IBM searches the path to the 3D Web of the future. The current initiative tries to make the borders between virtual worlds more transparent and allow avatars to move between worlds. But what IBM really searches are the standards, which unify the Web of the future like HTTP and HTML did for the current Web. To let avatars hop between worlds is nice. You can keep users occupied a very long time by selling them clothes and items, with chat and you can earn much money with gimmicks and vitual gadgets. This is great for MTV, for entertainment and game companies, but not the way of IBM.
What IBM really wants is the business foundation of the future. Today IBM earns money with consulting and services based on Open and Web technologies: HTTP, XML, Java, Linux. Wanted is the architecture of the next net. Not at the level of bits, fiberptics and routers, but at the level that users see, where they click and navigate, where they spend their time, how they work, communicate, design, and create value.
What used to be AOL, Compuserve, Minitel, and BTX are todays virtual worlds. They where closed and separated worlds of content. Then came the Internet to end users in the form of the Web. The Web was simpler, distributed, without a central control like a grass roots movement. But more important: you can create and claim private spaces, which you can control entirely for the benefit of your business. There is no need to put services or content on other people's servers. You can set up your own services and they become part of the Web. The base technologies are simple and extensible. It was easy to learn, to accumulate know how, to create services, and sell them to business customers, who in turn produce the products we all consume.
IBM is looking for the base technologies for the next level. A 3D Web in which we can live and work. A 3D Web which is based on simple, extensible technologies. A distributed 3D Web without limits for businesses.
At the risk of repeating myself: this foundation is a combination of
- virtual presence with a
- unique location mapping,
- distributed storage for user identities
- including avatars from different words and
- multiprotokol clients, which
- allow users to move between
- distributed rooms of a 2D/3D Web from
- simple chat rooms on Web pages to
- regions of virtual worlds.
The effort to connect the Linden grid with an IBM grid is mainly driven by the need to protect assets and secure communication. Not a simple process in the Linden-derived technology base and definitely worth a press release when achieved. But the same would be much easier based on a established distributed messaging standard (e.g. XMPP, but not necessarily) combined with location mapping and distributed identity storage. Simple, not as sophisticated 3D-wise. But sophistication will come. Simple, distributed, extensible, partially ownable is the key now.