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How Lively? Google's Me-Too Virtual World

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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.

26 Responses to “How Lively? Google's Me-Too Virtual World”

  1. kaitlyn

    it says that lively is closed as of january 1st 2009. it is may 25th 2009. i just found this out. will lively come back or not? i wnat to play it

  2. Approaching a month since public release and not much has changed. Still a swarm of sex-related rooms and many that are similar in nature, is my picture going to load on that picture frame or not, and crashing my firefox browser quite often. Hopefully improvements will come soon and I look forward to see what will happen with the catalog the price of objects, when will they stop being “FREE?”

  3. Никол

    First 2 mins after installing it everything seemed quite right… Then crashes started. It needs very very work to become something good. It could be nice start but it’s far away from working right. Why did they drop it actually, it’s not ready for use at all?

    P.S. I have 1GB RAM and 2.8 GhZ processor – never supposed to have so many crashes per min….

  4. Hamlet,

    Think you’ve got it right and wrong. (Disclosure : Millions of Us is a Preferred Lively Developer and we like it and believe in where they’re heading)

    If you were Google, Second Life is an interesting indicator of market appetitite for a concept, but not a meaningful threat. Facebook, well that’s a different story. And with Microsoft owning a piece and Myspace not a buyable asset, the questions asked must be:
    1. How does Google play in the social media world beyond OpenSocial?
    2. How do you bring virtual world interactions to a broad-based public?
    3. If you can create a pocket-sized web based world that any social network user can cut and paste into their profile, what happens?

    My guess is that because FB/ Myspace have had to embrace openness to survive, something like Lively is a very interesting trojan horse strategy. Users, if they choose, will make Lively (or, frankly, perhaps, another similar product) their interface for real time, face to face interactions on the web.

    Within these interactions, all the other virtual world phenomena we’ve seen in SL will begin to exert themselves. Currency, virtual goods, protests, culture, etc. Lively’s success will probably hinge on how effectively they’re able to retain users, scale and polish content creation tools and the economy to create the conditions to allow 3rd parties to participate in the marketplace and start the virtuous cycle that frees Google from the boil the ocean task of predicting needs and creating all the content.

    Perhaps there’s a sequel here. . . New World Notes II. Want to go embedded at the Plex?

  5. Hi Wagner,

    Google is not a serahc company – it is a data aggregator – that’s why it is getting into Mobile and MMO’s the two huge generators of user behavioral data going forward.
    Once you consider it from the point of view of data (rather that search ) it makes a lot more sense.


  6. Hi Wagner,

    Google is not a serahc company – it is a data aggregator – that’s why it is getting into Mobile and MMO’s the two huge generators of user behavioral data going forward.
    Once you consider it from the point of view of data (rather that search ) it makes a lot more sense.


  7. Does Google really need a glorified Second Life? I’d argue no. I think it’s certainly bound to get seedy like Second Life is. Sorry, but reading YouTube comments is about the most horrible thing I want to see out of a Google-owned venture. Please, Google, don’t let it get any worse than that.

  8. Deceiving indeed, rumors where:
    To us, it seems that a virtual world is natural progression of Google Earth and its 3D representations of… well, the Earth. Users could create avatars, like those in Second Life. The “street view” feature of Google Maps could be incorporated, as well as Google SketchUp, with avatars being able to walk around on actual streets and enter real buildings to check out what’s inside and socialize with other avatars. – our planet is a Virtual World

    Twinverse is a contiguous virtual world, scalable (P2P technology), running inside webbrowser (no flash, pure javascript), linux, windows, macos compatible
    Twinverse is build on top of (inside ?) google maps

    Ok Twinverse is just entering beta

  9. 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).

  10. 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:

  11. marleyinoc

    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…