What’s the difference between Linden Lab’s (SAI 25 #11) Second Life and Lively, the new virtual world announced by Google?
How much time do you have? Second Life requires its own software and needs a PC equipped with a high-end graphics card; Lively runs in a Web browser. In Second Life, anyone with a little programming know-how can create anything, which makes the experience “fun”; in Lively, avatars decorate their virtual hangouts with objects from an inventory provided by Google’s (GOOG) engineers and approved developers. If you can meet the hardware requirements, Second Life runs on Windows, Mac, or Linux; so far, Lively only works on Vista and XP. (Look into that, Google.)
We learned about the biggest difference, though, by reading this interview with Mel Guymon, Google’s Head of 3D Operations: Second Life is a land of do-as-you please, and many Second Life visitors like to do things that they won’t be able to do in Lively — like have virtual sex: “Google has a pretty strong reputation–they know we’re not going to be putting porn in there–and they’re looking at it and thinking it’s a safe place to enter.”
Obviously, there’s commercial upside to having a PG — or at least a PG-13 — environment at Lively. But we’d argue that it cuts both ways. There are lots of people engaged in grown-up behaviour at Second Life because lots of people like to engage in grown-up behaviour. And limiting what people want to do in a virtual world seems like a good way to discourage them from showing up at the first place.
Very early on, Second Life decided against having a “red light district.” Instead, Linden limited its service to the 18-and-over crowd, and then took a largely laissez-faire approach to content. It seems like there ought to be a reasonable way to split the difference — perhaps one all-ages room, and one for grown-ups. Kind of like the real world.
See Also: Google: Louisville, KY Is The Most Obscene City In The U.S.
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