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Google Terminates Lively 186

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the we-hardly-knew-ye dept.
FornaxChemica writes "In a surprise move, Google announced today, both on-site and in its blog, that it will permanently shut down its 3D virtual world, Lively, by the end of the year. This makes Lively one of Google's few scrapped products, and one of the most short-lived, too, barely lasting 6 months. No official reason was given, only that Google wants to 'prioritize [its] resources and focus more on [its] core search, ads and apps business.' Lively might have taken too much and given back too little, even by Google's standards."
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Google Terminates Lively

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  • Oblig. (Score:5, Funny)

    by cosmocain (1060326) on Thursday November 20, 2008 @10:36AM (#25831841)
    ...They should change the name in Deadely.
  • by multisync (218450) * on Thursday November 20, 2008 @10:37AM (#25831861) Journal

    Google wants to 'prioritize his resources and focus more on his core search, ads and apps business.'

    Google wants to prioritize his resources?

    Well, good for "him."

  • Mis-quoted (Score:5, Informative)

    by daybot (911557) * on Thursday November 20, 2008 @10:38AM (#25831875)

    The odd gender usage is a mis-quote:

    TFS:

    prioritize his resources and focus more on his core search, ads and apps business

    TFA:

    prioritize our resources and focus more on our core search, ads and apps business

    • by ari_j (90255) on Thursday November 20, 2008 @11:06AM (#25832201)
      The standard rule on Slashdot is that the summary can only correctly quote the original article if it does so in a way that makes context inscrutable. Otherwise, the only option is to horrendously misquote the article.

      The best part here is that the summary uses the right possessive pronoun to refer to the blog that it quotes, but changes to the wrong one in the quote.
      • Yes, that was a lack of attention on my part. I am sorry for the resulting awkwardness.
        • by daybot (911557) *

          Yes, that was a lack of attention on her part. She is sorry for the resulting awkwardness.

          No need to apologise - it provided a two-minute distraction and some amusement - just what Slashdot usually does ;)

  • by djm300 (1411753) on Thursday November 20, 2008 @10:38AM (#25831879)
    Google seemed to be surfing the Second Life wave...
    • by Locke2005 (849178)
      Yeah, Lively is just like Second Life, only without the virtual sex... hence the epic fail. It is a difficult balance; you need to allow user created content to be successful as a virtual world, but if you do, then users are going to create a lot of crap that you don't want in your virtual world. Obviously some form of review or moderation is necessary, but nobody has made it work yet.
    • by Wee (17189) on Thursday November 20, 2008 @04:05PM (#25836563)

      Lively was (is?) headed up by Niniane Wang, one of google's hotter engineering types. She used to work at microsoft games, and so was really pushing for a 3-D experience type thing. I personally never saw the point. But Niniane is something of a diva at google, and so she can basically do whatever she wants. Anyone cute, female and employed pre-IPO can pretty much do whatever they want no matter how pointless, come to think of it.

      I tried Lively when it was an internal alpha, and just didn't understand the utility of it. I wasn't sure how they were going to monetize it, either. Or what it had to do with anything, really.

      I did enjoy going to meetings Niniane held. Her being hot and all.

      -B

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Hot? This??? [fastcompany.com]

        Seriously dude, eww. I wouldn't screw her with YOUR dick.

    • It was silent and lively. Now it's silent _and_ deadly. The system was planted by Google to enable this bad joke in due time. Now it's got no purpose, so they're closing it anyways.

  • Not surprising... (Score:5, Informative)

    by new_breed (569862) on Thursday November 20, 2008 @10:40AM (#25831899)
    ..as this idea was laughed at multiple times on slashdot;)
    http://tech.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/07/10/1428221 [slashdot.org]
    http://tech.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/07/09/1210218 [slashdot.org]
  • Good Riddance (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ngarrang (1023425) on Thursday November 20, 2008 @10:42AM (#25831925) Journal

    No, srsly. Good by, Lively. Of all Google betas, this one has stinker written on it from the start. I have a reasonably fast PC, memory and internet connection, and Lively was a dog! A one-legged dog trying to run in the 100 yd dash.

    Maybe instead of a multi-user interactive world, they can turn search results into 3D experience. You enter your search term and a cloud of results appear. You move about, click on a result to see the page, or click on it to get a different set of search results. Efficient? No. High Eye-Candy factor? Yes.

    • by knewter (62953)

      Speaking of, seen viewzi? http://www.viewzi.com/ [viewzi.com]

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by xpulsar87x (305131)

      Didn't they try this back in 1997 with VRML? It was useless then, it hasn't changed now.

