Interconnecting Virtual Worlds

While this post got Slashdotted (Sun’s Wonderland is old news; we all watched the movies, we all were fascinated how cool HTML is rendered in-world, we all were tremendously disappointed on the whole rest of the interface and visual environment, which, frankly, is very weak — no wonder Sun has 1,500 employees registered for Second Life), Linden Lab’s announcement on the interoperation between their grid and IBM’s OpenSim-based grid did not escape the notice of the Wall Street Journal.

Ever-watchful Morgaine Dinova asked on Leading Virtually if Sun Microsystems are planning to join the Open Grid Protocol (basically, what allows IBM’s grid and LL’s grid to be interconnected) by allowing Wonderland to interoperate with OGP-based grids. Indeed, that’s something lacking from Sun’s roadmap. On the other hand, it seems that in about two years, Sun’s Wonderland project will be at the same state that Second Life® was in 2005, with two differences: application sharing (ie. the ability to see a desktop on a prim which is fully clickable) and adding avatar expressiveness, which they might race against LL to get it first (in late 2009).

Interesting for me was to see how Sun’s own internal efforts (Project Wonderland is a cute technology gathering momentum among Sun developers, but it’s something marginal yet — OpenCroquet, offering a similar degree of in-world HTML and interaction with Web pages has a much larger user base) was immediately news for the Geekosphere, of which Slashdot is the principal opinion maker; while IBM’s and LL’s efforts of getting corporate virtual world grids to interoperate — something that is available now, and which will appeal to the thousands of corporations using SL in 2008 — captured the attention of the industry media.

I think that this shows how Mitch Kapor was so right on his closing keynote speech at SL5B. Although many might have been disappointed with his words, I retained the essential: Second Life’s era of being a haven for geeks and early adopters is now over, and we’re entering the stage where the pragmatist corporate, academic, and government organisations are going to use it as a serious product. Yes, of course it means that the geeks and early adopters will be left behind (or will evolve and adapt) and jump to whatever seems more geekish and cool. In a decade or so, they will have no choice but to come back.

Let’s hope that Sun’s virtual world department understands how important it is for their product to survive that it interoperates with what will become the industry standard: the Open Grid Protocol. We all know that The Network is The Computer 🙂 — now, the Virtual World Will Become The Computer, and I certainly hope that Sun learns that quickly. IBM certainly did, and they’re usually way more conservative than Sun!

(My thanks to Justice Soothsayer for the WSJ link and to Kristin Mitchell from Lewis PR for their press release)

CC BY 4.0 Interconnecting Virtual Worlds by Gwyneth Llewelyn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

About Gwyneth Llewelyn

I'm just a virtual girl in a virtual world...

  • I think people are getting just a little ahead of themselves. Second Life as we know it is not going to change anytime soon, the issue is whether Second Life technology is offered in more of the situation that IBM are using it, behind closed doors.

    Then there’s the issue everyone seems to want to ignore: chaos.

  • Andabata Mandelbrot

    Gwyn, I believe Sun’s effort is much more relevant than OpenCroquet, for a simple reason: better development platform and language. Sun’s based on Java, while OpenCroquet is based on SmallTalk, with a development environment that hasn’t changed much since the early 90s. From my first-hand experience, only above-average developers can handle grasping a development environment where there is little documentation, where you have to struggle to find people available for clearing doubts and provide advice (yes, including the mailing lists: often posts with doubts can be left unanswered for ages).
    By contrast, Java’s a widespread language, and accessible even to average or slightly below average coders – which means that many more people can contribute their ideas, not just those with ideas AND above-average coding skills.
    And Sun’s “desktop application on a prim” technology can be a potential dealbreaker – if just it had the easy in-world building capabilities of SL.
    All of this could be merged by using different protocols, opefully OpenGrid will evolve or be improved by some other.