Not So Lively: Chronicles of Day One on Google’s Virtual World

Who’s the target audience for this product?

The “cartoonish” look (which is so great for rendering things quickly) is also something that baffles me. I can’t believe that Google is targeting the teen population. After all, Mike Elgan from ComputerWorld claims:

What that means is that companies will be able to re-create their office and meeting space, and events companies can create or re-create entire conferencing facilities. Your avatar can wander around, see the “booths,” check out the conferences or interface with other “attendees” — all in virtual space. 

Really, Mike?… They might do that, but definitely not on Lively. Even a MoU representative (who, as said, did create a room for a client in Lively already) considers that opinion an “interesting hypothesis”. Put into other words, not even MoU seriously believes that article, and it’s just one of a series — which, if I didn’t know the reputation of the magazines writing them, I’d just believe they were infodumps straight out of Google’s marketing department. The claims are just ludicrous. It’s like claiming that Orkut (another failed project from Google) would become the basis of social networking between businesses and corporations and replace LinkedIn or Plaxo. Fortunately Google never claimed that. But it’s very likely that Orkut profiles will shortly feature Lively rooms. A rumour was spread that there was already a Facebook application available for Lively (I couldn’t find it).

What Google Lively looks to be targeting is really at social sites with embedded 3D chatrooms. Meez is the leading player in this market: popular sites like PhotoBucket already allow you to create your own Meez avatar (and it’s not an exception; there are already many; Meez is rather good on their sales/marketing department and has totally surpassed both Microsoft and even Yahoo on 3D cute-y avatar personalisation integrated into third-party websites). Meez has launched their own room-based “virtual world” quite recently. It works on any platform and any browser (no silly limitations like Google’s), it’s interactive, has billions of options to choose from, and, well, frankly, it works. It has worked for years. Whirled has it working for months. Vivaty has launched it yesterday. So perhaps Google was afraid that all of the above would dominate that market and wants to push them out of business. Also, Raph Koster’s own Metaplace — which uses a similar concept of rooms-embedded-on-web-pages — is a potential target for Google. Raph, of course, disagrees — and this time I find no faults on his reasoning. If Google has more plans for Lively, they’re not telling — and instead are offering a terrible product, way below their usual offerings.

Definitely not a way to impress the Google fandom.

As for the “corporate use of Lively” — so much enthusiastically defended on Computerworld — their assumptions are preposterous. Unless they’re hinting at where Lively will be heading in five or ten years. I could not find any “corporate” example on Lively on the launch day, except for a room for Proximity Worldwide — which they don’t even seem to be announcing on their own website. National Geographic, allegedly a client of Million of Us in Lively, is not searchable, so one has to admit it might come out later. One wonders what they’ll be showing: YouTube videos of their most popular shows? 

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