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Why Standards?

Recently, IBM's VP of Technical Strategy and Innovation, Irving Wladawsky-Berger expressed the need for the makers of virtual worlds of all types to develop and embrace standards.

What's required is a way to join up virtual environments of all kinds, made by all different companies. His statement was open-ended, but it is presumed he meant simple social environments like SecondLife, Moove and ActiveWorlds.

However, compatible virtual worlds spread across a vast range, from text based environments like MUDs and MUSHes, to gameworlds like EverQuest or World of Warcraft, to research simulations running on a variety of hardware, and right the way back to massive social virtual environments again.

A compatibility standard between all of them would link and enrich the virtual experience, as users could take their virtual identities with them from platform to platform. They could then teleport from one service to another, in much the same way as users can hyperlink from one site to another on the 2D world-wide-web.

Each type of environment has aspects the others do not have, this is obvious. However, each also has elements in common with the others, more than enough to build up an interoperability standard.

In this way, research hardware could be directly interfaced with ActiveWorlds, or a person could kill dragons for a couple of hours in a Mordor based MUD, then seamlessly hop to Second Life for a meeting.

It would remove the "that market is niche so no point developing for it" issue that many entertainment-based VR firms have, as the interoperability between systems, would enable such systems to slowly become more prevalent - and already handled in the standards.

Wladawsky-Berger is quoted as saying:

We need to make it easy to interoperate with other virtual worlds on the Internet and be able to go back and forth between virtual worlds and Web sites in an easy way. The problem now is the lack of standards like we had with HTTP, HTML (languages for sending and describing Web pages), etc. We need to create them across virtual-world platforms as well as Web sites.

He also suggested that this was an area where IBM would like to work more closely with Linden Lab (the makers of Second Life):

We have some conversations with the Lindens, but not much. It is something (on which) we would like to collaborate with them more, especially in the area of standards and open source. I think it would be very good to get the various virtual-world communities to participate in efforts to define standards and to define what it means to interoperate across virtual worlds-something that needs lots of innovation.

Defining Standards

From the Dictionary:

stand?ard ?noun

1. something considered by an authority or by general consent as a basis of comparison; an approved model.
2. an object that is regarded as the usual or most common size or form of its kind: We stock the deluxe models as well as the standards.
3. a rule or principle that is used as a basis for judgment: They tried to establish standards for a new philosophical approach.
4. an average or normal requirement, quality, quantity, level, grade, etc.
5. standards, those morals, ethics, habits, etc., established by authority, custom, or an individual as acceptable: He tried to live up to his father's standards.


1. serving as a basis of weight, measure, value, comparison, or judgment.

You cannot do anything without standards, to fit differing pieces together. Without standards, when you come to integrate differing things into a whole, the result is always complete chaos.

As the union of differing products becomes more and more technical, more and more complex, the necessity of standards becomes critical, if systems are to function together as a cohesive whole.

In order for something to become a standard, it must be agreed upon by the major parties involved. It must also be achievable. As there is no real concept of universal, it is never going to be possible to achieve a standard for everything. In practice, often you encounter standards that directly compete with one another, having been agreed upon by different groups. In these cases, you wind up having to have a standard for interconnecting between differing standards.

Standards should ideally be the minimum interoperability obtainable. In practice, they are usually the maximum. Therefore, the standards that are put in place have to be both quantifiable and quantitive. They have to be both sufficient to cover every necessity to make the union fully functional, and at the same time, achievable.
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