Monday, September 24, 2007

Metaplace: Virtual Worlds Meet the Web

Innovation happens when ideas are combined. What do we get when Virtual Worlds meet the Web? Second Life on the Web? Areae has unveiled Metaplace on the Techcrunch conference. It has the potential to change the way how virtual worlds are made.

Metaplace is a next-generation virtual worlds platform designed to work the way the Web does. Using a suite of tools anyone can make worlds and put them on their web pages.

The differences: Metaplace vs. Second Life

Second Life is a rich client based immersive 3D metaverse. It is a walled garden although Linden Lab plans to open it up to some extent. Metaplace on the other hand is a web-based network of online worlds right from the start. It is an open metaverse that looks more like the web.

Metaplace: the web-based metaverse

The open web like nature of Metaplace is present on the technical level as well. It is not a walled garden. Every world is a web server, and every object has a URL. An object can be scripted in MetaScript so that it feeds RSS, XML, or HTML to a browser (imagine a newspaper with real headlines can sitting on your virtual desk). MetaScript is based on the Lua programming language that is also used by other MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft.

There is a huge interest for the alpha application for Metaplace which will close today. The open beta is planned for spring 2008.

Open source metaverse projects

Immerse 3D environments are getting more and more popular. There are two major open source projects in this space:

Croquet is a software development environment for the creation and large-scale distributed deployment of multi-user virtual 3D applications and metaverses. The Croquet architecture supports synchronous communication, collaboration, resource sharing and computation among large numbers of users on multiple platforms and multiple devices.

The OpenSource Metaverse Project was created to support virtual worlds that allow customization by the player and creation of custom worlds. It aims to provide an open source metaverse engine and a client that is flexible, scalable.

The OpenSource Metaverse Project is analogous to the web. You can create hyperlinks to any other metaworld running on any metaverse server worldwide. In this aspect it is similar to Metaplace.

Let there be new virtual worlds!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Internet Platforms Defined

Platforms on the Internet are one of the hottest topics these days. Marc Andreessen helps to overcome the current confusion of the platform concept in his incredibly insightful blog post. Marc has tackled the concept of internet platforms and defined the three levels of them. Here is a short summary but I recommend you to check out the full article for details.

A "platform" is a system that can be programmed and therefore customized by outside developers -- users -- and in that way, adapted to countless needs and niches that the platform's original developers could not have possibly contemplated, much less had time to accommodate.
  • A Level 1 platform's apps run elsewhere, and call into the platform via a web services API to draw on data and services -- this is how Flickr does it.
  • A Level 2 platform's apps run elsewhere, but inject functionality into the platform via a plug-in API -- this is how Facebook does it. Most likely, a Level 2 platform's apps also call into the platform via a web services API to draw on data and services.
  • A Level 3 platform's apps run inside the platform itself -- the platform provides the "runtime environment" within which the app's code runs.
The most interesting of these internet platforms are those that are level 3. Some examples of these are:
  • Akamai's EdgeComputing
  • Amazon S3, EC2 and FPS
  • Ning (Marc's own company)
  • Google Apps could became a level 3 platform
  • Second Life
The platforms of the future will be in the cloud as online services that you will tap into over the Internet. This is a fundamental change that will drive a lot of innovations. We are living in very exciting times!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Secret of Hottest Startups

Forty of the hottest startups have announced and demonstrated their new products at the TechCrunch40 conference. That is plenty of innovative and disruptive ideas in action!

Each startup company had 8 minutes to present their business plans in one of these sessions:
  • Search and Discovery
  • Mobile and Communications
  • Community and Collaboration
  • Crowd Sourcing
  • Productivity and Web Applications
  • Revenue Models and Analytics
  • Rich Media and Mash Ups
  • Entertainment for All Ages
What is the secret sauce of technology startups? How did they present their unfair advantage in 8 minutes? John L. Nesheim provide step by step guide for entrepreneurs to create and execute a strong business plan. His book The Power of Unfair Advantage: How to Create It, Build it, and Use It to Maximum Effect offers essential tips, tools, and techniques for startups.

It is not only techniques that are important though. Real-life, down-to-earth stories told by founders of famous companies shows another perspective about the early days of startups. The book Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days is awfully inspiring. It is like reading a pile of books written by founders of Apple, Yahoo, PayPal and others, each with their own insights and useful advice.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Innowave - Internet Innovations Search Engine

I have created a new Google Custom Search Engine (CSE) which aims to help you search sites related to internet innovations. Feel free to contribute to this search engine!

Check it out here or at the right tab of my blog!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

How To Deliver High Definition Video on the Internet

Today more and more households have HDTV sets and broadband internet connections with 6-8+ MBit/sec bandwidth. However the scalable delivery of HD video content is still a big challenge.

The capacity to deliver high definition video already exists at the edge of the network – leveraging the massive build-outs of individual networks. The challenge comes from how you tap into that capacity. The best way to solve this problem is to deliver from the edge using distributed architectures.

The potential benefits are huge and the demand for high definition video is growing. How to deliver HD content to the internet? Let's examine the possibilities.

1. Use Content Delivery Networks (CDNs)

Content Delivery Networks such as Akamai have tons of servers distributed across hundreds of cities. These servers can deliver high bandwidth content such as HD video from the Edge to the users. Even YouTube moves most popular content to a CDN. Akamai has recently announced their plans to bring High Definition to the internet. Their platform is architected to meet the following technical requirements:
  • Technology and an operational model to operate serving devices in the largest high-throughput networks around the world
  • Established relationships with the largest high throughput networks
  • Support for delivery, storage, and management of files greater than 2 Gigabytes
  • Support of VC-1 and MPEG-4 video standards
  • Support for files with resolutions of 720p, 1080i and 1080p
2. Use Utility Computing services such as the Amazon S3 and EC2

Utility computing and storage services are another way to host scalable video content and applications. The Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) provides such an on demand distributed service. However these services are not yet proven for hosting High Definition content. Check out my previous post on Amazon S3 for Video Hosting.

3. Use Peer-to-Peer (P2P) protocols such as BitTorrent

P2P file sharing applications have been popular in the last couple of years. P2P could be used for TV and movies as well:
  • Joost offers a new way of watching TV using P2P as the underlying architecture
  • Vuze offers Hi-def Theater using their BitTorrent based client software
Although P2P could be an efficient way to distribute content it can have significant bandwidth overhead for the users.

Which way to go?

The optimal choice depends on the requirements. CDNs are proven technologies but P2P could be cheaper as it matures. Utility storage services are similar to CDNs and the two could became competitors. What is your choice?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Displays with Embedded Touch Screen and Scanner Functions

Sharp has announced a new display with touch screen and scanner functions using an optical sensor built into each pixel of the LCD.
The LCD is targeted to be used on displays for mobile devices such as the Apple iPhone, PDAs, and UMPCs. Conventional methods to provide touch screen functions are based on bonding a film on top of the LCD panel, leading to problems with reduced display image quality and increased thickness for the display section.

Sharp's System LCD technology eliminates the need for films. In addition, multi-touch tactile recognition is now possible, a feature previously difficult to implement. For example, users can easily tap the screen with two fingers to enlarge or reduce a displayed map. The scanner function can be used to scan in a business card placed on top of the screen.