Why a Virtual World on a Webpage is Awesome

Is running a virtual world in a web browser really that big a deal?  If you have to download a browser plugin, then why not just download a standalone application?  What’s the point of having a virtual world sitting in a webpage?  Does it really make any difference?

I hear these questions a lot.  So let me share a few of my recent experiences with Jibe and setting up my own web-based Jibe world.

I need to get folks into my Jibe world quickly.
Ah right, it’s just a URL.

I can’t overstate how powerful it is to be able to give out a URL and tell folks “just click on it and you’ll be in my virtual world.”  And even though they have to download a Unity plugin to make it work, the whole process still happens within the web browser itself.

Think about how much time you spend each day in front of your web browser.  If you’re like most folks, a web browser is probably always open on your computer.  Which means that anything happening in your web browser is always right at hand.

And since my Jibe world is just a URL, I can make it something short and easy for me to remember.  Easy for me to quickly jot down on a piece of paper, too.  I just write or type bit.ly/Jibe_Pathfinder and that’s it.

I need to add links to useful info for people visiting my my Jibe world.
Oh wait, I can just add that as HTML inside the webpage where Jibe lives.

Since my Jibe world lives on a plain old webpage, I can easily add additional text and hyperlinks that appear around the Jibe world on the page.  Tweaking a web page like that is a snap, even for a web-wrangler like myself who uses a pretty basic HTML editor.

I want to use Google Moderator and Dabbleboard with people in Jibe.
Hold on, I can just embed them next to the Jibe world on the webpage.

Again, my Jibe world lives on a plain old webpage.  Which means I can use iframes to embed a useful web-based application and have everyone see it while they are inside my virtual world.  And there are a lot of great web-based collaborative tools out there.

Standing around in a 3d environment looking at 2d documents hanging on virtual walls has always left me scratching my head a bit.  Especially when those 2d documents need to be dynamic and collaborative.  Why not use the right tool for the right job?  Have the 2d content live on the webpage, and have the engaging 3d content in the 3d window.  That gives you the best of both worlds, and both can exist on the same webpage.

I need to track visitors to my Jibe world.  How do I script that inworld?
Oh duh.  I can just add Google Analytics to the webpage where Jibe lives.

Took me about an hour mulling things over before I suddenly realized this one.  A quick copy/paste of the Google Analytics javascript code into my web page, and I was done.

For those of us used to using virtual worlds as standalone applications, you can see how realizing the real power of a virtual world in a webpage requires unlearning some things.  You don’t need to do everything inside the 3d world itself.  You have the power of other web-based applications right there on the same page.

And I haven’t even touched on the more complex affordances of Jibe and the web.  Like being able to tie in preexisting web-based registration systems on the backend.  Or being able to integrate Jibe with a preexisting web-based content or learning management systems.

A virtual world on a webpage is awesome simply because the web is full of awesome tools.

And they can all work together.

-John “Pathfinder” Lester

12 thoughts on “Why a Virtual World on a Webpage is Awesome

  1. I love how lightweight everything is. I also love the lateral approach to things like the problem of authentication, persistance, inventory and such; just don’t bother 🙂

    With Second Life (et al) it always felt like you were asking for a commitment from people when trying to get them in there. This casual approach is so much better in terms of getting reluctant people to dip a toe into these fecund waters.

  2. Hey Pathfinder,

    I’m the message in a bottle to pooky amsterdam fellow, remember?

    I have become a fan of yours! I am not in anyway technical, but I understand what you are telling me, why, and how to do it!

    I listened to your entire talk at VWBPE and was right there, the whole way. Your content, and take was illuminating and very interesting. And the delivery: your avatar, your voice – reminded me of Harrison Fords voiceover commentary in BladeRunner……the best movie ever, ever.

    I am going to go make myself a little jibeworld, and follow you advice to integrate weblinks into the plain old page. I will use it as my first ever showcase, where I will “exhibit” my real world conference and exhibition design and builds, and create something fun, to show how and why Live and Virtual are the perfect bedmates for a creative “experiential” type like me, and to tempt my real world clients to follow me into the virtual here and now.

    graeme “earl westminster” mackie!

  3. Hi path

    I like the idea of a VW portal on a web page. I first saw this on the Hertage Key web site and I was amazed how well it worked. They use it as an introduction to their Opensim-grid museum and for that purpose I think it really dose serve well. I also agree that having a portal on a page allows you to show other stuff on the page at the same time which is also helpful. I have never really found media on a prim that useful in-world. In fact I don’t bother with it since, in my view, it’s actually better to run a browser so, if my web page has the portal too it’s like killing lots of birds with one stone. I can give visitors a little taste of your Opensim grid while providing plenty of info on the page including links to register. I reckon that will attract more of them to download a viewer for the full experience.

    great article!

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