View Full Version : The New Virtual Frontier - Second Life Report

Friday, October 20th, 2006, 08:27 PM
by Waldemar Ingdahl (waldemar.ingdahl@eudoxa.se), October 16, 2006

The virtual worlds (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_world) are entering the public’s mind. On August 31st Democratic presidential candidate Mark Warner (http://www.forwardtogetherpac.com/) held a Q&A session in Second Life with his avatar this in order to reach out to new voters. The cover of BusinessWeek this April (http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/06_18/b3982001.htm) featured Anshe Chung, a very successful businesswoman in real estate. But Anshe Chung does not exist, she is the virtual avatar created as the "in-game" persona of Ailin Graef. Graef has built an online business that engages in development, brokerage and arbitrage of virtual land, items and currencies in the Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game (MMORPG) Second Life. Since February 2006 the company ANSHECHUNG Studios, Ltd. (http://www.anshechung.com/) has been legally registered in China. The company has equity valued to 250,000 US dollars, in virtual lands.

Researchers flock to study them from a variety of disciplines, not only from informatics but also sociology, economics, media sciences and linguistics. Studies of virtual worlds are seen as the next big thing but there have been virtual worlds previously both graphic and textual. The difference is in function and scale.

The stock markets are increasingly becoming virtual worlds, just study NASDAQ or the Stockholm Stock Exchange (http://www.se.omxgroup.com/) where trade is fully electronic or aircraft simulators for pilots. But the virtual worlds are no less important because of their heritage from computer games.World of Warcraft has six million players and it cannot be considered a peripheral phenomenon any longer. The average age of the virtual world user is currently 30 years and women and men log on to the same extent.

In December 2004, there was a public shock when the Swedish company Mindark, creators of the virtual world Project Entropia, announced that they had put up a virtual island for auction. The winning bidder paid 265,000 Project Entropia Dollars ($26,500 US Dollars) for the island. At the time this was the highest price ever paid for a virtual item (even though this has been surpassed since), a new field of economics was in the wake.

The man that started the shift from considering the virtual world something more than "mere child play" was the economist Edward Castronova at the University of Indiana. In his book "Synthetic Worlds" he started to apply economic logic to the interactions between players examining their effects on a societal and financial level.

Castronova studied the trade in digital goods in EverQuest (http://mypage.iu.edu/%7Ecastro/RMTOverview.html), as it had a clear interface with the real world through eBay. He saw the extent to which people were paying real money to buy items for their game characters, thus blurring the distinction between the game economy and the real one. Norrath, the game world of EverQuest, was studied with the same methodology as you would use to study Ghana, France or Canada. He found that its currency, the Platinum Piece, was actually quite solid. At a rate of 1 PP per 0.0107 US Dollars, it was even more solid than the Japanese Yen.

Norrath would have an average wage of $3.42/hour, and an average yearly wage of $12.000. The GDP per capita of Norrath would make it in par with Bulgaria, that is soon accessing the EU, and higher than both India’s and China’s.

Castronova’s book made him an instant superstar, and although there has been some criticisms of his research the trend is unmistakable; virtual worlds are a worthy research object and the virtual activities on them have to be compared to real world counterparts to be understood.

Milton Friedman said in the 20th century that if you want to see capitalism in action: go to Hong Kong. To paraphrase him for the 21st century; if you want to see capitalism in action: log on to Second Life. In this tax-free economy there is a market for everything, from poetry to gardening, to sexy underclothes for avatars. In fact, Second Life has received criticism for the brisk trade in sex and pornography in some areas of the virtual world, but probably this is just mimicking the same pattern for how commercialization was introduced on the Internet.

Second Life is composed of rich, diverse, user-driven subcultures and countercultures, often stretching the boundaries of free speech of the real world. Intense philosophical and political debates regarding the real world and Second Life’s own politics are held among the more than 170,000 residents.

The company that created Second Life, Linden Lab, provides only a piece of software with a couple of different user accounts (with the basic variety for free), and the rest is up to the user.

