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The digital magazine of InfoVis.net

Urban Pixel & Vios: cities in the Net.
by Juan C. Dürsteler [message nº 15]

The Browsers, as we know them, haven't changed their appearance nor their paradigm since Mosaic (1993) and the memorable work of Tim Berners-Lee, long ago in the early 90s. The metaphor that underlies all the Browsers since then is that of the hypertext page. The situation is surely about to change in the near future. At least two newcomers are fighting for their place in the new paradigm territory: Urban Pixel and Vios.

Neither of them is operative for now. Both of them are preparing themselves for an imminent launch, but some of their features and some views of their user interface can already be seen.

Urban Pixel, is not a browser itself, but a way to present and navigate through the contents of Internet with a different paradigm than the usual one. Here the metaphor is close to that of a city, with a series of coloured points each one representing a single web site. The colour represents the topic the web site addresses. Searching for a particular keyword gives you all the related coloured points (web sites) as a coloured map. Zooming in you can see the sites like a series of streets in the city plan.  

Web site owners can generate two-dimensional views of their contents and the visitors or buyers can visualise them and move through the interior as if walking through a shop.

The interesting thing is that you can find avatars that represent other real people that are actually visiting these places. You can chat with them and also with other special avatars that are employees of the site who you can also chat to.

The same can be done with the people that haven't yet entered a site and are out in the "street" view. This way you can talk to people interested in the same things, with happy or annoyed buyers that come back to the shop and who know what type of social behaviour can develop.

A very interesting article about this site is that of Bruce Tognazzi . It contains some graphics that I didn't find in the web site's guide.

Vios is a three-dimensional web interface. The metaphor in which it's based is that of a landscape populated by mountains, valleys, large and small cities, rivers and pastures where the web sites are located. Therefore, Internet is the world. 

The sites are grouped in 420 content focused zones or cities. The site being in a particular area depending on its relevance. You can buy a tailored location, near a competitor, or far away at the top of a mountain, depending on your wishes. Here you can also be accompanied and chat with the friends that have joined the trip.

Summarising, a mixture of virtual real estate and multi-user videogame with the possibility of creating social interaction and self-organisation.

Possibly a new way of doing marketing, too.

For quite a while now PlanetOasis  has been exploiting a similar metaphor. The difference is that in Planet the 3d Visualisation is simply a facade and there's no way of interacting with other people.

Will Vios and UrbanPixel change our way of navigating and experiencing the web? It's too early to know, but for sure, the current browsers will have more and more competitors in the near future.

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