I've just been reading an interesting thread on Susan Wu's blog all about Web 2.0 to Web 3D. She's considering what the next generation of the consumer web will look like. There's a lot of discussion about the social networking facilities of Web 2.0 and a move from "web pages" to "web places".
Part of the discussion puts forward the view (which I agree with) that the development and adoption of 3D environments is closely mirroring the adoption of the WWW.
Something which is striking me from this discussion is that whilst Web 3D can be seen as the next step in web evolution, following Susan's curve of
Web 1.0 Information Sharing
Web 2.0 Interaction
Web 3.0 Immersion
Web 3.0 = 3D is not necessarily built upon the facilities and function of Web 2.0. It is a completely new paradigm.
So, environments such as Second Life are big on 3D functionality, but do not really have any of the features of Web 2.0 inbuilt. The developers at Linden Labs are still getting to grips with the wonders of managing avatars, simulating physics and gravity, getting voice working etc. Given time, I'm sure that the APIs and other interfaces will be in place to provide Web 2.0 functionality within a 3D environment. In fact, with SL, good old Web 1.0 functionality isn't really there yet, & there is still discussion about how an in-world web browser can be provided.
As has been stated, environments such as Second Life are currently a sandbox for evaluating the best ways to exploit 3D. If you look at the work that is being done in SL you will find some experiments which work really well (IBM's SOA Building as a sort of "permanent trade show"; PA's prototype banking hall etc.) and some which are pretty flat and boring, and could really be done better as a simple web page (e.g. IBM's SEARS building).
We are already finding that, for example, a 3D space works best if there is someone there to interact with, compared with a sterile, empty building full of static displays. Hence organisations are employing "greeters" on a 24x7 basis to add value to their buildings. As the use of the 3D space matures, so we will discover other changes needed to the way we work, and find new innovations and, perhaps, the illusive "killer app".
Given the way that SL engenders communication, chat and interaction, it will be interesting to see what happens when some of the Web 2.0 social networking tools are implemented within the 3D space.