The stated goal of Linden Lab is to create a user-defined world of general use in which people can interact, play, do business, and otherwise communicate. Although it has notable competitors, Second Life is one of the most popular MMORPG, since it does not have a scripted action or story. In this free world, entrepreneurs and creators can freely create their own worlds and fill it with content. As they also acquire the intellectual property of whatever they create in the virtual landscape they can sell it, lease it, rent it and donate it.

Second Life has its own economy and a currency referred to as Linden dollars (L$). Residents receive an amount of L$ when they open an account, and a weekly stipend thereafter – the amount depending on the type of account. Additional L$s are acquired by selling items or performing services within the environment.

Second Life’s economy is closely connected to the real one. The Linden dollar usually exchanges by 300 L$= 1 US$. Banks and exchange offices are booming in Second Life and in 2005 the world had a real turnover of more than one billion US dollars in transactions regarding acquirement of virtual land, housing, clothes, music, furniture and animations and gestures for avatars.

Corporations are finding their way to the virtual worlds seeing the users not only as customers but as co-creators. 20th Century Fox held a premiere for "X-men: The Last Stand" in Second Life. Adidas Reebok will create a permanent presence in Second Life (http://www.3pointd.com/20060819/adidas-reebok-runs-to-second-life) and Toyota recently offered a virtual replica of its Scion xB model. NGO’s are also finding their way to the virtual worlds as the American Cancer Society has held a fundraiser event in Second Life.

We are quite far from the predictions of the 1960’s, that the media society would be a "vast wasteland," turning people into passive, hypnotized zombies thanks to the creativity, sociability and interactivity of the virtual worlds. World of Warcraft has been called the "new golf" as the slaying of orks online fills the same cultural niche for young colleagues and acquaintances as gathering around the tee for elder generations.

The parallel existences many will take for granted in the virtual worlds, will change our views of society. A very important underpinning in today’s ethics and political philosophy, namely that the individual is strongly knit to a geographic political constituency. There he finds his peers whose destiny he must share, and from which obligations, rights and duties stem. But as people increasingly live important segments of their lives in online communities, they could well start to identify themselves more with their online groups, with members spread apart by physical distances but held together by mutual interest. After all, we value our communities and relationships if we are able to associate freely with those we identify with.

The establishment of the virtual world happened just 20 years after William Gibson proposed the idea. Such a rapid development aught to be discussed more in order to understand the direction society, business and politics is heading to.

Waldemar Ingdahl [send him mail (waldemar.ingdahl@eudoxa.se)] is the director of the Swedish free market think tank Eudoxa (http://www.eudoxa.se/content/).

Sep 28th 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO From The Economist print edition

A Californian firm has built a virtual online world like no other. Its population is growing and its economy is thriving. Now politicians and advertisers are visiting.

Second Life (http://www.secondlife.com/) is not a game. Admittedly, some residents—there were 747,263 as of late September, and the number is growing by about 20% every month—are there just for fun. They fly over islands, meander through castles and gawk at dragons. But increasing numbers use Second Life for things that are quite serious. They form support groups for cancer survivors. They rehearse responses to earthquakes and terrorist attacks. They build Buddhist retreats and meditate.

Many use it as an enhanced communications medium. Mark Warner, a former governor of Virginia who is considered a possible Democratic candidate for president in 2008, recently became the first politician to give an interview in Second Life. His avatar (also named Mark Warner) flew into a virtual town hall and sat down with Hamlet Au, a full-time reporter in Second Life. “This is my first virtual appearance,” Mr Warner joked, “I'm feeling a little disembodied.” They then proceeded to discuss Iraq and other issues as they would in real life, with 62 other avatars attending (some of them levitating), until Mr Warner disappeared in a cloud of pixels.

By emphasising creativity and communication, Second Life is different from other synthetic online worlds. Most “massively multi-player online role-playing games”, or MMORPGs offer players pre-fabricated or themed fantasy worlds. The biggest by far is “World of Warcraft”, by Blizzard Entertainment, a firm in California, which has more than 7m subscribers. These worlds are the modern, interactive, equivalents of Nordic myths and Tolkien fantasies, says Edward Castronova, a professor at Indiana University and the author of “Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games”. They allow players to escape into their imaginations, and to take part by, say, joining with others to slay a monster.

