While the rest won’t be in any specific order, the second in the series is for what I think is the most important ingredient: people. In fact, if there is a killer application for virtual worlds, it’s people. (Well, obviously that sentence doesn’t quite work but people are the key ingredient in meetings and education, the two killer apps which Irving Wladawsky-Berger talked about when he visited Hursley recently.)
Without people, you’re left with 3d graphics, or not even that for some virtual worlds. If you want to show off some 3d design on a web page, there would certainly be better ways to do it if slick graphics, simplicity or speed were you primary concern. You could mash up 3d content and social software in some sort of google CAD application so people can collaborate on garden layouts/kitchen designs/pimping their ride, and there are already instant messaging tools, voice over IP and web cams, so who needs a virtual world? There’s no one thing that you can do in a virtual world that you can’t do another way but virtual worlds tie it all together in a natural way. (Well, I’m sure there’s room for improvement but the potential is definitely there.)
If you just try out your first virtual world without anyone else, you’re unlikely to see them at their best. It’s a lot like arriving in a big city- there must be things to do and people to talk to, but where do you start? Exploring with someone you already know can help a lot. That’s certainly my experience with Second Life; the first time I logged in was very nearly my last. It was only after being shown round a few places and meeting up with people in-world that I began to see the potential. I think linking up virtual worlds with social networks is a great idea in this respect, which I think Kaneva does, and you can now do with the Second Life Link on Facebook.
Trying out virtual worlds with a specific purpose in mind also seems like a good way to experience the people power early on, whether they’re people you already know, or just other people with a common interest. The I am Legend Second Life game is a fun example, but I recently heard about talkademy which just sounds fantastic. One of my excuses for being so bad at languages is just not having the chance to practice. I rarely go to Spain or Germany, and when I do, everyone is far too kind and happily talks in English before I’ve barely struggled through my first sentence! Using virtual worlds to practice sounds like a great use of virtual worlds. Another killer app?