Hype and Hype-ophobia Surrounds Second Life

For the past few weeks I’ve been observing with detached interest the hype – and discussion about the hype – surrounding the Second Life virtual world application. From statistics that have been questionable for many months, to the non-stop “we’re first” publicity announcements by clueless advertising and marketing noobs, there’s a whole lot that’s being missed by people either generating the hype or focusing too much on it. Namely, whether it’s Second Life or Open Croquet or Multiverse or There or a future avatarized Google Earth or MS Virtual Earth or something not yet on our collective radars, the bottom line is that a three-dimensionally rendered interface is extraordinarily compelling and will be the way people access the internet in the near future. Which means that much of the current debate surrounding SL is worthless. And thankfully, someone in the mainstream media is saying as much.

Fortune Senior Editor David Kirkpatrick has posted an opinion piece (Link) that will hopefully cut through some of the back and forth “is it or isn’t it” commentary that’s running amok through the blogosphere. I hope it quiets the chatter, because as Kirkpatrick says:

Second Life may be more important, longterm, than even this much publicity would suggest. That’s because what it really may represent is an alternative vision for how to interact with information and communicate over the Internet.

Kirkpatrick acknowledges that there are problems. Everyone knows there are problems. But he seems to get it, and seems to understand the social aspects as well. This stuff is more compelling than a few hours of flying around indicates, which seems to be about as much time as many people give it before they form their expert opinion on this technology. So the real question in my mind is: will the people who read Fortune – the business people – understand that this isn’t business-as-usual? that it’s going to take more than just a superficial exploration of virtual world tech to unearth the potential of this medium? So far I don’t see much indication that they will. At least not until the opportunities have passed them by and they read the success stories of those who did give it serious thought.