Unlike other virtual worlds, which may allow players to combine artefacts found within them, Second Life provides its residents with the equivalent of atoms—small elements of virtual matter called “primitives”—so that they can build things from scratch. Cory Ondrejka, Linden Lab's product-development boss, gives the example of a piano. Using atomistic construction, a resident of Second Life might build one out of primitives, with all the colours and textures that he would like. He might add sound to the primitives representing the keys, so the piano could actually be played in Second Life. “Of course, since these are primitives, the piano could also fly or follow the resident around like a pet,” says Mr Ondrejka.

Because everything about Second Life is intended to make it an engine of creativity, Linden Lab early on decided that residents should own the intellectual property inherent in their creations. Second Life now allows creators to determine whether the stuff they conceive may be copied, modified or transferred. Thanks to these property rights, residents actively trade their creations. Of about 10m objects created, about 230,000 are bought and sold every month in the in-world currency, Linden dollars, which is exchangeable for hard currency. Linden Lab estimates that the total value (in “real” dollars) this year will be about $60m. Second Life already has about 7,000 profitable “businesses”, where avatars supplement or make their living from their in-world creativity. The top ten in-world entrepreneurs are making average profits of just over $200,000 a year.

By emphasising creativity and communication, Second Life is different from other synthetic online worlds.

Second Life's total devotion to what is fashionably called “user-generated content” now places it, unlike other MMORPGs, at the centre of a trend called Web 2.0. This term usually refers to free online services delivered through a web browser—for example, social networks in which users blog and share photos. Second Life is not delivered through a web browser but through its own software, which users need to install on their computers. In other respects, however, it is now often held up as the best example of Web 2.0. “It celebrates individuality,” says Jaron Lanier, who pioneered the concept of “virtual reality” in the 1980s and is now “science adviser” at Linden Lab. And it connects people, he says, because “the act of creation is the act of being social.”

The Web 2.0 crowd also extols Second Life for its highly original business model. Most Web 2.0 firms try to build audiences around user-generated content in order to sell advertising to them. This assumes the availability of unlimited advertising dollars, a notion that is increasingly ridiculed. Linden Lab does not sell advertising; instead it is a virtual property company. It makes money when residents lease property—an island, say—by charging an average of $20 per virtual “acre” per month. Only about 25,000 residents, or about 3% or the population, lease property, but that already amounts to 53,800 acres, which, in real life, would be bigger than Boston. This works out to monthly revenues of $1m, not counting the commissions that it takes on currency exchanges between Linden dollars and hard cash. As a private company, Linden Lab does not disclose its exact revenues, although Mr Rosedale says the firm is “close to profitability”.

A common reaction to such numbers is astonishment that anybody should pay anything at all for something that exists only in a metaphysical sense. But “there's actually no economic puzzle in this; all kinds of things derive their economic value only from the realm of the virtual,” says Indiana University's Mr Castronova. The American dollar, for instance, is virtual (aside from the value of the paper used for the bills) in that it requires consumers to have faith in its worth. In the context of online games, virtual economies much bigger than Second Life's have existed for years. Many people in poor countries, called “gold farmers”, play games such as “World of Warcraft” professionally to score weapons, points or lives to sell to lazier players in rich countries. But Second Life is unique in that residents conceive what they sell. As such, says Mr Lanier, it is “probably the only example of a self-sustained economy” on the internet.

For all these reasons—its ability to change the real lives of its residents, its innovations in technology and in its business model—Second Life has become a darling of Silicon Valley. It promises to be “disruptive”, says Mitch Kapor, the inventor of the Lotus spreadsheet that played a big role in the personal-computer revolution of the 1980s and 1990s. He is now chairman of Linden Lab. To him, Second Life is comparable to both the PC and the internet itself, which started as something “quirky” for geeks, and then entered and transformed mainstream society. “Spending part of your day in a virtual world will become commonplace” and “profoundly normal,” says Mr Kapor. Ultimately, he thinks, Second Life will “displace both desktop computing” and other two-dimensional “user interfaces”. As “a hothouse of innovation and experiment,” he says, Second Life may even “accelerate the social evolution of humanity.”

