Google Lively is lively no more

November 20, 2008

Google Lively is a virtual world that allows users to create a room and an avatar, and then host chats or virtual parties with other Lively users. Think Second Life without the spit and polish. But despite the application only launching in July, Lively is going to be dead by the end of the year.

Google Lively launched in July and immediately caught the attention of those Internet-obsessed people who never get invited to real parties. But the user numbers and interest shown dropped off massively in the months that followed, and now Google has admitted a rare defeat and announced it is shutting down the service on Dec. 31, 2008.

Lively was part of the 20 percent program that reigns supreme at Google, which sees all employees encouraged to spend 20 percent of their working time on personal projects, which could then be added to Google’s already impressive roster of services.

But while Gmail, Google News, and even Adsense are all real successes which have stemmed from the 20 percent program, Lively isn’t joining their ranks. Is six months the shortest amount of time a Google project has been up and running in the wild I wonder?

So why the abandonment of a project that seems to have a lot of potential? ReadWriteWeb expounds the theory that the lack of relevant data returns from Lively to Google is the main reason. And that would make sense as however nice the free apps and services such as Gmail are, Google is a business and doesn’t do anything without a sound financial reason for it.

So with that in mind, Google has cut its losses at a time when plenty of other technology companies are doing similar and focusing on only the most important parts of their businesses. But it seems a shame as Lively was a brilliant innovation that given a bit more work could even have rivaled Linden Labs’ Second Life in terms of being an interactive virtual world.

There is a chance that Google Lively will be back in the future with a new name and a new feature-set. As Google Watch suggests, why not integrate it in to an already successful Google App such as Gmail? I hope it comes back one day but I’m guessing the economy will have to recover a fair bit before it becomes a possibility.

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