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Virtual Worlds and Google Sketchup

Posted in: Cyberspace, Software

The Scobleizer’s been raving about Second Life for some time now. I’ve been less than enthusiastic because to me Second Life has always been the CompuServe of online 3D worlds: interesting but ultimately proprietary and therefore ripe for being replaced by an standards-based competitor (much as the Web replaced CompuServe). Like Joshua Allen says, a virtual world should provide a single seamless virtual environment that’s not provided by any single vendor.

Today Google released a product that makes me wonder if they have any intentions to enter the virtual worlds biz. They released a product called SketchUp that lets users create 3D models. There’s a free version available for all and Google will warehouse your models for you. You can even download items into Google Earth.

What stops Google from offering a virtual-earth.google.com that is essentially a coordinate space for users to populate with their models? Well, creating 3D models is much harder than creating a webpage but much, much easier than creating a system that can handle and render a distributed virtual world (here’s a good FAQ on the subject). However, given the large number of PhDs who populate Google it wouldn’t be unreasonable to believe that they have made some progress on this.

Another possibility is that Google will eschew the distrib