You might not have been aware of it, but the borders came down in the Metaverse last week. Staff at IBM and Linden Labs (makers of Second Life) claim to have made the first successful teleportation of an avatar between two separate virtual worlds using the Open Grid Protocol, a draft standard to make interoperability possible.
Whilst the documentation of the event might seem less than world-shattering, the implications are hugely important. The concept of an open standard across virtuality is a tantalizing one, enabling avatars to pass freely through multiple worlds whist maintaining their persistent individuality.
How (and if) we might be able to travel freely between virtual worlds is already the source of some amusing hypotheses which may now be made real before we anticipated.
The real challenges of course lie not just in technically moving data between worlds, but with import / export legislation, relative exchange rates and virtual immigration policies.
What happened last week was an interesting technology demo, stimulating philosophical flourish and a great first step towards open standards in an area of the internet often overlooked as needing them.
Also, it was good news at a time when Linden really needs some, after a good run of being the virtual world it’s ok to talk about at dinner parties, Second Life is starting to stagnate.
Problems with core stability have continued to plague it, it’s visionary figurehead has moved from his CEO position and it continues to struggle with its biggest challenge - protecting the intellectual property of its residents. As one of the purest manifestations yet of a knowledge economy, it’s essential that they can find ways of preserving these assets. Without residents feeling total confidence that the things they make are enforceably theirs the value of Second Life - economically at least - is eradicated.