Teleplace/QWAQ Liquidated By Financial Singularity?

by Pixeleen Mistral on 18/12/11 at 6:50 pm

But transhumanists rejoice as open source software immortality saves Turing Church Online

The assets of Teleplace are being liquidated after the business-oriented 3D virtual meeting place hit a financial singularity which prevents the venture's continued operation, according to a mailing sent to potential creditors - including the Alphaville Herald's own part time typist/technical advisor Mark McCahill. 

Mr. McCahill provided the Herald with copies of the liquidation notification but pointed out that the Teleplace software was recently open sourced as Open QWAQ, so the software will live on indefinitely -- despite the apparent demise of Teleplace, Inc.

seeking a more fluid situation

While opponents of open source may be dismayed at this development, software immortality is good news for the members of the Turing Church Online. The group had been holding their transhumanist services at a virtual venue hosted by Teleplace, but have now moved to another hosting service running the Open QWAQ software. Is it any wonder Second Life conspiracy theorists fear a  transhumanist tropism for open source systems?

Unfortunately, the Teleplace and transhumanist news cut short the Herald staffs' well-earned break from the virtual world news beat. After dusting the cobwebs off our virtual printing press and consulting the staff directory,  I was able to arrange a meeting with Mr. McCahill at the fashionable Martinis and Power - an after work club favored by Herald reporters despite having almost nothing in common with Philip Rosedale's new Coffee and Power work club.

Pixeleen Mistral: Hi Mark! Sorry to interrupt your vacation but what's this about Teleplace being shut down?  
Mark McCahill: Way back in the day - back when QWAQ was just getting started - I spent a couple days talking with them and they put me in their rolodex. Eventually QWAQ turned into Teleplace, and the rolodex must have made it through the transition. Now it looks like they are notifying everyone who might possibly be a creditor, and so a couple weeks ago, I got this notice. It sure looks like they are selling everything off. Here are the papers - what does it look like to you?

calling all creditors

Pixeleen Mistral: Hmmm. Looks like game over. That's a shame. Were you surprised to see Teleplace go into liquidation?
Mark McCahill: Not exactly. I knew something was up when Teleplace open sourced their code after a long run as a proprietary branch of the Open Croquet project.

It breaks down like this. David Smith and Andreas Raab worked on the Open Croquet project. They are some of the best software engineers I have ever seen - so they have really great tech - but its not just about the tech. David and Andreas went on to form QWAQ after funding for Open Cobalt got tight, which happened once Carly Fiorina left HP and Mark Hurd took over and started cost-cutting. At that point Alan Kay's research group was wound down, so David and Andreas needed to find a new home for their work. In the end, the people at the universities kept working on Croquet and David and Andreas formed a startup based on the Croquet code. That was the genesis of QWAQ, and eventually QWAQ changed its name to Teleplace.

But the business-oriented virtual meeting place market is really crowded, so a shakeout was inevitable. Look at what happened to Linden Lab - they took a huge hit and laid off 30% of their staff after Mark Kingdon pursued the business meeting place biz. So when the Teleplace code was open sourced, it seemed to be a sign that a change in direction was coming. It was ironic that the code was released under the GPL, but I imagine it was the best they could do.

Pixeleen Mistral: How was releasing the code under the GPL license ironic?
Mark McCahill: Teleplace is based on Open Croquet, and Open Croquet was released under the MIT license. This means that you could do pretty much anything with derivative works, including take them closed source and proprietary. GPL is different - and viral. GPL says that all derivative works have to remain open source. That is a big turn-off for companies that want to sell proprietary systems. Now, if I'm at a university working on a research project like Croquet, I want the widest possible impact for that research, so I prefer the MIT license. On the other hand, I imagine the only way the Teleplace guys could convince their board to release the code was under GPL, because the board was probably worried someone else might take the code and compete with them - so they wanted to see any changes made to the code. Unfortunately, this fragments the open source development community.

Pixeleen Mistral: How so?
Mark McCahill: We can't add any of the Teleplace code to MIT-licensed projects like Open Croquet or Open Cobalt without those projects getting infected with a GPL license, and we don't want a GPL license. So we have to be very careful to keep Teleplace code out of Open Cobalt. There is a way around this mess, which would be for the rights holders of the Teleplace code to dual-license it.

Pixeleen Mistral: what do you mean by dual license?
Mark McCahill: Make it available under both the MIT and GPL license and allow people to choose the license that suits their needs. I imagine that they will be selling the rights to the Teleplace code as part of the liquidation of assets. I wonder who will end up with the rights? Maybe they will also release it under an MIT license. 

Pixeleen Mistral: Where do you see the virtual meeting space for business software going next?
Mark McCahill: Onto mobile devices like the iPad and Android tablets. WebEx works really well on an iPad and I see a ton of tablets going out to corporate salespeople. To get anywhere in the corporate market, a 3D meeting space will need to be better than WebEx or Google+ video hangouts and work on tablets - and also do something WebEx and Google+ doesn't do.

Looking at the way the virtual meeting place market has played out you can see why Linden Lab bailed on marketing Second Life for business meetings. But as you keep reminding me, there is money in the babyfur and My LIttle Pony/Brony markets - and not much competition, so Second Life for fancy dress party socializing still makes sense.

Pixeleen Mistral: Never underestimate the power of cute, at least outside a business context.
Mark McCahill: If anyone would know, it's you Pix.