Back to this reality

It is bold and early to make such predictions. After all, Second Life is still a relatively small virtual world—only about 9,000 residents are usually logged in at any one time, for example. About two-thirds create content from scratch, but mostly they customise things that they find or browse passively. And a lot of the wares on offer are banal. Whereas a few residents choose very innovative bodies for their avatars, most have shapes, male and female, that hew to the default templates and look, predictably, like cosmetically enhanced porn stars. Among the artefacts, there is some genuine art but quite a bit of junk.

Is Second Life a nirvana where unknown talent can prove its creative mettle and make it in the real world? “You can create your own island and people come to it,” said Bill Joy, a co-founder of Sun Microsystems and now a prominent venture capitalist. But “I don't see any correlation between that and what it's going to take to be a designer and have a skill set to succeed in the world.”

Mr Castronova also cautions against overestimating the depth and breadth of Second Life's economy. Yes, people do create clothes and games and spacecraft in Second Life and then sell them. But most of the big money comes from the virtual equivalent of land speculation, as people lease islands, erect pretty buildings and then rent them to others at a premium. Tongue in cheek, Mr Castronova compares Second Life's in-world boom to America's house-price bubble. In artistic terms, there is not always much difference between building an in-world house and designing a personal web page.

There are also stirrings of discontent among some of the “older” (if one can use that term in a three-year-old metaverse) and more purist residents of Second Life about what they see as a menacing trend toward commercialism. One avatar, for example, has created “MetaAdverse”, a network of advertising billboards inside Second Life to which property developers can feed images of their creations. More controversially, Second Life is also attracting the attention of corporations and advertisers from the real world hoping to attract the metaverse's residents. Publishers now organise book launches and readings in Second Life. The BBC has rented an island, where it holds music festivals and parties. Sun Microsystems is preparing to hold in-world press conferences, featuring avatars of its top executives. Wells Fargo, an American bank, has built a branded “Stagecoach” island, where avatars can pull Linden dollars out of a virtual cash machine and learn about personal finance. Starwood, a hotel and resort chain, is unveiling one of its new hotels in the virtual world.

Toyota is the first carmaker to enter Second Life. It has been giving away free virtual vehicles of its Scion brand and, in October, will start selling all three Scion models. The price will be modest, says Adrian Si, the marketing manager at Toyota behind the project. Toyota really hopes that an “aftermarket” develops as avatars customise their cars and sell them on, thus spreading the brand “virally”. Toyota will be able to observe how avatars use the cars and might, conceivably, even get ideas for engineering modifications in the real world, he says.

Those Scion cars have “great driving performance for in-world physics,” says Reuben Steiger, the boss of Millions of Us, a company he founded this year to bring companies like Toyota into Second Life for marketing and brand-building. “How it corners and makes sounds when it changes gears is great.” So Toyota, which is a client of his, along with Sun Microsystems and even Mr Warner, shows that Second Life is “perfect for creating experiences around a brand,” says Mr Steiger. “We don't think that conventional advertising will be very prevalent,” he says, because it would “be badly received culturally”. Advertising in Second Life is not about “trapping people” but about captivating and stimulating them. A good campaign in Second Life costs about $200,000 dollars, he reckons, of which only a tiny part is property leases and most goes to paying the talented designers to create great virtual stuff.

Virtual strip mall?

Inevitably, this sort of thing turns some residents off. Will Second Life, that realm of individualism and pure creativity and spontaneity, get plastered over by the same mega-brands and mass culture that have, arguably, made the physical world such a homogenous place? In real life, many avatars argue, big business tends to push out small artisans. If the same happens in Second Life, the metaverse will lose its raison d'être.

Mr Rosedale, Linden Lab's founder, empathises with the concern, but thinks it is misplaced. “That is a fear which comes from the real world that is not likely to be borne out in Second Life,” he says. His arguments are all economic. In the physical world land is scarce, so big brands can buy up much of it; in Second Life, Linden Lab simply allocates more computer-processing power and makes even more islands available. The world is infinitely expandable, in other words. If one patch did become homogenous and drab, avatars would simply fly off to the next.

