June 23rd will be SecondLifes 3rd birthday, and it finally SecondLife seems to be gaining traction in the marketplace of ideas, and more importantly for its financial viability it’s starting to gain the attention of businesses. Micropersuasion noted yesterday that American Apparel has opened a store there, and in september last year, Wells Fargo bought and island, and created an educational game.
It’s Not A Game
Now Steve is lumping this into the category of Advergaming, as has the Times (UK). On the surface, it may seem similar to Nokia putting billboards in Splinter Cell, but SecondLife is not by any means, a video game. Marketers are clearly still trying to figure out what SecondLife is for, whether it be product placement, or avatar based marketing. Business week, for one, seems to grok that this is beyond advertising:
(as of right now it’s about 250,000 people)
The Co-Creative Business
SecondLife is actually more akin to the internet than it is a game. Buying land in SecondLife is equivalent to buying a web server (buying and island is like buying a huge server), building things with the 3d tools and scripting them with LSL (Linden Scripting Language) is equivalent to building web sites. Like the internet it is an endlessly “co-creative” environment, with a rich, user accessible scripting language etc. What American Apparel have done here is the equivalent of creating a web site. To kind of support the co-creative meme, it turns out the creation of the American Apparel store creation was headed up by a Second Life resident, Amy Weber, and she actually worked with the American Apparel architects for floorplans and layouts (see a related article from Clickable Culture.
The Foundation of Trust
Now, the comparison to the internet holds well up to a point, the major difference is ownership of the infrastructure. The 3d world of SecondLife is owned by one company, and that represents a risk that needs to be considered, especially for companies that want to invest heavily in building amazing destinations. The company right now, lindenlabs is very independent, transparent, and social media centric. They seem genuinely interested in building an open environment with as few controls as possible, demonstrated by this transcript of one of their town hall meetings. My question is how do they guarantee that for the future. Trust is the fundamental foundation of a co-creative relationship, and they need to continue building that.
Usability & Autonomy
As it turns out building things in secondlife is actually amazingly accessible. I built and object and attached some scripting behaviors to it so it would say hi to people that approached it, and i even gave it a price so people could buy it if they were that inclined. You can also integrate somewhat with the real internet because objects/land/locations can have SURLs (SecondLife URLs) that you can put in regular webpages. In fact someone that left a comment on my post about the SecondLife t-shirt give away left a SURL for me to follow.
(I personally think they have got the autonomy part of this down, if anything needs work it’s the usability)
So what next? Well it’s early days with 250,000 members, but it’s worth checking out, basic membership is free so you should check it out. As for me I think I’m going to save up some money, buy some land and build a casino, and hey, no stealing my idea Mr Trump
Doh! Looks like some small time casino’s are already at it, the question is, how long ’till a version of The Sands, or The Belagio (hey, at least the artwork will be cheaper Mr Winn).
Call For Participation
I’m thinking about Second Life as a topic for my podcast “The Co-Creative Business Show”, so if you have any ideas, or would like to participate please drop me a line at karl.long [at] gmail dot com
Karl Berry (my secondlife name)
(BTW I’ve borrowed heavily from and I highly recommend CC Chapmans podcast “managing the grey” where he gives a secondlife primer )