Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A second wind for Second Life

I was on the road last week visiting clients and friends in several cities. And nearly everyone I spoke with asked me about Second Life.
Now when a media phenomenon that I love becomes so pervasive that everyone I know wants to know my opinion about it, I get a little nervous. Sure, perhaps the subject at hand has reached the tipping point and has become less of a trend and more a permanent part of our lives. Certainly that's the experience I've had as an advocate for blogging, external links and a few other things. And as a general rule, that's a wonderful thing.
But it's also possible that when a phenomenon becomes mainstream it loses something. Perhaps it's exclusivity. Perhaps it's the sense of being cool and ahead of the curve. But something important can get pushed out the door as the crowds rush in.

The first time I spoke to journalists about Second Life was a little more than a year ago. I showed some screen shots. I said I saw enormous growth opportunities for journalists in Second Life. And I talked about one of the newspapers that had appeared there -- a real publication that covered a virtual world.
But I got the feeling that the audience thought I was nuts. Or at least a little silly.

But things change. Time passes. And eventually real-world journalists discovered the virtual world. Late last year both Reuters and CNET opened bureaus in Second Life. An entrepreneur opened a virtual porn magazine. Corporate America found the place too. And even a Congressman took up residence. And soon flying through Second Life began to feel quite a bit like walking through the real world.
And somewhere in there, I lost interest.

But things change. Time passes. And last week Second Life decided to open up its source code.
(You can read more about the decision here and here.) And although I am not a developer, and I have no intention of trying to do anything with the code, I was absolutely thrilled by this news.
Here's why: As wondrous as Second Life is, it has never been what it promised to be -- a virtual world. It was, instead, a virtual room. Albeit a very, very big room.

I don't know what a new and open Second Life will look like. Perhaps the change will be monumental. Perhaps not.
But I do know this -- I'm more excited about Second Life than I have been in a long time.
Because now, just like in the early days, it feels like anything can happen there.

For a look at an earlier post of mine about Second Life and online communities, click here.

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  1. Paul,

    I, too, felt the vibe of potential when I read about SL opening its code. This is a sign that they are willing to let their product develop into what users want it to be.

    Businesses are there looking for something, but from what I can tell, they don't know yet what yet. I don't know what is coming either, but I have a feeling it will all make sense pretty soon.

    Can you image SL when/if it's connected to Wii-like usability tools? Imagine an interface where our SL-life movements are mimicking our real-life movements.

    My web pub class is trying investigating this now. They'll have a presentation in SL in March -- we'll add you to the invite list!


  2. Hi Jacquie,
    Thanks for the comment and thanks for the invite.
    I'll see you in March in both Second Life (for the presentation) and in real life (for the advisory board meeting at NW Missouri State)!