Tuesday, January 28, 2014

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Yahoo! Launching Virtual World With Cloud Party Tech?

Aristide Depres Cloud Party

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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Ciaran Laval

If Yahoo wanted to get into UGC virtual worlds why didn't they do as they've done with Tumblr and buy Cloud Party and leave it as it was?

It would be an odd move to close Cloud Party and then open it as Yahoo party further down the road.

Iggy

Won't Yahoo recall the fate of Google Lively? Or LL's ongoing decline in monthly profits from SL?

Of course Lively was for Windows browsers only. Maybe Yahoo will come up with a new experience that, like CP and SL, is OS agnostic. Yet given the fate of other virtual worlds with UGC, I have a feeling that Yahoo wants the team's expertise for something more closed and frankly, more boring.

But one can hope that's not the case. And if they reopen CP, *please* choose a better name. CP's name was was DOA with educators, anyhow. Yes, a granting agency would gladly fund something from a crazy professor who bandies about the word "party."

Metacam Oh

I was debating writing a blog post awhile ago why Marissa Mayer and Yahoo would have been perfect buyers for Second Life...

Roland Legrand

I think Yahoo! will indeed use the expertise of the Cloud Party people for something very different (yes, probably something more boring). Even though technologically speaking Cloud Party was a very nice try, and linking it to Facebook was rather clever, the project gained no traction at all. It was a paradise for a niche of a niche of a niche of virtual worlds geeks - I don't see why Yahoo! would replicate that.

Ezra

Rather than read between the lines, I'd pay more attention to the last line:

"We’re excited to merge their unique perspective and experience with a team that is just as passionate about gaming."

Similarly in Sam's departure post:

"We are excited to bring our vision and experience to a team that is as passionate about games as we are."

Passionate about games, passionate about gaming. The team may stay in the arena of providing tools for developers to bring their free and for-pay experiences to the web, like Cloud Party allowed, but unlike Second Life that allows any type of experience to be made, only a tiny fraction of which end up being games of any kind, I think the Cloud Party team will be solely focused on gaming from now on within Yahoo.

I wouldn't evaluate this acquisition without paying attention to the PlayerScale acquisition of last year by Yahoo. They left that service running, they're shutting down Cloud Party. Cloud Party built no traction at all and wasn't profitable, PlayerScale at the time of acquisition had 2,600 developer customers, 4,000 games (published?), 400,000 new users a day were profitable. (http://venturebeat.com/2013/05/23/marissa-mayer-and-yahoo-are-on-fire-acquire-yet-another-company-playerscale/)

Rather than expect a virtual world of Second Life's DNA from Yahoo, I think more likely the team and tech was bought to extend what PlayerScale is doing. One of PlayerScale's cross-platform targets is the web browser, so it'd make sense to pick up the tech and expertise the Cloud Party devs had. The Cloud Party team was brilliant with taking advantage of browser technologies as they emerged.

Iggy

Well said, Ezra. For all our wishing and Rosedale's intriguing new project, I suspect that the mainstream I.T. industry sees VWs with UGC not that differently than do campus I.T. folks: a "might have been" that remains a niche technology.

Could that change? I hope so.

Galatea

...and after the failure of Apple's Newton, everyone realized there was no mass market for handheld computers, they would be relegated to niche status.

Hitomi Tiponi

mmm - Yahoo passionate about gaming; as they seem to have fingers in every pie except gaming that is hard to believe. They are passionate about everything except UI design as has been shown by the Flickr redesign (some good and some bad) and the Yahoo! Mail redesign (horrid).

One element that needs a redesign is Yahoo! Messenger - and tying that in with a limited virtual world (along 'There' lines) could work well.

Max March

I know you love being a provocateur, Wagner, but in this case, they've already announced that Cloud Party is closing for good on February 21st.

If they wanted to get into the business, they'd keep the platform operational. The small group of developers were hired to help revamp Y!'s woefully outdated game portal. End of story.

Yahoo! is not getting into the virtual world business and it runs totally contrary to their positioning now as a consumer news and views syndicate.

Maria Korolov

I'm with Max, Ezra, Roland, and Iggy. It seems that Yahoo isn't buying Cloud Party the platform but the Cloud Party development team and their expertise with HTML 5 and WebGL.

Which makes sense. Yahoo hasn't been an innovative company since the mid 1990s, when it was first founded. Everything since then seems to have been a slow, gradual expansion of what they were already plus the addition of whatever services their chief competitors were already offering.

LuAnn Phillips

I'd just like to know how I can get a refund on my recently purchased Cloud Party Pro package.

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