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Prediction: One virtual world to rule them all

This Wired piece by technology thinker Steven Johnson is a neat summary of a prediction about virtual worlds that's becoming increasingly common. If you take a step back from the MMOs and other online pursuits of today, you see a lot of standalone bubbles of activity with one common factor--you. However, you can't cross the boundaries between worlds, taking your Halo 2 friends list and reputation into EverQuest or sending your Animal Crossing characters messages from your mobile.

The prediction is that, relatively soon in the future, this won't be the case. As in The Matrix, as in Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, one virtual world (or metaverse, if you prefer) will connect everything together:

Within a decade, then, the notion of separate game worlds will probably seem like a quaint artifact of the frontier days of virtual reality. You'll still be able to engage in radically different experiences - from slaying orcs to cybersex - but they'll occur within a common architecture.

The heterogeneous environment of home computing in the 1980s underwent a similar transformation; now it's virtual worlds' turn. Whether a proprietary product like Second Life (which resembles a fledgling metaverse) will come to the fore, or whether it will (like the Internet itself) evolve out of open standards and protocols, only time will tell--either way, in ten years' time people will look back on this post, from their virtual homes in a virtual reality, and laugh.

[Via Terra Nova]

See also:
Wharton Dean: virtual worlds are the future of MBA education
Virtual crucifixion punishes bad behaviour online
Is online gaming antisocial?

This article was originally published on Joystiq.