Interview: Francesco D'Orazio, Myrl's Founder and CEO

Francesco D'Orazio is the founder and CEO of Myrl, a social gateway for virtual worlds.

Myrl is a project that will be composed several different services. Their first product, the Social Gateway for Virtual Worlds, has been released on September 2008.

Francesco D'Orazio is Sven Neumann on Second Life

Francesco has been working over the past 7 years as a strategic communication consultant and qualitative researcher specializing in social media strategy and immersive marketing.
He holds a Ph.D. in New Media Studies and Sociology from the University of Rome. His research has been focussing on immersive communication, mapping the pervasive and ubiquitous spread of immersive strategies and tracking down the history of immersion from religious rituals, planetariums and panoramic painting, up to ambient music, experiential marketing, alternate reality games and virtual worlds.
He is currently Lecturer in new media at the IULM University in Milan and is Senior Fellow at the McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology, University of Toronto.

What Is Myrl's Social Gateway For Virtual Worlds

For users, Myrl's Social Gateway offers a way to keep track of their online activity in the different virtual worlds in which they're into, sometimes even with multiple accounts in the same virtual universe.
This helps them to be more active and integrated in their virtual worlds.

Myrl users can add their avatar's profiles and post and vote on popular places, events, news and images, discover new worlds, keep contact with their virtual friends...

For corporations, organizations and websites, there are "Organizations" accounts, that can increase their web presence.

Myrl supports 19 virtual worlds, and this list will always be expanding. Future Myrl services will allow its members to sign-up for new virtual worlds directly from Myrl, something that will increase its value not only for users but also for organizations and businesses.

Myrl supports 19 virtual worlds

For 2009, Myrl is creating the 'Cross World Entertainment Platform', a feature set that will allow to explore and 'jump' from one world to another playing games and participating in challenges and competitions.

If you're not on Myrl, you're missing the future bridge between virtual worlds.

If you join Myrl, don't hesitate to visit Hiperia3D's profile.

Interview: Francesco D'Orazio Myrl's Founder and CEO

- How could we explain what is Myrl?

- Myrl [My Real Life and My Role Life] is a cross-world platform that brings different virtual worlds and their users together on the web. We are building a layer on top of each virtual world, with the ultimate goal of linking them up to create an integrated playground with endless possibilities and applications. One of these applications is gaming, that’s why we think of Myrl as a cross-world entertainment platform. We just launched our first release, the Social Gateway for virtual worlds. Future releases will focus on immersive-storytelling, gaming across different worlds and virtual goods trading.

- How did you had such an original idea?

- I hit my head on the sink and came up with the idea of the Flux Capacitor, which is what makes worlds-travel possible. This is the official story. The unofficial story is that the idea for the cross-world entertainment platform didn’t came up at once, it was rather built brick after brick over time. The core idea was a response to the need to make virtual worlds visible on the web and the need to keep up with multiple virtual worlds easily.
To do that we had to solve two problems: how to integrate virtual worlds and the web and how to connect multiple virtual worlds to create an integrated environment, easier to manage, funnier to explore.

When I started to be actively involved into virtual worlds I realized that there was a lot going on inside but too little was actually filtering to the web. It was almost impossible to explain outside how rich, complex and layered the experiences inside the virtual worlds were. So I started thinking about a platform to export contents from the virtual worlds to the web. We designed a web hub with direct integrations into the virtual worlds and realized that we could use that as a gateway to connect different virtual worlds and to allow users to perform cross-world actions, such as instant messaging, searching or playing. And then I was struck by another idea... We have already dozens of worlds with their cultures, societies, geographies and histories, and they are there, ready to be used. It’s every game designer’s dream! Why not to use the various worlds as areas or levels of a bigger linked/integrated environment, for gaming and storytelling for example? The web hasn’t done really well about storytelling. Virtual worlds offer now a huge opportunity to change this, as they are the perfect medium to tell immersive stories. That’s what the cross-world gaming platform will be about, but I’ll save it for later ;-)

Browse news, events and places

- What can users do in Myrl?

- Virtual worlds users can manage multiple avatars from a single dashboard, share their virtual lives on the web, aggregate and manage all their content in a single place, keep up with virtual worlds friends, news and events via the web and the mobile, discover and access new worlds, communicate, search across and explore multiple virtual worlds.

- What types of accounts can users create in Myrl?

