Christopher Keesey and I had a discussion last year about the future of Virtual Worlds and what we should be expecting to happen. One of the key survivability factors for the new vision of Virtual Worlds involves transparency between software applications and servers.
In layman's terms, the really cool avatar or character you made in one virtual world should become a solid identity on the network that can move from one virtual world to the next. For example, my avatar in Second Life, KitKatBailey, should be able to cross into World of Warcraft or Halo with the right Visa or pass key. Think of it as international traveling in a virtual world.
Why is this exciting or important that IMB and SL are working on this?
It means we are getting closer also to the idea of a 3-D internet. You will not navigate to flat pages for IBM or Old Navy to shop, your character will travel seemlessly from virtual store and realm to others without having to re-log in or build a new identity. Much like your MSN or Google ID passes through large amounts of sites on the internet now without having to retype in your credentials. You login once and go where you need to.
I hear a line from the Fifth Element, "Multipass."
It's true, one day we will have something like our SS# or Driver's license that is an all access pass to travel, shopping, etc in the virtual world. These are the baby steps.
Overall, I think it is good news. I hope Google and all the other entities on the current net hop aboard. It will be better funded and move faster if they invest as a group in what is the inevitable bright digital future of the digital citizen.