Business in Virtual Worlds, Collaboration

Virtual Worlds the Next Wave: Today’s CEOs Don’t Get It, Telegraph Says

The Telegraph has a lengthy article today on “Web 3.0″ or the third wave of the Internet - and lifts off a book by Steve Tappin and Andrew Cave called The Secrets of CEOs to conclude that they don’t “get it”.

It’s intriguing to follow the rise and fall and now the rise again of virtual worlds in the mainstream press. It’s starting to look like we’ve shifted into a “conventional wisdom” phase - virtual worlds are here to stay, businesses had better wrap their minds around it, and…even more to the point, this will help to change everything.

The article quotes John Chambers of CISCO who says of the broader trends on the Web:

“I think it will be dramatically bigger than the first wave. It’s going to change business models in a way that will make the first phase of the internet look small.”

And I agree. And I don’t think this is small stuff. In the limited time that I’ve been in Second Life, and then explored all the other virtual world platforms, I’ve had a specific prism through which I’m viewing “Web 3.0″. And maybe I could have focused on cloud computing, or the semantic Web, or simply games - but somehow it’s being in a virtual world that you start to get a sense of how transformative technology has become. These aren’t small changes - these are tectonic.

How we relate, collaborate, our systems for identity, articificial intelligence, “ground-up” ideation…I’m increasingly convinced that while there is a whole basket of technology that’s driving a powerful wave of change, it’s through 3D environments that you can really start to see and sense how significant these changes will be.

The Telegraph article gives room for the skeptics (er, sceptics):

“Sceptics do exist. Fake argues that virtual worlds add back complications that the web removed and will not reach the level of trust required for such high growth. “The great thing about the web is that you don’t have to walk down the street to shop,” she says. “The thing the web does so well is remove the friction of the world. Until you would file your taxes on Second Life, I’m not a believer. You need to have 100pc confidence in it. John Chambers did an analyst call in Second Life and it got interrupted by a streaker.”"

And they repeat Philip’s tired meme about meeting in virtual worlds:

“Philip Rosedale, of Linden Labs, Second Life’s creator, claims Second Life and its peers make communication substantially easier. “Some real-world businesses are using Second Life for collaborative meetings,” he says. “Because our voice technology allows you to hear people in 3D, as in the real world. All the voices of the people on the call do not appear to come from the phone on your desk. Cisco Systems and IBM are having meetings in Second Life.”"

Philip is wrong. Second Life doesn’t make communication substantially easier. Maybe it does after you’ve spent 14 hours fixing your appearance, learning to walk, setting your graphics so you don’t crash every two minutes, and fiddling with your voice setting so you actually know HOW to talk. It does NOT make it substantially easier until it’s embedded in your communication practices. (Philip needs to get a new elevator pitch as I keep saying - see side bar for related articles).

But what isn’t wrong is the sense of transformative change. We’re in the “early ripple” stage:

“While CEOs should obviously not embrace every fad, the web is increasingly becoming the core global platform for businesses as well as for individuals. Although its development is difficult to predict, companies must be speedy fast followers. They must quickly adopt external and internal Web 2.0 principles and implement key initiatives to make these a reality, at the same time scanning the horizon for Web 3.0’s early ripples.”

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