Friday, May 22, 2009

Second life for Second Life?

One of the most interesting uses of the internet as a place to work and play and buy and sell and advertise was explored by Second Life , a virtual world in which individuals and companies can purchase and develop virtual real estate, and host customers and guests. On Second Life you could have an avatar that represented you personally, and you could develop an island for yourself or your company. Many companies opened islands to see what would happen, and the news agency Reuters opened a bureau in second life. But The Reuters Second Life bureau is now closed, and some of the early enthusiasm for the site has faded.

One reason for this is that the site became increasingly sexualized, and the management is now taking steps to segregate sexual content from other kinds of commerce: Red Lights Might Save Second Life:
"In a move obviously meant to attract more mainstream users to Second Life and salvage some of the realm's lost momentum, Linden Lab will soon be moving mature content to a secondary continent within the virtual world. This has got to be a relief to all those businesses that wasted precious resources building digital offices and outlets in the pixel-based universe over the last few years.
Once touted as an essential locale for hip businesses to open up their doors, Second Life saw something of a real estate boom as companies such as Dell and IBM rushed to build their presence on Second Life's sprawling landscape. But once built, these massive corporate structures turned out to be little more than vast wastes of time and money--gigantic ghost towns in a non-existent gold rush."

The latest news is that it is now possible to take the technology private, and host your own, private Second Life: Second Life Lives Behind a Firewall.
One of the early users of this technology is Case Western Reserve University: Case Western Reserve U. Debuts Private Version of Second Life (for some reason, the isolated version of Second Life is codenamed "Nebraska." ):
"Case Western is the higher-education test site as Linden Lab, the company that runs Second Life, develops the so-called Nebraska version of the virtual world. The concept is to provide all the functions of Second Life, but to let institutions install the platform on their own servers, in their own data centers, and behind their own security systems. The new platform is “completely disconnected from the main Second Life environment,” according to a Second Life blog.
But why would a school like Case, which already has eight islands in Second Life, want to bother with a stand-alone system?
A medical school interested in performing research involving personal medical histories could use a private environment, Mr. Johnson said. Another function would be programs that focus on both adults and kids. Right now, adults need to undergo background checks to access the Second Life teen grid. One use Case envisions for the Nebraska environment would involve the campus Hispanic club providing mentors to Cleveland public-school students in the online virtual world, said Wendy Shapiro, the university’s senior academic-technology officer.
Oh, and another thing: When you host your own universe, you get “God” privileges.
“You can control everything,” said Ms. Shapiro, sounding excited at the prospect. “You can control who comes in, who gets kicked off. You can control whether people walk or fly.”"

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