Virtual presence seems to slowly enter the mainstream. Weblin and RocketOn are
mentioned in a recent
The term they use is ""Layered Virtual Worlds" or "Overlay Virtual Worlds".
overlay the Web and create a virtual world on top of web content. Raph
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
Interesting times for virtual presence aka layered virtual worlds.
just started with an interesting virtual presence application. Skabble is an
instant messenger with a special focus on meeting people on web pages.
There is a small indicator on every web page in the lower left corner (similar
to weblin and RocketOn) that shows how many people are on the same page. You can
click on it and open a kind of browser "sidebar" at the lower border, which
shows a chat window. You chat with people on the same domain name or sub-domain.
You can chat with people on the same page, but also (and interestingly) with
people visiting other similar pages. Web pages are categorized and you can click
on the category. Categories are (currently?) drawn from the DMOZ open directory
project. This means that only big sites are categorized. But it is a very
recently started the alpha phase of their virtual presence client. I am very
excited about this system, because it seems to be a fully featured virtual
presence system. Fully featured is almost too weak. In addition to the usual
"chat with avatars on any web pages", it has public chat, a buddy list, items, a
shop, avatar customization, worm holes, interactive items, and probably much
ROCKETON Inc. is a San Francisco based company. The team seems to be very
strong. They have experience lots of in the gaming industry and where
responsible for major game titles. The company is quite well equipped with at
5 Mio US $.
The client is in Flash 9. It produces a small icon in the lower right corner.
Once you activate it it opens a flash based tool bar at the lower border of the
browser. Activating it on a page also shows your and other people's avatars.
The flash is a layer above the web site. You can not click the page content
while it is active. Rather, clicking directs the avatar to go to the position.
Avatars walk over the entire page and beyond. The display always tries to keep
my avatar on the screen by scrolling the scene. Other avatars are shown by small
circles at the web page border to indicate that they are off the visible area,
The protocol is straight forward. It uses a
Comet style long-polling to keep a connection always open which the server
can use to send a message to a client. Definitely the way to go in an HTTP
environment. If you can sustain thousands of TCP connections on the server. I
suppose they can. At least it's not a prefork-apache.
If I chat a small text, then I see a HTTP POST (formatted and stripped down to
the important stuff) with HTML form data:
POST /chat-web/chat?Chat HTTP/1.1
The chat text seems to be encrypted. It is not just base64 encoded as the
trailing "=" suggests. (OK, you got me). I get a response immediately, which has
the text I just typed and my position. This probably also goes to all other
people on the page at the same time. The message is delivered as a HTTP response
to an open request with XML body.
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Content-Type: text/xml; charset=iso-8859-1
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<event type="message" room_name="www.google.com">
<member username="Wolfspelz" uid="107511" x="176" y="619" />
The client immediately opens the next long-poll request:
GET /chat-web/chat HTTP/1.1
No I walk and my client sends the final position, no intermediate positions:
POST /chat-web/member HTTP/1.1
As expected I get a message as a long-poll response:
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Content-Type: text/xml; charset=iso-8859-1
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<event type="room" room_name="www.google.com" action="moved">
<member username="Wolfspelz" uid="107511" x="647" y="528" />
And then the obligatory long-poll request to set things up for the next seerver
to client message:
GET /chat-web/chat HTTP/1.1
I wish they would use
location mapping and an existing chat protocol. But you can't have it all.
I wonder why ROCKETON requires to open Port 843 outgoing. That's clearly the
Flash player 9 policy file download. But they do HTTP long-polling and they
install as a browser helper. Why do they still need the flash policy. The flash
policy is for socket connections. They should be able to do without by loading
everything via the browser's HTTP client or by using a custom HTTP client.
Images and everything visible is usually HTTP. The chat protocol also as
described above. No idea yet why they need flash socket connections in addition
So much for now.
I just ran into a (relatively) new browser sidebar, that lets people chat on web
pages. My #9 on the browser-extension-for-chat-on-web-pages list. It looks very
nice, includes a buddy list, and a discussion feature where you can discuss
about all web pages. So, you can actually leave notes on a web page and othe
rpeople can comment. BumpIn also provides a Web Widget that can be integrated
into web pages as a chat channel on the page, comparable to so called "shout
boxes". On top of that, BumpIn has a zero-install mode where the target page is
iframe-d. That makes it my #6 prefix-your-URL-and-get-an-IFRAME system.
"Often we cross paths on the Internet, now we can BumpIn! Ever wondered who else
is doing the same thing as you on the Web? Wanted to connect with those who
share your interests? Now you can BumpIn! BumpIn lets you discover people with
similar interests, chat with them and make friends. BumpIn will redefine the
concept of social browsing and networking."
