Blogger: Craig Roth
In "Avatars Teleport Away From Second Life", Don Clark of the WSJ's "Business Technology" blog described how an experiment to teleport an avatar out of Second Life into another world (based on an IBM implementation of the open source OpenSimulator project) was successful. It's worth noting that this was from one test grid to another and only involved the avatar, not any items, script, or currency.
To me, this is a nice stunt. It gets attention for its sci-fi undertones, but doesn't address the real barriers to mobility in virtual worlds, nor does it do much to address disgruntled Second Life residents. From a technical point of view, if someone knows the data structures that define an avatar in Second Life, and knows the same structures in OpenSim (which is open source and publicly available), it should just be a relatively simple matter of programming to enact a transformation, transmission, create (on OpenSim), and delete (in Second Life). That also assumes the two structures are compatible, which they apparently aren't entirely since clothing doesn't transfer (The Terminator got it right 25 years in advance!).
Clearly the problem to be solved is not technological. It is a morass of issues such as:
- Legal: How can intellectual property be protected when it can be infinitely copied and transferred (like with unprotected digital music and movies)?
- Business: Does openness or proprietary lock-in provide a better business model?
- Economic: If worlds have different ease and cost of content creation and pricing, how will virtual arbitrage impact the fortunes of residents and the business models of the content creators?
- Design and development: If each world has to support a lowest common denominator for items and avatars, how will metaverses differentiate themselves and incrementally improve?
These issues can all be addressed over time. For example, maybe the business issues can be handled by charging a fee to travel from one metaverse to the other, just like flying from Chicago to Salt Lake City (two very different worlds) today cost me $600.
For residents of Second Life who are developing content they want to protect and extend, the philosophical issues don't matter. What matters is whether Linden Lab will push this forward. According to the company, "Linden Lab sees interoperability as essential for virtual worlds to reach their full potential." But about when this will be possible for regular residents they say "We don’t know exactly. We’re working toward that goal but we’re still very much in the experimental phase."
Clearly the "virtual movers" scenario I depicted in my Enterprise3 conference presentation on Enterprise Virtual worlds (see slide below) is still too far off.