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Naming and identification in virtual worlds

From: <noah_mendelsohn@us.ibm.com>
Date: Mon, 18 Jun 2007 11:38:49 -0400
To: www-tag@w3.org
Cc: Don Brutzman <brutzman@nps.navy.mil>
Message-ID: <OFBD436BA9.6485A788-ON852572FE.00555A72-852572FE.0055B4B8@lotus.com>

We have some time scheduled on our TAG telcon today to begin discussion 
[1] of naming and identification of resources in 3D "Virtual Worlds".  The 
purpose of this note is to suggest some issues the TAG might wish to 
consider. 

There is at least a significant chance that systems such as Second Life 
[2] or Open Croquet [3] will continue to gain in popularity, and that 
important information will be available within these systems.  Although I 
do not claim deep expertise with any one of these systems, I have become 
very interested in the question of how they might best integrate with the 
World Wide Web.  I suggest that some interesting issues to consider might 
include:

* What sort of integration is desirable for the Web as we know it and 
these new "virtual world" systems?  Of course, there are many such 
systems, and the answers might differ, but I think the question applies 
uniformly to all.  Stated differently:  what are the important use cases 
that need to be considered? 

* Which resources in a virtual world should be identified with URIs? Using 
Which URI schemes?  What metadata, if any, should be encoded in the URIs 
(note that systems like SLURLs [4], which are used to provide URIs for 
Second Life, encode coordinates in virtual 3 space)?  (To a significant 
degree, this is issue URNsAndRegistries-50 [5], applied to the integration 
of virtual worlds with the World Wide Web.)

* Is there value in having the same resource (I.e. identified by the same 
URI) offer differing representations in the 3D and 2D worlds, much as we 
suggest that the same resource might offer different representations for 
small mobile devices vs. for more full-featured user agents?  Example:  if 
appliance company "example.com" has washing machines for sale, should 
their billboard read:

          "For good deals on washing machines,
          see http://example.com/cheapWashers
          (Second Life users, go to
          http://slurl.com/secondlife/Example/100,200,300)",

-or- (my preference)

        "For good deals on washing machines,
          see http://example.com/cheapWashers
          (works in Second Life too!)"

If the latter form is to be encouraged, what sorts of content negotiation, 
redidrections, etc. do we suggest be used so that the appropriate 
representation of the washing machine sale will be provided on everything 
from mobile phones to 3D clients?  (This is more or less issue 
genericResources-53 [6] applied to virtual worlds.)

I think it's useful, when considering the above questions, to remind 
ourselves that the Web already coexists with at least one 3-dimensional 
world (or 4-dimensional if you prefer the Einsteinian formulation).  I 
think we can draw useful lessons from that experience.   For example, we 
could have adopted a convention that everything with a physical presence 
in our real world, an appliance store for example, would be named by a URI 
along the lines of 
http://web3space.w3.org/<latitude>/<longitude>/<altitude>.  Indeed, we see 
some URIs very much in that spirit used in to good advantage by MapQuest, 
Google Maps, and the like.  Usually, though, we find value in leveraging 
the DNS system to provide a much richer framework for naming http-scheme 
resources, for controlling who has authority over parts of the namespace, 
and for allowing the same resource to be at different physical locations 
at different times (if indeed it has a physical location at all).  So, 
while there is probably a good role for URIs that are assigned according 
to positions in virtual 3-space, my intuition is that these will only 
sometimes be the right answer.

I'm sure this isn't an entirely balanced or completely well researched 
overview, but I hope it's good enough to spark useful discussion of what's 
needed, and what if any the TAG's role should be.  My apologies if my lack 
of detailed knowledge of common practice in some of these systems shows 
through in the above summary, but I'm sure others on this list will help 
with corrections.  Thank you.

Noah

[1] http://www.w3.org/2001/tag/2007/06/18-agenda
[2] http://secondlife.com/
[3] http://www.opencroqet.org/
[4] http://slurl.com/
[5] http://www.w3.org/2001/tag/issues.html?type=1#URNsAndRegistries-50
[6] http://www.w3.org/2001/tag/issues.html?type=1#genericResources-53

--------------------------------------
Noah Mendelsohn 
IBM Corporation
One Rogers Street
Cambridge, MA 02142
1-617-693-4036
--------------------------------------
Received on Monday, 18 June 2007 15:38:34 GMT

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