Google's Lively Unloved - InformationWeek

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8/22/2008
06:37 PM
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn
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Google's Lively Unloved

So Google's Lively isn't so lively. According to The Economist, "Hardly anyone is using Lively."

So Google's Lively isn't so lively. According to The Economist, "Hardly anyone is using Lively."That's not exactly a surprise. As I said when Lively was released, "Lively feels more like a Google Talk-powered chat room with 3-D camera controls than an immersive environment like Second Life."

And that's not to praise Second Life, which I find equally tedious.

Really, I wish the whole virtual chat space would go away. You want to play a furry or Trinity from The Matrix? Don a costume, get a Webcam, and broadcast yourself. If you're really missing that phony 3-D graphic look, get a green screen and add an imaginative backdrop.

Virtual worlds are for entertainment, training, or geospatial visualization.

Avatar-based chat is none of those; it can be entertaining but it's not entertainment that compares favorably to a dinner with friends (or even such modest amusements as chasing pigeons). It's not entertainment that compares to the World of Warcraft or EVE Online. Lively is free, but it costs too much. You won't get time spent logged on back.

Avatar-based chat is a curiosity. For the Club Penguin set, kids still under the thumb of parents, the novelty and simulated freedom are probably pretty compelling. More mature people may even be intrigued for a time in similar online environments.

But sooner or later, most people come to the realization that virtual worlds are empty places. Or at least I hope so. If you think it's nice to see a "LOL" scroll by, you should hear the real thing.

Were it not for virtual sex, gambling, and the virtual property bubble, no one would have heard of Second Life, apart from a few developer types who appreciate the ability to script their spaces.

And Lively, without support for virtual sex or gambling or virtual monster-killing, just doesn't have anything going for it. Perhaps that will change -- Lively is a great name for a 3-D person shooter, and there's no shortage of avatars to aim for. But until Google provides something interesting to do in its virtual world, I'll stick to instant messaging.

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