Google’s free SecondLife clone, Lively, is going away at the end of the year. As Google notes on its official blog, “not every bet is going to pay off.” Google’s recommendation for preserving what you’ve built on Lively? “We’d encourage all Lively users to capture your hard work by taking videos and screenshots of your rooms.” Hmm. Too bad there aren’t anyÂ 3D-world standards that would allow virtual environment creators to export and redeploy what they’veÂ created . . . Â
The more pertinent note, at least for the subject matter of this blog, is that the lining of the cloud isn’t always silver. As Kyle Matthews noted in a post today, this should remind us all that free cloud-delivered software has an obvious and–dependingÂ on how much you rely on it–potentially devastating downside. Say you had built a rich 3D environment for a course you were going to launch in Lively next semester. You’d be out of luck. I’m thinking the “videos and screenshots of your rooms” would beÂ missing some of the interactivity you had in mind when you set it up.
While PLEs are big part of the future of education and a world in which learning is more learner-centric, some caution is in order when we rely heavily on cloud-based apps. I’m not suggesting that Google Docs or Blogger are going to disappear anytime soon, but educational technologists run a decided risk when they rely onÂ free cloud apps for mission critical teaching and learning functionality. One alternative is to deploy open source versions of these apps on servers we control on our own campuses, but that misses some of the promised efficiency and elegance of the Web 2.0 promise.
With economic hard times ahead, we might see several promising cloud apps disappear. Here’s hoping that the natural selection process won’t be too brutal. In the meantime, learning technologists must come to grips with the sometimes harsh economic realities of the Web 2.0 world. If our favorite app doesn’t prove economically viable, it will eventually go away. Then what?