Are Virtual Worlds Ready for Primetime?

Recently, it seems like more and more media attention is being given to these new virtual worlds. They are these 3D computer environments which allow you to control the life of an avatar/character on your computer screen and interact with other people within the network.

Linden Lab’s Second Life has been around for over a few years, has over 3.5 million new accounts that have been created and has gotten the most media attention. Robert Scoble just recently wrote about Outback online, from Australia.

I think all these efforts are great but what needs to happen for these virtual worlds to make the jump from the geeky subculture to the mainstream. Second Life’s head Philip Rosedale has admitted that it has a pretty steep learning curve, which has caused a very very low retention rate of Second Life users. Can Outback Online learn from this and create their interfaces in a way to get beyond these problems?

Is it more then just an interface problem? Is the idea of a virtual world just leaps and bounds ahead of where we are as a society? It seems like it is too much of a leap to put our minds in a place where aren’t really.

The x-factor in all this is the community aspect of the environments. In Second Life, I can interact with someone who lives on the other side of the world just like they were standing next to me. I can have experiences with someone else in ways that I would never be able to have in real life. There is something special about that. I don’t know if it is enough to put Second Life or Outback Online over the edge into mainstream acceptance. I do think though that it will be a driving force in its innovation. People want to find a new ways to stay connected with their friends in better and more efficient ways. This could be one.

Have you played with Second Life? What are your thoughts? If you haven’t, download it and let me know what you think.

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