Saturday, May 19, 2007

2006 Business Week Podcast on Virtual Worlds, Real Money


The most balanced cover of Virtual worlds to date. Business week.
Cover story is here. Podcast is here -- very simple 15 discussion. Here's the start...

As I step onto the polished wood floor of the peaceful Chinese country house, a fountain gurgles softly and a light breeze stirs the scarlet curtain in a doorway. Clad in a stylish blue-and-purple dress, Anshe Chung waves me to a low seat at a table set with bowls of white rice and cups of green tea. I'm here to ask her about her booming land development business, which she has built from nothing two years ago to an operation of 17 people around the world today. As we chat, her story sounds like a classic tale of entrepreneurship.

Except I've left out one small detail: Chung's land, her beautifully appointed home, the steam rising from the teacups -- they don't exist. Or rather, they exist only as pixels dancing on the computer screens of people who inhabit the online virtual world called Second Life. Anshe Chung is an avatar, or onscreen graphic character, created by a Chinese-born language teacher living near Frankfurt, Germany. And the sitting room in which Chung and my avatar exchange text messages is just one scene in a vast online diorama operated by Second Life's creator, Linden Lab of San Francisco. Participants launch Second Life's software on their personal computers, log in, and then use their mice and keyboards to roam endless landscapes and cityscapes, chat with friends, create virtual homes on plots of imaginary land, and conduct real business.

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