BumpIn is primarily programmed in Flash/ActionScript. It requires the Flash 9
The protocol seems to be pretty straight forward. Requests go with mimetype
application/x-www-form-urlencoded. Responses are XML. If I send a "testchat" on
the web site "http://www.heise.de/newsticker", then the form-POST looks like:
The response is basically a "ok, thanks":
Half a second later I see a www-form-urlencoded request:
And my chat text in the response:
BumpIn seems pretty solid. My impression is, that we are approaching the second
generation of these browser based virtual presence tools. BumpIn has the
necessary features. I am tempted to say the "usual" features, like chat,
buddies, discussion, but not much more. It looks like the developers have seen
earlier tools and that they just did the right things omitting ballast and
special gimmicks. In other words: the typical feature set seems to settle down.
No company address is given, so I have to guess, sorry guys. The BumpIn domain
is registered to a Pakistani address. That fits to
the team page, which is quite cool actually. BumpIn went into beta in 2007.
It's out now. Still small scale, but if the blogosphere picks it up it can soar
BTW: I am curious when we see the next avatar/chat balloon system. BumpIn is
still in the typical sidebar/chat-in/chat-out paradigm.
Bots in chat rooms of virtual presence locations may appear like avatars of real
people. They can not be distinguished easily. This document specifies a way to
describe the purpose of a bot. The description is primarily machine readable so,
that client software can compare user preferences with the description and
inform users appropriately.
VPTN-5: Bot Tagging
Changes to the location mapping system (LMS) will now be published in a blog:
Please add your comments and suggestions.
Browser sidebar Me.dium concentrates on presence and actions of friends. It now
has similar functionality to Flock, the social
browser. What strikes most is, that you won't be able to meet new people as in
the past. The original idea of meeting people who have the same interests is
Me.dium takes away a
feature, adds better one to replace it
This document describes how virtual presence (VP) uses XMPP  as a VP
transport protocol. It describes extensions to XMPP multi user chat  (MUC).
Basically, VP uses plain XMPP and MUC plus few extensions to MUC. The extensions
augment the user representation with additional user information like avatars,
avatar positions and states.
Weblin.lite is the small sister of weblin.
people on a web page as avatars.
http-bind to communicate with a XMPP server, which means, that the protocol is
XMPP encapsulated in HTTP. Weblin.lite is compatible with
weblin since it uses XMPP, the same location
mapping, and the same user data. Both weblin
and weblin.lite users see each other on the same web page.
Weblin.lite is my 5th prefix-your-URL-and-get-an-IFRAME system on the list.
Though, with animated avatars and speech balloons instead of a chat window.
- VPTN-2: Location mapping
- VPTN-3: User data
Chatsum is a browser-extension-for-chat-on-web-pages. My #8 on the list.
Remarkably Xpanity is available for Firefox (as an extension) and IE (as browser
The protocol seems to be XML based.
Not many users. The Xpanity web site has a "Web Map", which claims 35 users on
youtube, but when I went there I found nobody, just old chat lines. They had no
timestamp, so I can not really judge how old. But 35 visitors seems like an
exaggeration. At least nobody answered.
PMOG stands for Passively Multiplayer Online Game.
It is a very intersting idea. PMOG makes the Web a play field of an MMOG. The
concept sounds like WebWars, the browsergame based on the EVE Online universe.
I can't tell better in my own words, so I let this
"PMOG transforms the existing topography of the internet into a game world for
players to vandalize, annotate, and curate. Players experience PMOG through a
Head-Up Display overlay in the Firefox web browser. This HUD interface allows
players to play with each other through the world wide web, creating information
quests, laying mines and building defenses around web sites. Order or chaos,
destructive or productive - players choose their alignment by the way they surf
and the way they use the tools of PMOG."
From the PMOG about page:
"PMOG is an infinite game built on individual network histories, transforming
our web surfing into ongoing social play. With a game head-up display in
Firefox, players can bomb each other, wage war over web sites, and lead other
users on web missions. Ordinary web sites become caches for items and currency.
PMOG fuses an MMO into our WWW."
"PMOG: The Web as a Play Field" at SXSW
A Google Talk chatback badge will let visitors to your web page chat with you.
They'll be able to chat with you whenever you're signed in to Google Talk. as
response. Simple and effective. Nice design. But not many users as far as I can
see. Seems, that the creator works on other projects now.
The chatback setup page offers an IFRAME which can be embedded into any web
page. The code shows something like:
Why is this important to virtual presence? This is a signal, that another major
player enters the field of chat-on-web-pages. In this case at least to make web
page owners aware of visitors and visitors aware of the online status of page
Chatsum is the latest firefox-extension-for-chat-on-web-pages I learned about.
My #7, but it seems to be online quite a while. There are chat entries from 751
days ago and screenshots show news pages 2 years ago.
fragments from server to client. I sent a "test text" and the network shows
as request and:
<script>uc([[755721, 'Wolfspelz', 'ff6600', 'fff4c7', 'test text',
1203106150]], 1203106150, 'Y01F');</script>
as response. Simple and effective. Nice design. But not many users as far as I
can see. Seems, that the creator works on other projects now.
