As a tech blogger I am really embarrassed to say I haven't heard anything of this service before it was rolled into beta today. However, this means I was thrilled this morning to try it. Lively is a social playground made by Google, that has more in common with Second Life than any other site, but for my taste Lively is oh so much better.
First of all, it all runs in your browser, so no need to switch to a different app, it makes things quicker and smoother, although you'll need a quite powerful machine to run everything in all its glory. It took me all of 2 minutes to install, so it's also easier on your system. Second of all, it just seems like so much more fun than SecondLife, just look at the graphics.
Lively tries to stand out from the crowd by giving you some cool features, and if I know Google, there are many, many more along the way. You can interact with other users, watch Youtube videos on the TV's (together if you want), create rooms, avatars and so on. So far nothing groundbreaking, but I'm guessing that Google Maps, search, and everything else Google has will be implemented soon enough, I'm particularly interested in seeing the maps development. So far Youtube implementation is most interesting to me, you can create screening rooms for fun videos, your own videos, or anything you'd like people to see.
The single thing that caught my eye and interest most was the looks. The easy going, but not wacky design works for me, although I guess it may deter some people. I think the focus here is on fun looks which still enable realistic interaction and it looks to me like it worked. You can choose to go to an island, a graveyard or a sky city, but all look equally cute to me.
If you like SecondLife or other similar sites you'll love Lively, but in the end it's still nothing more than a simple virtual world. Fun, maybe a bit addictive, but only marginally useful.
Update: Google has retired Lively on November 20, 2008 only a couple of months after the service launched. Users had one month time to capture videos and screenshots of their rooms before the service was taken offline for good.
The original message:
In July we launched Lively in Google Labs because we wanted users to be able to interact with their friends and express themselves online in new ways. Google has always been supportive of this kind of experimentation because we believe it's the best way to create groundbreaking products that make a difference to people's lives. But we've also always accepted that when you take these kinds of risks not every bet is going to pay off.
That's why, despite all the virtual high fives and creative rooms everyone has enjoyed in the last four and a half months, we've decided to shut Lively down at the end of the year. It has been a tough decision, but we want to ensure that we prioritize our resources and focus more on our core search, ads and apps business. Lively.com will be discontinued at the end of December, and everyone who has worked on the project will then move on to other teams.
Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.