Thursday, April 15, 2010

Why Google needs to buy Linden Lab

The clever boffins at Google have given a peek (Web) at the latest enhancements to Google Maps (Web), the service that at minimum shows maps but has so much more tucked in every corner of it's code, and as you can see from the video above, the new additions are spectacular. In the first release of Google Maps, one could "fly" a point-to-point route along the maps and that was not only useful, but fascinating. I remember spending many an hour retracing family trips and pretending to be on adventures. Later, 3D-rendered structures, albeit simple gray blocks, were added to many cities and "flyby" took on new meaning as I soared through the concrete canyons of major cities. Now, Google is pairing it's Street View (Web) with the 3D modeling to provide a more realistic flyby experience. Now I can trace that one-time 86 block walk with my brother from New York City's Times Square to a comic book shop without my feet hurting so much.

But why does this make me think that Google should buy Linden Lab (AKA, The Lab), one of the leaders in online 3D worlds? A few reasons, actually, not the least of which is innovation. As demonstrated in the video, Google is more forward thinking than The Lab and has the deep pockets to let this creative expression loose. Admittedly, developing a non-goal oriented "game" akin to predecessors like World of Warcraft was innovative and more than a bit cheeky, but The Lab has done little innovation since. Adding Windlight, Mono scripting, and a variety of ways to acquire land were simply expected evolutionary changes, not revolutionary leaps that tickle the imagination. One could argue that Google's photo realistic offering is only evolutionary as well, but I say it is not. The revolution is that the growth wasn't necessary to sustain the product. Further, it defines a forward-looking progression that opens a variety of leads for further change. What has The Lab done to this end?

The term photo realistic makes me think of another reason Google should buy The Lab: The current push by The Lab to make the in-world experience a more photo realistic one; an experience more akin to so-called real life than the cartoon-verse other online worlds provide. Linden Homes (Web) is an example. The Lab is clearly trying to direct the look and feel of being in-world by having structures and landscapes that are not the typically fanciful fare one often finds on the Mainland or in parceled rental regions where aesthetics are not governed. The fantasy regions of the Elderglen (pictured here) are a slight exception, but the uniformity and enforced building standards belie the outwardly whimsical appearance. Log out of the Second Life home page (Web) if you are not logged in and explore the 'What is Second Life?' section to see the current emphasis on In-World as Real Life. If you've seen the Get an Avatar campaign (sorry, I don't know it's exact name nor can I find an example of it at the time I write this post), you have seen that all the examples are of residents with avatars that resemble their Real Life persons. If this is truly the direction that The Lab wants to go, integration with Google Maps or Google Earth (Web) is a must. No other service is as advanced, detailed, or forward-thinking.

But the innovative spirit and the push toward photo realism are just two reasons Google needs to buy Linden Lab. There are many less obvious reasons, but if you combine these two with The Lab's greater push to monetize the World (do you really think they bought XStreetSL to make our shopping lives easier?) an enveloping matrix develops: Second Life is not a game, it is a lifestyle. Certainly, Residents that form the core users knew this. Definitely the large percentage of noobs that try SL for a few days and drop out because there is no "end goal" learn this. If The Lab truly wants to integrate the virtual life with our meatspace lives beyond almost requiring use of Twitter and Facebook and Avatars United. Google is a leader in social media, a bleeding-edge tech developer, and has more money than most nations. The Lab needs Google.

Google probably doesn't need The Lab. And it has other options such as Blue Mars (a really, really photo realistic world, I hear; Web) if it needs such an acquisition. But I believe that such a combination will happen regardless of the parties involved. The Internet is becoming both an information appliance and a place to live. We just need to determine who will redefine that world.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Giving in to the bunnies

Someone gave my alt an Ozimal Bunny and it got lonely so I had to get it a mate. You know what happened next, I'm sure. Above is me with Hare-iette. She lives with Ozzie and Oreo. Probably two more bunnies soon. Three (plus?) live in the Bunnyarium at the Isle of Lesbos (women only; SLurl) with more outside in the flower pasture.

You can meet Ozzie, Hare-iette, and Oreo on Dolce Valentina (an Adult sim with a nude beach; SLurl). If the SLurl doesn't take you right there, use the Teleporter at the entrance for "Earth Park," one of two areas in the region where street clothes are permitted.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Usra, Daniel, and M

Most of you know I have an alt named Usra. She's heavy into the Loco Pocos theme and tends to take over my posts when those adorable avies are concerned. In fact, she posted on the Lucky Kitty Crew blog today about some prize hunts involving Loco Pocos creators (Web). After that she headed over to the new Welcome Islands and Discovery Islands to wish people a Happy Easter and to give out Easter eggs. She ran into friend Daniel Voyager (the other bunny in the pictures below), blogger/reporter (Web) and M Linden, CEO of Linden Lab (Web). Sadly RL beckoned, but not before Usra helped out M with an LM to the fabulous Bare Rose clothing adjustment tutorial and talking about the new islands meant to introduce new Residents to Second Life. No chance to grill him on the use of Megaprims there, but the addition of a tutorial sandbox is being looked into and there are discussions about live helpers being present (remember Mentors?). Here are some pix (no, I didn't note the names of the other people):

M Linden (on the far right in all the pictures) kept commenting on how much he loved Usra's avatar so I gave him the URL to the Lucky Kitty blog post I mentioned then he broke out his Devil avie ("Now that explains a lot," Usra joked) and his ghost avie. I remember he was among the Lindens that filled the Loco Pocos sim last Halloween buying avies for the holiday. He seems genuinely nice and very interested in the fun aspects of Second Life. Much of our conversation was focused on the magic of the the world and how the new welcome experience was designed to foster that impression. Sadly, Lindens still hide from the presence servers so my attempts to hug him failed. Haven't hugged a Linden yet because of that, but maybe one day ...

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Apple iPad: Serious Want

Mohammed F. Haque (AKA "Hawk"), the artist behind AppleGeeks (Web) has an iPad today! No, not really. This pic is a fake for April Fools Day. But another celebrity, actor/comedian/author/nice-guy Stephen Fry has one and he wrote about it for Time Magazine (Web). Well worth a read even if you are not interested in the device at all. If you are interested, then also check Andy Ihnatko's posts for the Chicago Sun-Times ("Is it a real computer?" Web; "iBooks is worth the price ..." Web).

Am I getting one? Eventually. I love my iPod Touch and the iPad is a very big version of that wonder. But from what I've read the differences (easier content consumption, actual content creation, and huge screen) will make it worth the cost and while to get one. Unlike the Touch, it likely won't leave the house at all. But I'll have similar uses: Looking up information about what I'm watching on TV or DVD, Web surfing, staying connected away from my desk, etc. With the faster processor and bigger screen, these tasks will be a lot more fun. Now bring on the Second Life app!!

Officially Sanctioned Megaprim Use!

The new Welcome Islands and Discovery Islands for new Residents are nicely designed and executed. This fresh approach may also indicate a policy change recognizable to more experienced Residents, though: Officially sanctioned use of megaprims, those building blocks larger than users can normally create in-world. As you can see from this picture taken at Discovery Island Public 3 (SLurl), Governor Linden owns a 100x100x30 prim in the shell of the island's "shopping mall" section. It was created by Day Oh and last owned by Ryker Beck.

Miss Beck is part of the ILL Clan, the group that created the new regions (Web), and has been in-world for over three years so I imagine she has heard that The Lab doesn't permit the use of megaprims in their builds or in Resident-created builds for official Linden activities such as Burning Life and the Second Life Birthdays. Does her use of this huge prim here mark a sea change?