Business moves into Second Life

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POSTED: November 15, 2006

In the past few days there has been a spate of announcements by businesses of one sort and another to the effect that they are opening branches in Second Life. This has given “residents” something to do while Second Life crashes and burns, and generally acts as though it has been bound, drugged and beaten.

There have been a series of problems allegedly connected to the asset server proving to be less scalable than predicted. I say allegedly because much of the voluminous correspondence on the blogs and forums suggests that, as an explanation, it is rather over optimistic. Although it has been proffered by the Lindens many residents are offering anecdotal evidence to suggest that the breakdown in scalability is much wider. We shall see.

In the meanwhile Channel Four’s pretend radio station (it streams itself over the net like all those other radio stations on announced that it was about the become the first radio station in Second Life, and thus immediately caused another blizzard of angry residents’ mails and comments. Not only did this dismiss the many resident-run radio stations currently streaming in Second Life, it also ignored the fact that BBC Radio 1 own four islands in SL, have organised live events there, and have given away hundreds of virtual radios that stream Radio 1.

Wagner James Au followed this up in an attempt to get the other side of the story. However the replies he received from Nathalie Schwarz seemed to provide more evidence that Channel Four had not thought about what they were doing beyond its value as an attention grabbing two-day piece of publicity.

Dell Island

Today Dell joined the frenzy. They launched Dell Island and will be selling virtual Dell pcs which, from what I have seen so far, do slightly less than the almost free, resident built Pear computers. However, according to ZDNet, “Dell Island features the aforementioned factory room, where residents can configure their real and/or virtual PCs, as well as a walkthrough model of a Dell XPS 710 PC and a mockup of Michael Dell’s University of Texas at Austin dorm room, where the company was founded.”

I went to Dell Island, and I thought that it must have been great fun to build, which is not necessarily a compliment. There is a neat scale model of the island on the island, and a giant computer that you can walk around. This, of course, raises the question: why would you want to walk around a giant computer that isn’t labelled and doesn’t do anything?

I couldn’t figure out how to use the transport system, but that may just be me. I also found the Factory difficult to use, which may again just be me. However, the laptop I ended up with only does one thing: it loads a web page configured to enable me to order the exact same laptop in real life. And I cannot imagine that my annoyance with this is just me.

A 3D advertisement that has no function and looks no better or worse than a functional 1L$ Pear? I don’t think so.

By the way, for those interested in following the attempts of publicists and marketeers to leverage Second Life in the eternal quest for news coverage, there is an interesting page at Rohit Bhargava’s blog, Influential Interactive Marketing.