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You may already know that Google is shutting down Lively at the end of the year. Google blogged about it here, and the Associated Press reported it here, and Vint Falken talks about it here.

So, what went wrong? It’s very tempting to judge Google from the point of view of a Second Life resident, but of course most people aren’t Second Life resis, so I have to ask myself the question “Is it really fair to judge Lively’s doom based on my experience of a much richer virtual world?”

Of course it is! At least in my opinionated little reality, anyway. 🙂

I tried Lively once, and although I managed to make my avatar and get into a room and move around and talk to people, I didn’t really find anything there that would make me want to go back again at all (until today, when I decided to take another screen shot). So I’m really not an expert on Lively, but I can at least say what was different. For me, it comes down to having only a little control over how I look and what I can do, and feeling kind of boxed in. Oh, and the rudeness levels seem much higher, maybe because people feel much less invested in and responsible for the world (see picture).

How do I teleport away from these kinds of people?

I don’t know if that boxed in feeling is because it runs in a window on a Web page or because you can only go to rooms and not wander from place to place or because when I move or look I keep getting intrusive little icons popping up all around me, but Lively felt like a place where I was choosing from menus all the time, instead of a place where I could just *be*.

I don’t mean that I think Second Life gives us complete freedom. I still don’t manage to have a properly-animated hug most of the time in Second Life, even though I must own half a dozen different objects that offer hugging. I can only control my facial expressions in very simple ways. I can’t just move my body in any way I want to: I have to have animations for each motion. But at least it feels like in Second Life I can really draw on an endless array of ways to act and move.

The cartoon bubble chat didn’t help, either. I had to choose an avatar that was only a little like how I want to look in virtual worlds, and between my cartoony avatar and my cartoony speech, I felt like, well, a cartoon! (I bet you saw that word coming.) I don’t want to feel like a cartoon: I want to feel like a person.

Visually interesting? Clever? Sure! But do I want to be in this picture? Not really.
(Image courtesy of Google.)

And of course there’s the no sex thing, which together with everything else makes Lively feel like a cheap imitation of There.com, which to me feels like a cheap caricature of Second Life (sorry, There.com, but I have to be honest with you). (This seems important to me even though I’ve been SLibate since a couple of months ago. Even if I’m not doing anything dirty myself, I don’t really want to be told I mayn’t.)

It seems to me that it all comes down to whether you just want a 3-D environment or a virtual life. Lively never offered a virtual life, and a 3-D environment is only useful if there’s something you want to do there that can be done better in 3-D. Conversation with friends in 3-D in Second Life feels different because it feels like part of a life. Conversation in 3-D in Lively, though, doesn’t really add much. The experience is much more meaningful with these subtle differences: having an avatar you’ve chosen and perhaps worked very hard on, the ability to go sailing together or wander around through an interesting sim or retreat to your home…oh, I’m sure that in some ways, Lively could eventually provide more avatar options, more animation options, and so on, but that wouldn’t change the fact that they’re basically offering only the ability to pretend you’re a cartoon sitting in a little box, and who wants to do that?

^^^\ Kate /^^^