Monday, November 12, 2007
IBM & Linden Labs Announce Cooperative Initiative
LL & IBM publicly made an official in-world statement to a packed crowd of developers recently. The two companies have formed a cooperative interoperability agreement initiative, dealing with emerging Virtual World technologies.
As stated by both parties, the goal is to allow the seamless movement of one's avatar and assets from one VW to another. The two companies believe the goal is worthwhile--and doable.
Both Linden Labs and IBM are now reaching out to the open source community, to collaboratively work on the development of industry standard specifications within this expanding new field of Information Technology. Two standards, universal log in and asset guarantees, are the first to be addressed. Allowing you to easily take your Avatar from one Virtual World to another.
The already developed Open ID specification may well be an ideal solution for login, but it in itself does not lay out the individual Avatars characteristics or asset ownership or inventory specifications. So an Ad Hoc standard spec.. , defining those characteristics, will need to be settled upon.
Other issues including, would you be able to move a 3D avatar into a 2D world or vice versa, and what it is that you want to accomplish while moving between the different VW's? We need to determine which assets can be moved along with the VW persona. Avatar aesthetics and Inventory assets will need to be defined with a comprehensive set of standards between the various worlds. And the guarantee's for intellectual property rights have to be set in place.
We cannot allow taking item X from Virtual World 1 (VW1) to VW2 and having another avatar in VW2 copy item X rename item Y and then selling it as their own creation. This would present a huge problem. And if not dealt with early during standards formation, may result in the stifling of creativity efforts. Therefore some sort of security measures need to be addressed. Along with getting cooperation from other VW owners(Software Companies) will undoubtedly be a matter of gaining their confidence.
Other looming technical questions currently remain somewhat elusive. Moving Second Life from a closed system, too one that is more scalable, inter-operable and stable, is a huge task and it is still to early to know exactly how many things will need to be worked out in order for this to be possible.
Obviously IBM's interest at this early stage is to get the point issues worked out. Uniform login, avatar and asset definitions, and moving from one world to another as seamlessly as we currently access web based services today. An in-world, collaborative web browsing experience, coupled with the ability to view a web page in a 3D space and have multiple assets, avatars and content interacting within these worlds is imperative to future success.
The fact that most of todays VW clients are closed source, is very similar to the early days of the modern Internet. Although this is a formidable problem, it is a solvable one. As we have seen, today's web browsers like Firefox, Opera, Safari and numerous others, have tackled these difficult issue's, and demonstrated the ability to work together, and solve problems using existing open source tools. VW standard OS applications for content creation, 3DS Max, Maya, Pov~Ray, Gimp, Mono, Java, are currently freely available programing platforms. Much the same way we have JPEG & BMP etc..files today, that are widely used within this developing industry. Do we reinvent the wheel,or simply improve upon its original design, and add to the already rich mix of available tools.
Sun Micro Systems, Project Dark Star, and MPK20, if used as example's, are based and built, almost entirely with open source, Java programing tools. The upcoming Google World initiative will also play into this mix. Settling on common 3D file formats, and asset exchange protocols, can and will be accomplished eventually. And it is not necessarily a matter of who gets there first, that will win this game. Once all the other parties involved, get comfortable with the idea of opening up their platforms, we can and will move forward.
One major concern I see, is that the terms scalable, inter operable and open source, can and do mean different things to different people, and may cause some early false starts.
What we are seeing, is the first round of serious discussion, on what may prove to change the way we all inter react with one in other via the Internet. :_)
JayR Cela / 11-12-2007