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Walking the Web


Virtual worlds are everywhere now, it seems. Their purposes range from socializing and networking to education and conferences. And some just…are. Yoowalk seems to be one of these latter.

Well, ok. I guess it has a purpose. I just don’t see that it really is necessary. It seems to be more of a proof-of-concept than anything else. Here’s Mashable’s take on Yoowalk:
Yoowalk is a new Web-based virtual world that lets you browse the Web via your avatar, in a 3D environment. With 3D representations of the Internet, Yoowalk offers an entirely different browsing experience for the Web, that almost reminds me of the Chappelle Show episode that surmised what the Internet would look like if it were a physical manifestation we could walk through–like a mall. Yoowalk has a similar idea: it’s laid the Web out on streets and avenues, starting from more broad categories and narrowing down from there.

Here’s a screenshot of me “walking” through the CNN website:

As you can see, Yoowalk makes “rooms” out of each web site. You walk down “streets” to reach them. However, because the (limited selection of) web sites have been modified for this virtual world format, a great deal of content is lost. If you click on a story link, it opens up a mini proprietary browser inside of Yoowalk. Personally, I found this browser-within-a-browser setup to be clunky and annoying. Why not just go to CNN.com and get all of the content without having to slowly “walk” to it?

Mashable sums up the problem nicely:

While it is great that Yoowalk doesn’t require a download for its service, its vision of recreating the Web is one of its biggest downfalls, as there is no need to force users to change their browsing experience or take away from a web site’s design and user interface in order to make it 3D.

What does this mean to me, Laura?

  • Setting up information as a 3D environment this way is interesting in theory, but in practice Yoowalk fell far short of usefulness.
  • Aside from a clear purpose, I found the environment slow and clunky. The experience does not make up for the loss of informational content.
  • There is a social aspect to Yoowalk; you can connect with other avatars to chat and there is some minor integration with existing MSN, Yahoo or AOL chat clients as well. There is also the ability to create your own custom “rooms,” although the design tool is not easy to use.
  • To be fair, Yoowalk is currently in beta. It’s possible that this could evolve into something interesting ahead.