I blogged about Lively, Google’s browser plugin-based take on virtual worlds, when it went live back in July, thinking that it offered an interesting ‘entry level’ approach to customising 3D spaces and online interaction. Google have now announced that they’ll be closing Lively at the end of December, pretty unambiguously stating that it was simply a bet that didn’t pay off.
There’s no real information yet about why exactly it didn’t work out, although not being available on Mac or Linux, or even Google’s own browser Chrome, couldn’t have helped. Techcrunch reproduce a Google Analytics graph showing just how transient interest in Lively really was, and I know that my own use of it exactly mirrored the inital spike of interest followed by never returning to it.
Like the FaceBook groups and protest sites that sprang up when FaceBook’s News Feed feature was announced, there are some rooms on Lively aimed at protesting the closure, but unlike the more than 500,000 people who signed an online petition protesting against News Feed, the two rooms I’ve linked there have had less than 200 visitors between them. It’s always sad when something doesn’t work out, but is there really any point in a virtual world where the only person there is to talk to is yourself?
Update: Jason Calacanis asks why Google didn’t sell off Lively and wonders if its closure is a prelude to layoffs. Google’s announcement does state that Lively staff will be redeployed on other projects, for what that’s worth but Valleywag, who aren’t slow to point out where signs of the recession are evident within the Silicon Valley giant, have a pretty unambiguous view of why Lively, and by extension Second Life, just aren’t that appealing to that many people. Massively also offer their own interpretation of the closure.