By early January more than 3,000 IBM employees had acquired their own avatars, and about 300 were routinely conducting company business inside Second Life. "The 3-D Internet may at first appear to be eye candy," Palmisano writes in an e-mail interview, "but don't get hung up on how frivolous some of its initial uses may seem." He calls 3-D realms such as Second Life the "next phase of the Internet's evolution" and says they may have "the same level of impact" as the first Web explosion.
There's no question that Second Life's initial uses have gotten a lot of media attention in recent months. And indeed, Second Life's admixture of fantasy and reality is intoxicating. The software you download from www.secondlife.com lets you imagine you're stepping inside your PC's screen to inhabit and move about in a brightly colored, three-dimensional world that resembles Grand Theft Auto crossed with Lord of the Rings.
I wonder if Second Life will ever take on a more local flavor – locals interacting in a local virtual world. That would be a weird future.