I'm currently struggling with finding ways of presenting SL to senior managers in such a way that it will not be dismissed as "just a game". To put SL in perspective, I started to look back to the way that the World Wide Web developed. (I could go back even further and consider the development of the underlying Internet, but then I'd start to feel REALLY old!) When WWW was first devised, it was to make the exchange of academic documents easier. The people using the Internet were universities and colleges.
Then, commercial organisations started to see the benefits of the www, and began to create simple web sites. These were pretty static affairs, containing some simple background information.... but the hype was all about marketing opportunities.
The Internet was viewed as something not to be trusted - full of pornography, and populated by academics and geeks. Few people had access, but demand was growing.
In recent years, access to the Intneret has exploded. Novel applications and business models have developed. Admittedly, there was the dot com bubble, when the hype outstripped the application, but now there are sound companies generating business based on the World Wide Web. Web applications have moved on to Web 2.0, with interactive page content, personalisation, voice, video etc. etc.
This development curve is now being mapped by Second Life. The environment started as a game for geeks. It has been adopted by academic institutions and libraries as a significant teaching tool. Companies have started to enter Second Life with simple buildings and static displays, to show off their brands.
Interfaces are being developed to Real Life applictions (e.g. Amazon)
We don't know what new applications are going to be developed in SL, but clearly the opportunities are boundless.
Just as I have been following this line of thought, I came across the Reuters interview with Linden Lab Chairman Mitch Kapor I've had the audio-stream of the interview playing whilst I write this blog entry. Rather spookily, his views have mapped directly onto mine (or is it that my views have mapped onto his??) Either way, have both reached the same conclusions about the potential for SL, and the way that its development is mirroring the Internet or the PC.
He had quite a few other interesting observations and comments - the broadcast is well worth a listen!