18 Responses to “Teleplace/QWAQ Liquidated By Financial Singularity?”

  1. Ron Teitelbaum

    Dec 18th, 2011

    Hey Mark,

    The rumors of our demise are a bit premature. The funding problem was a glitch not really a problem with the technology or the lack of customers. David, Andreas and I are still at it over at 3d Immersive Collaboration Consulting. ( Ok so it’s not much of a website yet but we’ve been really busy. At least it’s not a big orange Q) In many ways the new company is better then Teleplace. We are already improving the software, taking on new clients and making plans for Croquet 2!

    All the best,

    Ron Teitelbaum
    Immersive Collaboration Expert
    3d Immersive Collaboration Consulting
    Follow me on Twitter

  2. Joe Rigby

    Dec 18th, 2011

    What next I wonder? Seems that the old adage is true. How do you make a small fortune in VW’s? Start with a large one!

  3. Atlas

    Dec 19th, 2011

    Atlas: Dicks?
    Also Atlas: Butts.

  4. IntLibber Brautigan

    Dec 19th, 2011


  5. James Freud

    Dec 19th, 2011

    I poo poo in my panties.

  6. JustMe

    Dec 19th, 2011

    You know, a conference call on the TELEPHONE (you do remember TELEPHONES, don’t you?) works just fine. Powerpoint presentations can be emailed to everyone or faxed .. and with no special systems, software or hardware, a virtual meeting is underway.

    Sometimes the old, proven way works just fine .. there’s no reason for a business person to sit in a virtual chair as an avatar to attend a meeting … that’s using technology for the sake of using technology .. it doesn’t actually add anything, improve the process or speed things up .. all valid reasons for technology.

  7. Emperor Norton

    Dec 19th, 2011

    “Pixeleen Mistral: Never underestimate the power of cute, at least outside a business context.
    Mark McCahill: If anyone would know, it’s you Pix.”

    Herald again delivers on tasty irony.

  8. Reader

    Dec 20th, 2011

    I laughed

  9. Vaneeesa Blaylock

    Dec 20th, 2011


  10. Seren Seraph

    Dec 20th, 2011

    Telephones suck utterly to do a presentation to dozens of people. Mailing materials and giving instructions of when to look at what is ridiculous in the internet age. Go hang in the caves with your phone if that turns you on though. Try immersive meetings. They do add significantly to the experience. Including simulcast to virtual worlds of real world events some cannot attend in person. Ask IBM whether it is a worthwhile business practice to hold meetings in virtual worlds. All of that said I found the Teleplace offering grossly overpriced for relatively little. Generally I don’t find OpenKwaq or even Croquet to hold a candle to the immersive abilities of SecondLife or opensim. They are a bit better at patching in various sorts of documents but this isn’t an insurmountable edge.

  11. hobo kelly

    Dec 21st, 2011

    if Teleplace is a worthy application on its own and not just a kool app whose real purpose is to show off the capabilities of the underlying operating system, then port it to Flash and sell it to Facebook for embedding like Farmville or something like that.

    also, Mischief Makers, do not click this link, repeat, do not click this link unless you want to be drawn into a 6 part Christmas mind warp from which you or your sanity may never ever return…

    merry xmas AH

  12. JustMe

    Dec 21st, 2011

    Seren .. Simulcasting of RL events . that I can see and understand. But any virtual world “immersive” meeting I have attended . and there’s been a few of them .. have been full of “where did you get that shirt” and other comments about avatars that detracted from the meeting itself. My comment about virtual world meetings is based on that.

    The best conferences, to me, are video conference calls when you have a central camera or two covering the meeting area, as well as the Powerpoint or video being presented. . that way you can see the people and the presentation., without the distraction of the virtual world enviornment.

  13. AgileBill

    Dec 22nd, 2011

    Have you seen Sococo?

    Immserive meetings are different. They can either be worse or better than face to face for phone calls because they let you model things impossible in real life. Too much and it’s distracting, so it’s an art to get the right balance. Simplicity wins.

    I like SpotOn3d, Web.Alive (waves to Joe), VenueGen, and yes Teleplace (dries a tear). (I don’t list Second Life because it mixes in the entertainment space). But practically I find Sococo with it’s 2 dimensional simpler interface and circles instead of avatars to be a sweet spot.

    It balances an always on spatial environment with simplicty. You still get to share screens, voice over IP, text, shared app control, mobile / web cam on it’s way. But the cleaner 2d interface subtracts from noise. People that wnat 3d avatars can use Web.Alive and VenueGen. People who want to build at runtime can use SpotOn3d.

    The tools are all hard to learn, but when you pick the right one and learn it they are showing some interactive effects that make them more engaging for trained users.

  14. T-Bone

    Dec 22nd, 2011

    …..*falls fast asleep reading the booooooooring article….dreams of fresh, incisive,journalistic probes and revelations on the crumbling SL empire that is a sitting duck for even half assed investigations*

  15. Robble "Little Hitler" Rubble

    Dec 24th, 2011

    “Pixeleen Mistral: Never underestimate the power of cute, at least outside a business context.
    Mark McCahill: If anyone would know, it’s you Pix.”

    I cringed when I read this and I spend time browsing horrible gore pictures to forward to hapless people.

  16. [...] business.  Here is the article Teleplace gone; 3D ICC steps in to help customers and here is a detailed article about Teleplace closing its [...]

  17. I Liek Corm

    Jan 12th, 2012

    3dicc? more like 3 dicks.

  18. lmfuckingmao

    Jan 29th, 2012

    hahahahahah LL is promoting business meetings inside a crappy videogame since ages …. without success and normal business people keep laughing …LMFAO.

    now seriously …go offline and get a fuckin life…..

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