What is Second Life?

Second Life is an online three-dimensional virtual world program designed by the San-Francisco-based company, Linden Lab. It is the brainchild of the company's CEO Phillip Rosedale, who founded Linden Lab in 1999. After reading a copy of Snow Crash, a science-fiction novel in which author Neal Stephenson describes a global, highly realistic virtual world called the Metaverse, Rosedale was inspired to create what is now known as Second Life.

When Second Life was first released to the public in 2003 it was comprised of just 64 acres of virutal land. Since that time it has grown to encompass more than 65,000 acres. As of Dec. 1, 2008, the Second Life Web site reported that there are more than 16 million registered accounts from people across the globe.

When users sign up for an account, they customize their own virtual personas known as avatars. Some people choose to create avatars that closely resemble their real-life appearances. Others prefer to enjoy the freedom of the virtual world and create avatars that look much different than their real-world selves. Some users even assume animal personas, which are called "furries" in Second Life. Avatars are able to walk, run, drive cars, and do most everything else a real person can do. Only, in Second Life you can also fly - like Superman.

The environment of Second Life is entirely created by its residents. The program includes building tools that allow users to shape basic geometric objects known as primitives, or "prims," into whatever they want. A person can use these tools to create a diamond ring, a motorcycle, or the Taj Majal. The possibilities are endless. Residents can also use a Java-style scripting language to create different actions and behaviors for people and objects in-world.

Residents of Second Life retain intellectual property rights to everything they create, and can sell their goods and services for Linden Dollars, the virtual currency of Second Life. Linden Dollars can be exchanged for real U.S. dollars and some people have made more than $1 million by selling their creations in Second Life. A 2006 news report by avatar Adam Reuters, a virtual journalist for the real-world Reuters news organization, stated that a Linden Lab survey found that merchants in Second Life are collectively generating more than $10 million per year in revenue.

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11.28.08 - Second Life has everything... including colleges (Allentown Morning Call)

11.24.08 - University uses Second Life for nurses training (The University Daily Kansan)

11.18.08 - Column: Get a (second) life (The Brown and White)

Is there a Second LIfe for teaching? (guardian.co.uk)