Google's Lively Seems Lifeless; Joins A Big List Of 3D Chat Providers

from the not-quite-a-virtual-world dept

We’re running a little experiment here with our discussion on Google’s new Lively offering. Two of us at Techdirt, Mike Masnick and Mike Ho, reacted quite differently to the announcement, so we’re each posting our own take (after sharing them with each other) and we’ll let everyone has out their thoughts in the comments. We’re hoping to work on a few more “debates” like this one in the near future. This is Mike Masnick’s post. Mike Ho’s post is here.

Google’s latest product launch, Google Lively is a 3D chat room offering that has plenty of people comparing it to Second Life, though in its initial version, it seems a lot closer to IMVU, a popular 3D chat solution that is apparently growing like mad. It’s really no different than your everyday chat room other than the fact that your text chat takes place in a 3D animated room with avatars who can do a few different pre-designated actions. The Google version requires a software download, but after that apparently will appear in a browser, meaning that it can be included as parts of any site. It’s still not clear what the actual advantage of such an offering is beyond traditional chat — or what sort of advantage Google may have in providing a similar solution to what’s already out there, beyond just the Google brand name. Perhaps there’s more to this offering, but at a first pass, this seems like a me-too effort by Google without any significant advantage (yet).

This isn’t say it won’t get usage, but I’m having trouble figuring out what about this is really all that useful compared to other solutions out there. Google’s successes all seem to be about a new and different take on something out there that makes is significantly more useful: Google search made search better, faster and cleaner. Gmail massively increased storage while providing a much cleaner, faster and more useful interface. Google Maps took the tired interface of internet mapping and made it (again) cleaner, faster and more useful. It’s not clear that Lively really does any of that. It requires a download, and seems to merely copy what else is already out there without a significant advantage over any of them. Perhaps people will use this just because it’s from Google — but it still seems like it should be more compelling then just adding 3D avatars to chat.

As for Mike Ho’s claims that this follows the same path as Gmail and Google Maps, I disagree. Both of those were instant sensations that attracted instant attention and usage do their differentiation. I also disagree with the assertion that Google is doing this just to add in contextual ads. While that may happen, contextual ads on chat seem a much more difficult proposition than on email, where there’s a lot more content. Plus, it’s difficult to see how ads would fit unobtrusively into such a scenario. Despite what some assert, Google doesn’t try to stick ads everywhere, knowing that too many ads will often upset users. Finally, it’s difficult to see how ads stuck into a synchronous process such as chat ad value. It would seem like they do more to detract value.

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Companies: google

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Comments on “Google's Lively Seems Lifeless; Joins A Big List Of 3D Chat Providers”

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Paul says:

The difference is clear

The ability to have it embedded into a website so that all someone has to do in order to get to your “3d chat room” is click a web browser favorite is huge and will introduce it to an entire corner of the market that was previously untapped.

The ease of accessibility is huge and will make a world of difference.

I will complete this remark with a bad analogy: This is like apple and the ipod, they took something that already existed, didn’t improve on it at all, but made it easier to use and hip to have. (the improvements came later after they dominated the market)

M says:

great idea, not quite "there" yet.

I love the idea of Lively and hope it grows to become the next step for online networking sites. However:

Lively suffers from the same problem(s) Second life suffers from: Slow loading and glitchy animation. Bear in mind I have an average computer with a slightly above average vid card, but I run WoW with no problems and it looks and plays beautifully. In a world full of fully online interactive animation Mona Lisa’s, I can’t get into the scribblings of the local third grade art show. Again, I love the idea of both SL and Lively but they have many problems to address before they’ll see me as a regular.

LP says:

You can't compare WoW with virtual worlds like SL, Lively.

What most people forget about WoW, as compared to SL or Lively, is that WoW is pre-rendered, for the most part. Buildings, flora, fauna, sky, etc…is already drawn, unlike SL and Lively (and more so SL) which have to constantly update their environments because most content is user-created. They can’t be as fast as WoW…and they probably never will be.

WoW is a different sort of experience and platform. It’s apples-and-oranges comparing it with SL/Lively.

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