Saturday, February 02, 2008

Virtual World/Web Browsers

I spent tonight doing a deep dive on Transmutable's Tommorrow Space based on the Ogoglio Project's technology. Transmutable is "a scrappy little startup in Seattle that is building a series of goal oriented web apps merging the value of 3D spaces with the 2D web."

One of the main differences of this companies direction is that they believe a 3D virtual world should be available through any existing web browser vs. having to download a "fat" client. As of today, most virtual world clients like Second Lifeand other open source projects such as Sun's Project Wonderland and OpenCroquet require you to download a client application to access the virtual world.

So, if virtual worlds become mainstream will we all be using one or two browser to access the web and the worlds?

One Browser To Rule Them All
A one browser solution would allow me to seamlessly navigate between traditional web sites and virtual worlds. I could work creatively with mixed displays of 2D and 3D data. I might also manage 1 friends list (and one login PLEEEASE). The challanges to a one browser solution are likely to be:
- providing an immersive experience (full screen 3D)
- adding 3D capability to the browser that scales
- standards consistency across MSFT, Opensource, and MAC technologies
- keeping up with graphics card advances

The ability to access traditional web graphics in-world (Second Life "Text on a Prim") could either be facilitated or hindered by this option.

Two Browsers
The other possibilty is the evolution of two browsers, one for traditional web and one for virtual worlds. This certainly seems less likely to me on the whole, but clearly most of the efforts in 3D worlds both serious and game/education oriented assume a native client which is downloaded to drive the world. It may be we see the rise of a 2 browser solution and then a break through advanced to a one browser solution as standards evolve, security is tightened, and consumers get frustrated with moving between two clients.

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