Now that 2006 is fast slipping away, everyone has turned on their nostalgia and is eagerly looking back at the "top" stories of the last 12 months. I usually find these kinds of pieces interesting, but instead, I want to look at what I think will turn into one of the top trends of 2007.
I think one of the big online trends for 2007 will be the mainstreaming of massively multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPG for short). While MMORPGs are nothing new for techies, they're finally catching on with the rest of the mainstream culture. One MMORPG in particular has crossed the chasm from geekdom to main street: Second Life.
If 2006 was the year Second Life made it's way into the news, 2007 will be the year the business community takes notice. For those of you unfamiliar with Second Life, it's a virutal online world where you can create your own avatar, build your own house, sell goods in currency that actually converts into real-world money, form your own community, and even hold your own press conference. In short, if you can build an application, you can build a 3D fully interactive experience around it in Second Life. There are even Second Life real estate magnets who claim to have made millions. Some technologists even predict that the real world and the virtual world are headed on a collision course.
What does that mean? I think Second Life and other MMORPGs have the potential to be the new Web, that is a Web that is no longer bounded by 2D pages and archaic connections to text but one that represents data as fully animated and fluid things. In short, why bother with a text querry that's just a white page and search bar when you can use a full-animated interactive dragon or other creature.
Does this sound a little far fetched? Tell that to Sun Microsystems, who in October became the first Fortune 500 company to hold a press conference in Second Life (Check out the conference video here). Or go to Reuters' Second Life News Center.
Sun and Reuters aren't alone. Even business-to-business media firms are looking to launch virtual events in Second Life.
Where does Google figure into all this? Some people think Google's SketchUp could be used to create a rival world to Second Life. Will Google continue to stand on the sidelines of the fast-emerging MMORPG market or will 2007 be the year they also pay attention? Stay tuned.