Google gets Lively

Google’s recently launched its own virtual world: Lively. The announcement was posted on the Official Google Blog earlier this month. So I’m a little late in finding it, but that means that other blogs and commentators have covered the basics and we can dig a little.

What is it? It’s not by some distance a full competitor to Second Life. Instead it’s aimed to be simple to get into, and relatively easy to use. It’s a 3-D representation of a string of chat rooms, not a full virtual world. You can create your own real estate, but it’s limited to a room. There aren’t all that many things you can customise. And at most 20 people can be in a room at once: no IBM WorldJams here!

Gartner believe it’s aimed at Facebook and MySpace, not SecondLife; and you can (for the moment at least) read Gartner’s admittedly brief comment in full on the website, even without an account. There’s a key thing that they highlight, which is that Lively rooms can be embedded in other websites and blogs. You can’t do that with SecondLife. The gadgets you create in your Lively room can also run on your desktop, Google say. You can’t do that with SecondLife, either.

As Gartner say, it breaks little new ground in virtual world technology. It’s based, at least partly, on research carried out at Arizona State University, but reading between the lines it looks as if this research was into the social side (what will attract users?) rather than the technology.

Forrester cover Lively in more detail (but you’ll need an account). They broadly agree with the points above, that it’s “aiming for a more mainstream, social, and multiapplication audience” – it’s more “Small World” than SecondLife, and its ties to other social networking tools (including Facebook and, of course, the Open Social platform) are important. Forrester’s coverage is aimed mainly at consumer marketing people, and they list a number of markers to track over the coming months to aid decision making.

What is clear is that Lively is designed specifically not to be self contained. It’s going to encourage movement to and from the standard desktop, integrating Lively into all sorts of other things people already do. And there’s one possibility which this raises, which I haven’t seen anyone comment on.

This feature just might turn out to be one to take virtual worlds into the everyday enterprise as well as the consumer arena. If it’s easy to embed a virtual room in, say, an internal meeting database then global companies might finally see the value.

Be who you want on the web pages you visit (official Google blog)
Facebook Is the Real Target of Google’s Virtual World (Gartner, 10 July 2008 )
Lively: Google Enters The Virtual Worlds Space (Forrester Research, 15 Jul 2008 )

There’s a ton of commentary on the web. Just put “Google Lively” into Google!