Second Life is the next problem as its the current benchmark against which all other systems are judged. With this in mind take a look at the YouTube movie promoting 3D City, a new ActiveX virtual environment that can be purchased and integrated directly within a website:
The marketing on the site states that: "Your member comes to the site, logs in as usual and then see a new menu item, you can call it 3D City or Virtual World, does not matter. He clicks the link and another browser window opens. At the same time the browser loads the player and the environment itself. After the virtual world has been downloaded the user comes to the 3D City, without having to log in. He will have his actual login info working in the 3D environment also".
Prices start at $400 plus $97 a month subscription to include the system within a webpage. Details are sparse on building your own locations or import paths for 3D modeling at the moment but the quality of the rendering is quite impressive for an ActiveX plugin.
However, the system requires Internet Explorer users to switch off 'Protection Mode' in Windows Vista and this is surely a mistake as at which point you instantly lose users. We took the system for a test run and while rendering is of suitable quality the environment was deserted. There is also only the option to 'walk' around the pre-designed streets which when compared to Second Life quickly makes the system seem slow and clumsy.
Often quoted in today's Web 2.0 world is 'If you build it they will come' - maybe 3D City will attract users but to be honest we are not so sure. If they made a version available to the development community perhaps that would increase interest and therefore users?
Take a look at 3D City