Thursday, October 21, 2004

Looking Back on ViOS

My efforts with ViOS have been mentioned in several of the previous postings. Since my experiences there are relevant to my work with Croquet, a bit of a description of ViOS is probably worth a mention now. The basic concept behind ViOS was to take the virtual world of the ENTIRE Internet and adapt it to a physical representation of large lanscape, complete with mountains, rivers and cities. I took this approach because of my belief that a virtual landscape resembling our physical world is more conducive to exploration and social interaction than the flat and abstracted world of the current page-based Internet. By organizing virtual cities and specialized regions with particular themes in a very large contiguous ViOS space, users could discover sites and people that they may never have found through conventional web surfing. Users were able to travel directly to cities/areas of interest through special 3D portals, maps, or by using a keyword. Objects within the ViOS world were essentially pointers to web-deliverable resources. When you interacted with such objects, you would bring up the webpage assoociated with it. ViOS information was therefore organized visually. We seeded the space with 420 cities and communities that appeared as 3D places. We populated these with approximately 15,000 objects representing the best of the web. Keep in mind that all existing web sites were still available at some place on the enormous landscape, but their location may not have been close to these initial communities. Also keep in mind that users could also just browse the web in traditional 2D browser-based ways as well.

Our business model was based on the desire for owners of such outlying sites to relocate their site's representation to “better” locations within ViOS in order to gain traffic to their sites (traffic that was measurable). We made it possible for a company to set up a site anywhere on the 3D landscape, whether it’s next to Yahoo, Amazon, Disney or all three. This was done by allowing them to lease locations through a pricing structure based on location and commercial density. In this way, the economics of location and commercial density could be transitioned to the online world because of its representation of a physical space. Private individuals could also publish to the ViOS lanscape at lower cost structures. A key concept of ViOS is that it enabled representations of internet-deliverable information to self-organize and optimize through the decentralized activities of its participants. In other words, owners of web sites could relocate objects pointing to their sites and thereby build meaningful communities. Such communities made it easy and enjoyable for users to explore specific areas of content and information while at the same time opening themselves up to the delights of serendipitous discovery within an ever changing landscape of people and resources.


Julian Lombardi said...

For those who are interested, ViOS version 1.2 is still available for download here. Please note, that this pre-XP Windows-based software relies on a central server to work smoothly and correctly. The server is no longer up and running. Therefore, if you install ViOS, your experience will be somewhat jerkey and you will not be able to see or interact with any other people. You will also not be able to see any of the communities that developed following the software's initial release in March of 2001 (as there were updated to client from the server). And if thats not bad enough, many of the sites in the landscape have broken links because there has been lots of e-business turnover since 2001 when the client database was last updated. Having said all that, you can still tool around, enjoy the visuals, find some interesting 3D and live-web content, and get a bit of an idea of where we were going with this effort.

Julian Lombardi said...

A good article about ViOS on Howstuffworks.