Kids, Virtual Words and the 3-D Internet

Last week I spoke to a reporter about 3-D mapping and whether it was a novelty or something that would become mainstream. In the short term it remains a novelty partly because of slow connection speeds and other technical issues. Virtual Earth 3-D and Google Earth are great but each in its own way is too cumbersome for day-to-day use. (But see this post re use of Google Earth as a travel site.)

Longer term, 3-D mapping and related 3-D or virtual worlds are going to be a definite feature of a next-generation Internet — or they will define the next generation Internet. So where’s the evidence? In a word: children.

There’s a post at GigaOM about dramatic growth at Gaia Online as well as other such youth/tween destinations such as Habbo Hotel and CyWorld (the US version is different than the Korean). There’s also the new virtual community BarbieGirls.com. And here’s another post from a VC (Lightspeed) that mentions some others, such as ClubPenguin.

SecondLife, which has garnered all the attention to date, may one day be seen as a forward looking but ultimately unsuccessful pioneer. Why? Because of timing. Most adults (including me) couldn’t be bothered to spend time in SecondLife. And there are indications that traditional marketers aren’t getting much value from being there, despite the literal land grab going on.

But fast forward about 7 years (give or take) and 3-D and virtual worlds are much more common and can be found on Internet-connected TVs too. Kids have been conditioned to prefer these environments — they’re social networks — to the flat, 2-D Internet and they’re exploding for all sorts of uses: entertainment, shopping, communication and so on.

If you think about it you can see that there’s a kind of inevitability about this as 3-D, gaming and social networking come together for casual users. But timing is the “X variable” here.

5 Responses to “Kids, Virtual Words and the 3-D Internet”

  1. nabeel hyatt Says:

    There is a direct example that may provide some direction as to the “X variable” of timing for these types of worlds. Korea largely lives in the type of world you are talking about, where a huge majority of the populous (80+% of teens) use 3D spaces like CyWorld and KartRider.

    This should not be surprising at it is largely tied to the tipping point of broadband penetration, and we lag Korea in broadband penetration. By how much? At our current rate of growth, about 19 months.

  2. 'Zwintopia' Launched by IAC « Screenwerk Says:

    […] a new virtual world from IAC coming out of its avatar site Zwinky. Here’s my previous post on why these virtual worlds, directed at kids, will likely mater later on for everyone doing […]

  3. 3D: The Next-Gen Internet « Screenwerk Says:

    […] Kids will expect more “immersive” and dynamic environments than exist today and higher bandwidth speeds will allow for progressively richer graphical environment (online and on TV). And, as with SecondLife, these worlds will be fundamentally social and about interaction — and eventually transactions. […]

  4. Gaming and the ‘3-D’ Internet « Screenwerk Says:

    […] And in the “I can’t write about everything category,” last week Disney bought kids’ “virtual world” Club Penguin for approximately $350 million. I wrote previously about Club Penguin and the “3-D Internet” here. […]

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