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August 24, 2006

Second Life as Disruptive as the Internet

A few weeks back, I had the great pleasure of talking with Brad and Fred from Union Square Ventures, which was definitely the highlight of my year. These guys really get it when it comes to the web and invest in entrepreneurs that understand how to leverage web technologies to create truly new, disruptive businesses. I loved talking with them about all of the internet issues that I try to keep up with, the future of the web, new media, copyright and patents, social networking, internet governance, blogging, etc. I could have talked about this stuff for a long time because I really love it.

[ But no one can talk shop forever so we even got into the skiing vs. snowboarding debate, which, as a die-hard snowboarder (who used to be a skier waaay back in the day), I can't resist engaging people in. I always end a skier vs. snowboarder debate with the simple conclusion that nothing beats the feeling of powder on a snowboard. Fat skies can only do so much, as my friend Grant Kaye can attest to (the best damn skier that I've ever ridden with): a snowboard in powder is heaven. ]

One of the subjects that I briefly brought up was Second Life and it's potential to be a major disruptive force. I haven't used it myself but for awhile Adam Curry was praising the gospel of Second Life on every DSC podcast. Now he can get a little excited about things but I think he was being reasonable in his assessment of Second Life being the new great user interface for digital computing or social interaction in the future. Business Week covered Second Life a few months ago and although I haven't seen/read any recent stories, it seems that there's still something important going on with Second Life.

Why the sudden optimism? Mitch Kapor recently stated that

Second Life is a disruptive technology on the level of the personal computer or the Internet. “Everything we can imagine and things that we can’t imagine from the real world will have their in-world counterparts, and it’s a wonderful thing because there are many fewer constraints in Second Life than in real life, and it is, potentially at least, extraordinarily empowering.”

Kapor is famous in the internet world, having been on my radar for being a founder of EFF, so we should take note when he talks about truly disruptive forces.

I suppose the great question is whether we can combine the relatively hands-off governance model of Craigslist with an amazing virtual world like Second Life?

At first blush, the answer may seem obvious because of the stories about Second Life's issues with inflation and monetary policy involving Lindy dollars, but let's take some time analyzing this one. Can we combine the best of both worlds to create a new social networking platform that is self-regulating without needing the heavy hand of a bureaucratic, democratic form of governance?

Brad or Fred, any thoughts on this, I'd love to hear your insights.

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