The Web”s Second Life

By : |November 30, 2006 0

Prasanto Kumar Roy

In the last issue I wrote about the disruptive power of Search, the Web’s killer app. Everyone needs to Search. If there’s one thing that’s helped make the Internet useful, it’s the search engine. And it’s spilling over onto our desktops, networks, and enterprises.

But there are other killer apps and disruptive technologies helping shape Web 2.0.

The Blog is the most visible. Giving a voice to millions, it’s the new, democratic face of the Web. The jury is out on whether the blog will replace traditional media. People do like the expertise and filter of a credible news source, versus a thousand sites. But the blog is a force that will disrupt media. From CEOs to government officials to journalists, they’re all blogging, often saying what they cannot ‘officially’.

VoIP is another killer app for the Net. From Skype (and its competitors, and compatible products) to corporate apps, it’s helped rapidly shrink the world.

Micropayment takes my vote for tomorrow’s killer app, with Paypal et al taking first steps. Someday, soon, you’ll be able to click on something, and transparently, smoothly pay tiny amounts for content or services without entering enter numbers or IDs. This will drop the barrier to paid services on the Web.

But for now, the most disruptive new app on the Web looks like a game. The 3-D virtual world, seen at SecondLife.com or There.com. You register, and get a virtual avatar, a SecondLife, and become a ‘resident’ in a 3-D world that exists in servers run by Linden Lab. And you participate in a virtual economy-which is turning into a real marketplace.

One million ‘SL’ residents in October 2006, 1.5 million by December. They include key industry watchers and participants. IBM’s Sam Palmisano has an avatar in SecondLife. IBM hopes to sell systems, to power 3-D worlds; and consulting, on how to use them for marketing. For this, it plans to spend $100 million and set up a new organization.

Over 50 companies have established themselves in SL, including Reuters, with a virtual news desk and a full-time reporter assigned to SL; Sony BMG, and Reebok. There are car-makers who test-launch virtual versions of new models in SL.

Virtual worlds exist in gaming. But this is different. Here, you interact and talk to live people, in a crossover of cyber fantasy and reality. You test drive a car; buy products and services with virtual dollars (or real ones, if you use your credit card); meet strangers; have heated discussions; even start a business, raise funds, get virtually married, or have sex.

They don’t draw the hype of the dot com boom days. Yet these technologies and apps are quietly but rapidly shaping the Web, giving it a second life. One that, unlike the dot com boom, will long endure.

Source: Dataquest

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