A couple of days ago TechCrunch posted about Just Leap In, another browser-based virtual world.
After playing about with it for a couple of hours I have come to the conclusion that it is pretty rubbish. Whilst, unlike Google’s defunct Lively, you can embed videos and pictures in your room (notice the beautiful picture of my pen), it still suffers from limited customization of objects and avatars, and is room-based rather than world-based. If Google couldn’t make this sort of product work, how will ‘Just Leap In’ succeed…they can’t even come up with a decent name! The site doesn’t seem to offer anything particularly innovative.
I always seem to like the idea of virtual worlds more than the reality of virtual worlds. Whilst a 3d web may seem like a natural extension of the current web to many, and undoubtedly has csome useful applications, the truth is that many things work better in the flat-document format and most people don’t need a 3d web upgrade. Obviously this opinion is waiting to be blown out of the water by a killer-3d-app that everyone will want to have; I’m just not seeing it yet, and every time I see another run of the mill 3d site I become a little more disillusioned.
I’ve read a couple of posts today about Muxlim, a new virtual world for Muslims (via the BBC). The stories have been non-negative, if not positive, with even the Daily Mail’s story seeming to be a verbatim press release rather than the expected ‘gone hell in an handcart as technologically literate Muslims take over the web’. But on a web which is already defined by discussions amongst like-minded individuals, is a Muslim virtual world a good idea?
Before the jihadists and those damned-liberals start the name calling, let me be clear. I am not picking on a Muslim site, but rather using a Muslim site as an example of the larger problem of integrating groups that often feel marginalised from mainstream society. Virtual worlds can be particularly immersive environments, and having virtual worlds focused on marginalised groups doesn’t seem to be particularly healthy, whether this group is Muslim, Christian, gay or fascist. Rather than promoting understanding amongst different groups, homogeneous virtual worlds are likely to encourage the opinion that we are 100% right and differing opinions are not worth listening to. Whilst it is difficult to be more wrong than a white supremacist, it is nonetheless important there is dialogue so that we understand why they harbour the abhorrent views that they do.
Muxlim makes a point of stating that it is open to both Muslims and non-Muslims alike, but as with all sites aimed primarily at one particular group the vast majority are likely to come from that group. Some Christians will probably appear to evangelise, in the same way as you will find some liberals in Stormfront, but the core will be Muslim.
On a more technological note. Whilst I tried to launch Muxlim, I had problems connecting to its server. Whether this is a problem with traffic, or a problem at my end (my broadband is currently provided by my mobile phone), I don’t know. From what I can see it is browser based, with all the limitations that involves. Rather than a Muslim ‘Second Life’, it is seemingly more EA-land (defunct), Lively (defunct), or YooWalk.
Mashable have posted about another virtual world this morning, YooWalk, a browser-based virtual world for browsing the web.
It is more appropriate to compare YooWalk with Google’s Lively than Second Life. Both have limited freedom in terms of what can be created, although the embeddding and linking to content makes YooWalk much more than another Lively chatroom.
Important key differences between YooWalk and Lively are:
-YooWalk users can embed their own pictures and videos.
-YooWalk does not require a plugin (it works on my Linux Eee 701 as well as my Windows desktop).
At the moment the site is still very much in Beta mode. Designing your room is a bit clunky, and when my activation email went MIA there seemed to be no recourse other than using a different email account. Nonetheless, a welcome addition to the burgeoning web based virtual worlds.
Almost two weeks after its launch, and I finally got around to having a look at Google’s Lively yesterday. Overall: Currently unimpressed, although the idea has potential.
Whilst it may be considered a ‘virtual world’ by some, in reality it is more of a personalised virtual chatroom, and comparisons with the likes of Second Life soon become foolish.
-Whereas Second Life is a huge integrated world, Lively is a collection of individual rooms (even if some of those rooms are islands).
-Whereas Second Life can be filled with whatever the mind can imagine (and script), Lively can currently only be filled with the limited selection of objects you are given.
-Whereas Second Life has a thriving economy, Lively has none.
However the limitations give Lively an important advantage over Second Life, it is easy to install and takes far less processing power. And most importantly for the customer, it is FREE.
Rather than competing directly with Second Life or Meebo, Lively is staking a claim for the ground half way between the two, and I can imagine it being very successful once it becomes more customisable, which it undoubtedly will. Most organisations will be far more comfortable with the creation of an organisational-specific room/world rather than setting up shop only to have the island next door turned into a sex-shop or filled with neo-nazis. However, until it does become customisable its uses are fairly limited.
When you have a number of things on the go at once, your blog and your RSS feed-reader are inevitably the first things to suffer. You have no time for writing any posts of substance, whilst you are all too aware of the potential for whiling away the day if you dive too deep into the blogosphere, as such you are wary of starting either. However, after finally finishing a book review that has been hanging over my head for weeks at 2.30am, I approach my feeds with pleasure this morning. Not only would I have the time to give more than a passing glance to the stories that piqued my interest, but I would have time to write about them if I so wished. Unfortunately it seems that the blogosphere has gone on holiday.
Despite not having the opportunity to check my feeds since Friday morning (a weekend to the mere mortal is a lifetime to a blogger), I found that it was filled with a rather measly 170 posts, barely half a glance’s worth. This lack of new information was then couple with my so-called open desktop (as open as the average bank vault) refusing to allow me to install Google’s Lively Virtual World, something I have wanted to have a look at for a couple of weeks.
So all in all it has been a rather disappointing start to the week. Could the blogosphere please let me know in future when it decides to go on holiday.