Business in Virtual Worlds, Virtual World Platforms

Google Lively: Virtual World Project Killed

Rumors about a move by Google into virtual worlds predicted a, well, world killer, but in the end, Google Lively was the one that got the axe.

Google’s Lively Was Always Under Construction:

CNet reports that the Google Lively blog has announced that it is no longer pursuing the technology. Google reported on its blog:

“”Despite all the virtual high fives and creative rooms everyone has enjoyed in the last four and a half months, we’ve decided to shut Lively down at the end of the year,” Google said on its official blog Wednesday evening. “It has been a tough decision, but we want to ensure that we prioritize our resources and focus more on our core search, ads and apps business.” “

It was clear from the start that Google’s Lively didn’t add anything serious to the virtual world ecosystem. It was kind of like Vivaty, for example, but only 1/20th as good. It was touted as a successor to Second Life but the avatars were little cartoon characters, hardly vehicles for immersion or even, for that matter, much socializing, the avatars were always in other rooms somewhere, and there was little to do – few games to play, or puzzles to sort out, nothing to build, just a lot of embedded youTube videos maybe. Sure, users tried to throw some sex in, but that was quickly squashed.

So now, I guess, one of the many virtual me’s will have to, well, disappear. Or maybe I’ll end up in some sort of virtual Wayback Machine? I’ll miss the blue hair, but then again I have some in inventory somewhere.

Lively’s business model and policy wasn’t particularly well thought out. Take the phishing scams, evidence that Google hadn’t quite thought through the implications of embedded rooms:

“Of course, the fact that Lively rooms are embedded in the browser, and can be further embedded in any site, it means that all Web sites that have Lively rooms want you to access those rooms by entering your username and password into the Google application. With the pop-up input screen, the URL isn’t visible, so it isn’t terribly difficult to replicate the input console in a way that the user doesn’t realize that he’s not entering a Google domain.”

AdSense for Lively didn’t make much more sense, and they started looking like a game:

“Google spilled part of its intentions by announcing its virtual world — or more appropriately virtual room. The company launched Lively by Google earlier this month. Lively by Google would be a natural vehicle for Google’s AdSense for Games product, which could insert ads into the rooms of users. In fact, others expect it to be a proving ground.”

As for user-generated content, they had the idea but it was definitely early days:

Google’s Lively wasn’t ready for prime time. The only thing it had going for it was the Google name. But in a world where “casual” virtual environments pop up like weeds, it’s only the ones that really work, like Vivaty, say, or that have a unique feature or game/social mechanism, that will have the potential for staying power.

In the meantime there’s little to match the immersive Second Life platform. Blue Mars – maybe. But then again, it’s being beat to the punch by Entropia when it comes to quality of graphics, and has a strange business model to boot.

Mycosym – maybe. But it also has an odd business model, and they’ve been talking a lot at the conferences but have been a bit thin on follow-up: not an encouraging sign. Stay under the radar if you’re not ready.

But the surprise virtual world entry is the one that arrived before Google Lively, in my opinion, and that’s Google Earth itself, which is about as comprehensive a virtual world as you can imagine. The only thing missing are avatars. Oh, and objects beyond the building facades. But with a new version of Sketch-Up – who knows, all the pieces of the pipeline are there, aren’t they?

Google has hardly abandoned virtual worlds. They already have one. You can already visit virtual cities, and layer data, and fly through, and explore. The only thing you can’t do, perhaps, is buy shoes and decent hair, and that’s no small thing, but maybe they can port the cartoons over from Lively and we can all meet in virtual Ancient Rome. Empires come and go, and others just relocate.


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