Sunday, 23 September 2007

Will Virtual Worlds Become Bigger Than The Web?

I've decided I'm going to start writing a few more posts about Second Life and virtual worlds in general. I've been visiting SL on a regular basis and I'm finding that the more time I spend there, the more interesting it is becoming to me.

I've also been prompted to write by this revealing 4 part video interview with Second Life CEO Philip Rosedale. Rosedale expresses his thoughts about the current state of Second Life, their plans for future improvements, and where virtual worlds might be heading in the future. It's well worth a viewing if you are at all interested in the nature of virtual worlds and social media.

Rosedale has made the grand assertion that virtual worlds could potentially become bigger than the web is now, and that we could be at the beginning of something that has a long term impact on the world (and he's not just talking about Second Life, but other competing worlds as well). He does also state that he could be wrong.

Whatever the case, it's clear that the idea of virtual worlds has been around for a while, and doesn't seem to be going away. Second Life is the first world to reach some sort of critical mass in terms of popularity, visibility, usage and economy. It is currently about the size of San Francisco, has around 200,000 visitors a day, and has a million dollar a day economy. Is there a chance of this going backwards or coming to a halt for some reason, say if the real world U.S. economy fell into recession soon? Perhaps, only time will tell.

Rosedale makes the fundamental point that although we use the term 'cyberspace' today, the web as we know it is not really a space or a place. He maintains that to create popular 3D digital worlds with the physical presence of 'us', potentially has far greater reach than anything we have created so far on the web. He explains that the main lure of of virtual worlds is that there are other people there. You can just walk up to strangers and talk to them, more easily than you can in real life. This human interaction is empowering. Virtual worlds can bring people together in a very social way.

I'm finding that the most interesting interactive experiences emerging at the moment are ones with a shared social experience, where the core engagement or interaction is with other people. Answer me this question: when was the last time you wanted to spend more than a hour at a time interacting at a single site in 'cyberspace'? Was it a site that involved interacting with other people, using new social media tools such as Facebook, flickr, YouTube, MySpace, Twitter or Second Life? Was it game played with other people over a network?

Will virtual worlds eventually become bigger than the web? Who knows, but I'm going to keep an open mind about their value and merit before being so quick as to write them off at this very early stage. I'm going to keep exploring and learning for the time being and see where it leads.

My avatar name is jjprojects infinity in Second Life. Please feel free to add me as a friend.


Clay Newton said...

I have been thinking more and more lately that there is not a lot of difference between social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter and virtual worlds. They are just a text based, asynchronous version of a virtual space.

What are your thoughts on that? It's a pretty academic distinction, but it may have implications in the way we "deal" with these spaces.

jj said...

Yes, I agree, I do see them as similar in a few ways. I was going to mention Twitter in that post but I didn't want it to become longer than it already is :)

I find that most of these tools can be more valuable when used together too, and often reference each othter. I don't know how many times I've seen people on Twitter saying things like "I'm in SL right now looking at... come an join me", or "I'm going into SL to such and such an event now, does anyone want to come?"

I usually have Twitterific open when I'm in SL too, so I can see what's going in in both spaces. People also share their photos of SL on flickr and FB too. There are many other crossovers.

I think many people who use multiple social media tools and networks, see them as parts of a whole. I know I do.

.:nasanbu said...

just read this - great blog! i just dugg it and subscribed to it. i've never used second life myself, but i'm well aware of it's following already as well as it's potential.

you've probably already seen this, but if not you have to!