TR: It’s not only users who get confused about what to do in-world. Some companies established presences in Second Life but didn’t seem sure what to do with them. What do you think happened there?
MK: I think for big brands and big companies, it’s the right place, but I think last year was probably the wrong time. Second Life is still early in its development in terms of the audience and the kinds of activities residents engage in. If you look across all social media and social computing over the last two years, there’s been a huge amount of experimentation by brands. None of the initiatives broke the bank when they failed–as inevitably experiments do–and the ones that were successful were wildly successful. So I think if you put it in context from a big-brand perspective, it’s not like companies went into Second Life and built a presence and lost their shirts. I think it’s been part of the natural evolution of social media and social computing. When the time is right and that community is more expansive and more mature, and companies have more experience, perhaps at that time we’ll be looking at it again.
TR: What would you see as signs of that maturity?
MK: I think what would be important is that there be a larger resident base than there is today, and that brands think about the pact that they need to make in social computing. I’ve always believed that in social media and social computing, brands have to give to get. So you have to give the resident community something of value, something exciting, in order to get their positive attention on your brand. I don’t think all of the experiments of brands in Second Life factored that in.
TR: Can you talk about other ways that Second Life might become more mature?
MK: As the resident base continues to grow, we need to make sure that the platform is stable and scalable so that it works really well for residents. The last thing you want to do is invest in bringing new residents in and waste their time because they can’t enter and enjoy Second Life. On top of that, we need to make the interface more enjoyable and more usable for current residents and prospective residents.
TR: Are there plans to connect Second Life more closely with the rest of the Internet?
MK: There’s a lot that’s happening in Second Life on that dimension that I need to educate myself on before I can comment specifically on it. But I’m excited about what’s happened with platforms and data feeds and mashups, and how people are getting the ability to pull content from all over the Web. My hope would be that Second Life is a place where you can enjoy a very rich and very unique experience, and that the experience can contain, and build on, other great things that you can see in the Internet.
TR: What’s your vision of where all this is going?
MK: My vision is still forming as I learn, but I will tell you I believe fervently that our digital experience is going to become increasingly 3-D. People like to see moving images and pictures, and we’re in the midst of an incredible video revolution on the Web right now, as sound and motion become very central to the experience. I think the next natural wave is for digital experience to be 3-D and have the attributes that we see today in Second Life.