While I am intrigued by virtual worlds like Second Life, I still find there are real barriers to using it.
First, the Second Life learning curve is steep and, in my limited experience with it, intimidating to novice users. You have to invest a lot of time before you can do even the most rudimentary of tasks. Why Second Life needs a credit card when you create an account is off-putting (but this may have changed since I created my account a year and a bit ago). The Griefers on Second Life also seem particularily unpleasent when compared to the Trolls you find in other online communities. And finally, I do not like downloading and installing client-side app’s on my PC. I much prefer to have my virtual experiences in the familiar enclave of the browser.
The browser based virtual world is one of the reasons Metaplace looks promising to me. Similar to the (now defunct) Lively by Google, Metaplace is a browser based virtual environment. While it looks a bit cartoonish, some have already begun to wonder about the possibilities that Metaplace has educational potential as a browser based virtual environment.
I appreciate the user-friendly language Metaplace is using on their website to describe the service: It’s not just for techies anymore — it’s for everyone who uses the Web today. Sounds to me like the goal of the Metaplace developers is to lower that steep learning curve that so many novice Second Lifer’s experience.
While the options for creating your world will be fairly limited when compared to Second Life, it looks like you will be able to pull and push content from other sources into and out of your Metaworld virtual environment, which leads to all kinds of mashup possibilities.
I have not tried Metaplace as they are currently in private beta right now. I’ve signed up and am now playing the waiting-to-be-asked-to-the-dance game. Hopefully I’ll be able to take Metaplace for a spin because it looks like a promising tool. Here’s the video.
Photo credits: Second Life: For all your WTF moments by Torley. Used under Creative Commons license.