The Future of the Internet is not Secondlife
I might get a lot of flames for this but it's probably true. Secondlife isn't the promised-land of some post-human immersive reality. It isn't going to become the replacement for the Internet. There are many reasons, but I'm going to examine just one --
The Croquet Project.
The 1.0 SDK was released not to long ago to the development community. It is hoped that developers from around the world will start contributing to the project and speed up its development. It comes under an MIT license making contributing a valiant and probably worthwhile endeavour. I recently downloaded it to give it a test-drive and start seeing what it was all about.
The interface to Croquet is still very crude, but is still usable enough to get started. Those familiar with Secondlife will also find that the avatars are lacking in some of the functionality they are used to -- but will soon notice after some experimentation that they are not limited to the bipedal human form. However, despite the shortcomings (it's still a beta afterall) one might be quick to notice how advanced it really is even in these early stages.
It's scenes like these in the demo that made me do a double-take. Already Croquet is capable of importing objects from 3D modeling software such as Blender. Scripters will have a hay-day with Croquet -- the entire system is built on Squeak; a derivative of Smalltalk. The best part is that scripters with the right permissions can even re-write or modify the system code that the world is running on without restarting the server or recompiling. My favorite part so far however is probably the most important feature of all -- hyperlinks.
"Worlds," in Croquet are individual entities. They are self-contained like a box. You can run one on your local machine and mess with the source code, import objects, and experiment away. If you have a network of computers, you can a world on each one and network them together. This is where Croquet gets really fun -- you can create "portals" to other worlds. They look like something out of a sci-fi movie: like windows with another world on the other side. The other world is of course rendered in real-time and you can even manipulate objects through the window (assuming you have the appropriate permissions of course). It's really an eye-catcher... and stunning since some of the latest games are only beginning to start using this and Croquet is already implementing it in a networked P2P system. So these portals are just like 3D hyperlinks to other worlds.
What is really going to make Croquet the real deal when it comes to the future of the Internet is that it's basically an operating system. With an embedded virtual machine, it can run on its own hardware or on top of any operating system. It can interface with applications on the host machine and users can share those applications collaboratively even if that application wasn't programmed to do so. You can already pull up a mozilla browser or an x-terminal in a Croquet window and share it in 3D. You can stream any media and some developers have already integrated VOIP clients. The single biggest reason why Croquet will become the future operating system is that the users can run and modify the code that the worlds are built on and they can integrate their own applications.
Try doing that with a proprietary system like Secondlife.
The Internet is open. Not closed. Croquet, IMO, is the future.