Another economic difference, says Mr Rosedale, is the lack of economies of scale in Second Life. In real life, a shoemaker, say, can reduce the average cost of making a pair by producing huge amounts, and the average cost of marketing by buying advertising in bulk. In Second Life, however, scale means nothing. There is no manufacturing cost to minimise. Gimmicks, such as giving away free shoes, are useless because nobody actually needs shoes at all. Nike, say, has no inherent competitive advantage over a hobbyist who likes to design shoes (or feet, paws, wings or claws) for fun. Thus, says Mr Rosedale, whereas the physical world has relatively few things that are sold in huge numbers, Second Life has huge numbers of things that are sold in relatively small quantities. In the statistical jargon, Second Life's economy trades in “the long tail” of things.

This is why, for the time being, Mr Rosedale prefers to rule Second Life with Adam Smith's “invisible hand” only. To him that means treating every resident the same, whether it happens to be Toyota or “an 80-year-old woman from India.” Both will pay the same price for their acres; what they do with it is up to them. If it ever became necessary, he adds, Linden Lab could “become a regulator and break up monopolies”, but this does not seem likely to come about.

How, then, is one to make sense of Second Life? For those new to it, it appears to be too mind-boggling to have much relevance to real life. For those who spend time inside, however, Second Life ironically tends to resemble the real world even as its obvious differences become clear. Mr Kapor, Linden Lab's chairman, is the first to agree. “People bring all their karma” into the world, he says. Alongside benevolence, there is harassment. If Second Life were ever to become truly mainstream, there is no guarantee that residents would not pollute it with racism and hatred. Perhaps crime too: residents had to reset their passwords after a recent hacking attempt.

These things may be a criticism of human nature, but it cannot be blamed on Second Life. Henry Jenkins, a professor of media studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, thinks that Second Life deserves credit as “a world of hypotheticals and thought experiments.” From new approaches to corporate branding to education, Second Life is a petri dish for innovations that may help people in real life. Already, therapists are using Second Life to help autistic children, because it is a safe environment to practice giving signals to others and interpreting the ones coming back. Other organisations are using Second Life for long-distance learning. Overall, says Jaron Lanier, the veteran of virtual-reality experiments, Second Life “unquestionably has the potential to improve life outside.”


Reuters opens virtual news bureau in Second Life

SAN FRANCISCO/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Reuters Group Plc (RTR.L) is opening a news bureau in the simulation game Second Life this week, joining a race by corporate name brands to take part in the hottest virtual world on the Internet.

Starting on Wednesday, Reuters plans to begin publishing text, photo and video news from the outside world for Second Life members and news of Second Life for real world readers who visit a Reuters news site in SecondLife.

Created by Linden Lab in San Francisco, Second Life is the closest thing to a parallel universe existing on the Internet. Akin to the original city-building game SimCity, Second Life is a virtual, three-dimensional world where users create and dress up characters, buy property and interact with other players.

More than 900,000 users have signed up to build homes, form neighborhoods and live out alternative versions of their lives in the 3D, computer-generated world. Players spend around US$350,000 a day on average, or a rate of $130 million a year. Usage is growing in rapid double-digit terms each month.

Players buy and sell goods and services using a virtual currency, known as Linden Dollars. An online marketplace allows users to convert the currency into real U.S. dollars, enabling users to earn real money from their activities.

Adam Pasick, a Reuters' media correspondent based in London, will serve as the news organization's first virtual bureau chief, using a personal avatar, or animated character, called "Adam Reuters," in keeping with the game's naming system.

"As strange as it might seem, it's not that different from being a reporter in the real world," Pasick said. "Once you get used to it -- it becomes very much like the job I have been doing for years."

