Today, Google released the long awaited (and rumored) "Google Virtual World": Lively. Lively can be described best as a kind of IMVU in a web page. You can create yourself an avatar and can create and decorate your "room" (which does not have to be a "room" but can be an outdoor scene, too), where you meet with other avatars. The avatars kind of look like a cross breed of THERE and IMVU avatars and the visual quality is rather good. A plugin is needed, to integrate your room into a web page (which is only available for the Windows platform).
And of course, the web is already overflowing with head lines saying "The Second Life Killer is finally here!"
While you ALWAYS have to take Google's project seriously ... is hard to see a Second Life "Killer" here.
Lively reminds me of IMVU, Vivaty and the early Kaneva. It is not a virtual "world" but a network of loosely connected scenes. This is a quite popular model for many platforms calling themselves "virtual worlds", which appeared on the market in the last 3 years. I am uncertain, if this model will be too successful in the long run. Many of the projects, which were based on "rooms" alone in the past, have added additional spatial constructs lately. For many applications besides "hey, look at my cool appartment" and "let's spend the night (an hour) together" a room or scene is a very limited surrounding.
This does not mean, that this could not reach a huge target audience. But the competition is already there. And some of the products already on the market do not look too bad. Vivaty, which has a very similar approach (as far as one can judge it now), has the big advantage of being tightly integrated with Facebook and AIM. I consider this a very valuable feature for this type of platform - because, the way Lively is now, it is basically a nice add on for a profile page on Facebook, MySpace or a blog. And for this purpose, a good integration with Facebook, MySpace or a blogging platform is important. Google certainly has these platforms available and the technological abilities to add such an integration.
Lets see what happens in the next months.