IBM, Linden Lab Team to Make Virtual Worlds More Business-Friendly

IBM and Linden Lab will collaborate to enhance the 3D Internet.

Since this story was originally posted, it has been updated to include an additional comment from Colin Parris, vice president, Digital Convergence, IBM.

IBM and Linden Lab, creator of the popular virtual world Second Life, this week announced a partnership under which the two companies will work to develop open-standards based technologies and methodologies to enhance the Internet's various virtual worlds and build interoperability between them.

The popularity of virtual worlds like Second Life has raised awareness of the "3D Internet," and many businesses and organizations are beginning to wade into the new waters to see what benefits can be had. However, the virtual world hosts, application providers and IT vendors involved in building and expanding such worlds need to offer standards-based solutions in order to ensure interoperability in the future, according to IBM.

IBM in Linden Lab's Second Life
IBM in Second Life

"As the 3D Internet becomes more integrated with the current Web, we see users demanding more from these environments and desiring virtual worlds that are fit for business," said Colin Parris, vice president, Digital Convergence, IBM, in a press release. "IBM and Linden Lab's working together can help accelerate the use and further development of common standards and tools that will contribute to this new environment."

Specifically, the companies plan to work toward integration of virtual worlds with the current Web, as well as improved interoperability between worlds, increased security for transactions and more reliable, high quality platforms.

IBM and Linden Lab will address the following five areas as part of their collaboration.

"Universal" Avatars

Universal avatars, or universal virtual world identities, would enable users of Second Life to seamlessly traverse between other worlds while maintaining the same name and appearance, as well as the same virtual assets, according to the companies

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Security-Rich Transactions

IBM and Linden Lab plan to work together on requirements for standards-based software that will help secure online transactions between users in and across various virtual worlds. Such standards would help users safely buy or sell digital assets, such as media and music, from users in their own or other worlds.

Platform Stability

In order for businesses and other organizations to trust that virtual worlds are reliable, the platforms behind such sites must be strengthened and stabilized, according to IBM and Linden Lab. The user interfaces must be simplified to draw a wider base of users, and response time for interactions must also be improved.

Integration With Existing Web and Business Processes

Businesses looking to get the most out of virtual worlds will demand platforms that can seamlessly connect and interact with existing business applications and databases. IBM and Linden Lab see this interoperability between virtual worlds and systems as a crucial development on the path to industry wide acceptance of the 3D Internet as a business tool.

Open Standards for Interoperability With the Current Web

The two companies will work together to develop open source, interoperable formats and protocols for building and enhancing virtual worlds. IBM and Linden lab believe such open standards will lead to users of virtual worlds travelling back and forth between worlds like current Web surfers bounce from website to website.

"At IBM, we believe there is significant promise far beyond today's usage of virtual worlds--the next evolutionary phase of the Internet," Parris said. "[J]ust as the first graphical interface for the Internet gave rise to e-business, 3-D online environments (and the highly social experiences they offer) will open up many new avenues for commerce, education, science, the public sector and other fronts for societal innovation."

Information about the development roadmap for the Second Life Grid is available from the Linden Lab Architecture Working Group website and information about the grid itself can be found on the Second Life Grid website.

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