      • just because it never caught on doesn't mean it's a bad concept or useless. VRML has been succeeded by X3D, which continues to be developed. but without mainstream adoption by popular browsers we'll never know if it's useful or not.

        web technologies in particular need to be implemented by multiple applications and gain universal support before they're of any use to developers. that's why while SVG and VML are clearly useful standards, they're not being used in many applications because there still isn't univ

      • Re:Good Riddance (Score:4, Informative)

        by paganizer (566360) <`thegrove1' `at' `hotmail.com'> on Thursday November 20, 2008 @02:47PM (#25835515) Homepage Journal

        In 1997 I did a VRML copy of a shopping mall for a company based in Cincinnati; I went to the physical mall site, took a boatload of pictures, and set up the site as a test project on a 128k ISDN connection.
        in order to keep server loads down, I split the mall up into 4 sections; each section was able to handle between 20-30 stock avatars (on 128k, remember) without crashing. very often.
        each mall shop front was a door to the retailer; I put together a textures and objects package for them so they could continue the "theme", giving hopefully a seamless transition from the Mall environment to the store environment, including some CGI scripts to handle a VRML shopping cart. Each mall quarter had a information kiosk intended to house a staffer to answer questions, and the food court area was set up for social interaction between avatars (it was buggy, would have got better).
        It worked perfectly. not quite up to 2nd life graphics, but closer than you might think; I had a plan to have the mall give CD handouts that would contain hi-res textures, the more complex objects, and the VRML client, since most people were on dial-up then.
        They went ape shit. loved it. showed it to several major retailers, who also loved it.
        Wanted me to come to Cincinnati to run it. I said no frakking way, or a variation thereof; I don't need to live there to run it, anyway. turned into a sticking point. they bought it from me, I bought a Jeep.
        They hired a pretty high level geek to run it. He never could get it working right, probably because I'm a sort of intuitive designer (read: I don't comment), eventually they scrapped it. about 2 years later I started seeing some of the objects & textures for it in some commercial applications.
        They never even made an effort to contact me for a fix; I talked to the high level geek sometime in 2003 (slashdotter, you know who you are). He said they were so pissed at me for refusing to move to Cincinnati that the veep in charge refused to even mention my name, had the guy go through it line by line to make sure I wasn't mentioned anywhere in the comments.
        SO, it was a workable VRML e-commerce environment. shot down in its prime. Could have been a contender.

        • by Joe Tie. (567096)
          I have little to add other than thanks for an awesome story. That's one of the best examples of what contracting is like that I've seen.
    • Re:Good Riddance (Score:5, Interesting)

      by bendodge (998616) <.moc.sremmargorpgsb. .ta. .egdodneb.> on Thursday November 20, 2008 @12:01PM (#25832997) Homepage Journal

      3D interfaces are nothing but eye candy without a 3D HID. That's the reason people are willing to pay for something like Google Sketchup, which is generally underpowered as a 3D design environment, but has a decent interface to hack a 2D mouse into a 3D environment. We need to get over the idea that 3D interfaces are going to make it big. They will never do that while we are using 2D pointers.

    • by vux984 (928602) on Thursday November 20, 2008 @12:40PM (#25833631)

      they can turn search results into 3D experience.

      It's UNIX! I know this!

    • by greg_barton (5551)

      No, srsly. Good by, Lively.

      No, seriously. Goodbye English.

    • Anyone notice lately that the No. 1 search result for everything on Google seems to be Wikipedia? Now I just go to Wikipedia and search and cut out the middle man. The links at the bottom of Wiki articles also seem to be more relevant (when they aren't dead) than Google top results.

      I've even been experimenting with MSN search and getting better results lately. Is the Goog stumbling?

  • What's that? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by goodmanj (234846) on Thursday November 20, 2008 @10:46AM (#25831997)

    Maybe the fact that nobody's ever *heard* of this obscure Google service is part of the reason it hasn't been successful.

    • Re:What's that? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by eln (21727) on Thursday November 20, 2008 @11:18AM (#25832339) Homepage

      It's not that we hadn't heard about it, it's that we heard about it and dismissed it immediately as a bad clone of a bad idea, and ignored it after that.

      It's possible that with everyone scared about the economy these days, Google will finally do what every other company does and seek to monetize all of its offerings. If it has something that costs a lot of money without bringing any revenue in, that thing will be gone. Even Google will run out of cash eventually if it spends all its money supporting every dumb idea its employees come up with.

      • It's possible that with everyone scared about the economy these days, Google will finally do what every other company does and seek to monetize all of its offerings. If it has something that costs a lot of money without bringing any revenue in, that thing will be gone. Even Google will run out of cash eventually if it spends all its money supporting every dumb idea its employees come up with.

