Second Life To Transform Internet, Browser Tech By 2017
Mozilla's technologist predicts that in the next 10 years our avatars will attend virtual business meetings and chat with other shoppers as they browse for books in 3-D bookstores.
The virtual world phenomenon of Second Life will transform the Internet within the next 10 years, and the browser will have to change just as fast to keep up, said Mozilla's Window Snyder.
Snyder, who has the title of chief security something-or-other and oversees security for Mozilla's products, said in an interview that she went to a get-together in San Francisco recently that actually was a party within a party. There was a projection of the same party being held at the same time -- only it was going on in the 3-D virtual world of Second Life. Guests who couldn't make the real party attended the Second Life party. They were mingling and having drinks, all just like the live party guests.
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"It was very cool," said Snyder. "It was almost life size, so it was like having a window into another room. ... In 10 years, that's what the Web is going to look like."
Second Life is an open-ended 3-D virtual world that provides an online society where users can create and sell things, socialize, and participate in group activities. There are between 4 million and 5 million registered users but about 200,000 regular users. Second Life offers a first-person view of the virtual world. Users walk around as their avatars, which are virtual bodies -- ranging from the lifelike to the quite fanciful.
Snyder said in the not-so-distant future we'll all be attending virtual meetings instead of flying from office to office. Our avatars will sit around the virtual table with our colleagues' avatars and we'll be able to see how they communicate and interact with each other, just as if we were there in person. Business travel, telecommuting, and even the basic things people expect in day-to-day business will be affected.
"Instead of Web sites like we have now, we'll have 3-D representations in the virtual world," said Snyder, adding that users might walk through a 3-D online bookstore talking to other shoppers and clerk avatars. "We'll even program avatars to help customers with technical support."
The browser, though, will have to go through a lot of changes of its own to enable all of this. Snyder said she looks ahead to what Mozilla's open source browser Firefox might become.
First off, the industry will have to get rid of HTTP, a longtime communication protocol that enables Web browsing. It's simply outlived its usefulness, she said. Actually, she said it lived out its usefulness a while ago but technologists keep bending it to their will, instead of moving on to something else.
"Once upon a time, your browser was just text and images," said Snyder. "Now, it's incredibly rich and it has Java, ActiveX, and Ajax. Client-side applications are executing in your browser. It's already so far away from text and images. In 10 years, it will be more about this first-person avatar-based 3-D experience."
She added that the browser already is heading in this direction as the technology adapts to user-based content. Users are no longer going online just to shop on eBay or scan the news at CNN.com. They're receiving blog feeds, they're writing their own blogs, pushing out their own text, video, and images. YouTube is redefining the way people use the Internet, and browsers like Firefox need to feed that experience.
"The user content-based experience will continue to grow," said Snyder. "It will be our primary user experience instead of going to a few giant sites. The browser is adapting for that. Look at the extensions on Firefox that help you manage blogs, blog readers and videos. It's all part of the change."