Yo! I love this topic. In all the time i have been in secondlife (SL) i have been aware that there were alternatives to SL, but whenever i tried to open the door to them they were closed. I tried left-click I tried right-click. I gave up. It was clearly a place for nerds and linux types :) and i went back to the wonderful world of SL. And it is truly wonderful.
Recently more of my friends have been muttering alternatives to SL noises - in particular Inworldz and Avination so i have been looking around again. This time i found at least some of the doors open and even welcoming and i want to tell you about them - just in case you are in anything like the same position as me on all this stuff - curious and interested, but lost. It will be inaccurate and your worst source of definitive information so don't feel bad about stopping reading as soon as you start slapping your forehead with the palm of your hand :) And i will break all this down into easy to chomp morsels, always from the perspective of someone who knows SL and is curious about alternatives.
CONCEPT. Best place to start is prolly with a definition of the Metaverse from wikipedia - the Metaverse is our collective online shared space. The term was coined in Neal Stephenson's 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash, where humans, as avatars, interact with each other and software agents, in a three-dimensional space that uses the metaphor of the real world. Cool! I see where SL fits into this then.
WHERE DOES SL FIT. It is just a part of the metaverse. Keep imagining that the metaverse is a virtual real world, well then SL is like a continent on that real world. This means that there is a lot of space for more secondlifes. And there are.
WHO OWNS IT. No-one owns it. You can create your own part of the metaverse OR you can attach yourself to parts of it created by other people - such as SL, Inworldz and Avination (and many others). It can be very cheap (host your own virtual world on your puter) or expensive (own an island sim in SL $295/month).
DO YOU NEED SL TO ENJOY THAT PART OF THE METAVERSE. No. Plenty of other places do pretty much what SL does. However, depending what makes up your enjoyment of SL you may find that no other place does things as well as SL. So i'm not trying to find a replacement for SL, i'm just trying to add expand my metaverse.
WHY THE HYPE ABOUT SL THEN. SL do this part of the metaverse better than anyone and they are the biggest by far, and were for a long time and for a variety of reasons (not all bad) in a monopoly position for people like me wishing to explore the metaverse.
WHY THIS WHOLE THING IS CONFUSING. Same reasons as the real world. Why dont PCs and Macs talk together better. Why isn't their just one generic phone and computer recharger device. Why are some avatars gorgeous like me and other like Experiment and Charles just plain ugly? Because there is a battle for control and fame and fortune going on in the metaverse just like there is in real life. As wonderful as the internet is some of the exploitative parts of the capitalist model in real life working against real people, in particular lack of competition and monopolies, are at work in the metaverse. Many people are trying to nail down a part of the metaverse as their own and try and turn it into their own fat cash cow. DON'T LET EM. As much as i love ebay and amazon and google and apple and secondlife and facebook and twitter etc, we will all be better off when their is true competition in the parts of the internet that they dominate, so that they will continue to innovate and provide good value for the consumer.
CAN WE JUST BE CONTENT WITH SL. Sure we can. BUT. Linden Labs are controlling your experience of the metaverse (as is their right) when you choose to be in their part of it, SL. But, they do control you. They could let you teleport to inworldz and avination and a thousand other places if they wanted to. They could let you have 45000 prims instead of 15000. They could let you make a prim 256x256x256 instead of 10x10x10 if they wanted. They want a closed metaverse where they own your avatar, where they control what you can do with content created in SL, they want to promote their own currency and establish an economy free from true market forces (read this as inflate the value).
WHAT ARE WE TO DO THEN. Well my answer to my own questions is just to widen my experience a little. There are open source worlds out there, fledgling SL's, indie SL's and they all have something to offer in expanding your experience, and freedom of experience, in the metaverse and that is just what i am doing. I love and admire the vision of LindenLabs and SecondLife and never want to leave it, but the anarchist in me doesn't like to be controlled and manipulated so i'm off to explore.
Remember back at the start of this topic i said that i now felt that other doors to the rest of the metaverse were opening, well that's what the next post in this series will start to explore. Maybe, like me, you will be pleased to find them open now.
Thanks for reading.