Overlay Virtual Worlds


Virtual presence seems to slowly enter the mainstream. Weblin and RocketOn are mentioned in a recent 50-Virtual-Worlds-Tour video.

The term they use is ""Layered Virtual Worlds" or "Overlay Virtual Worlds". They overlay the Web and create a virtual world on top of web content. Raph Koster calls them the emerging “overlay avatars” space. We do not have a common name yet. Terms I have seen:

  • Layered Virtual Worlds
  • Layered Social Virtual World
  • Layered World
  • Overlay Virtual World
  • Overlay Avatar Space
  • Overlay Avatars

The social web hype points into the same directions. It is partially driven by social networks, which are large, but have no reach beyond their own domain. They try to reach out like Facebook. It is also driven by people who develop social web browsers and social search tools with decent Venture Capital support.

Virtual worlds in general get hundreds of millions US$ investments since Second Life got millions of users and Habbo, Runescape, Barbie Girls, and others even millions of revenue. Even Google participates in embedded virtual spaces. Every week someone announces a new virtual world or an embedded 3D space. The market is by far not full with respect to penetration of the user base. But seems to fill up quickly with respect to available systems.

It will be interesting to see how layered wirtual worlds grow in this environment. A key difference between virtual worlds (embedded or fullscreen) is that they run while people use the web. Layered virtual worlds do not compete with other virtual worlds. They rather share the web browsing time and run while the user is outside of virtual worlds anyway. But they do compete for attention, money, and the user's willingness to register with yet another virtual world and create yet another avatar.

The family of layered virtual worlds is still very small. Expect it to grow once the big players discover this new space. They will discover the chance to break out of the crowded virtual world market soon, probably less than 24 months.

Interesting times for virtual presence aka layered virtual worlds.


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