Virtual world's real problems

22 May 2008

Here's a stat that doesn't surprise: nine out of ten business projects in Second Life and other virtual worlds fail within 18 months.

Just as predictably, the main source of difficulty is that enterprises get caught up in the technology rather than the user experience, says Gartner.

Other reasons for failure: projects get started because of the "cool factor" or because competitors are doing it.

I'm one of several million people whose avatar has been floating awkwardly somewhere in SL for a year or two, less than a Linden hour after its "second birth".

I like the concept, but believe it's time won't come until people are as comfortable in a second world as they are in the first.

The SL dropout rate is incredibly high. Since launch five years ago, 13 million accounts have been registered, yet on average no more than 40,000 people are in-world at any time.

That shouldn't stop corporates and governments from experimenting in virtual worlds, however. IBM, Pontiac and H&R Block have hung out their shingle, as have the Maldives and Sweden embassies.

But for enterprises to go beyond a billboard and shopfront, security as well as usability needs to vastly improve.

If that's not enough of a deterrent, this virtual world generates an awesomely real carbon footprint; 4,000 servers are needed to animate the avatars. That's enough electricity to power Brazil.

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