From virtual real estate to escort services and casinos, the virtual economy of Second Life is booming and now as the community grows to over 2.6 million registered accounts, more and more real life businesses are setting up shop and finding their feet in the virtual ether.
But although Second Life success stories have popped up in the form of (un)real estate tycoons and content developers, making real money has remained firmly in the hands of these virtual entrepreneurs while real life businesses struggle to keep up with the new rules of virtual shop.
This is none the truer for the small population of Australian businesses plying their trade in the Second Life world, but it's an area that David Holloway, creator of an online Second Life news portal and gathering place for Australian businesses, Second Life OZ (SLOz), sees huge potential.
"Second Life offers a unique opportunity for business because it blends the virtual with the real," said Holloway. "It will never replace face-to-face interaction but it can serve as an adjunct with its 360-degree virtual world experience that makes online interaction more personal."
Although Holloway's news portal has only been up and running since the start of January, the site has attracted a regular crowd of Australian Second Life users and even the interest of the ABC who are looking to establish an online presence in the virtual world.
In several postings on the SLOz forums, ABC science journalist, Abigail Thomas has expressed the ABC's intention to create "a meaningful virtual space within Second Life for Australians to come to share their creations, meet others and find fun, interesting and inspiring works and activities."
"Our [ABC] objective is to develop a sense of Australian community based around content, creativity and innovation for Australian and international visitors to the ABC island," reads one of her posts.
Working in conjunction with the Australian Film, Television and Radio School (AFTRS), the ABC plans to host digital assets and stream content to showcase local productions and create an authentic Australian environment within Second Life.
"Creating an Australian space will have nothing but positive affects for Australian business," said Holloway. "It will give Australians a place to gather, grow and most importantly, to get exposure from both home and abroad for their businesses."