Your “home” on the web

Google just announced Lively, a virtual world for all social networking sites. It immediately struck me as really cool and pretty scary. Here’s my 10 minute analysis.

The idea is that you have a virtual room or home on the web with a virtual person. You can than decorate your room, hang out it in or go visit your friends. When people come to visit you, they can move your stuff around. Rumor has it that your friends will be your friends from all your existing networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.

I think it will take off if:

  • It’s accessible via browser with no special hardware.
  • People can tweak and customize it both as a user and a developer, i.e. you can customize your room or you can write apps that interact with the room.

What’s scary?

  • Google’s stuff catches on quick. And if this catches on, they will be defining what our online world looks like. What our homes and cities look like. It’d be a good thing if Google made it all customizable. It’d be better if it was open source. But whether it’s open source or not, Google will own it.
  • It’s one thing to have ads in my email. They are easy to ignore. It’ll be another if my friend’s avatars are all wearing branded shirts or if my "home" has a banner ad in it. I’m not sure why, but it’ll feel different.

What’s cool?

  • It’ll bring virtual reality worlds to many more people. We’ll be that much closer to Neal Stephenson’s realities.
  • It might push virtual reality technology forward faster.