What is Google Lively and Why Does it Matter?

This week saw yet another Google product hit the virtual streets. This one, Lively, is one of those 20 per cent time projects. You know, the pet projects that Google encourages their employees to work on. So what is it? It’s basically virtual rooms or locations that you can create for chatting with friends. It reminds me a lot of the days when chat rooms started offering avatars. Only now, they move and look a whole lot more like actual people.

I immediately start thinking of Second Life, There, and The Sims when I peruse the website for Lively. It’s probably not going to end up being a Second Life killer or anything else killer. It’s simply just another option for people, but from Google and people generally warm to them pretty easily. I looked through some of the rooms already created and saw plenty with between 4,000 and 10,000 visitors. One of the advantages I see Lively having is that you can embed your room into websites. You just know Google will promote that through their millions of free Blogger sites.

Here are the three bullet points from the Lively page:

  • Chat with your friends or meet new contacts online.
  • Create and decorate your own room – and invite your friends over.
  • Personalize your surroundings with an ever-growing catalog of avatars, outfits, furniture, and rooms to build up.

To download Lively, you need Windows XP/Vista with either IE or Firefox. Yep, another cloud based application. We wouldn’t expect anything else from Google, would we?

I can see Lively being implemented into Android, Apple and other mobile platforms before too long. Why send a boring old text message to someone, when you can chat them up on the roof of a high-rise or in the middle of the jungle? Bring a handful of your friends in and spend time debating the latest episode of The Hills or whatever kids are watching these days. It would be easy to open the program or point your browser to the chat rooms and talk away.

With no native application to install, it would likely not be a drain on your battery. Having an always available connection like 3G or Wi-Fi would ensure that you can hop in and out of rooms at your leisure. To top it all off, location based chat rooms and hangouts would be sure to go over well. Imagine a room full of high school students talking to each other in front of a landmark. Or virtual tour guides to answer questions from visitors and tourists. I could see virtual movie or television sets where you can meet your favorite stars for some Q&A.

Right now, Lively isn’t anything new or revolutionary. Six months or a year from now, it could be a totally different animal. Keep your eyes on this one.

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  1. I suppose Lively does have potential, but definitely needs a lot of work to be the sort of app I’d like it to be. The biggest problem with it, currently, is all the sexually oriented rooms that are popping up all over the place, when this is a service meant for those as young as 13. Either Google needs to do a better job with blocking, or removing unsuitable content or they need to separate them out (i.e. have 13 & older rooms and 18 & older rooms that are in a separate location). For now I’m staying away until they have some sort of legitimate solution figured out.

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