I've heard it said elsewhere, and haven't taken the comment too seriously, but it appears that Google really does want to own the web.
Google has been playing hard over the last few years. They've been acquiring advertising firms like Doubleclick and getting into content ownership by buying YouTube. They've even been working on a competitor to Wikipedia. (Who do you reckon would win in that war?)
Now they're taking on Lindon Labs Second Life with the launch of a service called Lively.
Lively appears to offer (or will offer) similar functionality to Second Life, but will be browser based. Like all these things, Lively has started off small with a number of sample rooms available, but this is going to evolve and will give Linden Labs a run for its money.
So far though, personally, I'm not all that impressed.
Sure it's interesting from a social evolution perspective. Virtual worlds really are just in their infancy, and will evolve and play a part in our future.
But for me, there's one vital missing piece. The gaming. Both Second Life and Lively seem to be places where folks can congregate, socialize and create digital lifestyle goods. Even though I've considered it, I've never been able to bring myself to create a Second Life account -- not bored enough I suppose.
Now if they can fuse the creative aspects of Second Life/Lively with the adventure aspects of MMORPGs, that might be worth looking into.