_web 2.oh my_

June 8, 2007

Second Life has, unintentionally but inavoidably, taken over my thoughts in the last couple of months – I see avatars and chat-bars, even though the summer has just begun, and I should probably be frollicking around a May Pole or something. It’s like an inescapable place you’re only allowed to leave when you stop thinking about it for too long, which doesn’t happen that frequently, but probably might have to at least for a bit, soon. SL, forums, blogs, messaging, emailing. We’ve never been so interconnected! It’s Web 2.0, it’s 3.0. It really looks like it has to reach breaking point soon. But why should it?

I took the job on the Second Life newspaper. I thought it would be a good idea, despite its brash and in-your-face tabloid style, the lack of any real substance, or genuine wit. Despite too, that I thought, as much as anyone, that virtual worlds were for the more bizarre members of our race. Nerds, if you will. And I feel like a real fool now. Maybe there are alot of bizarre folk there. A lot of pretenders, fakes, scammers, sociopaths, over inflated egos and probably paedophiles too. But that isn’t the point. They’re all learning.

I’m a convert, now. It takes a month or two full time. Eight hours a day, nine to five , on Pacific Standard time – Sl Time, in my case. I’ve seen what the hell is going in. A bit – like in any small community, to be fair, but not that much. There aren’t seven million people ‘in’ SL. There are usually 20-30,ooo, if the grid isn’t playing up, interferring. But it’s growing pretty fast. And the brands are coming too; Adidas, and Sky News, and Vodafone, and dozens more global giants, all cramming in (or not exactly, in a world where you could build your own plot too), and doing not much.

There’s hype, but if you go to the Vodafone or Channel 4 sim, you will see they’re virtual graveyards, already; they’re offering basically nothing new, most of them. A company like IBM, not to mention hundreds of SL start-ups, use it for meetings and R&D. This is bright. But if someone opened up a big empty air hangar with a logo on it in my town, and said you can ‘come have a look’ I might not waste my time. ‘We’re crossing boundaries they say’. They aren’t – it’s too late to be the first now. The reason usually given by firms is that they need to be where their customers are, and this is crucial. They might not be making any money now, but they are learning how they will need to make money in the future. In no time at all, we will be that one step closer to the ‘singularity’ as some in cyberspace like to call it – it’s not science fiction, it’s science very bloody likely.

Any individual, or worse, any marketing manager, who thought a company could go without a website when the 2D internet exploded in 1994 was better off denying they ever said it. It would be defy common sense to not think that SL’s decendent worlds will become the social, economic, and perhaps, bizzarely more than worryingly, spiritual hub of the lives of individuals, companies, charities, church or terror groups, in much greater numbers, and in not too great a time.

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