Second Life teleporting

How (and if) we might be able to travel freely between virtual worlds is already the source of some

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.

Iain Simons writes, talks and tweets about videogames and technology. His new book, Play Britannia, is to be published in 2009. He is the director of the GameCity festival at Nottingham Trent University.
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Emmanuel Macron offers Theresa May no comfort on Brexit

The French presidential candidate warned that he would not accept "any caveat or any waver" at a press briefing in London.

Emmanuel Macron, the new wunderkind of French politics, has brought his presidential campaign to London. The current favourite to succeed François Hollande has a natural electoral incentive to do so. London is home to 300,000 French voters, making it by France's sixth largest city by one count (Macron will address 3,000 people at a Westminster rally tonight). But the telegenic centrist also took the time to meet Theresa May and Philip Hammond and to hold a press briefing.

If May hoped that her invitation would help soften Macron's Brexit stance (the Prime Minister has refused to engage with his rival Marine Le Pen), she will have been left disappointed. Outside No.10, Macron declared that he hoped to attract "banks, talents, researchers, academics" away from the UK to France (a remark reminiscent of David Cameron's vow to "roll out the red carpet" for those fleeing Hollande). 

At the briefing at Westminster's Central Hall, Macron quipped: "The best trade agreement for Britain ... is called membership of the EU". With May determined to deliver Brexit, he suggested that the UK would have to settle for a Canadian-style deal, an outcome that would radically reduce the UK's market access. Macron emphasised that he took a a "classical, orthodox" view of the EU, regarding the "four freedoms" (of people, capital, goods and services) as indivisible. Were Britain to seek continued financial passporting, the former banker said, it would have to make a significant budget "contribution" and accept continued immigration. "The execution of Brexit has to be compliant with our interests and the European interest".

The 39-year-old avoided a nationalistic tone ("my perspective is not to say France, France, France") in favour of a "coordinated European approach" but was unambiguous: "I don't want to accept any caveat or any waver to what makes the single market and the EU." Were the UK, as expected, to seek a transitional arrangement, it would have to accept the continued jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

Elsewhere, Macron insisted that his liberal economic stance was not an obstacle to his election. It would be fitting, he said, if the traditionally "contrarian" France embraced globalisation just as its counterparts were rejecting it. "In the current environment, if you're shy, you're dead," he declared. With his emotional, straight-talking approach (one derided by some as intellectually threadbare), Macron is seeking to beat the populists at their own game.

But his views on Brexit may yet prove academic. A poll published today showed him trailing centre-right candidate François Fillon (by 20-17) having fallen five points since his denunciation of French colonialism. Macron's novelty is both a strength and a weakness. With no established base (he founded his own party En Marche!), he is vulnerable to small swings in the public mood. If Macron does lose, it will not be for want of confidence. But there are unmistakable signs that his forward march has been halted. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.