Will Second Life get a second wind? (Chapter 16)

Posted on July 14, 2011


Perhaps I just run in a completely different circle than Lon Safko (which is probably true), but Second Life is not a program that was ever on my radar.  Aside from hearing about IBM’s use of the virtual world in a grad school class, I did not know of any individual or business that was using Second Life.  According to The Social Media Bible  and Linden Labs, though, Second Life has over 1.2 million log-ins every 30 days.  Compared to Facebook, that is just small peanuts, but Safko still insists that there is value in Second Life.

Just a few years after Second Life launched, their popularity seemed to take a nose dive.  An article in the Los Angeles Times stated that many businesses had closed in Second Life.  “During a recent in-world visit, Best Buy Co.’s Geek Squad Island was devoid of visitors and the virtual staff that was supposed to be online.  The schedule of events on Sun Microsystems Inc.’s site was blank, and the green landscape of Dell Island was deserted. Signs posted on the window of the empty American Apparel store said it had closed up shop.”  (http://articles.latimes.com/2007/jul/14/business/fi-secondlife14).  The article went on to suggest that the problem was trying to sell real-life products in a virtual world.  Many of the businesses that invested time and money in a Second Life store were finding that it just did pay-off.

It is possible that things have changed since 2007.  Safko seems to believe that there is real money being made on Second Life.  Anshe Chung, for instance, had made over a million.  Chung buys and sells virtual properties, though, not real-life real estate.  Can real-life companies really benefit from being on Second Life?

Second Life may not be the best place to peddle your goods, but there are many applications that could prove to be very useful in business.  According to a WMFZ Evening News report in 2007, one business is benefitting greatly from Second Life.  Crompco Industried installs and maintains safety/quality of gas stations.  They had difficulty training new technicians until they started using Second Life.  Now, with SL, they can show them exactly what is happening underground and employees can practice outside of the field.  http://www.peregrinesalon.com/2007/02/22/wfmz-feature-crompcos-innovation-in-virtual-worlds/).

Businesses, like IBM, are conducting meetings and maintaining offices in Second Life.  It works for them and seems like an interesting idea, but I question whether a virtual world will ever be better than reality.  Today, you can have a conference call online without the use of avatars.  Yes, my distance classes for UNL could meet in Second Life, but why not meet in first?  I can talk to my classmates/professor and see them online without the use of a fake world.  It will be interesting to see if Second Life gets a second life or fades away.