By David Cassel
It's like a science fiction story. Your avatar escapes Second Life, and prowls the internet, exploring new worlds and splurging its Second Life Linden currency on other online products.
It hits the other virtual worlds — World of Warcraft? Quake? Maybe it'll even stomp through Google Earth.
It won't happen today, but the first step was just taken: a call for interoperability.
Today Second Life and IBM announced they're developing an open standard for avatars that would let them roam from world to world. And according to the New York Times, it won't be just these two companies. After the announcement, the two companies held discussions with the biggest names in the industry at a virtual worlds conference in San Jose — including Google, Cisco, Sony, Intel, Microsoft, and Motorola.
They report that IBM's VP of virtual world technology, Colin Parris, laid out the case for interoperability. "Now, for every world I touch I have to build an avatar," he told conference attendees. "It's an obstacle to the development and spread of virtual worlds, both in the consumer and corporate space."
But not everyone's optimistic. "Such a virtual passport system may be years away," Reuters warned, "if it doesn't first fall prey to the kind of conflicting interests that occasionally bog down efforts to draw up standards in the fast-changing technology industry." IBM's Parris hopes to focus on the most promising niches for online avatars first, according to the article. "The nuts and bolts of how to make different software work together will come later."
Ultimately the years to come will see businesses and web developers grappling with two important about the future of the internet.
With limited hours in a day, can virtual worlds be made to be just as compelling as alternatives in the real world?And perhaps more importantly — will people feel comfortable shopping there?