Car maker Toyota (7203.T), music label Sony BMG, computer maker Sun Microsystems (Nasdaq:SUNW (http://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/finance/nm/tc_nm/storytext/media_secondlife_reuters_dc/20625747/*http:/finance.yahoo.com/q?s=sunw&d=t) - news (http://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/biz/nm/tc_nm/storytext/media_secondlife_reuters_dc/20625747/*http:/biz.yahoo.com/n/s/sunw.html)), and technology news company Cnet (Nasdaq:CNET (http://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/finance/nm/tc_nm/storytext/media_secondlife_reuters_dc/20625747/*http:/finance.yahoo.com/q?s=cnet&d=t) - news (http://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/biz/nm/tc_nm/storytext/media_secondlife_reuters_dc/20625747/*http:/biz.yahoo.com/n/c/cnet.html)) are among the companies taking part in Second Life. Adidas (ADSG.DE) and American Apparel sell clothes and accessories for people to dress their avatars. Starwood Hotels (NYSE:HOT (http://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/finance/nm/tc_nm/storytext/media_secondlife_reuters_dc/20625747/*http:/finance.yahoo.com/q?s=hot&d=t) - news (http://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/biz/nm/tc_nm/storytext/media_secondlife_reuters_dc/20625747/*http:/biz.yahoo.com/n/h/hot.html)) has built a virtual version of "aloft," a new hotel chain it plans to open in the real world in 2008.

Reuters will have journalists reporting and writing financial and cultural stories within and about Second Life as part of the London-based company's strategy to reach new audiences with the latest digital technologies.

"In Second Life, we're making Reuters part of a new generation," Reuters Chief Executive Tom Glocer said in a statement. "We're playing an active role in this community by bringing the outside world into Second Life and vice versa."

Second Life citizens can stay tuned to the latest headlines by using a feature called the Reuters News Center, a mobile device that users can carry inside the virtual environment. Stories will focus on both the fast-growing economy and culture of Second Life and also include links to Reuters news feeds from the outside world, ranging from Baghdad to Wall Street.

Pasick said Reuters was not bending any editorial rules to operate in a world that blends fiction with reality. "Being unbiased, being accurate, being fast, all the things that Reuters strives for, they hold true in just about any environment in which you would want to report the news," he said.

Residents of Second Life who read a Reuters story that interests them can, with the click of a button, go to a community center called Reuters Atrium to meet others to discuss the latest events in both the real and virtual worlds.


Top IT companies embracing virtual reality

By Jennifer Mears (http://www.networkworld.com/Home/jmears.html) and Ann Bednarz (http://www.networkworld.com/Home/abednarz.html), Network World, 10/12/06

Among the space stations and vampire castles in the virtual world of Second Life (http://secondlife.com/), a new kind of development is emerging: IT expo. This week IBM, Intel and Sun separately staged events in the virtual world, which boasts a population of nearly 900,000.

These forays into the virtual realm are just the latest example of how old-world companies are taking advantage of new world marketing opportunities. In addition to Second Life, technology firms are using MySpace, YouTube and blogs to reach out to customers in more informal and interactive ways.

“Companies recognize that press releases still serve a purpose, but they don’t make a splash,” says Mat Small, a manager at public relations firm Bite Communications, which orchestrated Sun’s debut in Second Life. “The thing about new media is there are some highly sought after audiences: for example, developers. I don’t see very many developers reading press releases,” Small says. “You’re more likely to encounter them in an environment like Second Life, where companies can engage them in a fun, credible, candid, unstructured way that I think is very appealing to them and is more of a two-way dialogue.”

Sun (http://www.networkworld.com/news/financial/sun.html) did just that when it held a press conference (http://www.networkworld.com/news/2006/101106-sun-second-life-virtual.html?brl) in Second Life, presided over by Sun Chief Researcher John Gage and Chris Melissinos, Sun’s chief gaming officer. The two appeared in avatar form – an animated rendering that can move within the virtual world – to talk about Sun’s Darkstar gaming project and to unveil the new Sun Pavilion in Second Life. The pavilion includes an outdoor theater, meeting spaces and kiosks that will play videos showing Sun technology at work. Continued (http://www.networkworld.com/news/2006/?page=2)

Related articles:

Making a Living in Second Life (http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,70153-0.html)

file:///C:/DOCUME%7E1/HAYDN/LOCALS%7E1/Temp/msohtml1/01/clip_image001.gifVirtual Financial Markets in SecondLife (http://www.dragonscoveherald.com/blog/index.php?p=1002)
Sun Microsystems hosts virtual news conference on 'Second Life' (http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/2006-10-12-sun-second-life_x.htm)
Digital Prostitutes: SecondLife Escort Rating (http://www.techgnosisweb.com/archives/category/secondlife/)
Building Virtual Monuments in SecondLife (http://www.millionsofus.com/portfolio/)
Nazi Training Camps in SecondLife (http://www.dragonscoveherald.com/blog/index.php?p=680)

SecondLife Resources

Business Communicators of SecondLife (http://freshtakes.typepad.com/sl_communicators/)
Exploring the culture and potential of Second Life for business communications and information dissemination.

