First Second Life Millionaire?

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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.

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3 Responses

  1. The virtual world may need a virtual genealogist, right? Sounds like an interesting opportunity. I’m going to try to become a virtual dog breeder. I’m curious if this could actually generate a second source of income.

  2. Jon Noring

    Great article, Paul.

    What is most intriguing is not Second Life per se, but the huge potential of online 3-D virtual environments which Second Life is simply a specific implementation. Imagine in ten years visiting web sites which are 3-D virtual worlds rather than the flat, boring 2-D pages we have today. It is a marketer’s paradise.

    One can meet others visiting the web site, and meet representatives from the company or organization hosting the web site. In addition, a company should be able to better present their offerings in the 3-D environment in ways not possible in 2-D. The potential to business is incalculable.

    (One intriguing idea is real estate — imagine when one is selling their home a 3-D mockup of it can be erected in the 3-D virtual environment to allow visitors to walk through the home and get a feel for the internal space which one cannot get from pictures. A real estate agent can even host an open house to be there, as an avatar, to answer questions.)

    So the question is not whether Second Life or 3-D virtual environments, but when. It behooves businesses today to begin planning their online 3-D virtual reality strategy, and certainly Second Life is a very good learning platform to get their feet wet and build expertise to stay ahead of their less-visionary and 3-D phobic competition.

    For example, I am working with an aggressive ebook publishing company interested in setting up an island in Second Life, and they see the huge potential of 3-D virtual reality to their business, and plan to experiment with Second Life as such a learning/experimentation environment. Imagine an island representing a popular ebook, re-enacting the storyline. Visitors can experience the book in a new way — even meet the author of the book as well as others enthused about the book. The possibilities are virtually endless (pun intended!)

  3. Jon Noring

    For those interested, yesterday I posted a TeleRead blog article about a couple interesting news items regarding Second Life, 3-D virtual reality, etc. With IBM now investing $100 million to develop 3-D technologies, the time may not be too far off when people will visit web sites as avatars in a 3-D virtual reality environment. Those involved with marketing products and services on the Internet need to familiarize themselves with 3-D virtual reality.

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