ETech 2008: Wagner James Au on Second Life

Although I am really not into Second Life, I have been to the Why Won't Second Life Just Go Away, Already? Understanding Web 2.0's Most Misunderstood Phenomenon by W. James Au at ETech. The blurb was:

"Throughout 2007, reputed publications like Wired, Forbes, and the LA Times pronounced Second Life over-hyped, while negative press over Ponzi schemes, porn, etc. suggested imminent disaster. While all this negativity continued almost unabated, however, the world’s user base tripled (both in terms of monthly active and maximum concurrent users), and continues attracting about a half million new sign-ups a month. How can this possibly be happening?"

As backlash continues, user base keeps growing. Companies are continuing to invest heavily in SL (Cisco for instance), not just for marketing but practical applications (to see where resources/servers are being used). Even marketers are getting innovative (L'Oréal): companies adjusting to what people want to do in SL but corporate presence per se has never been the main story. Then why is it working? 3 reasons according to him: 1) Mirrored flourishing: what you do in SL should make you better in the world out there 2) Bepop reality ("the virtual world as a 3d jazz combo"): class atmosphere, diversity of genre/species, space station next to a church. 3) Second Life as a impression society: impression in the sense of cool, about creating something "cool", how much interactivity you can bring to the creativity + impression about long-term activity (how long you will stay in this environment): "whaddya got and how long are you gonna stick with it?

As a result: Second Life is a international cutting edge creative space with high barriers to entry (bad interface, frustrating rights form the start), a Metaverse like Mac World. And it leads to practical inovation: web2.0 innovation in 3D (HBO produced a machinima with SL as a platform), Ajax Life (web-based SL), 3D architectural design and prototyping tool in SL (like on a wiki in a webpage).

Why do I blog this? as I stated before, I've never really been into SL so I was curious about what is happening there now that the press is less talking about it. Some elements are interesting but I am still not convinced and the fact that some companies invest a lot in SL and virtual world seems as if it was meant this "social 3D web" was a self-fullfilling prophecy.