Weblins – another transitional step to 3DWeb?

I was hanging out with @malburns and @tarayeats yesterday evening in Chilbo and we were having a wide ranging discussion of all things Second Life, Web 2.0, and virtual worlds more generally, when Malburns mentioned this cute little program at http://weblin.com. He was describing how it gives you a little avatar and you “teleport” from webpage to webpage, but I couldn’t quite grasp what he was saying until I tried it for myself.

Weblin.com homepage

This is a screenshot of the Weblin.com website, and you’ll notice along the bottom of the screen that there are a bunch of little avatars down there. Mine is in the lower right corner and hey presto, it’s actually an image of my Second Life avatar.

So in effect, you download this program and install it (doesn’t work with Macs yet), and then as you browse the web, you are represented by this little avatar and you can see the avatars of any other Weblin user if they happen to be on the same page as you. Which means, of course, that the solitary and isolated experience of browsing the web is transformed into a _social_ experience. I can pop over and see who else is checking out the CNN homepage. I can start a spontaneous conversation. I can add friends and invite them to view the web page I happen to be at. I can hang out on my OWN webpage and see who stops by for a visit and say hi.

I think this is something of a paradigm shift, and another transitional step to the fully immersive 3D Web or whatever you want to call the evolution we see happening with online social networks and virtual worlds technology.

How could this be useful for education? I’m glad you asked!

Weblins at the UC Blackboard page
University of Cincinnati Blackboard homepage, with little Weblins hanging out below.

Imagine students going to their course website to get information about an assignment, but instead of being there “by themselves” they run into a classmate who happens to be there at the same time. The visual representation of an avatar, something that indicates co-presence, opens up all sorts of opportunities for spontaneous dialogue, greater engagement with the course material, and additional network building. Imagine if the instructor popped in and was available to answer questions about the assignment on the spot, or even held “office hours” at the course website at specific times.

But wait, you’re saying, this is already possible with Instant Messenger or an embedded chatroom or any number of other tools, and of course that’s true, but the sense of _co-presence_ we keep talking about in relation to 3D immersive environments is simply not replicated in a text based chatroom environment. I can’t _SEE_ you in a chatroom. I can “see” you with a weblin. Beyond that, the chance encounter aspect, the ability to meet random other people who happen to be, for that moment, reading the same webpage that I am reading, wherever they are in the world, is something that intentional entry into a chatroom can’t replicate.

Co-presence, immersion, deeper engagement, serendipity. These are some of the keys, even if I’m not sure exactly what we’re unlocking.

Want to try it for yourself? Click this link which should take you back to my website, but this time with a little demo Weblin of your own. And maybe I’ll be around here to say hi. 🙂

(With thanks to twitter friends @iAlja and @iYan for stopping by the UC Blackboard page so I could get a good screen grab!)


  1. Fascinating next step – can imagine a huge benefit for those who feel isolated because of distance, (online learners)lack of family, friends etc.

  2. […] only just discovered weblins (they have been around for a while apparently). I heard about them on Fleep’s Deep Thoughts and I went to investigate over on weblin.com to find out more for myself. When I got there I was […]

  3. There’s another company doing something similar called RocketOn.com Not sure which is better. They’re both pretty cool.