• http://gwynethllewelyn.net/ Gwyneth Llewelyn

    It’s an interesting speculation.

    I’ve run an April Fool’s prank last year showing why Google has almost all the technology to integrate with Linden Lab’s Second Life:
    http://gwynethllewelyn.net/article61visual1layout1.html

    There are, however, more interesting implications these days. Google could, for instance, develop a Second Life-compatible multiverse, using the Second Life open source client and feeding data from Google Earth to the virtual landscape. The grid server software is not yet open source, but… it will be, very likely this year.

    Turning SketchUp drawings into primitive objects (required by Second Life’s metaverse model) might be a challenge — but it certainly isn’t impossible. Just hard. So Google Earth users could simply use their existing models and “see” them inside the virtual landscape “as if” they had beed created with the in-built tools of Second Life.

    What advantage would this bring to Google? Well, the major one is being able to offer a different visualisation of Google Earth and have people meet in this space — so, a glorified chatroom on a 3D landscape which “happens” to be… our own planet Earth. Supporting the costs of that infrastructure would from having ads to sponsor the in-world searches for landmarks. And, as a bonus, people would be able to use the same client to use Linden Lab’s own grid (but it would be a Google-branded one, with Google AdSense).

    This would be a “cooperative” approach that would make a lot of corporate sense — it wouldn’t be “Google’s Second Life”, but a Second Life-compatible grid with its own content (and a *vast* landscape pre-created for the users). People would be able to use the same account in Second Life to log in to Google VW. So, Google wouldn’t need to bother with a “booming economy”. They would just need to convert existing content from Google Earth and some SketchUp files to visualise it inside “their” metaverse.

    Pretty cool so far. Would Google do it? That really depends a lot. Sometimes they act as competitors and go for the “Google Way” — their competition to PayPal with their own electronic payment system is one example. Sometimes they use existing technology to do their own services — like allowing Jabber-based IMing on a federated model. So, at this stage, I think it could go either way. Obviously I would favour Google’s Jabber approach — use an existing tool with its own protocol, show support for the open source community, integrate their own metaverse grid with the only other grid that allows integration at all, and move on with a business model that works through ads.

    Alternative? Well, buy IMVU or There, get the avatar technology (and a small content-based economy) and work it out on your own. Google has done that so often in the past (ie. doing it the Google Way) that they might prefer to risk doing it again. It’s hard to predict what they will prefer to do…