Rambling, thoughts and profundities on the subject of security and privacy in Web 2.0 and in particular Virtual Universes technologies. Occasionally I might diverge at bit.


VW2008: Virtual Worlds 2008 in New York City

I attended the VW2008 as a ramp turd (that's a term from Snowcrash, look it up) at the end of the last day because it was really really expensive and I couldn't get anyone to pay it for me including myself. The idea was to hang out outside the conference itself and try to meet the people I wanted to meet outside. In the end, it turned out that the expo area was open to the public so I browsed the stalls and was able to chat with some of the vendors who were there. So this is my mini conference report, even though I missed  all of the real action, which happened in the lecture halls. I'm sure someone else will be blogging about the key talks - apparently the OpenSource talk was one that would go down in history as significant.
I noticed the Sheep first, though with the lounge setup I wasn't sure w
hat they were presenting except themselves (which should be enough for them anyway). What was described as Icarus Studios on the plan was sort of a meta stall with a number of smaller vendors including Vivox. Not being that much into voice in VWs I plowed on. I spent some time with the Freggers guy, trying to explain why I was less than thrilled by the lack of first person camera mode. He was adamant that his system was accessible for the general public and though sceptical, I don't think I can speak for the general public :-) What was interesting for me what that Freggers was a German company (I picked up on his accent immediately) and this was a pattern that was to repeat itself.
Right opposite Freggers was IBM and I obviously had to drop by there. I picked up a nicely done leaflet titled the "Emergence of the 3-D Internet" a title that I totally disagree with, though I have no problem with the rest of the content. (I just don't like the term 3-D internet because I think it is misleading.) IBM is very prominent in the VW space (I may hav
e had a little to do with that when I was still with IBM) but it may not be clear what IBM is actually doing. Looking past all of its involvement in OpenSim, in its own internal VWs that no one usually sees, I think what they are really doing is creating a business market for VWs. While I'm not sure if IBM will be able to capitalize on this market that they are creating, it will be doing everyone a big favor and we should be grateful for what they are doing for us all. Any large company, IBM included, moves really slow, but it is great that IBM leadership has the wisdom to allow small groups of visionaries to press far ahead of the pack despite all the risks that this involves, especially the risk that this small group will be so far ahead of the rest that they wont be able to get the rest of IBM up to speed when the market is 'there'. 
ActiveWorlds was there,  the Avatar Island folks, Millions of Us, Habbo, Multiverse and others were there, too. I was running out of time, so I skipped them all as I kinda know what they do. I was told that MyCosm had some interesting ideas so I headed over that way, but all the techies were tied up and I wasn't able to talk to them. So I put myself on the beta list and I'll see what happens. What I do know about them (from hearsay) is that it is an Australian company and that they seem to be concentrating on the middleware aspect of VWs and less on the UI, although they have that as well. I'm sure that makes them very interesting for companies like IBM.
I passed by Weblin, where they were bringing the feeling of presence that we cherish in the VW to the flat, 2-D world of the browser. It is somewhat similar to Flock and it would be interesting to use the two side-by-side for a while to see which one works the best for me. However, it is a different sort of social browser I should point out. I would call Weblin an active social browser and Flock a passive one. What Weblin does is to add the avatars that are currently on the same web page as yours are to the bottom of the page and allows you to chat with them. It looks quite funky, but I can see how flock might be more practically useful as finding yourself on the same page at the same time as an avatar you really want to talk to may be a hit-or-miss proposition. I like the idea of the animated avatars on the web page as it could lead to the integration of the web with VWs at some point. Unfortunately, it is Windows only so I am going to have to wait until I can find a Windows machine.
It turned out that Weblin is a German company. Freggers is too. I constantly heard German and French being spoken amongst the participants. It looks like Europe will be playing an increasingly important role in VWs, perhaps because a greater proportion of the population has high-speed Internet access and is well-off enough to afford the services.
After the conference, we headed over to the Metaverse Meetup at the Lit Lounge in the East Village. Annie Ok had organized it and we had a great time. Many of the Metarati were there and although I wasn't able to meet everyone I was hoping to, it was great to see those I did in person. (I finally caught up with Annie, Yeah!) Being bound by the Metro North train schedule, I had to leave earlier than I would have wanted, but I was flagging a bit anyway as I had had a tough week at university. 
Like many people at the meetup, I wasn't able to attend the actual VW2008 conference because it was just too expensive. Although we compensated by doing our own socializing, it would have been nice if the conference was significantly cheaper. It does sound like a good conference, though and maybe next year I'll be able to scrounge up the money.


Christine said...

Hi Morton, here is Christine from weblin.
You do not need to wait for a Windows machine anymore, try out http://lite.weblin.com .
This is not the full client version but it also works for Mac and Linux. Just type in the URL you want to surf to and enjoy social browsing as a weblin :-)

Thx for your post and mentioning weblin!

Morton Swimmer said...

Thanks for the tip, Christine! I'll check it out.
- Sifu