Hive7: Something Old, Something New…

by alec on March 29, 2006

Om and Erick are on the same meme-train at the moment — the re-creation of the “desktop” in the web.  It’s the web-top idea of a decade ago, but implemented in Ajax, and with enough bandwidth to make it truly useful.  Hence their interest in desktop app replacements like Goowy, Writely and utilities like Fabrik.  The latest story is about Hive7, an online environment, similar to the very popular Second Life.

We’ve come a long way, but there is still far to travel.  Or, something old, something new…

MUDs, or MOOs, or whatever the acronym you want, have been around for a very long time.  I played a multi-user online game called the Scepter of Goth through much of my university career from 1982 to 1987.  I used to travel everywhere with a 300 baud accoustic coupler!  My brother met his wife on LambdaMOO in the early 1990’s too.  LambdaMOO, if you don’t know the history, was the precursor to PlaceWare, ultimately bought by Microsoft and now marketed as LiveMeeting — a very useful product, and a real surprise that it came out of the text-only multi-user LambdaMOO, which was primarily a place where people went to chat.  That’s the power of a programmable environment, I guess. 

Hive7?  It’s very much like a MOO with a side-scrolling graphical environment placed on it.  You can meet people, build custom avatars, move from room to room, build new rooms, and so on. The limitations imposed by Ajax are significant.  It’s completely 2D, unlike Second Life, and uses really none of the capabilities of your graphics card. There’s nothing like VRML (anybody remember that?), or a sophisticated 3D rendering engine built on Direct3D, for instance.   Hive7 is also somewhat slow.  You won’t be building the hedge maze I just found in Second Life on Hive7.  Nor will you be choosing to fly around the landscape, the way you can in Second Life.

That said, as a beta, it’s pretty intriguing. If what you’re looking for is a fun chat interface, then this might be just the ticket.  And because it’s Ajax based, and exposes a standard web API, there are some intriguing possiblities lying just below the surface with new kinds of mashups.  Imagine, for instance, marrying this environment to the personal information available in a dating site…

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