Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Google Lively RIP - last day for Google's virtual world

On July 9th 2008 Google launched 'Lively', aiming to bring virtualness and interactivity to the social web.

Instead of a closed virtual world like Second Life, Google's (grand) aim was for Lively to be used as an interactive meeting / discussion hub embedded across the social web. Lively users would embed Lively into blogs / other social platforms and rather than just have static comments, Lively would facilitate virtual interaction across the internet - an advanced Friend Connect.

After less than 5 months though, Google is closing Lively - and the last day of Lively is today:

Google's announcement of the Lively closure (click for larger image or go here)

So what went wrong?

The main issue is clearly with user numbers. PC Pro described Lively as 'the Mary Celeste of the virtual world' and decries the lack of Lively users. Indeed, user-centred design and web accessiblity blog AniktoBlog states that Lively had a weekly user login in of just 10,000 users! AniktoBlog goes on to analyse some of the reasons why Lively didn't work - focussing on user experience, (lack of) integration of other Google products and the fact that Google core values weren't inherent in the Lively platform. (A number of others lament the lack of a Mac version of Lively too.)

Aside from sensitivity around content and user actions (the Robot Closet Sex Machine being a great example of how virtual world users can run amock), Lively did not seem like it could make money on a Google scale. There are passionate users, like Luc at Creatan Chronicles, who lovingly details his experiences inside Lively and the Livelyzens at (who are doing some really clever things with Lively machinima), but the monetisation opportunities around Lively just don't seem able to scale in the way that Search or standard Display advertising can.

Google Lively Robot Closet with wandering arms - a 'sexual experience'?

The end of Lively could be the first signs of increased Google pragmatism for 2009. The Feedburner name also looks like it will disappear (replaced by 'Adsense for Feeds') and as Twitter surges, there have still been no public announcements about Google-owned Jaiku. Think 2009 could be an interesting year to be a Google watcher!

NB Lively is a proprietary Google platform and there is no way of backing things up / using designs elsewhere - once Lively is closed, any creations within it will be lost forever (however the IP implications and issues around backing up / portability of content created within proprietary technology platforms / social networks is too big a debate to have in the footnotes here!)

The only way to preserve Lively work is to screengrab - so for posterity, here are the screengrabs of my final Lively room:

Google Lively RIP.

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