“Second Life is Web 2.0 more than anything else”, says Castronova

ted-castronova_ga_300x300Edward Castronova is believed to be the world’s leading researcher on virtual world economies. Recently, in a post on Terra Nova, the ultimate blog offering news and opinions regarding the social, economic, legal, psychological, and political aspects of these worlds, Castronova, reporting on the recent security breach in SL, asked himself the question: “Is 3D internet something that Terra Nova should cover?”

Put into other words — if Terra Nova writes about virtual worlds, that are almost exclusively some form of games, and Second Life does not fit any of the “usual” classifications of MMOGs, should Terra Nova talk about Second Life at all?

The comments on that section are most enlightening. It seems quite clear that Second Life is breaking all paradigms. Suddenly, we got a virtual world with all the characteristics of a MMOG — immersive experience, persistent 3D content, social interaction, and so on — but with a tiny, tiny difference: it’s not a game. The economy is real, not virtual. The content is created by the users. The rules are made by everybody, not the company that designed it. SL works as a front-end to application servers that run somewhere on the Internet.

No “game” does that.

So, I find it quite interesting that in the same week, Second Life gets added to the list of countries on a website, and that the academics that study virtual worlds are at a loss to describe what Second Life is or isn’t.

I feel excited 🙂 The last time this happened to me — paradigm shift — it was around 1993 and I had a grey screen in front of me, mostly with black words, but some (the interesting ones) were in blue and underlined. “What is it for?” I asked my colleagues. “Everything,” was my colleague’s very enlightened answer. The tides of paradigm shifting at the time were immense and unbelievable (I couldn’t imagine that in a year or so after that mystic experience I would be leaving my comfortable job as a researcher, get a loan, start a company, and tour the country telling people on presentations that “One day, people will use this Web thingy to buy books online” and getting laughed at).

I just got that strange feeling about Second Life this week. Again.

Mitch Kapor recently quoted at the SLCC Andy Grove’s famous words: “Any technology with a 10x (or more) advantage over the current is potentially disruptive.” Uh-oh. It might be true, after all. It’s still slightly early to tell, but, in any case… the academics are confused, the real world is confused, nobody is certain about anything anymore.

This is good. Let’s keep them confused.

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