Google’s Ultimate Mashup, The End of Web 2.0, and More Metaverse Wannabees

Your identity on the non-VW Internet is your email address, since it can reach any user on the ‘net. Google Wave transformed that into your identity to all social networking sites that will federate with them.

On virtual worlds, your identity is the avatar, and Second Life has transformed it into your identity on any virtual world that will federate with them. Well… almost. 🙂 The protocol describing federation — grid interconnection — will only be around in late 2010. And right now there are few non-LL solutions adopting it: realXtend, OpenSimulator, and Simian (which has negligible use) are able to integrate into an interconnected metagrid, as soon as LL allows that. But… except for a few other vendors (the most notable one being Forterra,’s original creators, which, like Linden Lab, enjoys a close partnership with omnipresent IBM), none of the new Metaverse wannabees are even remotely considering entering a federation of virtual worlds. They’re still stuck at the stage where they believe that “being isolated is good; destroying the competition is our aim; addressing new markets while keeping our backs to the competition is our mission”.

I can only compare that attitude to what independent mail software vendors did in the early 1990s, believing they could stay out of the Internet’s protocol by sheer stubbornness. And don’t get me wrong on this, they had far better mailing solutions! SMTP stands for “Simple Mail Transport Protocol” but it might be more appropriately named as “Quick & Dirty Mail Transport Protocol”. So many features are lacking! For instance, there is not a “button” to click to turn off spam (I mean, really turning off spam, not merely filtering it out) or even get a receipt that your message was delivered! So it was not the best solution that ended as becoming the world-wide standard, but the only solution that addressed the notion that different vendors could communicate using a common protocol.

Why should virtual world developers believe they could defeat history and rewrite it now?

Specially if Google is leading the way showing how silly it is for Web 2.0 sites to have the same autistic, isolationist attitude…

Meanwhile, and apparently, joining OpenSimulator with Google Wave, according to Rich White, is already under way. Why isn’t this surprising? The pure truth is, Second Life, ironically, lacks good social networking tools — although that’s its most used feature! Profiles are incredibly limited. IM is at the stage ICQ was when it was launched (and who does still use ICQ anyway?). Group IM is laughable. Granted, you have notices with attachments, but compare them with the ease of use of Facebook or any of its clones in sharing information — they’re light-years ahead. And SLim, well, is an exercise in arrogance — instead of using Second Life’s authentication mechanism, it uses a special account that is tied to your SL account… which makes it so confusing. And the application is incredibly heavy, cumbersome, and although it does make voice calls, its IM abilities are pitifully underdeveloped.

All that requires massive change — to turn SL into something more akin to Kaneva, IMVU, or, well, even Metaplace to a degree. But the OpenSimulator crowd seems to be reluctant to start it from scratch. We have enough “new” social networking sites. We don’t need a new one for SL. Instead, what we need is seamless integration into a federation of social networking sites — Google Wave couldn’t have been announced at a better time. This means that if this OpenSim/Wave integration goes ahead, your in-world profile could be your Facebook profile. Your inventory’s “Snapshots” folder could be a RSS feed from Flickr or Facebook. You could add comments on other avatar’s profiles (and view them on the Web too!). You could do group chats in IRC and watch it in SL (OpenSim has IRC integration). You could drag and drop a picture posted on your MySpace webpage on top of someone’s profile in SL, and it would be added to their pick list — and appear on a folder on their inventory, too. And, of course, you would be able to talk to residents in-world using voice chat — using Gtalk. All this — and more — will “soon” be possible, given enough ingenuity of the OpenSim developers, and, with a bit of luck, even Linden Lab might give them a hand.

So, does the future seem bright for Web 3.1? (i.e. the federation of Web 3.0 virtual worlds) Could Second Life’s own protocol become the equivalent of Google Wave’s own efforts on the Web 2.0?

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