Yesterday there have been some sessions about games and virtual worlds at the Le Web 3 conference which is going on right now in Paris. The last panel actually was about economy in virtual worlds but there also has been talk about connecting different virtual worlds. The panelists were Sasha Frieze – Virtual Worlds Forum (moderator), Clay Shirky – New York University, Marc Samwer – European Founders Fund and Mattias Miksche – Stardoll.
Now regarding interoperability there are some activities going on, one being the more Second Life related Grid Architecture Working Group/SLGA (which nevertheless can enable the connection of worlds based on the worked on standard) and VW Interop, which is a more business wide effort.
Except the moderator the panelists (esp. Mattias from Stardoll) have not been very positive about possibilities for connecting different virtual worlds. But I personally think they do not think abstract enough.
I think it will not necessarily been about going with your avatar from Second Life to an e.g. more pixelated world like Habbo Hotel. This does not fit as they said correctly. But I might still take my profile information over and maybe several other things (maybe at some point even my currency which is then converted). These are all things which even make sense in the realm of social networks (and IMHO virtual worlds are just some more specialized social networks).
So being able to login with e.g. my OpenID somewhere and having access to my stuff anywhere is a big plus here. This even could be made possible with the protocol work being done in the SLGA group.
Then there is of course the question what happens in the near future. If we take the two mentioned projects we might have at least some open source components in the wild. They might have their roots in the one or another virtual worlds but they will be just building blocks of maybe a completely new virtual world. And because they (hopefully) build on an open standard virtual worlds are potentially interoperable. Sort of like the web today. Not everybody is implementing their own HTTP but different applications on top of it.
All in all I think we will see more interoperability in the future and I agree with the moderator that the main issue probably is just all those walled garden business models. And here it’s again interesting to see Linden Lab actually going already from a centralized to a decentralized model, a move which today’s social networks are not that eager to do.