        So what's that going to do to the Android phones if the G1 doesn't take off?

    • Maybe the fact that nobody's ever *heard* of this obscure Google service is part of the reason it hasn't been successful.

      At AAAI this year (one of the largest and most well known A.I. conferences), they had a demonstration of Lively (not sure how it fits the A.I. moniker). It basically consisted of a what was probably a (very smug) recent college grad sitting around a Lively set up and playing with it himself. Of course, that mainly consisted of him sitting around in a virtual "room" waiting for someone to show up, which didn't happen.

      All in all, it looked like a sad throwback to 1998's VRML and the promise of how it was t

    • by gad_zuki! (70830)

      >Maybe the fact that nobody's ever *heard* of this obscure Google service is part of the reason it hasn't been successful.

      One of my pet peeves is statements like these. The failure of something is almost never attributed to lack of marketing and advertising. Its actually rare, especially when you are talking about multi-billion dollar corporations. What is common is making up excuses for failure. Google got many headlines and tech enabled people who would participate in this kind of thing knew all about

    • That was my first thought too --- that it's being scrapped because it's unpopular, but that it's unpopular because no one's heard of it.

      In fact, it's windows-only (or at least, not cross-platform), so having just heard of it, I'm glad to forget it again. Maybe no one heard of it because no one thought it was worth mentioning.

  • Dear Google, (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ticklejw (453382) on Thursday November 20, 2008 @10:50AM (#25832027) Homepage

    If you're just going to outright shit-can it, why not open-source it? At least then people can benefit from the energy you put into it instead of just throwing that all away.

    • Re:Dear Google, (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Lodragandraoidh (639696) on Thursday November 20, 2008 @11:06AM (#25832185) Journal

      Actually that energy would be better spent working on the OpenSim project [opensimulator.org] to improve a well established grid and help solidify standards for interaction between the Second Life grid and other grids, than to waste energy on a dog that doesn't have a fraction of the capabilities already present in the open simulator.

    • Re:Dear Google, (Score:5, Informative)

      by kripkenstein (913150) on Thursday November 20, 2008 @11:48AM (#25832781) Homepage

      If you're just going to outright shit-can it, why not open-source it? At least then people can benefit from the energy you put into it instead of just throwing that all away.

      Probably not an option for several reasons.

      The first is that the Lively client is based on Gamebryo. This is closed-source, and extremely expensive at that (it's a top-tier game engine, these things can cost $100,000 or more, easily). So the client code is essentially useless for open source purposes (as part of a derivative work of Gamebryo, doing so might even be prohibited according to the Gamebryo license, but I don't know).

      As for the server, Google generally isn't in the business of open sourcing server components of theirs (although exceptions have happened), so I doubt it will happen in this case.

  • by gmuslera (3436) on Thursday November 20, 2008 @10:54AM (#25832075) Homepage Journal
    Integrating virtual worlds with the web, or adding a new level to the communities you build around a site are things that should take off in some moment, not sure when, or if lively's implementation was the right one.

    Probably something similar will appear shortly, or exist already, at least if the biggest problem of lively wasn't of the concept but that it dont fit in google's main focus.
  • An entire 3D chat world is a pretty huge expense (even with Google ads revenue) just to have a bunch of immature users telling each other "a/s/l?" and "ur gey".
  • by Max Romantschuk (132276) <max@romantschuk.fi> on Thursday November 20, 2008 @11:00AM (#25832123) Homepage

    I've never tried lively, but I did give Second Life (with it's rather amazing content creation and scripting abilities) a try. The way I see it there's one major obstacle to these worlds: The "ghost town effect".

    It's very resource intensive to simulate a 3D world, especially a vast one. Making the world big is eeexpeeensive, and the power required to run an arbitrary world is huge.

    With MMORPGs people are paying each month, and a lot of the on screen action relates to NPCs. In something like Second Life every character is a real person with associated lag etc. It's also impossible to optimize a user generated world like a game, which imposes certains limits within a level.

    All in all, Second Life at least is a huge world with comparatively small amounts of people scattered all over. The world just doesn't seem "right" when you go exploring, and most areas are empty. Sure, people gather here and there, but overall it feels like the tech just isn't there yet...

