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It's 1994 all over again, but the stakes are higher this time around. A new battle for development, acceptance, and control of data delivery is underway in Silicon Valley and throughout the globe. Which firm will win? What business models are they employing? How will the future look? The change in technology will likely be so great it will affect how you use the world wide web, the best way to communicate, and even alter the equipment you use to access the world wide web.

It is not Netscape and Microsoft this moment. Facebook and MySpace have already lost. Their new landscape is not the quaint two dimensional reproductions which we have become accustom to in Explorer, FireFox, and Safari. It's a rich and robust three dimensional world which could convey culture and information in an effective and engaging way. Within these robust virtual worlds, the only limit is our own joys. Virtual technology are in their nascent growth stage, but are growing faster than anyone could have predicted. A confluence of infrastructure, computer technology and social behaviour concept is yielding strong new ways to interact and socialize over the Internet. The idea of"goggling to the Metaverse along with your personalized Avatar to get a meet and greet" as predicted in the futuristic fantasy of Neal Stephenson's novel"Snow Crash" is not far from the reality.

Second Life, World of Warcraft (WoW), and IMVU offers a fabulous view into the future of immersive communications and the following generation browser development. Watching how people team together to conquer the game challenges in WoW has spawned attention from social interaction to leadership growth academics, as well as the Military. The application of immersive environments on learning and education are limitless. In the future, teamwork and leadership may no longer be a pedagogical exercise contained to sterile classrooms; it is going to be a totally immersive hands-on learning experience in which students learn skills in various virtual settings and scenarios. Ubisoft, the game's developer, wrote that"America's Army" was the"deepest and most realistic military game ever to hit consoles" A small market by WoW and Shanda standards, the sport has over 30,000 players everyday and can be on Xbox, PlayStation, mobile phones and Game Boy. Another and perhaps better use for the tech is education. What would firms pay to hire an MBA graduate that had spent a couple hundred actual hours at Jack Welsh's mimicked shoes? And we thought EA's Madden Football was big. In the near future we'll have the ability to teach, test and hone vital skills to generate better knowledge leaders and workers with the advances in new immersive browser technology.

Today, the digital world business versions are in evolution. WoW includes a subscription service where it charges about twenty dollars a month to login to the virtual dream world. China's Shanda using its Legend of Mir and other virtual properties has a pay-per use and subscription versions. IMVU has a publication version. Its chat environment is indeed rich and realistic that consumers actual pay for virtual garments to get their avatar and virtual gifts for others. Active Worlds has obtained a much more platform centric approach charging for the foundation application for others to develop upon. Second Life has virtual money called Linden dollars which is used to pay for goods and service within the virtual universe. Linden dollars can be purchased with real money. Walking round in Second Life and viewing all of the billboard type advertisements does make me think about the Internet's early days where advertisements popped up out of nowhere and there were no usability tips or design best practices. But, which model will triumph? There is room for many models, but it's too early to tell which browser will win.

I bought my last desktop seven decades ago and do not plan on buying another. Getting tethered is no more an option. Surfing while walking between rooms, booting up at the coffee shop, and logging on at the airport is normal behavior for most of us. However with new emerging technologies, our computing habits may change even farther. imvu credits hack and iTheater are making goggles that job information right in front of your own eyes. It's primarily for game consoles and iPod movies now, but it has potential. In the near future, you may have a set of goggles that have a higher resolution and are lighter than your notebook LCD display, as well as delivering significantly more privacy while on your airplane. Celluon has tech that laser projects a keyboard on any flat surface, eliminating the need for a physical keyboard. With progress such as these, will our future computers look more like a soda can hooked up to goggles than the rectangular paperweight of now? Hardware advancements together with the growing interactive virtual software will merger to provide us a brand new totally immersive user experience.

One downside is the most virtual worlds require a large application download and setup. Each digital universe requires its own application, so in the event that you create for Second Life you are confined to Second Life residents and don't have any access to other audiences. The program diversity is a big negative for earnings scaling. It harkens back the browser interoperability of the'90s, where firms had three versions of the sites to accommodate browser differences. But finally, there will be a de facto standard and the winning program will come preloaded in your computer. I'm interested in seeing if this shakeout also generates anti-trust litigation.

The brand new 3-D browser battle is being waged today and the future of interactive communications is up for grabs. Can Silicon Valley produce the next 3-D interactive browser standard or will China? Only time will tell. However, the impact of immersive 3-D digital worlds communications, social interaction, and education will change our lives just as much as the microwave and remote control. . .and perhaps TiVo.