Second Life, (click here for their main web site) an online virtual worlds system, is now home to my other law office, which you can visit anytime you like by simply loading Second Life on your computer and going to these coordinates: Mullett (104, 16, 150). For those of you that are used to online gaming, Second Life will be second nature to you. For everyone else, Second Life is kind of a whacky place. For one thing, your “avatar” (a virtual representation of you in the virtual world) can fly and teleport. You can “own” real estate in Second Life as part of an annual, paid subscription to the system makers at Linden Labs (though, arguably, because the ownership of virtual real estate in Second Life is contingent on you paying your annual dues, the property there is probably not very “real” real estate, unless you think of your dues as property taxes – but that’s for another day). But you should see some of the things that people have constructed on their property in Second Life – not all that well-connected to things you might be used to seeing in the real world.
For one thing, my neighbor has his own, private castle cattycorner to me in Mullett. As you might expect from the internet generally, (especially if you watched Dave Chappelle’s Show where he hypothesized what the internet would be like if it were a mall), there are plenty of “mature” places to visit in Second Life, offering all sorts of “services” for your avatar that might make your mom blush. And, just like the modern internet has become, Second Life is also full of shopping malls of various sorts, all selling a variety of accoutrement for your avatar (hair, clothes, shoes, magic underwear – you name it, you can probably find it). And there are a fair number of real estate salespeople who are trying to resell virtual real estate within the system. Interestingly, there is also a “real” world market of virtual items for sale (not unlike other online gaming systems such as World of Warcraft) on other online services like ebay (there were about 120 items related to “second life” for sale today when I searched ebay).
Second Life does allow users to join without making a payment. You start to rack up fees when you actually wish to own virtual real estate within the system. As time has gone on, more people have begun to use Second Life as another web conferencing system (I attended an ABA conference on virtual worlds in 2008 in Second Life). In addition, larger IT companies like IBM and Intel have begun developing their own web presences in Second Life.
Also of note is that there is a currency that is managed by the creators of the system, Linden Labs, known as linden dollars. Second Life maintains an exchange system that allows you to use real currency to purchase linden dollars, and also allows you to export linden dollars back into real currency using the credit card or paypal account associated with your Second Life account. As a result of this connection with the physical world, there are a number of users that make an actual living in Second Life producing virtual goods for their fellow Second Life denizens. According to the Second Life site today, about $52 million worth of linden dollars and real dollars were exchanged on the Linden Labs exchange system, so it is fair to say that a substantial amount of commerce is ongoing at Linden Labs – in spite of the national recession.
And, once you get past the seedy parts of town, there are a fair number of very interesting things going on within Second Life. For example, I visited a school that is being constructed within Second Life, Rockcliffe University in Rockcliffe 182, 4, 24. There are newspapers and magazines available within Second Life (though I suspect that many of these are struggling with their physical world counterparts in the recession). And there is an abundance of art available for purchase throughout this virtual world. So what is an IT attorney to do but open up his own Second Life law practice? Come visit us at Mullett 114, 14, 153! And I’ll be posting further news from the virtual world here on this blog.