I’m at the Virtual Worlds 2008 conference in New York City, participating in the enterprise track – a series of panel discussions about topics like enterprise apps for virtual worlds, virtual worlds for information and knowledge management professionals (I was fortunate to be able to moderate that panel – which ran over by more than 30 minutes due to a hopping Q&A session), open source virtual worlds, and virtual worlds and corporate security. I’ve also had lots of conversations with other attendees during breaks. Over and over I kept hearing participants in the enterprise track asking questions about standards and interoperability with regard to everything from servers to clients (we like the term “engagers,” which is more active than terms like “browser” or “viewer”) to avatars and other 3D content to entire virtual worlds. Lots of people have been posing direct challenges to vendors and representatives of open source projects. I’ve seen a really big difference in the responses to these questions from heavy open source proponents vs. those of other vendors.
- The open source players are all about open standards and virtual world interoperablity. OpenSim and realXtend are two open source projects working feverishly toward an interoperable Web3D. For a good write-up of realXtend’s efforts see the Ugotrade.com blog posts “realXtend’s Vision For Open Worlds: Interview With Juha Hulkko” and “Evolution of OpenSim: RealXtend Joins OpenSim.” Qwaq and Sun Microsystems sell products that are based on open source technologies. All of these vendors and projects are taking aggressive steps toward standards, with a strong focus on virtual world interoperability.
- Other vendors are showing signs of digging their heels in. I heard representatives from vendors like Linden Lab, Multiverse, and Proton Media address concerns about lack of standards and interoperability with comments like: “There is insufficient market demand for it yet. We are waiting for specific paying customers to tell us they want integration between our offering and specific other offerings” or “There is no reason to take an avatar created in one virtual world into another virtual world – in fact that’s laughable” or “We are at too early a stage in this market to focus on standards. We don’t know yet which standards will prevail.”
I’m more convinced than ever that it’s the open source community — especially if it gets help from influential vendors like IBM and Sun — that will lead the way toward standards and interoperability in Web3D. For more thoughts about this keep an eye out for the upcoming Forrester report “Web3D: The Next Major Internet Wave.”