Virtual Worlds are Booming while out of Spotlight

When I was in Middle School, I learned the Scheme programming class as part of an experimental math program.  While most computer science students recall wrapping their mind around functional programming languages (most elite Universities offer some LISP derivative instruction, Scheme, Common Lisp, Haskel, etc.).  As someone who loved playing online, this knowledge base made learning MUSH programming for TinyMUSH derived systems great, creating objects with commands on them in the internal LISP dialect.

So when Second Life hit the scene, I took immediate interest.  Alas, my personal life didn’t leave much time for video game playing, and I never got involved in what turned into the most fascinating “old is new again” story, where what looks like early 1990s Virtual Worlds combined with 1980s online gaming via TinyMUSH has developed a small but dedicated following.

Who uses it, I have no idea, as all my gamer friends seemed to spend a few years on World of Warcraft (my wife can describe making me shower after playing Diablo 2 for 3 straight days, so I can appreciate the obsession with a new Blizzard game, even if I got bored after leveling by guy to 60 pre-expansion), and my technology friends were into other areas, and Second Life seemed just too low tech to be interesting.  The media, latching on to whatever seems unique, appeared to have taken a huge interest in a non-technology company… a category I put Twitter in a few months ago, other than an example as to how Ruby on Rails was NOT a solution for a scalable need.

Yet while the media attention has moved to Twitter, the Online Worlds are minting money.  The subscription model, plus online items that can establish value, other in game or out of game, has created its own economy.  Twitter has tremendous influence on the media, and the application has a huge following in metro areas (where people go out taking cabs or mass transit, and update from their phones) where the media is located, but seems to have a small number of users compared to other mediums.

The recession is forcing companies to focus on what works.  Twitter can help drive the press and bloggers, bloggers help move the press and search engines, and search engines and the media move traffic.  But if you are looking for cash, Twitter won’t generate it immediately, but if you can use it to manipulate the press and bloggers, two gateways of traffic and ability to influence search engines, you can market in the 21st century.

From a business point of view, the Virtual Worlds still mint money, the online purveyors of walled gardens of information like Facebook, and the mass disseminators of information like Twitter can’t make a dime.