Posted by: justingibbs | October 8, 2008

What do I do with a virtual world?

What will be the killer app for virtual worlds? VisiCalc defined the term killer app and kicked off the personal computer industry, will there be a similar program for virtual worlds?

That’s really what all of us in the virtual world industry are striving for, to find the next VisiCalc. The killer app takes what was more a hobby and brings it to a mainstream audience. The web browser was the killer app for the Internet. If we draw parallels between the virtual worlds industry and that of early personal computers we seem to be at the same point where VisiCalc appeared on the scene. Early personal computers like the Altair 8800 Popular Electronics cover featuring the Altair 8800didn’t even have a mouse or keyboard, let alone a monitor. Enthusiasts though took these early machines and evolved them into computers that we would recognize today with mouse, monitor, hard drive, etc. With the explosion of virtual worlds in the last few years I would say that the virtual worlds industry is in a similar spot. All the pieces are there – rich graphics, little if any lag, easy to no installs, etc. But like early personal computers of this time, they had yet to attract a mainstream audience. The question then was simple – what do I do with a personal computer? Sure you could play games on them, but why not just buy an Atari 2600? There were early word processors but printers were extremely expensive and people already had typewriters. Then came VisiCalc. Never before could accountants and everyone manipulate numbers, balance sheets, etc. VisiCalc didn’t necessarily change the personal computer, but it brought its capabilities to the mainstream.

Virtual worlds today face a similar situation before VisiCalc appeared. The question now is, “What do I do with a virtual world?” We in the virtual worlds industry, like those in the early personal computer industry can see the endless potential but need to get it to the mainstream – we need the killer app.

Some have purposed to have already discovered the killer app for virtual worlds. Jotting down a short list:

  1. Virtual economies
  2. Games
  3. 3D chat
  4. User generated content
  5. Mix of offline and online (a la Webkinz)

I’m probably forgetting some but that isn’t hard when I don’t believe any has yet to attract a mainstream audience. Then again perhaps one of these are the killer app and it will simply take some time to play out. What are your thoughts, what will be the killer app for virtual worlds?


  1. I think virtual 3d communities are still the main application for virtual worlds, as all that you described in contained in them.

    As Vivaty is a very optimized platform, it may take advantage on the emergence of new portable devices like netbooks (, and on PDAs, advanced mobile phones… but specially netbooks.

    Netbooks are useful for people that want to check their email, websites, etc while moving, and embeddable platforms like Vivaty may be of preference for these users.

    I see a lot of potential in these small computers.

  2. I too have been eagerly following the explosion of netbooks, even own one of the first ASUS Eee PCs. I think they’ll become an integral part of our lives as cloud computing takes hold and with that virtual worlds. Be great to feel like you’re always in touch in world.

  3. […] the one thing that will click with users. For us in the virtual worlds industry, we’re all searching for the killer app. Which in a way pits Eric and I against each other to see who can sift through the false positives […]

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