(http://www.secondlifeherald.com/)SecondLife Herald (http://www.secondlifeherald.com/)

Terra Nova (http://terranova.blogs.com/)
Blog on Virtual Worlds

(http://secondthoughts.typepad.com/second_thoughts/)Second Thoughts (http://secondthoughts.typepad.com/second_thoughts/)
Blog about SecondLife

SecondLife Future Salon (http://slfuturesalon.blogs.com/)
SecondLife think tank

SecondLife Business Magazine (http://slbusinessmag.com/edition/)

New World Notes (http://nwn.blogs.com/nwn/)

SecondLife Knowledge Base (http://secondlife.com/knowledgebase/)

SecondLife Businesses

(http://secondlife.reuters.com/)Reuters News Center in Second Life (http://secondlife.reuters.com/)

SLBoutique (http://www.slboutique.com/)

SL.Goldify.net (http://sl.goldify.net/)
SecondLife Linden$/Digital Gold exchanger

Millionsofus (http://www.millionsofus.com/portfolio/)
Helps businesses to setup in virtual worlds

Anshe Chung Studios (http://www.anshechung.com/)

A virtual real estate business founded by Ailin Graef (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anshe_Chung) and her husband in Second Life. It has now evolved into a real company that is said to employ more than 20 people.

SL Exchange (http://www.slexchange.com/index.php)
SL Exchange is the premier Second Life (http://www.secondlife.com/?a=385149eecd397eb27bad03cb009c7cac)-integrated commerce website featuring real-time shopping, real estate listings, and full-fledged currency exchange. Real Estate, Currency Exchange (USD/Linden Dollars), Auctions

Second Realty (http://www.second-realty.com/)
Property Services

Saturday, October 28th, 2006, 12:16 PM
It has a population is approaching one million. People there make friends, build homes and run businesses. They also play sports, watch movies and a do a lot of the things we all do. They even have their own currency, convertible into U.S. dollars.

But residents also fly around, walk underwater and make themselves look like furry animals, dragons, or practically anything - or anyone - they wish.
This parallel universe, an online service called "Second Life," began in 1999 as a kind of online video game. But now, the budding fake world is not only attracting more people, it is taking a real world twist: big business interests are intruding on this digital utopia. The Web site is fast becoming a three-dimensional test bed for real life corporate marketers, including Sony BMG Entertainment, Sun Microsystems, Nissan Motor, Adidas, Toyota Motor and Starwood Hotels.

The sudden corporatization of so- called virtual worlds mirrors the evolution of the Internet, which moved beyond an educational and research network to become a commercial proposition - but not without complaints that the medium's purity would be lost. These early forays into virtual worlds are either the next frontier in the blurring of advertising and entertainment, or they are digital madness.

Already, the Internet is the fastest- growing advertising medium, as traditional forms of marketing like TV spots and print advertising slow. For businesses, conquering these virtual realms is appealing because the sites combine elements of the most popular new media forms: chat rooms, video games, online stores, user-generated content sites and social networking sites.

Philip Rosedale, the chief executive of Linden Labs, the San Francisco company that operates "Second Life," said that until a few months ago only one or two real world companies had dipped their toes in the synthetic water. "It's taken off in a way that is kind of surreal," said Rosedale, with no trace of irony.

Virtual world proponents - including a roster of Linden Labs investors like the Amazon.com founder Jeffrey Bezos and the eBay co-founder Pierre Omidyar - believe the entire Internet is moving toward being a three-dimensional experience that will become more realistic as computing technology advances. Digital alter- egos - known as avatars - will move around and do everything they do in the physical world, and more, but without such bothers as the laws of physics. Next page...