    • by GMonkeyLouie (1372035) <{gmonkeylouie} {at} {gmail.com}> on Thursday November 20, 2008 @11:45AM (#25832749)
      Seems accurate. The "ghost town effect" as you put it plagues many otherwise cool games/forums... or I guess sites that would be cool if more people were using them. Generally if you're not one of the first comers to the market to snap up a share of the early waves of people to realize the potential for a service, you can never recover. Tabula Rasa will never ever compare to WoW because it just never got the same kind of mass membership momentum and nothing can compete with that. Same goes for other social networking sites trying to compete with Facebook and MySpace, although I guess that's about the same because they're really text-based MMORPGs. Nyerk.
      • by demi (17616) * on Thursday November 20, 2008 @12:35PM (#25833537) Homepage Journal

        I'm not sure I can agree with that. Remember that WoW was very late to a market that had already been developed my many MMORPGs--EverQuest, notably, and AC and others. I think that sometimes being first to market isn't an advantage at all, and Google of all companies is in a position to appreciate this, as Google succeeded largely by being very late to the search engine market.

        WoW and Google succeeded so dominantly because they were better, and a big part of why they were better than the established players was because they learned from the existing market, and because they had no established customers they were worried about losing.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by smellsofbikes (890263)

      SL ghost-towns for the same reason that so many other VR's, both textual and visual, have.

      1. People go there and build a few cool things and then realize that they're social and want to hang out with other people.

      2. People don't live there; they only go there when they want to do something interesting. So there aren't people sleeping and eating and *using* all that space that they've created: they're all gathered together in a few small spaces, interacting.

      I think that's a fundamental problem -- not even

      • This is true to an extent in MMORPGs too. Sign on to WOW right now; I bet you will find that on any given server around half of the population is in the newbie areas of Northrend (the new expansion continent), 10-15% are in the higher areas of Northrend, another 10-15% in the Death Knight start area or leveling a Death Knight in Outlands, and 20% or less in the rest of the world. It'll balance some eventually... New people will come in, veterans will make new characters again, but for the time being most

    • by MythoBeast (54294)

      I'll second the ghost-town effect. The other day I was shopping in a fairly large store, and there were an entire eight people in the store at the same time. I was thinking "wow, this place is popular!" Most of the time it's like wandering through a deserted museum.

      The primary problem I found with second life scripting was that any script that interacts with other scripts runs into serious issues with lag and undelivered information packets. There are no internal mechanisms for dealing with this, and writi

      • by Ash-Fox (726320)

        The primary problem I found with second life scripting was that any script that interacts with other scripts runs into serious issues with lag and undelivered information packets. There are no internal mechanisms for dealing with this, and writing delivery reliability code into your scripts is very resource intensive.

        I've been on Second life since 2005, I have written numerous intensive communications scripts (my most notable one [quickfox.net]) and I don't experience the problem of "lag" effecting anything from working (

    • by _xeno_ (155264)

      Lively wasn't like Second Life, though. It was much worse. Rather than have a large open world, they had individual rooms. Users created "rooms" which they could mark public and invite people over to.

      These were, essentially, chat rooms with a useless 3D interface. And I really mean that, because your avatar didn't walk around, you essentially teleported all over the place by clicking and dragging your avatar. I don't think you could sit or anything like that. That may have changed, but that's the way it wor

  • by patmfitz (517089) on Thursday November 20, 2008 @11:16AM (#25832319) Homepage
    http://blogs.computerworld.com/why_googles_lively_is_great_for_telecommuters [computerworld.com]

    Remember the date: July 8, 2008. Today is the day virtual worlds go mainstream. The reason is that Google has launched its own 3D virtual world called Lively. It's free. And it changes everything. Especially for telecommuters.

    The current iteration of Lively seems to border on the goofy and cartoonish. But eventually, it's likely that Google's virtual world will become mainstream to the point where enterprises actually conduct real business there.

    Like instant messaging and social networking, Lively will probably start out as a trendy hangout for teens, only later to become indispensable for professionals first for internal communication, then later to replace some business travel and even trade shows and the like.

    Kudos to you, Mike Elgan, for your keen insight.

    • meh, just more media sensationalism. No different than how they report anything else. Everything from Google and Apple is a world changing testament to mankind's ability to innovate. Everything from Microsoft is obviously just some sad ripoff of someone else's tech.

      The election was treated the same way. Ridiculously insignificant and borderline facts get prime time coverage.
  • Good (Score:3, Funny)

    by ethana2 (1389887) on Thursday November 20, 2008 @11:20AM (#25832377)
    Those resources are better used porting sketchup to linux. You know, after Duke Nukem 3 is out..
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by ethana2 (1389887)
      Grarghg, Duke Nukem Forever, sorry. Duke Nukem 3 has been out for a while I think.. Comment preview needs to be a post-post edit period.. When you just want to post something, how long are you going to look it over for typos you're sure you haven't made? How do you edit comments here? ..hmm.. Evidently not after posting. Which is just like.. you can't. Blast.
      • If it's any consolation, I've been playing and re-playing Duke Nukem 3 and it's various ports, expansions and mods on-and-off for 10 years and I didn't notice your mistake until you very kindly pointed it out.

