Yahoo! just acqui-hired the developers of Cloud Party, the web-based virtual world NWN has blogged about a lot, given its backing by Second Life co-founder Cory Ondrejka, and its general coolness as an immersive, easy-to-use, user-generated world with its own econony. Marisa Mayer and her crew at Yahoo! apparently agrees with this assement, because not only did they buy the company and hire the staff, but when I asked Cloud Party CEO Sam Thompson for a comment, a Yahoo! spokesperson replied for him, sending along this boilerplate reply:
Yahoo has acquired Cloud Party, a company that has created a virtual 3D experience, directly in users’ browser. With Cloud Party, users can build and create a world, customize an avatar, and share easily on the web without any downloads or plug-ins. The Cloud Party team is extremely committed to user experience and to the creativity that their product released in people. We’re excited to merge their unique perspective and experience with a team that is just as passionate about gaming.
Reading between the lines, I think this means it's very likely Yahoo! is getting into the user-generated virtual world business. Here's what I mean:
The fact that Yahoo's statement talks about Cloud Party's virtual world functionality strongly suggests they're going to relaunch these features in one form or another soon, but as a Yahoo!-branded product. (If Yahoo! was just buying the underlying tech that drives Cloud Party, the statement likely wouldn't say anything about its user-generated virtual world aspects.) Looking at the larger landscape, keep in mind that last year, Yahoo! acquired Tumblr, another user-generated web-based platform. (And did so even despite Tumblr's high amount of porn.) So yes, my initial guess is Yahoo! is getting into virtual worlds. And if that's right, given that Yahoo! is one of the very largest consumer-facing sites on the Web, we could soon see a massive growth in virtual worlds.
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