Jon Coffelt is an artist who originally came from the Southeast but now lives and works in Manhattan. I have seen his impressive flat-work (particularly his Cosmos and his Circuit series) featured in galleries in Atlanta, Birmingham, and Miami. His latest show is hanging in a gallery no where in this world. Rather, he is now showing in a gallery called Ten Cubed which is located only in Second Life.
Second Life is an online, virtual, three dimensional, MMORPG without the G (for game) but with an E (for economy). MMORPGs have a long history that predates the Internet. These early precursors where called MUDs and MOOs and were primitive, text based worlds. Today's MMORPGs are sophisticated, graphically and interactively rich environments. The more popular ones include Ultima Online, World of Warcraft, Guild Wars, EverQuest, EVE Online, and RuneScape.
Are these games the competition for this creation of Linden Labs? Well, they are in terms of online mind-share. If you are playing RuneScape, then you are most probably not in Second Life. But Second Life is most certainly not a game in the traditional sense and the kind of people that hang out in RuneScape are not likely to enjoy Second Life. My guess is that the closest competitor to Second Life would be Entropia Universe.
Second Life has many detractors, including a story on the American Public Media radio series called Marketplace that aired very recently. They also have some proponents too. People like Jon would like to know the answer to this question. Just how much value does Second Life hold for them? Is Second Life a novelty which will soon run its course or is it the next wave of wealth creation that is going to be on the same level as Google AdWords?
The answer is both and neither. There is the now famous story of a Chinese born language teacher living near Frankfurt, Germany who has done quite well with her Second Life avatar Anshe Chung. The way it works today, there are two levels of wealth creation within Second Life. There are real estate agents (who rent you a place to stay in Second Life) and there are content creators (who help you decorate it). But you don't have to buy or own anything to be in Second Life. I am a homeless person there (i.e. no property) and we are the majority.
I believe that Linden Labs needs to upgrade their business model in order to scale Second Life up to household word status. Currently, they base their business on a real estate market model. Companies, like Ten Cubed, go in to rent a place for a monthly fee in order to attract customers. Artists, like Jon, hope to sell their art in places like Ten Cubed. I believe that Linden Labs should transition their business to an online advertising model and make Second Life more like a 3D virtual reality version of the Internet. Revenue should be based on impressions and not on floorspace.
For most of us functional, enfranchised folks, Second Life is not a much needed place to escape from first life. Rather, it is just another way to surf the web but a three dimensional web that has support for collaboration and communication built in.