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ViOS

ViOS (Visual Internet Operating System) was a client-server software system designed by Julian Lombardi in the mid-1990s and built by a team he led at ViOS Inc. from 1999-2001 as a way of spatially organizing all Internet-deliverable resources (including web pages) into a massively-scaled multiuser 3D environment with users of the system represented as customizable avatars. The basic concept behind the "ViOS 3D Internet Viewer" was to take the virtual world of the entire Internet and adapt it to a physical representation of large virtual landscape, complete with mountains, rivers and cities. This approach was taken because of the belief that virtual landscapes resembling our physical world are more conducive to exploration and social interaction than the flat and abstracted world of the current document-based Internet.

Access to Rich Content

By organizing virtual cities and specialized regions with particular themes in a very large contiguous simulated space, ViOS users could discover relevant in-world 3D resources, web sites, and like-minded people that they might never have found through conventional web browser-based World Wide Web exploration. ViOS users could travel directly to cities/areas of interest through special 3D portals, maps, or by using keyword initiated spatial navigation. Objects within the ViOS world were usually pointers to World Wide Web-deliverable resources. When users of the system interacted with such objects, they would initiate the load and caching of an associated webpage that was viewable via an instance of the Internet Explorer web browser. In this way, the ViOS GUI could be used as a way of accessing the World Wide Web as well as being a means by which Internet bookmarks could be organized as shared objects within a massively-scaled multiuser online space.

The ViOS world was initially seeded with 420 cities and communities that appeared as navigable 3D locations. Each of these was populated with approximately 15,000 visually-rich objects representing what at the time were the best and most trafficked sites of the World Wide Web. It is important to note that all existing web sites (as well as other Internet-deliverable resources) were available at some place on the vast ViOS landscape, but their location may not have been close to these initial communities.

Business Model

Use of ViOS was completely free to end-users. The company's business model was based on the desire for owners of already present outlying sites to relocate their site's representation to “better” locations within ViOS in order to gain traffic to those sites (traffic that was driven by seeded sites and that was measurable within the system). In this way, the economics of location and commercial density could be transitioned to the online ViOS world because of its representation of a physical space. Private individuals and businesses could easily publish to unique locations in the ViOS world by leasing locations and constructing custom objects at those locations.

A Self Organizing Metaverse

A key concept of ViOS was that it enabled representations of Internet-deliverable information to self-organize and optimize through the decentralized activities of its participants. In other words, owners of web sites could relocate objects pointing to their sites and thereby build meaningful communities. Such communities made it easy and enjoyable for end-users to explore specific areas of content and information while at the same time opening themselves up to the delights of serendipitous discovery within an ever changing landscape of people and resources.

An Early Avatar-Mediated 3D Wiki

The ViOS experiment can be thought of as what might now be called a type of 3D wiki, and owing to its built-in text-based chat, and customization capabilities, it anticipated current server-based massively multiplayer online game (MMOG) systems such as Second Life and annotatable virtual contexts such as Google Earth. Unfortunately, the company was unable to secure a planned second round of venture financing due to bursting of the dot-com bubble and associated lack of investor interest in continued financing of technology companies reliant on advertising-based revenue models. Lacking needed resources, the company was therefore unable to market to advertisers or effectively maintain its server infrastructure and functionality to support continued positive user experiences. Within a few weeks of the public launch in February 2001, the company's website and application servers were brought down by a rapidly growing user-base of well over 15,000 unique subscriber-users

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