For being part of a generation that has grown up with online games,books, stories and movies about virtual worlds and moving at the "speedof the Net", it seems like it is taking quite a bit of time to get tothe idea of having such a world in common use (and hopefully not adystopic vision like that in The Matrix). I get the feeling we arelooking so far ahead that we are not focusing on taking the stepsinvolved in getting there.
Most of the mainstream media (books & movies) still focus on the 3Dworld, because obviously it's cool to imagine an alternate reality thatyou can actually move around. Even games tend toward that directionbecause it is the environment that can more easily excite people. Theyall talk about having a persona that moves and interacts with thisworld and the other personas in it. In fact, in the Matrix, the worldis so real, it is the "real world" as we know it; it's only when youunderstand the actual world of the Matrix behind it that you can dointeresting things like defying gravity.
The truth is probably a little depressing. Most of the virtual worldthat we know as the Web is 2D; in fact, by just a guesstimate, I'd sayover 98% of all the info we have online is in text. I also think for along time to come, the virtual world will still be overwhelminglytext-based for decades to come. To get to that futuristic vision asportrayed in the media, a lot of work behind the scenes still needs tohappen.
Ten steps (not in order) to get to virtual worlds:
- Establish ubiquitous individual identities or online personas.
- Enable personas with actions they can do (e.g., create content, initiate contact/discover others, exchange information, etc.)
- Enable personas to categorize, aggregate, identify, mark or otherwise "control" the information around them (i.e. tagging)
- Define "homes" or bases where each persona exists and controls.
- Establish Reputations - enable rankings or ratings on personas, based on what others think of their interactions with them
- Allows personas to "move freely" across system boundaries, or export their personas or info about them
- Establish online economies (virtual valuation, and common exchange rates, around fixed not unlimited valuations)
- Establish domains and guidelines of how they operate (i.e., online "cities", and proper governance of these cities)
- Global accessiblity to the persona or personas you control, using any device
- Actual visualization of the personas, their homes and the domains they live in (yes 3D worlds)
Don't get me wrong: in limited areas, most of these properties alreadyexist. In particualr I'm talking about online games and MMORPGs.However, they are limited in the sense that they create a separatefictitious world that you have to apply your context to. In otherwords, yes, it's make believe, which is also why it is fun. Also theyare limited in the sense they exist almost entirely within their owndomain. You don't see characters moving outside a game like Everquestand moving onto World of Warcraft; or even any reason or correlation todo so.
In terms of people and businesses however, the information is real (notartifically created to role-play) and pervasive across wherever you go.The good news is that some of these items are already starting tohappen, as you can see per what Newsweek describes as The Living Web.What's more, these personas are a limited thing. My belief is thatpeople in general do not want to have to maintain multiple personas,for the same reason, people do not really want to have to keep track ofmultiple email accounts.
So there you have it. There's much work to do in the middle to get to pervasive virtual worlds.