Sweden opens embassy in Second Life

http://www.thelocal.se/6219/. This article says Second Life is approaching 3 million users, a third of them having joined in the last 60 days. A lot of companies are jumping on the Second Life bandwagon, but this is even more interesting.

Imagine being an embassy employee assigned to interact with people in Second Life. Embassies are so large, imposing, and intimidating–they don’t welcome visitors to come in and just chat. This virtual Swedish embassy may be the best opportunity in world history for an embassy to “get to know its customer” through casual conversations with potentially hundreds or thousands of people each day.

Next headline to look for: 2008 Presidential Campaign for _________ opens office in Second Life, welcomes all visitors to come and meet the candidate.

Google is rumored to be building their own immersive world and may be buying AdScape to become a player in in-game advertising.

I’m not a fan of Second Life yet (although Jeff Barr is helping me realize how real business can actually be conducted in the virtual world, not by just wandering around, but by planning events or attending planned events). But as these kinds of online worlds start attracting businesses and governments and millions of new users, there will definitely be business opportunities opening up left and right for savvy entrepreneurs.

As a former Dungeons & Dragons player (I quit cold turkey at age 13 or 14 after a full year addiction) I can see the appeal of games like World of Warcraft, Everquest, and now SecondLife, which some people don’t call a game, but which certainly has a lot of appeal for gamers. As an entrepreneur, I see huge opportunities emerging here. In business, you need to go where the eyeballs are, and if million join immersive 3D worlds, then you better find a way to play there.

I think a Google immersive world built on Google Earth will be far more interesting than Second Life, and I hope the rumors are true.

First Second Life Millionaire?

I met the founder of Linden Lab, the maker of Second Life, at the 2005 AlwaysOn conference at Stanford University. His vision is now paying off, not only for his company, which recently attracted its 1 millionth user, but now for some of Second Life participants as well. Tomorrow, there will apparently be a press conference from Germany where the first person (a woman born in China) who has accumulated $1 million real world dollars worth of virtual real estate will be making an announcement. (See Fortune blog)

She is going public with her good fortune, just as national governments are considering taxing Linden dollars. Australia decided to tax Linden dollars earlier this month.

Judd Bagley and I brainstormed launching a PR firm earlier this year that would enable Second Lifers to actually issue real-world press releases from within the virtual world. Judd currently earns Linden dollars by letting people use his virtual catapult which can launch people or cars or anything else a very great distance. We didn’t act on the PR firm idea. But now dozens of large corporations are setting up shop there. Dell Island launched recently, so Secondlifers can get a virtual PC in the game or buy real world PCs later. Leo Burnett launched its virtual agency in Second Life back in September. Now, Second Life estimates that development firms that help corporations set up shop in this popular virtual world are grossing $10 million per year.

I’m actually not a fan of Second Life at all, from what I have seen of it so far. I don’t like online anonymity and what it does to human behavior. I’m not a fan of avatars. I worry that this site attracts people will all kinds of base motives. I’m sure others will prove me wrong.

But here is one potentially redeeming idea: a Shakespeare virtual world where users can interact with each other and with Shakespeare texts. This idea from an Indiana University economist just received a $240,000 grant. This could easily be incorporated into Second Life, but it’s not clear from the article whether the grant will allow this professor to do that, or whether he has to build his own world.