Browsers, plugins and virtual world steps in the right direction

We have great conversations in the virtual world industry about mass adoption of virtual worlds and how that might happen. Usually all the barriers to adoption are human not technical. Social resistance of world x or practice y or risk z within a particular business or social community. Some of this is based on fear or on thinking there will be a lack of control. However in all this is the great saviour of mass adoption. “Oh thats OK it works in a browser, no special hardware/software/IT Policy/training/implementation… etc is going to be needed so lets just adopt it.”.
That of course is a fallacy, but none the less I will take adoption trigger wherever I can and the more avenues to enagage with a virtual world the better. Of course Facebook, blogs, Twitter, Youtube etc all run in a browser and require little effort to access them, but still those scared of a revolution in communication will want to block them just in case people waste time on them.
That said there have been some very interesting developments the past few weeks with browser integration and virtual worlds.
Second Life announced and let out its Media Plugin framework into the wild (and a much improved website for us residents too). For those who don’t get involved in the details at the moment Second Life is able to do various things with content from outside of the virtual world. 1. Play a quicktime movie on a surface using the quicktime installed on your computer (or stream audio) 2. Place a read only version of a webpage on a surface, 3. Make requests for data out into the ether that is the internet and respond to that data (That was how Wimbledon worked).
The new plugin architecture lets that principle of using quicktime become open to people that want to write new plugins that we can then all take advantage of and use accordingly. Hence we have seen demos of remote terminal with VNC already crop up.
It is interesting that this stops the Second Life client being an extra client on the desktop and starts to make it actually a Browser that does streaming 3D as well. Web browsers really are just collection of plugins that do various things, the most used plugin for graphics tends to be Flash, but as you will have noticed this is not a download free plugin anymore as constant updates are required.
As we all become more literate with updating plugins ( or plugin providers become more more lazy with permanent updates), and as plugins get validated or certified by more IT departments and virus checkers then the always on nature of the web means a plugin is not the issue it once was.
This video from AimeeTrescothick uses the test client for a plugin (rather than a deployed one) but it shows using VNC to remote access into other machines. An example that anything can be wrapped in a plugin and delivered onto a surface in Second Life.

All the example we are seeing tend to be flat, but with a little bit of work and thought we can texture any surface with any data and this may act as a way to bring content rendered on another platform in world at least for viewing and with some interaction without actually copying assets from one place to another and causing copyright issues. I demonstrated this with a live rendered video avatar placed onto a sphere back in March 2008. The aim being to show that even with simple video replace you can get deliver content across worlds live.
The other interesting report was that of the the 3Di opensim viewer in a browser. This time a plugin to a web browser to enable access to the virtual environment side by side with web content. This was covered on New World Notes, and is well worth an investigative look.
A whole host of plugins already exist (and more on the way) for browser ultra rich content, Unity3d, Torque3d, Flash.
Of course Web.alive, Metaplace, ProtonMedia, Forterra, Qwaq, Vastpark, and vanilla Opensim all provide various degrees of this too, some have plugins, some are plugins but the key is nothing is isolated. These are not supposed to be locked away structured game experiences, they provide live integration between people, experiences and data when they physically cant be together in a real space.
So we have an increasing number of technical implementations to show information, some of it 3d, in web browsers, in custom clients even on handhelds. We have network connectivity to allow live interactions between people in those environments. Clearly the more ways to access and interact the more likely people are to just do that.
So just as we have seen the open letter to your boss, and an open letter to your metaverse evangelist we need a very simple open letter to everyone.
Don’t be scared, it will be alright, you can benefit from this revolution.