Although I’m missing the conference in San Jose this week, I am watching the breaking news from the event with rabid interest. First, we have the news itself. There was the official IBM release of course, and it hit the official Linden Lab blog too.
“Linden Lab and IBM will collaborate on integrating virtual worlds and the current Web, improving the stability of the platform, increasing interoperability, securing transactions, and bringing us closer to the creation of universal avatars.”
Next, there are the people reporting the news. The organisers of the current conference in San Jose covered the story on their blog, pointing out the highlights, which are:
- Universal Avatars
- Security-rich Transactions
- Platform stability
- Integration with existing Web and business processes
- Open standards for interoperability with the current Web
The Reuters story (carried by a huge number of news sources) also had summary and quotes from Colin Parris (the VP in charge of this stuff at IBM)…
An open system would let people create one avatar that would keep the same basic appearance and customer data no matter where it was in cyberspace.
“It is going to happen anyway,” said Colin Parris, IBM vice president of digital convergence. “If you think you are walled and secure, somebody will create something that’s open and then people will drain themselves away as fast as possible.”
Now, we have the analysis, which gets really interesting. Read/Write Web asks “Is the move towards interoperability a meaningful announcement and what kind of future could it lead to?, inviting Wagner James Au, Barb Dybwad and Eric Rice to share their thoughts.
On the more tongue-in-cheek side, Nicholas Carr asks “Can I bring my flame thrower into Second Life?” predicting that “About five minutes after the gates come down, all the residents of Second Life will have been made the slaves of powerful Warcraft clans.” which is hilarious, but perhaps intentionally misses the point slightly.
“Don’t lose sleep over this in your excitement, boys and girls. It will take a little while to arrive. The point is that this is now out in the open, following months of speculation – and the parties involved go beyond just IBM and Linden Lab. I understand that at least 20 companies were represented at last night’s meeting”
Which is a really good point. This is far bigger than just an IBM + Linden Lab announcement; the discussions and announcements happening at the conference are rather larger and more exciting even than that. And just as well too, because Bobbie Johnson at the Guardian Unlimited rather hits the nail on the head:
“I don’t really want my avatar to move between a series of closed virtual environments: I want a single, linked virtual environment that I can move around freely.”
And that’s exactly where we need to take this goal of interoperability and standards in virtual worlds. A nod towards standards is not enough. To allow virtual worlds to inter-operate will require the whole industry (including initiatives like the Metaverse Roadmap and the Architecture Standards Working Group to name a couple) to help in building partnerships, agreements and standards.