Friday, April 1, 2011

The Affordances of a Virtual World in your Browser

Is running a virtual world in a web browser really that big a deal? If you have to download a browser plugin, then why not just download a standalone application? What's the point of having a virtual world sitting in a webpage? Does it really make any difference?

I hear these questions a lot. So let me share a few of my recent experiences with Jibe and setting up my own web-based Jibe world.

I need to get folks into my Jibe world quickly.
Ah right, it's just a URL.

I can't overstate how powerful it is to be able to give out a URL and tell folks "just click on it and you'll be in my virtual world." And even though they have to download a Unity plugin to make it work, the whole process still happens within the web browser itself.

Think about how much time you spend each day in front of your web browser. If you're like most folks, a web browser is probably always open on your computer. Which means that anything happening in your web browser is always right at hand.

And since my Jibe world is just a URL, I can make it something short and easy for me to remember. Easy for me to quickly jot down on a piece of paper, too. I just write or type and that's it.

I need to add links to useful info for people visiting my my Jibe world.
Oh wait, I can just add that as HTML inside the webpage where Jibe lives.

Since my Jibe world lives on a plain old webpage, I can easily add additional text and hyperlinks that appear around the Jibe world on the page. Tweaking a web page like that is a snap, even for a web-wrangler like myself who uses a pretty basic HTML editor.

I want to use Google Moderator and Dabbleboard with people in Jibe.
Hold on, I can just embed them next to the Jibe world on the webpage.

Again, my Jibe world lives on a plain old webpage. Which means I can use iframes to embed a useful web-based application and have everyone see it while they are inside my virtual world. And there are a lot of great web-based collaborative tools out there.

Standing around in a 3d environment looking at 2d documents hanging on virtual walls has always left me scratching my head a bit. Especially when those 2d documents need to be dynamic and collaborative. Why not use the right tool for the right job? Have the 2d content live on the webpage, and have the engaging 3d content in the 3d window. That gives you the best of both worlds, and both can exist on the same webpage.

I need to track visitors to my Jibe world. How do I script that inworld?
Oh duh. I can just add Google Analytics to the webpage where Jibe lives.

Took me about an hour mulling things over before I suddenly realized this one. A quick copy/paste of the Google Analytics javascript code into my web page, and I was done.

For those of us used to using virtual worlds as standalone applications, you can see how realizing the real power of a virtual world in a webpage requires unlearning some things. You don't need to do everything inside the 3d world itself. You have the power of other web-based applications right there on the same page.

And I haven't even touched on the more complex affordances of Jibe and the web. Like being able to tie in preexisting web-based registration systems on the backend. Or being able to integrate Jibe with a preexisting web-based content or learning management systems.

A virtual world on a webpage is awesome simply because the web is full of awesome tools.

And they can all work together.

No comments:

Post a Comment