Third Life – Google Earth’s Next Step?

TechCrunch has just published about some rumors that Google is working on using Google Earth-related technology to create an application similar to Second Life or There. These ventures are some of the more successful attempts to build an alternative 3D “universe” (called a Metaverse) where you can interact with other people through the net by building avatars who represent your self in that other world. The concept of the metaverse was popularized by a science fiction book called “Snow Crash” by Neal Stepheson (a good read by the way). In fact, according to John Hanke – Director of Google Earth – scenes from that book were part of the inspiration which led to Google Earth.
TechCrunch points to a blog entry by one of the investors of Second Life that they believe “Google is working on turning Google Earth into a virtual world a la SecondLife.” TechCrunch also pointed to a Business 2.0 article last month (not sure how I missed this one) which discusses in more detail speculation that Google may move in the direction of creating a metaverse. That article correctly points out that between Google Earth and SketchUp, Google has a lot of the right technology to make this possible. One blogger has speculated Google would just buy Second Life.

There is certainly a lot of merit to the speculation Google might create a metaverse. In the 1980s, I worked on virtual reality technologies at NASA, and I’ve been a big fan of Snow Crash and the concept of a metaverse since the book was first published. There have been many attempts (I made a couple attempts myself) since the early 90s to make metaverses – and the concept is finally starting to catch on (mostly because the standard desktop can finally handle the 3D graphics required). Google Earth has already demonstrated many innovative ways to pull in diverse dynamic information from the Internet and share that in a visually appealing way. And Google has barely tapped the possibilities even with GE 4 which just came out. There are many possibilities for improving Google Earth and how we interact with it.
But, Google Earth is not a metaverse. It’s a virtual globe on steroids. However, thanks in part to GE and SketchUp, Google has the right technologies, and experience with data scalability and interfaces to make a metaverse work. For Google there could be big money (even more advertising possibilities) by providing better ways to interact with Internet information rather than just using a standard browser. Buying SecondLife? There could be some merit to that strategy, but Google could certainly develop their own platform if they chose to go this route – and marketing would not be a problem.
I’m eagerly awaiting further developments for both Google Earth/virtual globes, and what happens in the rapidly developing Metaverse market. We live in exciting times!

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.


  1. Now add that to the previous video about multitouch screen and the result is .. wow 🙂

  2. Ravishal Bentham says:

    Perhaps if Google bought Second Life that could take all the territories (mainland and private island) and place them in the ocean ala “Atlantis or Mu”. That would prevent a lot of squabbling over who owned what house on 1313 Mockingbird Lane, Anytown, USA.

  3. Calla Cela says:

    I am an active member of Second Life & would ADORE to have Google acquire it.
    Calla Cela

  4. Wow! im really looking forward to be able to move into third life Im sure it will not crash every half an hour as Second Life does.

  5. sam yates says:

    wow the idea of google takig over second life is great. they would bring so much more stability to second life. I am an active second life user and welcome this

  6. Sparkaphat Doobie says:

    Secondlife has gotten much better as far as crashing and I can’t wait to see where we are 5 years from now!

  7. Second Life is the greatest. If Google makes a metaverse, what would happen to SL? It would be interesting to see that.

  8. Jeniffer Marie Childs says:

    Second life is great but wondering what third life going to be and what will it look like.

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