This time, though, Blue Mars takes a development step even we can't quarrel with – fully integrated Adobe Flash for interactive in-world 'net browsing.
Pixels and Policy takes a look at what this means for Blue Mars and its competitors.
Flash Forward for Blue Mars
Avatar Reality, the chipper parent of Blue Mars, recently announced that Blue Mars would be the first virtual world to integrate seamless Internet browsing while in-world. By using Adobe Flash technology, Avatar Reality hopes to create both a digital communication commons for individuals as well as enticing business opportunities for major corporations.
Implementing Flash allows users to interact with a company's billboard, view concerts live, share documents with others, even customize real-world products for eventual purchase.
Those custom Nike's you wanted? Why not pick them up next time you're in-world by using the hypothetical Nike shoe designer? Thanks to Flash, the design module also serves as a point-of-sale register that may soon take virtual shopping to a new level.
Avatar Reality sees no shortage of possibilities, as their press release makes clear:
From venues in which thousands of users can enjoy a live
concert together to collaborative classrooms and business meetings, to
imaginative locations where friends from all over the globe can share
movies and videos, shop for real-world and virtual items together, or play
With the thousands of Flash™ applications already available and
more appearing every day, the possibilities are truly limitless.
The addition of seamless in-world Flash makes Blue Mars less a virtual world client and more a 3-D web browsing service. This isn't a bad thing, as one of the last major steps in virtual world development centers on linking the virtual world to the wider Internet without clunky secondary browsers or pop-up windows.
Avatar Reality's quick move to integrate Flash into their world is also a swat at their competitors, mainly Second Life. Second Life doesn't support Flash media, though users can go through a clunky process to get limited functionality through Second Life's in-world web browser. Instead of taking on Second Life in areas where its market dominance is entrenched, Avatar Reality chose to pick off the weak spots.
It could turn out to be a smart strategy.
Will Companies Bite?
streaming Flash media into Blue Mars provides Avatar Reality with one
major selling point over the dominant Second Life, and by the looks of
their press release, Blue Mars is already on the path to convince
companies that Flash means money.
Avatar Reality calls out a few flash-based merchants by name, giving us a clear idea of who they're hoping to bring in-world, and given the adaptability of Flash and the potential upscale consumer market drawn to a graphically demanding world like Blue Mars, large companies have every reason to closely investigate the market potential of moving into Avatar Reality's virtual playground.
EBay, Amazon.com, YouTube and Hulu are chief among Avatar Reality's commercial targets, and for good reason. If the Flash client is as easy to use as Avatar Reality advertises, a scheme in which Blue Mars allows users to bid on EBay auctions from in-world in exchange for a cut from EBay could prove vastly profitable, given how many people love fighting over knick-knacks and old Beatles albums. The same goes for Amazon.
There's no real reason for companies to avoid working with Blue Mars, especially since the integration of streaming in-world Flash capability is so novel and potentially profitable. There are no major competitors to draw business from Blue Mars, and no major downsides to corporations participating in limited pilot trials of the technology. In short, we suspect companies will take the chance.
Creating Flash windows in Blue Mars could have an even more mind-splitting possibility: Hosting embeddable, flash-based virtual worlds like MyMiniLife or Metaplace in exchange for a cut of all Metaplace/MML currency purchased while in-world. If that becomes the case, Blue Mars will become a world hosting other virtual worlds.