  • by NoNeeeed (157503) <slash@NOspAM.paulleader.co.uk> on Thursday November 20, 2008 @11:31AM (#25832497) Homepage

    It's as if a million voices cried out and then went: "Lively? What's that?"

    Seriously, a knock off of Second-Life? What were they thinking. SL is pointless enough, did anyone there really think that this was going to be a goer?

    There is this obsession with 3D worlds, computer interfaces, or file managers. People are convinced that just because something is technically more complex and sophisticated that it must be better. People keep telling us that soon we will be using voice controlled 3d AI interfaces, while missing the fact that none of these things actually make life easier. Why should I have to use a 3D world just to talk to someone? Why use a video phone when I just want to talk, not see their face?

    Just because voice recognition is more sophisticated than a keyboard doesn't mean that it is intrinsically better.

    The TV didn't kill the radio star. No matter how much more technically complex it might be, you can't watch TV while driving the car or walking down the street.

    • by default luser (529332) on Thursday November 20, 2008 @12:00PM (#25832967) Journal

      Well said! And conversely, the video phone has yet to kill the audio-only phone, although the tech has been around (and affordable) for 40-odd years [wikipedia.org]. Picturephone used only three twsted pair wires, which was well within the capabilities of 1960s telephony tech. And sure, Picturephone was expensive, but today the tech is much cheaper, and yet there is little uptake.

      About the only place you'll see video phones today are small niche markets (like field reporters, or soldiers on tours of duty phoning home). For most people, video phones are a solution searching for a problem.

    • by MythoBeast (54294)

      I can understand why they might want to do this. As a software developer, I often think to myself "I'm SURE I could write something more responsive than this" while playing Second Life. If I had an infinite amount of free time, I'd probably even give it a whack just to see if I can figure out what the big issue is.

      • by Ash-Fox (726320)

        As a software developer, I often think to myself "I'm SURE I could write something more responsive than this" while playing Second Life.

        I'm personally not sure I could make that much of a difference. I understand that Second life is incapable of prerendering pretty much anything that isn't water and that is what essentially kills performance when it comes to Second life.

        Creating a fully dynamic environment where anything can exist, with the primative building system - I doubt I could of done that much bette

        • by MythoBeast (54294)

          Just because I logically couldn't doesn't mean that I wouldn't want to try, especially if someone else was footing the bill for my efforts.

    • by argent (18001)

      Seriously, a knock off of Second-Life?

      No. Not even vaguely.

      Not even a knock-off of IMVU.

      It was more like a slightly fancier version of Puzzle Pirates, but without the games.

  • as opposed to... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lord of the Fries (132154) on Thursday November 20, 2008 @12:40PM (#25833637) Homepage

    This makes Lively one of Google's few scrapped products...

    ...as opposed to most of the rest of Googles products which are still in Beta.

  • I tried it... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SuperCharlie (1068072) on Thursday November 20, 2008 @02:20PM (#25835121)
    I jumped on Lively when it was first announced, set up and furnished a room. The engine was slow but after it loaded it wasnt that bad. The application iteself always felt like an honest Beta, like there was something more to do before it was "real". Navigating around in Lively was a pain at best, users were never allowed to create and upload world items and the biggest issue was that once you finished outfitting a room, well, you had a chat room and that was about all Lively did.

    I think they realized that they would either have to put some serious investment into this to make it worth it or drop it. Lively was an outside bet that just didnt pay off.
  • Microsoft Bob (Score:4, Interesting)

    by argent (18001) <peterNO@SPAMslashdot.2006.taronga.com> on Thursday November 20, 2008 @02:31PM (#25835279) Homepage Journal

    Google has finally had their "Bob". No big deal.

    Now if they had let you put avatars into Google Street View and the rest of the Google Earth line-up, that would have been cool.

  • Google Answers rocked. More than once I was willing to shell out $10-$20 bucks (plus tip) to find the answer to something my own Google-fu fails to uncover. (What's the full text of 'Nightingale Woman', Gene Roddenberry's ode to his WWII airplane?)

    • by MrZaius (321037)

      Quite - It seems much more odd now, considering that the project could (presumably) have self-funded contractor mods and, compared to a Second Life knock-off, cost Google next to nothing to maintain.

  • Have the company's growth fantasies involving the RMT purchase of virtual members [gamesetwatch.com] been scrapped due to the financial crisis?

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