- Aha - delighted to see that former Origin and Sony Online exec Raph Koster has revealed the major product from his new venture capital-funded firm Areae at the TechCrunch 40 conference in San Francisco - a new online worlds platform called Metaplace.

According to information posted on the official Metaplace website: "Metaplace is a next-generation virtual worlds platform designed to work the way the Web does. Instead of giant custom clients and huge downloads, Metaplace lets you play the same game on any platform that reads our open client standard. We supply a suite of tools so you can make worlds, and we host servers for you so that anyone can connect and play. And the client could be anywhere on the Web."

The official FAQ continues: "You should be able to stage up a massively multiplayer world with basic chat and a map you can build on in less than five minutes. It's that easy. Inherit a stylesheet -- puzzle game, or shooter, or chat world -- and off you go... Metaplace will support everything from 2d overhead grids through first-person 3d. However, right now we only have clients that do 2d of various sorts, including grid view, 2d isometric, 2.5d heightfields, and so on. We expect to keep working on the 3d client support."

In addition, Koster himself has commented on the announcement on his official weblog, explaining of the technology: "We fully expect most users to be players, not makers. That’s just how it is. So for us, fun is absolutely key. I’m putting my money where my mouth is on that point, too. Yes, we have a new MMO we’re working on. And yes, we’re doing it in Metaplace."

This really does seem like intriguing tech - and a further continuation of concepts being worked out in Three Rings' Whirled, another diverse web-based engine for constructing games and social worlds. And thus, the ubiquitous web browser continues to conquer all, eh?