[…] I’ve been banging the metaverse and Second Life meets Google Earth drum for a while and have the opportunity to talk about it at Where 2.0 coming up real soon. The talk is called “Second Life and Google Earth Mashups: Virtual Worlds Meet Geospace.” Great discussion here. It’s all going in the talk! :) Now I’m perfectly happy to be your avatar for that, ha, so speak through me. What else do you think I should be saying there?
One thing that occured to me is that while we know exactly what the Earth looks like, we are still a long way off from knowing what the best of all possible virtual worlds is, from a user perspective. Though we may not know what the answer is yet, we are definitely beginning to agree on the questions we need to ask in order to find out.
[In the rest of the post I list some of those questions that have been asked recently, and ask whether the answers might not depend on personal preferences.]
(Caveat: Some or all of this may already have been covered in the metaverse roadmap summit, which I only read up on cursorily. If so, please call me on it.)
Questions that have been asked recently: How much Gaussian curvature? (positive = sphere, 0 = plane, negative = hyperbolic) What kind of topology? (regular like a grid, clustered or loopy) Centralized like MySpace or distributed like web servers? Libertarian or authoritarian when it comes to trust? These questions concern some fundamental parameters for virtual worlds, and I’m sure there are many more such questions — together, they might define a kind of taxonomy of possible worlds, of which a subset is viable, of which a further subset is actually built, and of which a final subset achieves a critical mass of popularity.
For Google Earth, some of these parameters are already fixed. But even different virtual Earths can have different answers to those other questions if/when they become metaverses.
Perhaps niche metaverse formats will develop, just as with community sites on the web for likeminded people today. Perhaps it turns out different people have different tastes in metaverses, just as they have different tastes in music. Or perhaps one’s metaversal preference will come to have more political overtones — esoteric and abstract vs. anti-intellectual; prone to producing commonses and thus the opportunity to learn positive sum games, or not; where cells have lots of neighbors, or few; where penalties for misbehaviour are harsh, or lenient.
Maybe metaverses will evolve to meet their users’ needs over time (or needs may change). Second Life appears to be doing this with their constant point upgrades. In this case, those metaverses that can adapt the fastest will thrive, which gives the advantage to the best-written underlying code.