- George Grinsted
Cory Ondrejk, coFounder and exCTO of Linden Lab tested Metaplace and comments:
"At heart, Metaplace is a lightweight protocol for lightweight communication
through the Web, and one of the ways that he sees designers using Metaplace is
as a way of letting users experience each other's presence online. Anything that
causes the two of us to know we're both on the Web together makes the Web a
better place. A big part of what makes interaction in virtual worlds so
compelling compared to the Web is the fact that we both know we're there. It
isn't the same as leaving bread crumbs on a blog to show that you were there."
This, sounds very much like virtual presence. What Areae announced was a Web of
Worlds. Maybe what they are really doing is Worlds on the Web. We will see.
- Creating a Web
- Cory Ondrejka
John Galt Games announces a new browser game called WebWars: EVE. It's a
browser based war game that focuses on conquering and controlling web
territories, i.e. web sites.
The game is free to play but gamers can buy WebWars money (isk) for faster
enhancements. A business model already established in many browser games and
east asian MMORPGs.
The game is not connected with CCP's EVE Online. It uses the same background
story, the same name for the in-game money, but you won't be able to convert
money or items between WebWars and EVE Online. It seems to be the first licensed
use of the EVE IP following a EVE Online card game by CCP that also built on the
The interesting point in the virtual presence sense is, that every website on
the internet is a valid territory. They treat web sites as spaces, that can be
visited, conquered, and owned. The value of a web site is based on it's real
world visits. The game uses a browser plug-in to track your navigation and
enable the game play on the pages you visit with your fleet.
Ogoglio just came to my attention. It is an open project which aims to put
together a world of interconnected (3d) spaces with web technologies.
The web site provides general remarks and statements and not very much detail.
Well, the project seems to be driven by few people and they have probably more
to do than updating the web site. There is a
Sourceforge account and there seems to be SVM activity. Sourceforge says a
bit more about what the Ogoglio project does. There are few screenshots and
documentation. Most interesting is this concept right.
Ogoglio is a project, not a product. It is under Apache License V2.0 and seems
to be driven by a company called Transmutable.
This seems to be the time for virtual spaces which integrate with the Web and
which are built on web technologies. The concept is very close to what Media
Machines is doing and Metaplace.
The domain has been registred registered: 2006-05-21. Sourceforge started
December 2006. Sourceforge attention starts May 2007. There was SVN activity in
all 2007, but it shows a recent increase since July.
(Source: Ogoglio project)
Last year Raph Koster, MMORPG veteran (UO, SWG), founded a company after
leaving SOE to make his own vision of an MMOG come true. The company (Areae)
just announced what the have been working on for the last year and what they
will be working on until next spring's beta: Metaplace.
Metaplace is a collection of virtual worlds, which can be built easily based on
Areae's tools and third party tools. The worlds can be linked to create a big
meta-world where avatars will be able to move between worlds. It's all built on
web technologies: the worlds can be embedded into web pages, e.g. your myspace
profile, components are web components loaded from URLs, worlds are web servers
and objects are web objects represented by URLs. In short: Web 2.0 meets MMOGs.
You wont need the equivalent of Second Life or World Of Warcraft clients
installed on your machine, youll just need Metaplace. Anyone will be able to
make an online world in five minutes, and dropping in and out of different
online spaces will be as easy as surfing web pages. Its Internet 2.0
The two facts that these worlds can be embedded into web pages and that avatars
move between worlds puts the whole thing into the vitual presence neighborhood.
Also interesting: already known was that Charles River Ventures and Crescendo
Ventures put money into Areae. Charles River Ventures has a big fund and since
Raph Koster already proved that he can build commercially successful MMOGs, I
suspect, that Areae got a decent amount of money. Something you can really work
with and hopefully enough to build the next generation of open MMOGs. But money
is not all you need.
BTW: this seems to be the month of web based virtual worlds and virtual world
creation tools. See the previous news entry.
- Charles River Ventures
- Crescendo Ventures
Media Machines gets $9.4M venture capital money from investors lead by Mohr
Davidow Ventures. The company offers a 3D world editor and a browser plugin for
IE and Firefox. The founder Tony Parisi was very active in VRML development some
years ago. He is now working on X3D, the VRML successor with some other
brilliant technologists in different fields. Interestingly, there is also strong
know-how in virtual human body animation (avatars!) in the company.
This is not completely virtual presence news, more about boxed virtual worlds,
than virtual presence, but since Media Machines focuses on browsers as interface
it is related to virtual presence. The step for Media Machines is smaller, than
for all the other boxed virtual world clients which are popping up in the wake
of the Second Life hype.
Iosurf uses a proprietary scalable protocol which sends XML and HTTPS. Users
see friends online, LiveUsers on the same domain name, and there is a forum
attached to the URL where people even can leave messages.
IOSurf is a browser plugin. It opens a side bar and shows poeple on the same
web site. Version 2.0 Beta currently available for IE6 and above.
A virtual presence client needs information to display people who meet. It needs
a name, an image, maybe an animated avatar, and more. This document describes
the storage and exchange of public user identity data. The virtual presence
identity data format is optimized for VP applications, where many people need
the publich data of their peers, some only once, some repeatedly, where changes
happen frequently and must be propagated quickly with minimum bandwidth.
VPTN-3: User Data