IBM, Linden Lab Envision Borderless Metaverse

Heavy construction is under way to create an open playing field of interoperable technologies for users to navigate the so-called 3D Internet of the future.

Linden Lab, the creators of Second Life, and IBM announced Tuesday that they will work with other partners to drive open standards and tools where protocols and formats speak the same language.

Early Stage

Creating a truly open-standards playing field for deploying 3-D Internet experiences is no small task.

While a popular perception of the Internet’s history is synonymous with “blazing speed,” a next-generation open world will need extensive collaboration among those who engineer its tools and platforms.

The finish line is nowhere near.

“We are at the early beginning of this,” Rob Enderle, principal analyst, Enderle Group, told LinuxInsider. “Expect it to take three to seven years before we really see major interoperability improvements.”

Common Tools

That further Internet progress should take a while should come as no surprise, Enderle added. “Think of it in terms of how long it took the Internet to really mature and we stepped away from walled gardens like AOL and CompuServe.”

This time, the 3D vendor players are starting off with the added advantage of a higher degree of common tools, but they are hobbled in other ways, Enderle said. “A lot of existing technology and practices will slow the process down a lot.”

Group’s Homework

Even a cursory glance at the to-do list as part of IBM’s news release about the pact tells the story: standards-based software to ensure security-rich transactions; digital assets involving 3D models, music and media; faster response times; support for high-volume business use; easy integration with present-day business processes; and open source development of interoperable protocols and formats.

Linden Lab, meanwhile, has formed an architecture working group with a roadmap for development and has a “Second Life Grid” in place to spur development.

Dramatic Change

“This will be a big step toward the virtual worlds we have been imagining for some time and it will change dramatically how we socialize and do business on the Internet,” Enderle predicted.

To be sure, opportunities in leveraging an interoperable, easily navigable, media-rich, experiential Web experience are limited only by the imagination, for retailers, knowledge workers and educators.

As for IBM’s opportunity, employees from its services, global consulting, and research labs divisions have been working in Second Life for more than a year. They’ve been in serious play mode to apply game-like universe techniques to business and social applications. IBM is doing much to show that it’s intent on making sure it is and will remain in the front row of vendors leading the 3D Internet pack.

At the two-day Virtual Worlds Conference that started Wednesday in San Jose, Calif., IBM participants’ titles indicates its revved-up focus on virtual-world technologies. The job titles of IBM reps included “IBM Metaverse Evangelist” and “Global Director for 3D Internet and Virtual Business.” Even IBM’s own title, “Co-Sponsor,” shows that commitment.

It’s a done deal that the 3D Web is coming, according to Enderle.

“IBM is hoping that they can appear ahead of this wave and use the opportunity to become relevant on the Web,” he said. “At some point, IBM would like to become the center of technology, something they lost last decade, and there is an opportunity — whenever there is a change like this — to do that.”

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