Dont Be Fooled by 3-D

Editor's warning: This is not replicable. Do not try this at home.

Editors warning: This is not replicable. Do not try this at home.

I finally got the phone company to allow me to cut directly into the fiber that passes my abode. Now, Ive got essentially unlimited bandwidth into my PowerMac G4 Cube. And Ive been trying out the Web as it really should be.

I went hunting for groceries at Stop & Shop. It was awesome. Carefully selected some great Alaskan crab legs and fresh Norwegian salmon. Picked out some handmade bagels from the bakery. Chose some really red and juicy tomatoes. Chatted with my sons baseball coach about practices. Argued with the checker about the pricing on coffee. Then just abandoned the whole cart. Right at the register. It was so much fun.

Then, I went car browsing, Zoomed over to Troy Aikman Auto Mall in west Fort Worth, Texas. Jumped in a beautiful blue Chevy Suburban, with a lone star on the side. Found the dipstick right off the bat, after lifting the hood. Thats always tricky. Then, decided to take it for a spin. So I asked for the keys and got a salesman in the back seat, just for encouragement. And then I busted through the showroom window. Always wanted to do that.

Finally, I figured I would go to the new site, now under development. The, which replicates the in-store experience. I pulled Molly Ivins Shrub off one shelf and Barbara Tuchmans Bible and Sword off another and sat down for an evening of pleasure reading. Just to make things really real, I had my wife bring me a cappuccino in a Starbucks cup. Hey, why shop — or, rather, read — at the real thing, when you can just use your computer screen as the book page? The type is so much better and clearer now.

Ah, its so amazing what lies in store for us now that the Web is getting down to its fundamentals; now that its really beginning to fulfill its early promise. I cant wait to adopt my own online presence. They tell me I can look and sing like Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit, if I want. Why I would want to, Im not sure. But I can. Im not sure he can (sing, at least). Maybe Ill be Alex Rodriguez for a day and see what it does to my perspective. Or George W. Bush, so I can get some sleep.

All of this has been developing behind the scenes, it turns out, because venture capitalists have so soured on the Net. Only big companies with deep pockets can afford to really spend the bucks to make the Internet the interactive parallel world it always knew it could be.

Three-dimensional virtual reality had always failed before, because it had no real flagship champion. But once Adobe Systems got in the game with its Atmosphere design software, it was off to the races. Developers started taking copies early last year, and by now they have simulated just about everything from parasailing in Paraguay to interest rate deliberations at the Fed. Let me tell you, Alan Greenspan is no more intelligible behind closed doors than in his speeches.

Pretty soon, you wont be able to turn on a computer screen without some sort of three-dimensional aspect. Even if you want to go to the newsstand, youll have to climb a mountain of spinning periodicals and pick out one that interests you. And television just isnt the same anymore. There are too many fans getting on the court during the game. Its annoying.

But Im sure developers will solve those kinds of problems, now that theyve got the tools and the bandwidth. Who really wants to click on text links and quickly see product comparisons when you can play games with your purchases in full color and three dimensions?

It was just an aberration that ViOS of Cary, N.C., had to lay off 40 percent of its work force last month. This company had, just a week earlier, signed $3 million in deals with companies that were ready to be sponsors on its three-dimensional Internet landscapes. And it had just reduced its capital requirements for further developing its virtual environments from $20 million to $7.5 million. The 33 employees who are left know this is going to take off big time. Soon.

Editors warning: Control of your page is now returned to you. April 1 is over.

Tom Steinert-Threlkeld is Chief Content Officer at Ziff Davis Internet and a former Editor-in-Chief at Interactive Week. He can be reached at [email protected]