Second Stage: Joni West (real life, center; avatar, right foreground) has revived Second Life as a place to engage customers. Site: Toomey-Tourell Fine Art Gallery San Francisco, California which represents Joni West’s real-life fine art. The works on the walls are by Joni West. photo illustration by Jamie Kripke
The Second Life of Second Life
By: Arianne Cohen
A-list companies are returning to the virtual world of Second Life with new methods of customer interaction.
When the online virtual world Second Life first got hot a couple of years ago, Dell was among the companies that joined the craze. The computer giant built four islands: a factory where users could build custom PCs, a theater, a model of Michael Dell's dorm room, and a nursery promoting a plant-a-tree program. "We learned right away that maintaining these areas requires a lot of resources," says Laura Thomas, an e-business consultant at Dell who headed the efforts. Of course, if customers had followed, there would have been no problem, but "there wasn't enough usage of the space to justify the resources needed to keep it dynamic." Dell dismantled the factory last year, right alongside dozens of other companies that scrambled to stanch their bleeding Second Life budget line items. Second Life was over before it had begun.
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