If you're based in the West, there's a good chance you haven't heard of Gogofrog, the Web-based virtual world based out of Australia. "You probably wouldn't because of who we are and what we've been doing," said Gogofrog Founder and CEO Vincent Teubler. "We've been keeping very much to ourselves and not spending much money on advertising." All that is getting ready to change.
Gogofrog didn't start out as a plan for a virtual world. It started out of Teubler and Creative Director Lorenzo Lorefice's desire to do something different with their IT recruiting company's website.
"99% of Web pages are just brochures," said Teubler. "People aren't going in and interacting or transacting. They're just looking at the furniture and the directory. You find a lot of sales people looking to just find who to contact. I thought, let's do something different. Why don't we look at a 3D play?"
Within a month the website was drawing between 30 and 40 thousand hits from the IT space just for the originality. That's when Teubler and Lorefice decided to go bigger.
"We put a front end on it, and it's effectively a metaverse spawner," explained Teubler. "We look at it, and it needs a lot of beta testing. We're in a part of the world where we're not coming from the MMOG side and going to the business side. We're coming from the general consumer side. We want it to be 100% browser based. If someone has to download some software to get into the website, it's difficult from day one. That's our mantra from day one that browser-based is number one. We develop in Flash because 99% of desktops have Flash sitting on them."
Now Gogofrog is on track to see 1.2-1.5 million users for the past twelve-month period and, three years into the project, boasts 11,500 user-created sites, ranging from art galleries to small businesses to high school student organizations to lawn bowling groups. All of those users have evolved from the original group of 30-40 testers without advertising.
"We then go ask them questions about 'What would make this a better space?'" explained Teubler. "We've got enough people now to get a good number of responses, 1000 responses from actual users. All those elements of getting the beta out there have been very positive. That's taken us to about 3 months ago. We haven't focused on the marketing per se. There's a part 2 to the development, and part 1 was making sure the development was absolutely rigid. Being browser-based, we have to make sure there aren't issues of people getting to us. We've looked at all the user feedback and constructed the phase 2 development and started working on that. Given that we're already browser based, it's pretty exciting in terms of the next year of what we'll be launching."
Teubler says that the world is a minimum of three months away from that commercial launch and a maximum of six. Entirely self-funded so far, Gogofrog is now looking for investors and has developed several strategic relationships that are influencing a likely move to a new international headquarters.
His focus, though, is on rolling out new features. Most of them have already been embedded in the code, but Teubler sees the bigger question as being how to give users access and control over things like uploading media, live video and voice streaming, telephoning in and out of the world, and commerce.
"I guess the overall direction and strategy for the next three to four months apart from the myriad of stuff that's on the development roadmap, and there's a lot of exciting stuff, is how we're differentiating ourselves," said Teubler. "It's nice to be browser-based, but that's as much just a function of where we've come from and gives it a greater usability, but it can't be your raison d'etre. There's got to be something more."
One of the things Teubler is most excited about is the worldwide network of Flash users and developers that he's connecting. While Second Life requires users to learn a new scripting language, there are already over a million registered Flash developers that can immediately build content for Gogofrog. All of them can then sell content over Gogofrog's real-money transaction system.
"Because of how we're coming at this with people building their own private spaces and choosing whether or not to link up, you've got to think up an economy around who our users are," explained Teubler. "It may not be that the elements are actually the same. That's an important discussion with our strategic partners. Let's not follow suit with everyone else where real estate is the full basis for our economy and having a virtual dollar. Why not just make it a real dollar from day one? Take out that whole virtual world dollar and the translation point. Let's just see if that's a viable proposition. We're putting a lot of thought into that where the economy will be more closely aligned with traditional websites."
It seems like the demand from users is there for a simpler system., says Teubler. It makes it simpler when some users want to sell virtual content and others want to sell real world products as in a traditional website.
"You're going to be wrapping it up and sending it somewhere, so you don't want to get paid in Gogo dollars," Teubler said. "Having it mixed, makes it confusing. You pay real dollars, end of story."
The economy system is in place, but not currently available for users. The only portion that's been rolled out so far is a donation system.
"Every day we get a donation from people who are using Gogofrog for a commercial site," said Teubler. "Obviously they feel guilty because we're not charging them anything. We get donations 'For the sake of Karma, here's $100.' Thanks, I feel guilty, but any $100 is better than none. Hopefully we'll have more of a robust economy than purely donations."
Teubler looks at Gogofrog as "metaverse light," a sort of introduction to the 3D Web that people might then move on from to enter more immersive worlds like Second Life or There.
"I don't subscribe to the idea that ultimately there's going to be one large metaverse that absorbs everyone," said Teubler. "I've heard the theory that one person will become the 3D internet. Do the words 'horseshit' mean anything? There's likely going to be 1000s of 3D Internet plays. You look at the different angles for the metaverse roadmap, everything from medical treatment that requires specialist concepts and approaches that Second Life isn't doing and we're not doing. There's going to be companies that handle all the specialized concepts that the metaverse can handle. That's fantastic. We don't have to be all things to all people. We've got miles and miles of breadth to the levels of immersiveness we can bring. Clearly we haven't been focused on content development. We're still using Flash 6. You can assume the next levels will bring it up."
With Adobe as an active supporter, that increases the likelihood of seeing some serious business applications. Teubler points to AIR, Adobe's cross-OS runtime environment as a major benefit that could eventually lead to integration with some desktop software in the virtual world.
"We don't have to think through all that," explained Teubler. "Once we've got the open content philosophy, you've got a million plus people thinking it through for you. When Second Life opened up content for development by its users, they didn't have a million developers. They had none. People had to start figuring out how to build content for Second Life. When we open our content up, there's a million people in day one. And Flash ain't rocket science. I think there will quickly be another group of people looking to work with it for their specific needs."
This article is sourced from http://www.virtualworldsnews.com