Google has made its mark in the chat world with Lively, a new Virtual World for users to chat in. The service is most comparable to Second Life. Like Second Life, Lively is free (but does not offer any premium account options). Since its launch a few weeks ago, Lively as been the exact opposite of its title, dead. The majority of the chat rooms in Lively are devoted to dating, romance or sex; these rooms have a large number of users in them (can you say hello To Catch a Predator). Other than these rooms, Lively is deserted.
Lively allows users to create their own room and avatar. In your chat room you can place furniture and other objects for your users to get to know you. You have the options of making your room public or private and interactive or static. In interactive, users have the ability to move around the objects in your rooms.
I was curious about Lively, as it seems like 3D chat could be something that will eventually replace IRC or Internet Relay Chat in the near future. However, after spending five minutes attempting to create my room in Lively, I realized why it is so deserted. The service is so slow, and it takes such a long time to place a single object in your room. I cannot imagine setting up an entire room for people to chat in — it would take me the rest of 2008 just to set up things. Google, however, refused to admit defeat:
Google denies that it is beaten yet. Mark Young, a member of the Lively team, admits that it has a lot of problems: crashes, log-in difficulties and hard-to-read text. When asked what he hopes to tweak, he says: “Everything. Much of the user interface is not as complete or polished as planned in designs.” He promises a round of updates soon. But Lively also highlights a deeper problem: for all its might, Google’s efforts to diversify beyond its sole money-making business, web search, have yet to set the world-real or virtual-on fire.
If Google can make the interface much faster, then they might be able to attract a fan base; but rivaling Second Life is going to be a huge challenge for them. I say that Lively is no threat is IRC, however knowing Google, it could potentially rival Second Life. Lively has one thing that Second Life does not have; free service.
Are you a Second Life user? Have you tried Lively? I want to hear your opinions.