"Because everything about Second Life is intended to make it an engine of creativity, Linden Lab early on decided that residents should own the intellectual property inherent in their creations. Second Life now allows creators to determine whether the stuff they conceive may be copied, modified or transferred. Thanks to these property rights, residents actively trade their creations. Of about 10 million objects created, about 230,000 are bought and sold every month in the in-world currency, Linden dollars, which is exchangeable for hard currency. Linden Lab estimates that the total value (in 'real' dollars) this year will be about $60 million. Second Life already has about 7,000 profitable 'businesses', where avatars supplement or make their living from their in-world creativity. The top ten in-world entrepreneurs are making average profits of just over $200,000 a year. By emphasizing creativity and communication, Second Life is different from other synthetic online worlds
Second Life's total devotion to what is fashionably called 'user-generated content' now places it, unlike other MMORPGs, at the centre of a trend called Web 2.0. This term usually refers to free online services delivered through a web browser-for example, social networks in which users blog and share photos. Second Life is not delivered through a web browser but through its own software, which users need to install on their computers. In other respects, however, it is now often held up as the best example of Web 2.0. 'It celebrates individuality,' says Jaron Lanier, who pioneered the concept of 'virtual reality' in the 1980s and is now 'science adviser' at Linden Lab. And it connects people, he says, because 'the act of creation is the act of being social.'"
While I don't totally agree with The Economist's definition of Web 2.0 (quite simply, 2.0 is all about creating and doing verses clicking and passively pulling static content), I think the more mainstream media investigates these new environments, the more democratized marketing and communications can become. As the lines between massively multi-player online role-playing games and websites blur or the ability to stay engaged in the metaverse that is Second Life while on a mobile device and not by loading the program on a desktop computer (which is not yet doable), marketers are going to better understand how these conversations engage people and, in turn, identify the ideal content that these consumers are looking for.
Check out the full article for a weekend brain melt over here: The Economist - Living A Second Life.