26 Comments

Summary:

The other virtual shoe finally dropped today– after a year and a half of rumors, Google (GOOG) now brings us Lively, a web-driven mini-virtual world. Not a contiguous, immersive, fully user-created metaverse like Second Life, as it turns out– so it’s not really a direct competitor– […]

The other virtual shoe finally dropped today– after a year and a half of rumors, Google (GOOG) now brings us Lively, a web-driven mini-virtual world. Not a contiguous, immersive, fully user-created metaverse like Second Life, as it turns out– so it’s not really a direct competitor– but a series of virtual world chatrooms more akin to IMVU. (However, IMVU has a virtual economy of user-created content, while Lively does not, least not yet.)

On first glance, Lively seems too similar to several existing (and very large) MMOs, making it an also-ran without a key market distinguisher to be truly compelling (besides being from Google). You can stream YouTube videos in these rooms and embed rooms on websites, and it’s got appealing cartoon visuals and a fairly intuitive interface, but that’s true of numerous online worlds already out there.
 Of course Google is the Net’s dominant force, but then, that probably won’t matter to the tens of millions already happy in existing virtual worlds. Without some special magic that I’m not seeing as yet, it could easily wind up being a virtual world version of Google Video, easily eclipsed by the YouTube-level dominance of Habbo Hotel/Club Penguin/Gaia Online/etc.

Of course, all this doesn’t answer the most salient question: why would a search engine company create a virtual world in the first place? Does it even fit into their larger plans? As Mel Guymon, Google’s Head of 3D Operations, suggests to Virtual World News, the real takeaway is to validate a growing market for this space. “We’re basically saying this is a real space and everyone is doing this.” Sounds like the 800 lbs. gorilla is just saying, “Me too.”

Lively image credit: Metaverse analyst Dusan Writer, who has some interesting thoughts.

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  1. This was REALLY late in the game. Check out all the ones that have come before: http://www.dipity.com/user/xantherus/timeline/Virtual_Worlds

  2. it has been and will be an interesting market, i think. it really is future looking, even though it is for now a has ran…

    do you have to be first in a market to pwn it?

    i think for now the virtual worlds need to experiment and find out how they will entertain us while also selling to us. i like the idea of a company with this many programmers entering into this field.

    of course, i am a sci fi fan and think we will need virtual entertainment with a gravity/weight resistance pod like place to travel to other worlds in crafts small enough to get us there with low fuel use. even in the bigger ships we will need virtual worlds cause looking at a planet from space probably only feels really good when it is earth, and you know you will return soon.

    as far as the rest of it,well, i kinda want some virtual entertainment along the way…

  3. I tried Google Lively out today. Looks quite promising. I’d love to see this all tie into Google Earth. I love you Google!

  4. Amr Awadallah Wednesday, July 9, 2008

    Well, they obviously serious about it, this is not a 20% project, far from it.

    — amr (aka CnA-Yahoo ;) ).

  5. A-SpaceX, Google, and Virtual Tuesday « Shepherd’s Pi Wednesday, July 9, 2008

    [...] product, “Lively.”  Over on GigaOm, they aren’t receiving it very graciously – their story pans it as an unimpressive Me-Too effort, summing it up as “Not a contiguous, immersive, fully [...]

  6. Dusan Writer’s Metaverse » Google’s Lively: The Virtual World is No Metaverse and Hints in their TOS Wednesday, July 9, 2008

    [...] of the metaverse, not yet at least, and can hardly even be called a world at all. As GigaOm reports, it’s more akin to the 800 lb gorilla in the room giving a wave and saying “Yeah, [...]

  7. Nice post. As I commented in a more extensive post, this is more likely a play to monetize social networks, in answer to Sergey’s comment that “I don’t think we have the killer best way to advertise and monetize social networks yet.”

    Their terms of service clearly outline the intention to have advertiser support, including links of that advertising to content in the room, search queries and other content:

    17.1 Some of the Services are supported by advertising revenue and may display advertisements and promotions. These advertisements may be targeted to the content of information stored on the Services, queries made through the Services or other information.

    I find the TOS opaque on whether it will troll what you SAY in your Lively spaces or whether your chat logs in those spaces are private, but I need to look through it again.

    In any case, posted in more depth if you don’t mind a cross-link:

    http://dusanwriter.com/?p=713

  8. As for the question “why create a virtual world?”, this might well be a testing ground for examine some kind of social interactivity or something. As long as it’s labeled “powered by Google”, the game’s gonna get it’s share of attention anyway, which might be enough for the purpose (if there’s any).

  9. Cyroul.com » Google investit les mondes virtuels !! Wednesday, July 9, 2008

    [...] How Lively? Google’s Me-Too Virtual World [...]

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