Supporting business in Second Life seriously

A view from the Beta Business Park
This article requires a disclaimer. I am by no means a disinterested party, but a heavilly biased one. My own company, Beta Technologies, has officially launching the Beta Business Park on September 15th, 2009. Obviously you will expect me to support the whole concept 🙂 and not be too skeptical about it.

But I still find it worthwhile to expand a bit on the reason why my company feels this to be important, and how a very long process of maturing an idea, which was validated and corrected by marketing experts and social networking consultants over the years (yes, years!), produced the current result. I hope it might encourage you to rethink about what it means to create a business presence in a virtual world — Second Life or any other — in the years to come.

The first steps

Let’s get back to mid-2006. By then, Second Life was growing like crazy, and all sorts of virtual world wannabees were popping up like mushrooms. The media was excited: Facebook wasn’t yet the huge media-attention-singularity it is today, and there seemed to be a huge gap to fill in terms of technology that bring people together. Virtual worlds were seen as the “missing link”. And even if it wasn’t so, the future in 3D seemed to be quite compelling — it addressed an issue that 2D web pages can’t really convey: the notion of being immersed in an environment with real people.

Yes, we know how the Facebook owners have been painstakingly pushing people to use their real names and real identity and real pictures on their FB profiles — but their motives are not the same. They sell profiling data for advertising, and profiling data from avatars is not seen as important (which is simply neglecting the half-billion US$ economy of digital content sales, but that’s another story; I’m not going to lecture Facebook and Microsoft on what it means to neglect such a market — after all, Microsoft does have a relatively solid presence in Second Life and has experienced it first hand 🙂 ). The notion of “being immersed” is of little concern to Facebook; asynchronous communications on social websites (with the odd IM thrown in) has established itself as the norm on digital, online spaces, so they’re fine in being the leader of that technology. 🙂

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