I used to laugh when I'd read tech predictions that in the near future, business users wouldn't even need developers. They'd just be able to create their own programs from parts.
"Yeah, right," I thought. "In a world where people pay someone else to load music onto their iPods, programmers will always have a job."
But I'm rethinking my position after reading about Metaplace, a virtual world creation by Ralph Koster, a multiplayer online game developer.
Metaplace is a Web-based program that lets anyone create their own virtual world from simple building blocks -- no programming required, according to the BBC.
Typically, virtual worlds are huge investments, costing millions. That's why there are so precious few of them. They're not exactly something you add to your website one dateless Saturday night.
But Koster's tool, called Metaplace, will let anyone build their very own 3D virtual space Lego-style, and insert it into a website or even a blog. Then they can e-mail their friends with invitations, and presto! Your own virtual world.
Koster said the program is modeled after the Web, so think about each world as its own webpage and every object within it as a link. If building your own world is still too hard, you can just clone someone else's 3D space.
There's still space in the new virtual frontier for developers, of course. Metaplace uses a programming tool called metamarkup; the more technically adept can use it to tinker.
Currently, the program is in testing. Plans are to release it next spring. Any bets on how long it will take before some creative business user is using the tool to connect with customers?