Further evidence of the advancing revolution of content being delivered as “experience” is Google’s latest expansion beyond its main mission of organizing the world's information. Google unveiled a free service Tuesday, July 8th, 2008 in which three-dimensional software enables people to congregate in electronic rooms and other computer-manufactured versions of real life. The service, called "Lively," represents Google's answer to a 5-year-old site, Second Life, where people deploy animated alter egos known as avatars to navigate through virtual reality. Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) thinks Lively will encourage even more people to dive into alternate realities because it isn't tethered to one Web site like Second Life, and it doesn't cost anything to use. After installing a small packet of software, a user can enter Lively from other Web sites, like social networking sites and blogs.
The Lively application already works on Facebook, one of the Web's hottest hangouts, and Google is working on a version suitable for an even larger online social network, News Corp.'s (NWS, Fortune 500) MySpace.
"We know people already spend a lot of time online socializing, so we just want to try to make it more enjoyable," said Niniane Wang, a Google engineering manager who oversaw Lively's creation over the past year.
Although Google is best known for the search engine that generates most of its profits, the company has introduced other services that are widely used without making much, if any, money. Google's peripheral products include its 3-D "Earth" software, Picasa for sharing photos and programs for word processing, calendars and spreadsheets. The service also enables users to create different digital dimensions to roam, from a coffeehouse to an exotic island. The settings can be decorated with a wide variety of furniture, including large-screen televisions that can be set up to play different clips from YouTube.com, Google's video-sharing service. Lively users can then invite their friends and family into their virtual realities, where they can chat, hug, cry, laugh and interact as if they were characters in a video game.