Are virtual worlds the future of cyber experience?

Two links on Technology Review, a video of Tim Berners-Lee on the Semantic Web and an article on the emergence of virtual worlds, demonstrate how the Internet experience is seeking to transform itself into a new dimension to seamlessly immerse users into a cyber experience.

The article on the increased success of Google Earth and Linden Lab's Second Life is indicative of the Internet's transformation from a medium of information (the information super-highway), to a complete world — a "meta-verse" in itself. It's interesting how the author contemplates the merging of Google Earth's real world landscapes with Linden Labs virtual world to provide an entirely virtual earth!

And Second Life has been on corporate radars too, as a potential avenue for publicity and advertising. There are virtual offices, virtual neighbours... well... it's a virtual life, really. And what drives the increased user acceptance is the freedom that the users enjoy.

The pieces on Semantic Web ( One & Two) are about creating a "Smart Web" that enables software to make sense of the deluge of data on the Web. This would enable customization of the Web to suit your own taste. An example is the tagging system that you see at social sites. As of now, you know that a certain percentage of people liked a particular travel agency or an article, but it may not suit your own taste, and the system should learn from that and provide information about your own taste in the future.

Semantic Web is about creating a cyberspace where software gets us the data, learns from the data, and tailors the data to our taste. And the virtual worlds are creating a whole new dimension to existence. Is this the emerging future of the Internet? A virtual immersive world where you go to work, shop, and play by just logging in? A la "Matrix"? Can the virtual worlds compensate for sensations in the real world? What do you think?

Editor's Picks