One of the strangely predictable bits of web evolution is how the online 3D worlds and their contractors and publicists have adopted the Hollywood tricks for generating publicity. The article linked in the title to the CNet article is an example of the Hollywood CatFight where two major stars embark on a public spat designed to bring in cameras and mentions in the tabloids. CNet has slowly devolved into a 'bloid and the SecondLife capital must be burning fast. I have to admit a sneaking respect for the Graef's for their clever exploitation of the griefers who decorated their CNet interview with flying penises. One wonders if some insiders didn't set this up for exactly this purpose, but what the heck; it's just virtual gamesmanship.
I stumbled into a site by a fellow named Rafe Koster. He seems to be one of the new breed of 3D pundits who have become the 'this lives; this dies' critics I guess who thrive as the counterbalance to Clay Shirky. The Terra Nova guys write funny stuff. It duplicates the same kinds of faux academia that we saw in the early days of VRML and Cybertown. They tell us that X3D is soooo over and that online communities avoid it like the plague. Rafe missed some major contracts that have been let out of Federal agencies specifying the use of the international 3D standards so his death spat may be a little premature, but again, that's ok. These are not the applications where one writes treatises on the social economy of the avatar or books on the history of virtual communities somewhat like histories of Spider Man and The Green Goblin.
Online communities are one way to use real-time 3D. Probably they aren't the most advanced but nonetheless, they are thriving. The pundits like Rafe keep rooting on the closed systems like Second Life and who can blame them. As with the Macintosh, the closed system handled complexity by locking the customer to its formats and its tools. Is that a metaverse? Could be. It's yet another iPod or Apple and it will sell well wherever ease is traded for the ability to reuse content. Remember, when Second Life tells the author that content is owned by the author, that is a true statement. It is owned by them the same way the public owns a statue in the park. They all have the right to visit it. They don't have the ability to take it home.