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October 12, 2007

Oh bondage, up yours!

The announcement this week about the collaboration between Linden Lab and IBM to produce open, standards-based interoperability between virtual worlds has been widely heralded this week.  Quite right too.

IBM and Linden Lab plan to work together on issues concerning the integration of virtual worlds with the current Web; driving security-rich transactions of virtual goods and services; working with the industry to enable interoperability between various virtual worlds; and building more stability and high quality of service into virtual world platforms.

This is a potentially significant development and one that will help to move us away from the current situation of being bound to particular virtual worlds in terms of the investment we make in them.

I'm less sure that I share the general excitement around being able to move my avatar between different worlds seamlessly - I probably won't be exploring Eduserv Island with my World of Warcraft avatar any time soon, even if it was technically possible - but the increased flow of content and the opening up of micro-payment based commerce does strike me as being very beneficial, not just to virtual worlds but to the Web in general.

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Comments

Totally with you on this. Raph Koster has been making some sceptical lip-sucking sounds about this from the point of view of moving avatars and "inventory" from world to world (http://www.raphkoster.com/2007/10/10/interoperability/) and whilst I know pretty much nothing about the whole area I do think he's worth paying attention to (though he's not against the whole thing by any means). As you point out, though, some degree of interoperability could be enormously valuable in terms of improving our chances of getting a return on investment, by giving us more exit strategies to choose from. The concern that we are tying ourselves into closed systems has undoubtedly deterred some museums from making this investment, and I presume this is as true for HE/FE institutions too.
One more corollary is that I expect that (once a standard is in place and the market matures) the authoring tools will improve immensely, and everyone will find it easier to build stuff that can be readily ported to multiple environments, at least compared to now. Perhaps this is already easier than I think, but somehow I doubt it.

Congrats on a blog post title that will trip every content filter on three continents.

lol. OK, I'd better 'fess up. The post title was a challenge set by my colleague Pete Johnston in an email exchange we were having with Brian Kelly and a few others about the use of song titles as blog titles.

And I didn't really expect Andy to rise to the bait... A case of "be careful what you wish for" ;-)

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