Over the past months virtual worlds and especially Second Life have enjoyed a kind of media hype. All traditional media have covered the phenomenon at length as if the idea was invented yesterday.
But as fast as the hype rose, the sceptics were there just as fast. Especially the internet intelligentia thought it was hipper to shoot down virtual worlds (because already too mainstream) rather then taking some time to reflect what it could mean. I like to compare Second Life to the internet 10 to 15 years ago. Then too everybody thought it was slow, had average graphics and the question 'what will you do with it' popped up just as often as it does today. The answer is not easy, but in the mean time we have learned that intelligent experimentation is the best way to find answers. Maybe virtual worlds are the user interface of the future. Will, after MS Dos, Windows and Mac OS develop into a 3D interface? A workspace in which the communication aspect of the internet is harnessed 100%, a full open-source interface completely build by the community ... how much more 2.0 can you be?
And this is what makes virtual worlds so difficult to understand. It's not a game or a contest, there is no real objective. The rules are those of the community, the purpose is to achieve what you yourself want to achieve in the community.
My first project at ONE Agency, the new marketing agency I joined since the beginning of this year, was the launch of Windows Vista in Second Life with the live streaming of a gig by Praga Khan in the Atomium in Brussels. And I'd like to share some learning from that experience. The way this project came to be was very "2.0". Some enlightened minds started talking, specialists of all sorts were called in and two weeks later everything was arranged without having one physical meeting. During the project the objectives, scope and ambitions were constantly adjusted, the permanent beta. And in the end we succeeded together in mobilizing the Second Life community for this project. Anybody who was in Second Life in between the 15th and 31st of January knows that Microsoft launched windows Vista.
But there's more then the 375 people who attended the concert in Second Life (note: that's more then at the physical event). The surround effect of the launch was much bigger. Both in the SL community as in the blogoshere the conversation was buzzing at full speed. The number of 'impressions' generated is meaningless next to the enthusiasm and passion that bubbled up in blogposts and comments. This shows that programs that touch the publics hart have a much higher impact then one more banner in a even bigger size.
So if you were wondering where marketing is heading for in 2007, this give a good idea if you ask me.