Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Second life worse than the first one

It seems as if the media finally have fallen out of love with Second Life, a virtual world that was hyped by them far in excess of it's actual importance and user numbers. After reporting doe-eyed about the immense business opportunities in the virtual world of second life, reporters now discovered that the second life isn't any better than the first one. In fact it is worse, from a business point of view.

The main story here is the collapse of the Ginko bank. That is a virtual bank in Second Life, which promised people a 144 percent yield on their savings, by investing in virtual gambling establishments. Then Linden Labs decided that gambling is illegal and shut down the casinos, and the Ginko bank crashed. The bank had 189 million Linden$, which at the current 270:1 exchange rate is 700,000 US$. Ouch! Mr. Ponzi is apparently alive and well in the virtual world.

Other current SecondLife stories are about the inventor of SexGen sueing a guy for copyright infringement. SexGen is a 45 US$ piece of Second Life furniture that allows people to have virtual sex, and somebody illegaly copied that software and sold it on. I'd love to see the face of the judge when the case is explained to him.

Stupidity is the same in the real world as in the virtual one, but in the real world banks are much better regulated, and it is easier to defend yourself legally against financial scams. And if you sold sex beds in the real world, somecopy could copy your design, but would still have to produce the actual item, which isn't the case in the virtual world.

In both cases Linden Labs, the company owning Second Life, is apparently doing nothing. So now real world lawsuits are descending on the virtual world, looking into all of these stories of illegal gambling, financial scams, sex, and copyright infringement. And while that obviously makes for great news, it isn't the best of publicity for Second Life. It (not totally unfairly) paints Second Life as a virtual world which is sordid, all about sex and making a quick buck. Second Life advances us closer to the inevitable point where real world governments start interfering in virtual worlds.

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