Friday, June 01, 2007

The blurring boundaries between the online and offline worlds

One of the charms of the early internet hype during the early 90s was the promise of virtual worlds in the cyberspace, which was for some time the hottest word around.

That was all marketing speak. At the end of it all, everything is just data, stored in files in ones and zeros on connected servers around the world. If you believed the experts and the hype masters, it would have been possible to totally immerse yourself into the computer, getting in and out at will, like that Fat Albert movie.

The BBC reports about Google Gear, an initiative to make it easier for web users to use their favorite online applications including e-mail, word processing and calendars offline, without requiring a net connection.

Firefox and Adobe are in the forefront of this offline computing movement.
Then there is Webaroo, promising to provide offline versions of essential web data, mainly the reference web.

In the second piece of related news, a court in Pennsylvania has denied two requests by Linden Lab, the owner of Second Life, in the Bragg v. Linden case, which may help users get more power in so-called Online ‘worlds’.

Instead of cybernetically connected with other things and beings, what Second Life worlds deliver are rough sketches of people and 2-D drawings. As Tim Faulkner says, it is important to regulate what goes on in the name of virtual life in entities such as Second Life - ‘pyramid schemes, faulty valuations, and unreal exchange rates' – human nature is the same everywhere.

The bottom-line: behind every online world, there is server holding your data and this data has ramifications in your real life.

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