

Google’s launch of Lively, it’s entry to the 3D Web, ends months of speculation and at first glance is both a disappointment and a pleasure, but certainly doesn’t advance the underpinnings of the metaverse, not yet at least, and can hardly even be called a world at all. As GigaOm reports, it’s more akin to the 800 lb gorilla in the room giving a wave and saying “Yeah, I’m here.”

Only it turns out that it’s wearing a tutu and has blue hair.

Way back when, I imagined Google bashing open the doors to the true Metaverse - you know, the one you imagine when you read Snow Crash or watch the Matrix - a sort of mirror reality mash-up, data flowing through gritty city streets or sleek black office towers. As I thought at the time:

Google involvement with Multiverse hints at being able to walk through a massively parallel version of the ‘real world’, perhaps mashing together stand-along virtual islands and some sort of enhanced version of Google Earth with layers of Sketch-Up and other apps on top.

Instead, Google gives us. Hmmm. Well, it’s kind of like IMVU. Or Kaneva. And certainly a lot like Vivaty, whose integration into Facebook makes it the current, um, 3D Facebook:

Image: New York Times

Lively Chat
So, in it’s current form, Google’s Lively is basically a chat client. But then to some, so is Second Life. And it has some advantages:

- The Google name and reach
- Clean, sculpty looking objects
- A small download
- A peppy, bright, bubbly sort of chat space
- Link to your Google profile and log-in information (G-mail etc.)
- The ability to embed youTube videos and watch them with your friends
- A maniacal giggle (with its downside that it’s text activated, just say the word laugh and you’re laughing as in “That’s nothing to laugh about”)

And it has distinct disadvantages as well, in particular no support for the Mac (were they in SUCH a huge rush? Did the Vivaty launch onto Facebook accelerate their plans ahead of support for the Mac platform?), bugs, crashes, avatar limits, and a bit of a learning curve.

Strangely, Lively is one of the only 3D spaces I can remember where, rather than steer your avatar like in a game using the arrow keys or WASZ, you just sort of pick it up and drag it around.

But look - Lively is, well, it’s Lively!

It’s a fun chat space. You can change your hair! You can customize your avatar and you can furnish your room and you can sit by the fire and watch youTube videos! And that’s the thing - it’s a space. It’s not a world. It’s non-contiguous and you need to jump from room to room and as of yet there’s no commerce, there’s no user-generated content, and yeah, there’s no land.

Why Be Lively?
So what gives? So far, there’s nothing NEW here, nothing that wasn’t done on a 100 other platforms. So why do it at all?

I’m not a Google watcher. I know that there’s lots of stuff they do just for the sheer hell of it and because they want their finger in every pie out there. But these guys are all about measurable results and organizing the world’s information. I can’t help wondering whether Lively isn’t a soft ball play at answering the comment by Sergey Brin: “I don’t think we have the killer best way to advertise and monetize social networks yet.”

Because the Lively play is a “real life” play, according to their comments to CNET:

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…

“We think there is a desire to socialize in this way,” Wang said, suggesting that’s why Second Life got so much attention when it blossomed in popularity a couple years ago. “We hope this product will help them do that.”

Lively Slippcat

So Google’s going Slippcat on us maybe. If Lively is a social networking play as compared to a virtual world play, then their goal is to try to embed 3D spaces within social networks, link it all up to youTube, and then serve ads into the space. And maybe ads in a 3D space will have more traction than the stuff you ignore when you watch a youTube video.

Which would also imply that if they go the user-generated content route, it would be more along the lines of - controlled with a ’scrub’ to make sure it’s all in good clean fun. Because one of the problems will all these social networking sites is that they can scare off advertisers. Just as flying phalluses scared off some of the brands from Second Life, social networks are also a wild west of content. As the MIT Technology Review reported in its article on the inability for social networks to ‘monetize’:

“An enormous, highly visible brand may not want to risk seeing its ad wind up on a page such as that run by the actual Facebook group “I’ve had sex with someone on Facebook.”"

But maybe 3D rooms give hope - you can control what goes in them, it’s visual, it’s compelling, it’s 3D, and like Slippcat you can pay the users to host the content and charge advertisers on a per-click basis. Look for Coke machines and Ikea furniture in Lively spaces soon.

Combine it with context-specific search and you’re off to a branded 3D Web future - depending on the content of your room, its name, and the context of the Web site in which it’s embedded, link it to your Google profile and your search history, and Google will have a pretty good idea who you are and what furniture to sell you, or what ads to embed in your living room.

The Lively Terms of Service: Hints at the Platform’s Purpose
In fact, the Terms of Service lay this out quite nicely (emphasis added):

8.2 You should be aware that Content presented to you as part of the Services, including but not limited to advertisements in the Services and sponsored Content within the Services may be protected by intellectual property rights which are owned by the sponsors or advertisers who provide that Content to Google (or by other persons or companies on their behalf). You may not modify, rent, lease, loan, sell, distribute or create derivative works based on this Content (either in whole or in part) unless you have been specifically told that you may do so by Google or by the owners of that Content, in a separate agreement.

8.3 Google reserves the right (but shall have no obligation) to pre-screen, review, flag, filter, modify, refuse or remove any or all Content from any Service. For some of the Services, Google may provide tools to filter out explicit sexual content. These tools include the SafeSearch preference settings (see In addition, there are commercially available services and software to limit access to material that you may find objectionable.

And on advertising:

17.1 Some of the Services are supported by advertising revenue and may display advertisements and promotions. These advertisements may be targeted to the content of information stored on the Services, queries made through the Services or other information.

17.2 The manner, mode and extent of advertising by Google on the Services are subject to change without specific notice to you.

17.3 In consideration for Google granting you access to and use of the Services, you agree that Google may place such advertising on the Services.

Orientation to the Metaverse
So, Lively is a social networking 3D space - it’s a light, crisp, easy-to-embed technology which will be supported by advertising within the spaces and objects.

It sure isn’t much of a world right now - and maybe they’ll end up launching “premium spaces” which look more like islands or mini worlds, and maybe they’ll eventually embed the ability to script or program games or whatever, but for now it’s 3D chat with banner ads and clickable couches to follow.

But maybe it’s also an orientation to 3D spaces for folks who may have heard of avatars but need a Google to show them what they really are. Maybe it will leave people with the feeling that, yeah, this is OK - I FEEL different when I have an avatar, it’s kind of NEAT to furnish a little room with virtual furniture, and when then maybe, just maybe, Second Life will run a little ad in those 3D rooms that says:

“Now that you’ve tried Lively, come experience a REAL world.”

Second Lifers Visit Lively

via: SugarBoogie78 youTube


speak up

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site.

Subscribe to these comments.

*Required Fields

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.