It was 2003 when the US-based company Linden Lab launched a whole new, entirely digital world called Second Life and based on avatars, real-time 3D images of the real users.
What could you do in Second Life?
Practically everything (and nothing): you could explore that virtual world, teleport yourself from one end to the other of that universe, socialize with other avatars, participate in concerts, sport events, parties, exhibitions, even buy houses or sell virtual goods and services, obviously using a digital currency (Linden dollar, similar to Bitcoin), which could be bought in the real-world’s actual ones.
One million users. But it’s just the beginning
Second Life, in short, was something more than a video game: it was a parallel universe in which to live a digital-only “second life”.
In Italy it didn’t turn to be a stunning success, but in the world it has come to count about one million active users every month, even recently, so much so that Linden Lab is estimated to invoice around 90 million euro per year thanks to this platform.
And all this with a technology which is not that advanced: the real virtual reality is a very recent achievement, which can be traced back to 3D viewers such as Oculus ones – a Facebook-controlled company. Practically virtual reality has yet to break out.
Social media and virtual reality all in one
Is it then just by chance that Facebook has just announced the launch of a virtual reality platform of its own?
Maybe Second Life came out too early (and maybe a massive use of virtual reality is still before time), but Zuckerberg and his staff have set foot in virtual reality for a long time by now, probably for the only purpose of being ready when the right moment comes.
Which might not be so far: in the last F8 summit – Facebook Developer Conference, the annual developer meeting during which all Facebook novelties are presented –, taking place in California on April 18-19, “Facebook Spaces” was launched, the first social network that takes full advantage of VR technology.
Will it be a success or a flamboyant flop?
Currently in the beta phase (available for free at the Oculus Store), Facebook Spaces is not so different from its predecessor Second Life: you can enter it through an avatar created in your image and resemblance from one of your photographs and then move into a three-dimensional reality allowing everything (provided you interact in no more than four people at a time). So go free to a new selfies with friends, with a virtual stick, as well as to the recording of a video to be shared with your community or to video calls with Messenger. The only difference from the old Second Life is that Facebook Spaces is not accessed from PC but from smart phones, through a VR viewer.
Will it be a success or a planetary flop? It is soon to tell. We can say for sure that it is just the first step towards integration between social media and virtual reality.
Time will tell where this course will lead us and how it will turn useful to marketing, but it won’t take long, you bet.