Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

From left to right: Kazuya Minami from Neoteny, David Smith and his son Asher
Yesterday morning, I picked up David at Tokyo Station where he arrived on the bullet train from Kyoto with his son Asher. We went to the Tsukiji fish market for some morning sushi and then I took them to our office where everyone was anxiously waiting to see David's Croquet demo.

David's demo reminded me of the early days of BeOS. Trying to explain the potential of an operating system, especially one with such a completely new and unlimited architecture is quite a task. David wrote the thing so there is also something mystical about getting a demo of a new OS by the person who wrote it.

Croquet is an amazing concept, but it is an old concept. It is based on Smalltalk/Squeak and is a totally object oriented collaborative environment. David is a 3D guru so he has made the interface completely 3D where you can fly around, see other users as avatars, create 3D objects with scripts and share them dynamically and in real time in the shared space. He is working on all of the necessary pieces to deal with identity and security as well. It is totally cross-platform and is "pure" in its portability. The architecture is incredibly clean and you can tell it is being designed top-down by someone who's done this before.

The main problem with new operating systems is that you need a killer ap to get it into the main stream. David calls Croquet a broadband phone call. There are obviously A LOT of educational applications.

When I saw the system, I thought of a few things. It would be a very cool environment for blogging. (When you are a blogger, everything looks like a blog or blog tool.) It would be really neat if you got an IM when your fellow bloggers were online and you could switch into the broadband/rich interactive mode and browse and point at micro content together. Last night I came up with what I think might be what I'm trying to say. I think we are mastering the art of micro content journalism. What Croquet made me imagine was some sort of object oriented journalism with smarter micro content which had behaviors and attributes. The Creative Commons license being one attribute that could be included in such an object attribute.

The other thought that I had was that the ability to change the attributes of the objects and environment (color, shape, etc) would be a great way to help people track privacy and identity issues. It would make the concept of access control and permissions much more intuitive for the average user and would help make clear the delineation between different computer spaces and who you are and what information you were bringing with you as you moved from server to server.


I think your last comment hints on an important feature of recent successful apps and gadgets: customizability. Though perhaps slightly different from what you had in mind, the ability within Croquet to customize certain looks would likely appeal to many adopters. The most downloaded mp3 player -- winamp -- lets you change it's look and feel with skins. PalmOS lets you change its look and feel with skins. Certain browsers have skin features. Apple even dabbled with (somewhat) customized iPods, and certain Sony Clie models let you change parts of the body color. Timbuk2 bags can even be fully customized online. We have very much grown from the Ford days of "You can have any color so long as it's black", to "if you can't give me what i want, I'll give my business to somewhere else".
just my $0.02.

Loaded Open Croquet (lots of megabytes), ran it (very slow to load, did not try "connect" feature), and wrote up experience very briefly in Times. Just as early microcomputers were about programming in BASIC, apparently Open Croquet is about programming in Squeak/Smalltalk80 and getting lost in gamer's virtual worlds. Impressive as it is, it doesn't seem like anyone can use this for anything having to do with web pages, editing text, or communicating ideas. It only might work for peer to peer Croquet installs, where users from could possibly share the same virtual world. Recalling first unpromising experience with a browser--hmm, what is it doing, going to someone's web site?--have to see if collaboration exists out there somewhere.

Squak certainly has a significant selection of communication tools ranging from email, text eding and outlining to IRC, web browsing and serving.
I built a tool which I use to do a lot of my blogging. Since the Squeak environment which Croquet is bulit upon has a nice implemetation of the
Alice 3D environment, I've been doing some blogging in 3D

Looks like there's going to be a new release in September of 2004 at their new Web site.

Squeak is intriguing but weird for a Unix fan like myself. I've yet to find a really good Squeak tutorial for an experienced programmer. Know of a good one? Please email me if you do.

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