Virtual World/Social Network Set To Open On Monday

KanevaOn Monday, Kaneva, a melded social networking site and virtual world, will finally launch in open beta, according to Mark over at Finally! We’ve had our eye on this little gem for a while and, while the lab staff has all managed to get profiles on the Kaneva social networking site, our entrance to the virtual world has been delayed a bit.

Kaneva is, essentially, a mash-up of social networks and virtual worlds. Users create profiles on the social networking site, upload images and media content (this includes videos and, I believe, audio), and then use that content to populate their virtual abode. It’s the equivalent of, say, having a house in Second Life that automatically populates itself with pictures uploaded to your MySpace page or a television that displays YouTube videos every time you turn it on. In general, the idea behind Kaneva was to encourage deeper emotional interactions between users by allowing them to play out in a virtual world, while at the same time providing an external, easy-to-use social networking component.

Kaneva is somewhat similar to (though much more elegant than) the three-dimensional web browser 3B, which enables web-browsing in a virtual space, though the ability to interact with other folks is lacking in that product.

Apparently, one of the business models for the Kaneva service involves advertiser sponsorships and partnerships, but not much word has been released on this yet.

Unfortunately, while the service has been in closed beta, logins to the virtual world have been doled out based on how active a user’s profile is. It’s worked like this: You create a Kaneva account on their amazingly MySpace-like social networking site. The site includes the standard social network profile fare and allows users to “rave” others (giving them some type of affirmation that they’re producing content people actually like). So, as soon as the profile is created, you’ll be deluged by a ton of raves and a spout of friends requests as people try to increase the activity of their profiles.

As a social networking platform, Kaneva allows for a lot more layout and design changes than MySpace so, for example, instead of staring sadly at my blank MySpace blog entries, wishing I had more time to fill them out, I can instead totally remove the blog from my Kaneva page. Out of sight (or site, in this case), out of mind, and all that.

The virtual world, though, may experience some problems. While it certainly bears more than a striking resemblance to the virtual world of Second Life, it does not explicitly allow content creators to own intellectual property rights to their creations (for that matter, it might actually be more difficult or even impossible to build and sell clothing, house and the like within Kaneva) and Kaneva discourages the trading of in-game currency for real-world currency. I’ve always been a big believer that one of the major motivators behind content creation within Second Life has been the intellectual property rights and possible monetization of those creations, so this could bode ill for Kaneva.

Instead, the world seems to be more like a three-dimensional Habbo Hotel, where individuals use microtransactions to purchase products (some of them branded) from the game owner to decorate themselves and their abodes. While this may seem somewhat limited considering the extreme amount of enablement (both from an innovation and an economic perspective) within Second Life, let’s not forget that Mountain Dew conducted the Finnish launch of its soft drink using only Habbo Hotel and quickly became the second most popular soft drink in the nation.

Regardless, this looks to be incredibly interesting. Begin the countdown until Monday!