Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)'s endeavors in Web 2.0 have usually proven to be one consistent disappointment after another. And after toying around with it for a while, its new virtual world Lively doesn't promise to be any different.
Lively, the latest addition to Google Labs, is Google's attempt at creating virtual chat rooms that can be embedded on any other Website. On paper, it sounds interesting. Users will be able to create their own rooms, decorate them with photos from Picasa and videos from YouTube, and easily embed their custom-made rooms into their blogs and Websites. Rooms can hold up to 20 avatars, which can then engage in chatter and stomp around the room together. Good. Times.
Unfortunately, though, messing around with Google Lively proved a miserable morning for me. After downloading the necessary plugin (sigh), I created my kitty avatar, found a chat room with some 3-D strangers (a library!), and started chatting it up. Not 10 minutes later did my browser freeze, generating problems with my computer for the next hour -- and for some unexplainable reason causing my computer to play Coldplay music (even when the browser wasn't open).
Aside from Lively's browser bugs ruining my morning, causing me to take aggressive force against my keyboard with my fists, I've found several other reasons to loathe this new release. Some of the ill will results from Google's arrogance and the rest from the slavish press that feeds into it.
For starters, we can ignore those who claim Lively is a Second Life killer. Don't get me wrong, someone should kill Second Life and every avatar in it, but a new virtual world built by Google which serves no business function whatsoever will not be the thing to wipe Second Life off the digital planet.
I also want to smack those who say Google has validated the space by releasing a half-assed, non-purposeful, slow-moving, computer-freezing virtual world. Is that really all it takes? If companies are already doing a decent job of this with millions of users, does it really not count until Google donates 20 percent of its brainpower (literally 20 percent, according to to creating some mediocre clone?
Then there's Google and the Google lackies who are promoting Lively as transforming chat on the Web. What's so innovative? Lively is basically a regular chatroom with chintzy graphics. Age, sex, and location information are no more meaningful and no less creepy on Lively than it is in an AOL chatroom.
Finally, Google's a loser here for releasing products in beta when they're clearly still in an alpha/under-the-bed phase. My Lively avatar surveyed some other visitors, who when prodded about what they thought of the new product, complained that it was too slow, that the rooms take "years" to load, that walking is difficult (avatar arthritis?), and that it serves no B2B function whatsoever. No avatars I encountered offered up praise of the product.
Final verdict: Lively doesn't really live up to its name, and the Google hype here has gotten way ahead of any reality, virtual or logical.
— Nicole Ferraro, Site Editor, Internet Evolution