- Right now users can signup as Avatars or Organizations. The Avatar account allows you to publish a web based profile which is directly connected to your actions inworld, showing when you are online, what you are doing, where you are and allowing other members to instant message you from the web to inworld, something like a friendfeed for virtual worlds. Clearly the user decides whether to make what information public or private.
Once you create this first profile you can then add as many avatars as you like and associate them to the first profile, so that you’ll be able to manage all of them from the same dashboard.
The Organization account allows users to create a page that represents a brand, a project, a media platform, a business/service or any collective organization that operates inside virtual worlds and wants to keep up with virtual worlds users and maintain an open dialogue with them.

Brose images and videos, join groups and meet organizations

- What virtual worlds does Myrl cover, and what do you expect to support in the future?

- Myrl currently supports 19 virtual worlds like Imvu, Lively, Entropia Universe, Habbo, and provides web integration with Second Life and via custom built 'profilers' that link avatars with the web and the virtual world. We are working now on supporting more worlds and developing the integrations for the worlds that we already support. Basically we work on a three levels integration: signup, avatar and content. All the worlds we have been talking to so far are keen to go through the three levels integration so for us now it’s more a matter of coping with the demand... Just as an example, we have already 10 worlds waiting to be supported and 17 to be fully integrated...

- As Myrl is a social site, do you have some kind of popularity/voting system in Myrl?

- Yes, we do, but it’s not really about popularity, is more about recognizing the value of experienced virtual worlds users as guides for the rest of the community. We thought it was crucial to provide users with a meaningful selection of the information available online about the various worlds. But the only reasonable way to generate this selection was by using a social criteria. So we started working on a digg-like system where users can myrl (vote on) the things they like, but we hybridized it with a slashdot-like karma system. Every avatar has a karma which grows through 5 levels, according to the user’s interactions within the virtual worlds and the community. The more time you spend in Second Life for example, the more your karma grows. The more it grows, the more you get ‘myrls’ (available votes), and so become more influential in the community. The leveling up mechanism goes like this: Tourist, Traveller, Explorer, Adventurer and Pathmaker. Right now we’re linking the karma system only to the social ranking mechanism, but it will play a central role in the cross-world gaming system.

- What about the integration of Myrl with other Web2.0 services?

- Virtual worlds users are already using many web2.0 services to share their images, videos, blog posts, tweets and so on.. on Myrl you can set up your account so that your content on platforms like Flickr, Twitter, Youtube, Plurk or your personal blog gets automatically imported in Myrl. We are acting as a hub for this content scattered across multiple platforms, offering a simple solution to easily aggregate it in a single place.

- What's new on Myrl 2.0?

- There are many improvements in this new release: we are supporting 19 worlds (2 worlds in the previous release), we added a multi-avatar system to manage multiple avatars from a single account and dashboard; we have redesigned the homepage, the sub-homes and the submit sections; we added a new “Worlds” section, showcasing 19 virtual worlds and providing editorial and social information about those worlds; we developed a new karma system, introducing the first unitary leveling up mechanism in the social virtual worlds space and we added the functionalities to aggregate all our external content on Myrl, making it very easy to import all our blogs, tweets, video and image streams into the Myrl account.

Myrl bets on outeroperability between virtual worlds

- What are your medium/long term aims for Myrl?

-We just released the Social Gateway for virtual worlds. Now we want to add more worlds and develop the integrations with all the worlds already supported. The next milestones are The Cross-World Gaming Platform and The Universal Trading Platform.

But our toughest challenge isn’t really building new technologies, it’s more trying to change the perception of the virtual worlds space. People still see it as a collection of separated worlds rather than as an integrated space. We are building the tools to start browsing worlds like browsing web pages, it’s about switching from a context-driven mentality to a content-driven mentality, where we see and use the Metaverse as an immersive web of worlds. It’s a change that’s already starting to happen and that we intend to support and foster.

- Do you think that the interest of people for virtual worlds is in its maximum point or that it will keep on increasing?

- I think that we are actually at a low point now, if not the lowest since the SL hype.. we have just scratched the surface of the mainstream, and as Jesse Alexander said in a panel at the LA Expo, this industry is still waiting for a Star Wars to blow the roof off. Look at what’s happening in the kids virtual worlds space... the big wave is only starting to mount now. The point is, are we too ahead of the curve? I think that web integration and storytelling are key to mass adoption, but there’s still a long way to go...

-Jordi R. Cardona-

© 2008 by Jordi R. Cardona. Link to this post without copying the text.

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Anonymous said...

Myrl is a brilliant project, but together with Myrl it should be useful to mention other excellent projects based on the same philosophy and crossworld approach, I mean particolarly
Koinup and GuildCafe


Jordi R Cardona said...

@Mforiero, yes they will have their space here. Maybe in a future post I'll review them, and maybe their CEOs also will be interviewed.

Myrl is a very excellent place, I will also review it deeper in future articles.

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