As a replacement for, or additional feature of, a FaceBook page, Lively is a no brainer. I think this will catch fire immediately. And -- just like cell phone text messaging, PC instant messaging and social networking itself -- where the teens go, the rest of us will surely follow.
Why Lively will succeed in business
Look at what businesses do online. They promote their branding, engage with potential and existing customers, provide information and market and sell products. Lively is potentially ideal for all this.
A company called Rivers Run Red announced yesterday a service for custom-building Lively spaces for companies. There will be many other such services popping up over the coming months and years.
The creation of objects -- furniture, clothes, pachinko machines -- is currently open only to Google-approved developers, but (presumably) in the future it will be open to all. Rooms, avatars, furniture and clothing are all free, but it's likely that companies may be able to charge for them in the future, which could create am economy of virtual goods for real money.
The actual look and feel of rooms and other virtual spaces is a rich and powerful form of branding, where the creating company has full control. Any object can be associated with a link, so you could even built an entire virtual store filled with virtual products that look just like the real thing. By clicking on a product, customers could add them to a shopping cart or go to the product's information page.
You could also imagine a custom "break room" for employees, or a "lobby" for prospective customers visiting a company's Web site.
With an economic downturn and rising fuel prices, companies will be cutting way back on business travel (to, say, trade shows) and even increasingly asking employees to work from home. Lively could provide a space for online meetings, virtual trade shows or other spaces where real business could be conducted without significant cost.
(You can already choose a trade show booth in the catalog.) In the future, look for the creation of entire virtual trade show companies.
I believe Google will over time work out the performance and usability issues and turn Lively into a monster success. Unlike Second Life, which will always be a niche product, Lively will go mainstream very quickly because users will be exposed to it constantly. They'll see it on the Web sites they're already visiting. They'll be invited by friends and colleagues to join. And companies will actively market their virtual spaces.
Like Google Maps, Lively will spawn an ecosystem of add-on, mash-up and content-creation companies that will lead to applications and services nobody can imagine today.
You heard it here first, folks. Clunky, funky Lively is destined for greatness.