Software

"Death to 'Snow Crash'" - What's wrong with the 3D virtual Web

The TerraNova blog throws out a philosophic hand grenade, simultaneously attacking one of the most influential science fiction books ever published and the major trend in Web development today:

"This Snow Crash Metaverse is the online equivalent of the 'flying cars' view of the today as seen from 1935. ... So it needs to be said: Death to Snow Crash. Death to the sugarplum visions of the 3D Web World that dance in our heads. It's time to move on."

First, let me say I very much enjoyed the book Snow Crash, despite coming to it about 14 years too late. Second, some of the Metaverse is already occurring in the form of Second Life, which pretty much hails Neal Stephenson's idea as its guiding ethos. Third, I think the author is getting riled up over nothing.

The TerraNova entry is indicting a BusinessWeek analysis of 3D Web development, which is sort of like attacking a third grader for not understanding collegiate physics—you're expecting too much from the speaker. One need look no further than BusinessWeek's own Web site design to grasp how little the organization groks Web 1.0, let alone the hazily imagined online future. That said, BusinessWeek is but one of many to again predict that someday we'll "walk the Web" in a three-dimensional virtual way, turning all Web addresses into simulated physical addresses.

Yeah, that's dumb. Not because of the 3D element, but because of the Web-as-unified-object element. Unless there is a staggeringly stifling sea change spawned by an overzealous end to all forms of Net Neutrality (unlikely, with Google spending crazy lobbyist money to prevent it), the Web will remain gleefully disorganized, organic, market-driven, and resistant to any one browser, data standard, gadget, or application capable of digesting or arranging it all. Three-dimensional is beside the point.

Yes, as the author says, the Web is decisively "the least Euclidean, spatial, geographical construct ever made by humans"—but that's why it will never be unified, not why it will never be 3D.

About Jay Garmon

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger — amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

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