Saturday, 31 May 2008

Are You Going to ExitReality?

Naming a product must be hellishly difficult, mustn't it? So many factors to take into account. Consider, for example, those infamous automobiles where the name sounded fine in one language but meant things like "tiny male member" or "fecal matter" in others. I occasionally wonder whether Young Mr Rosedale and the Gang down at Linden Lab ever wake up sweating when they recall the naming of 'Second Life'. It must have seemed so simple and innocent at the time, little realising the millstone they were placing around their collective neck.

There must be scarcely any resident of Second Life who has not, at some time or another - and probably much more frequently than that - been confronted with the same sad litany of witticisms by non-believers, revolving around the name of the virtual world. The witticism usually hinges on the word "Second", contrasting it with "First" (or, for the less witty, "Real") Life. Thus, with depressing frequency, you encounter such rib-ticklers as: "You should get yourself a First Life" and "I'm too busy having a Real Life". Meanwhile Linden Lab, bless 'em, have staunchly refused to kowtow to this perpetual torrent of piss-taking, and have instead had the sheer brass neck to create a branding centre that actually celebrates this misbegotten name.

Now here's a little tale that may be enlightening. As a Brit, I am theoretically ruled by Queen Elizabeth II, of the royal House of Windsor. But the House has not always been so named. It started out as the distinctly Germanic House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. However, with the outbreak of World War 1, anything German (not surprisingly) became somewhat suspect. Even so it took until 1917 (for my American readers WW1 began in 1914, not 1917 - when the USA joined in) before the royals twigged that maybe their household name sounded a tad foreign. So in July 1917 George V officially declared that "all descendents in the male line of Queen Victoria, who are subjects of these realms, other than female descendents who marry or who have married, shall bear the name Windsor." And the British royals have been Windsors ever since. The Queen's hubby is Greek, but his Mum was Princess Alice of Battenberg. In order to sound neither Greek nor German, but perhaps exotically English, he adopted the name Mountbatten.

So the British royal family, in effect, rebranded themselves, and largely removed the stigma of their old names.

While I don't expect the agile, business-savvy brains at Linden Lab to follow this example, it is something they might wish to consider if they want to be the powerhouse for web 3D. OpenSim does not have this baggage to contend with, although those Tribal Net folks really ought to re-think their brand position too.

But actually, all of the above is just a rambling preamble to this:

Yesterday, after reading this post at Virtual Worlds News ("all the virtual worlds news that is fit to print"), I signed up for a new, browser-based virtual world service called ExitReality. I ask you! 'Exit Reality'!!

I'm sorry... but to me this makes Linden's selection of 'Second Life' seem like a work of marketing genius. Perhaps it's just me... but the first impression that crossed my mind was 'assisted suicide'. I recall a lot of fuss some years ago about a pressure group called Exit, and while researching this post I encountered the Final Exit website. Even without this connotation, why would I wish to be 'exiting reality'? And why would I be using a website to do so, rather than chemicals??

What are the people behind ExitReality trying to tell me about their product? Apparently they are trying to tell me it "is an exciting new social media platform that aims to improve your online experience with an enhanced 3D, multi-user, immersive messaging environment. Photo albums that become virtual galleries where you can walk through, admire and even comment on the photos that decorate the wall. Video clips that transform into 3D flat-screen TVs that you can enjoy watching with friends... hey, even fight over the remote. Immersive Messaging where you are able to see and interact with all your friends while chatting with them at millions of locations online." And it "works with leading global social media sites Facebook, Myspace, Friendster, Hi5, Orkut and Bebo and is launching soon." Sounds great - but sorry chaps, your product name sucks - and as with Second Life before it, if it has any success it will be mercilessly teased.

I like the idea though! Oh.. and when I tried it, it seemed happiest on Firefox 2.

PS: Linden Lab might want to consider adding their new CEO on this page.

4 comments:

Rory said...

Either that or we will become an adjective and verb as well as a noun like a funny sounding 'G' company i can think of.

For a post on our new platform one line on firefox compatibility doesn't cut it! I demand more feedback. Naturally one would prefer to hear positive things but constructive criticism is always welcome, especially in beta!

dandellion Kimban said...

Ah... another web-based application that should connect the world and is compatible with oh-so-many things, but which runs only on windows. Well..... there are better ways to kill some time.

Digado said...

Haha, excellent post. Though I think the name SL has done them as much good as bad. I don't think it would have gotten the attention if they had named it 'Linden World' as originally intended. And if it did, no doubt you'd have seen the same jokes with a different 'punchline'.

To me ExitReality sounds like some Chinese translator thing that used to sound extremely good in Chinese, but in western culture/language it just misses the point.

Anyhow, I've been trying to get it running but no luck so far, and i refuse to uninstall FF 3.0 so I'll just pass on ExitReality for now :p

Aleister Kronos said...

Rory

This post was about names, rather than functions - so no lengthy chat-thru on this occasion. In any event, it still scores as a link for you, so it can't be all bad from your point of view. :-)

I will see about a more thorough walk-thru later. But you might want to note Digado's comment about FF3. If it is any help, it was also a bugger to get installed and running on IE7, where it then failed to display correctly.