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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Next generation virtual worlds are part of the web

Remember the interview at SIME 2006 with Philip Rosedale in Second Life? Well since last year virtual worlds have exploded. IBM is investing $100 million in technology for virtual worlds, Harvard has opened up class rooms in Second Life and Swedbank is looking into establishing a branch in Entropia Universe. But the technologies have to a large extent been proprietary, although Linden Lab (the company behind Second Life is aiming at making it open source). The different worlds, or virtual environments have not been interconnected, or more importantly integrated with the web.

Last week a new tool was launched at TechCrunch Conference: Metaplace. It was developed by Ralph Koster, who helped build Ultima Online. Users of Metaplace can build 3D online worlds for PCs or even a mobile phone without any knowledge of complex computer languages.

"We modelled this on the web," said Koster. "You can think about each world being a webpage and every object within in it is a link." Koster believes the tool will be used to create a wide variety of different virtual worlds including chatrooms, games similar to WOW, or teaching environments.

"We want to see 10,000 virtual worlds so that lots of wild and crazy stuff gets made because that is the only way it will advance as a medium," said Koster.
Metaplace is entirely web based and connections can be made between all of the different worlds". Put a doorway at your virtual car dealer that leads to your World of Cars. Stick your world in a widget on your Facebook or MySpace profile. Mail it to a friend and they can log in with one click. You can read more in Wagner James Au’s story about MetaPlace on GigaOm.

For all of us who are working with business development in virtual worlds, this is what we have been waiting for! The walled gardens of Second Life and Entropia are less suitable for large corporate initiatives. Here is a web modelled software that will enable many different kind of users to harness the vast virtual opportunities available. Virtual worlds or environemnets will become a natural part of the web - just another way to display content and information.

Metaplace is currently going through testing and the final version will be made available to the public in spring 2008.

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