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  How ‘There’ Sees Itself  
Posted 2007-04-30 by Tony Walsh
Last week I received an email from There's PR engine, itemizing how There differs from other virtual worlds. The differentiators offer an insight into how There sees itself (or at least would like to be seen):
  1. "A safe PG-13 environment for users of all ages that is easy to use"
  2. "Brand security protection that gives marketers complete control over the sale and distribution of their content, including copyright infringement and piracy protection"
  3. "Attractive, sentient and expressive avatars that achieve a lifelike feel unparalleled in any other virtual environment"
  4. "A variety of tools for developers at all levels to design, build and create in-world"
  5. "’s CEO, Michael Wilson, was eBay’s original SVP of Product Development and Site Operations, and has an interesting vision on the future and promise of virtual worlds"
A follow-up email revealed that There defines "sentient" avatars as having the following characteristics:
  • Environmentally correct voice that fades, gets louder and changes directions based on how your avatar moves
  • Avatar's lips synchronize with what is being said over voice
  • Avatars naturally breathe, change posture and blink
  • Avatars can express themselves using nearly 100 different emotes

In my opinion, with the exception of #2 (brand protection) these are weak differentiators. There are a handful of other virtual worlds offering safe environments, such as Toon Town, Virtual Magic Kingdom, Teen Second Life, Club Penguin, and Webkins, thus differentiator #1 is moot. Brand protection and security is definitely top-notch on There's platform, which is why MTV has established several There-based adverworlds, so #2 is a safe bet. Point #3 about There's avatars is mostly debatable, mostly depending on exacting technical details and on one's experience with other virtual worlds. Point #4 about tools is debatable, depending on one's definition of "developers at all levels." And point #5 is incontestable but lame--There's CEO is unique to There.

I'd go back to the drawing-board on those differentiators if I were There. One and a half decent points out of five isn't that hot.
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Comment posted by Ordinal Malaprop
April 30, 2007 @ 2:12 pm
I don't think that #2 is particularly unique, in that any world with pretty much locked-down content creation (licenced rather than completely prohibited in this case, but still controlled, making it easier for the company to police and punish offenders) could be said to have "brand security".

As well as that, I don't think corporations are all that concerned about it - the number who have seemed interested in SL trademark violations, for instance, is pretty slim, and they usually give out products for free or for very little. It strikes me as more of a "we don't have CopyBot!" statement, which is of more concern to actual residents; I don't, however, exactly think that there will be a flood of people moving from SL to There because of that, given the issues with becoming a licenced developer and the relative limitations of what can be done. It seems an odd thing to say.

If there's anything that corporations want when investing in a VW I would say that it is a combination of (a) reliability and (b) the guarantee that you can't have your event ruined or area vandalised by any passing griefer, rather than IP protection. It seems a bit odd that they don't make more of those, though #1 with the word "safe" perhaps indicates some of (b). I don't have enough experience of There to know much about its reliability as a platform, but given SL recently I'd be surprised if it was _worse_.
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