Doing Business in the Virtual World

eWeek.com has an article up in their Infrastructure section:

Doing Business in the Virtual Worlds

This is a good article that covers the creation of the Metaverse Roadmap last year, and where this technology needs to go before it will be accepted in the mainstream. Roadblocks and challenges, like interoperability, are also mentioned in the article. The article unfortunately focuses most of it’s comments on Second Life, ignoring several new platforms coming this year.

It is refreshing to see that their idea of business is not selling real world items in-world. Here’s a quote from the article about deciding what to do with your business in-world:

Today, there’s a rich mix of players in the virtual-world market, but organizations need to carefully consider the business imperative before moving into virtual worlds.

“You’ve got to answer the fundamental question of ‘why,'” said Erik Hauser, president of Swivel Media, a virtual-world consultancy. “Your virtual presence needs to be strategized like any normal marketing program. The reason might be to recruit technology personnel or do business online, but once you understand ‘the why,’ then all the other decisions will flow naturally.”

There is mention later in the article about Second Life and improvements for businesses:

Ginsu Yoon, vice president of business affairs for Linden Labs, said plans are in place to make the Second Life infrastructure more enterprise-friendly. But even if Second Life does provide better scalability, performance, usability and security, that won’t be enough. For 3-D worlds to make sense for business, Second Life—or any other virtual world—can’t exist in a vacuum.

I just don’t see the Second Life platform being ‘fixed’ anytime soon. Second Life has, for all intents and purposes, been stalled in its current state for the past year. In December of 2006 we all witnessed explosive growth and grid stability issues resulted. We’ve been stuck at the now infamous 60,000 concurrent user limit since then. Without a complete reengineering of the platform I seriously doubt any of these issues will be addressed by throwing more hardware at the problem. I also question how, or even if, they will ever open source the server AND allow the now distributed server to link back to their grid(s).

The future of the Metaverse lay in open standards worlds that are just now moving through testing; Multiverse, Sun Microsystem’s Wonderland/Darkstar platform, Open Croquet, Qwaq (built on the Croquet platform), and others. These are all setting the stage for a common 3D file format, 3D applications, programming languages, and cross platform portability. All that remains is for a few to hook up and allow for avatar movement between worlds. I suspect that this will not happen for another couple of years (maybe in 2010).

This is a good article, and worth a read by anyone who is involved in virtual worlds, or who is considering entering this space with a business. The Metaverse Roadmap site has a lot more information than what was covered in the article.

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