Well maybe the Googlers heard me, maybe not, but we’ve got a new addition to Google Labs in the form of Google Lively. A second life-esque social ecosystem, defined by ‘rooms’. The line is ‘create an avatar and chat with your friends in a room you design’, which on it’s own doesn’t sell it for me, I already have enough IM conversation to keep me satisfied.
But I see this as potentially good half-way house between jumping into world Linden, and static emoticonversation. And you can already see some users getting creative with these rooms.
As with most modern day web-apps, 3rd party user development will drive this, personally I think there's enough going on in this space that Lively will struggle to become a staple in peoples social networking diet.