Cloud Party closing in February

Cloud Party, a mesh-based virtual world that runs in a browser, announced that it will close on February 21 and provided instructions for exporting meshes and images.

“The time has come for the Cloud Party team to start our next adventure,” the company said in an announcement today. “We are joining Yahoo!”

While a month’s notice might be plenty of time for individual users to move to another platform, it is a bigger problem for any businesses, non-profits, or educational institutions that have embraced this platform.

A cool platform

Cloud Party offered some significant advantages over other virtual worlds platforms.

The fact that Cloud Party runs in a browser, with an easy-to-use interface and simple account creation, means that users don’t have to download and learn heavy-duty viewer software.

“This is key to mass adoption,” said Joe Essid, who directs the Writing Center at the University of Richmond, in a column about Cloud Party.

The platform was also significantly less expensive than Second Life, though it lacked some key features for educational use, such as voice.

Cloud Party runs in a viewer.

Cloud Party runs in a viewer.

Extreme vendor lock-in

For enterprises, vendor lock-in is a major concern when choosing platforms.

The more difficult it is to migrate from one platform to another, the more dependent you get on a particular vendor. Obviously, vendors like this, but it can be very dangerous for users if vendors fail to keep their technology up-t0-date, fail to stay competitive with pricing, discontinue product lines, or go out of business — or are acquired.

When using Web-based services the problem is exacerbated by the fact that you lose access to the platform immediately. By comparison, with traditional delivery, you still have the software itself — you just no longer get updates, patches or support. But at least you can find a new solution at your leisure, and take whatever time you need to migrate your content.

For Cloud Party users, once the service shuts down, it’s gone completely. Organizations that weren’t able to get all their content out have lost access to it for good.

And, from the export instructions, it looks as though users will have to save one mesh at a time, can only save meshes for which they have appropriate permissions, and without textures.

That means that an organization that has built a large project may not be able to recreate it in time in another platform.

In addition to losing content, organizations will also lose access to the facility itself. This could be a problem if they had scheduled meetings, classes, or other events in Cloud Party.

Virtual worlds are now seeing a resurgence of interest due to the Oculus Rift and similar devices, so we might be seeing more 3D building platforms entering the market.

Organizations looking to make a major commitment should find out how much notice they’ll get if the platform shuts down, and how difficult it will be to migrate content and users to a different venue.

maria@hypergridbusiness.com'

Maria Korolov

Maria Korolov is editor and publisher of Hypergrid Business. She has been a journalist for more than twenty years and has worked for the Chicago Tribune, Reuters, and Computerworld and has reported from over a dozen countries, including Russia and China.

  • I think that the fact that OpenSim is an open-source project that frees people from vendor lock-in is one of the key benefits it has going for it in comparison to some of the solutions that are offered by various proprietary vendors.

    People who are selecting virtual world platforms just because they have a Unity3D or WebGL based interface should remember that the fact that Unity3D and WebGL are used by many companies doesn’t mean that the virtual world platforms those companies provide are compatible with each other. The meshes may all use the same file format (COLLADA) but the scripting and metadata are different so moving an entire world from one platform to another will not be trivial.

    OpenSim may still lack a good Unity3D or WebGL viewer but the backend it offers is the closest we have to an open virtual world standard that doesn’t depend on any company’s long-term viability. It isn’t the best technologically nor is it the “sexiest” but it is the safest option for people who want to avoid the need to make contingencies for how to migrate their content to a different virtual world platform when their platform of choice stops being available (which is the most likely scenario for any startup).

    • KeithSelmes

      That’s my view also. If all OpenSim development development and hosting suddenly stopped, the binaries and source code would still be there, and anyone who wanted could still use it and even adapt it to there own requirements. OpenSim still has many problems, but within it’s current limits it’s an excellent “rapid development” tool as SubQuark called it, and I wouldn’t say that about Unity3D.

      Because the world is apparently going mobile, web access is highly desirable, but I never did get Cloud Party on my smartphone or tablet.
      From experience with Lumiya, I expect in any case I would need newer more powerful models with faster networking, and then only on good wifi rather than mobile.

  • Frankly, this only points out to young people who have none to little historical internet experience how fragile net services can be.

    Once I understood how easily one can have their time and efforts removed in a closed grid by simple fiats and whims of owners, it was very clear to me that if there is a way to save all my work, time and efforts, I will find that, or go find something else to do.

    Fortunately, there is free opensim, or such as Kitely, where I can save anything I do, whether content or my complete region, in a file to my own computer.

    So now I typically save any significant work I do in my simulator or on regions I have backup/save ability on [My Metropolis and Kitely regions] in version/files regularly, to my computer, and then back any of those of significant time and effort to a net based storage service [I use several but mainly Google Drive].

    It is always good, however, to have such examples continually shown to people who do not fully comprehend the significance.

    • Samantha Atkins

      There needs to be much stronger support for Open Data. Many applications and platforms effectively assume that they own your content just because you used that application or platform to create or modify it. This is wrong. It is your content and these apps and platforms are mere services for working with it. This is very different from much of the way the software world works today. The problem is much broader than virtual worlds and web apps. The same problem is on the desktop and mobile devices and across many many apps.

      To make this work also requires more ubiquitous standards for various things. But a good first start is having open source toolkits for interacting with various kinds of objects/data and very strong export rights and capabilities in place.

  • Carlos Rafael Ramirez

    What Yahoo is doing? Buying and closing services? They bought and closed recently Astrid and then Cloud Party 🙁