Just why is SL so popular right now? With around 1.6million users it’s not actually all that popular. I suspect a lot of it is down to some very good PR recently that has provided a few easy stories for mainstream journalists. Every time another of those stories goes out – the Reuters news desk, the first virtual millionaire, the Copybot controversy – membership shoots up. The BBC concert that was put on a while back saw UK subscription increase significantly, and popular musicians such as Ben Folds and Duran Duran have also got people signing up who maybe wouldn’t have before.
And what is IBM’s interest in SL? Back in March a few of the IBM “central core” started to pay an interest, seeing it as a place that could potentially be useful for some of their clients. From that small gang, there are now over 600 IBM staff members using SL. They originally had their own pocket of land, but now there’s a giant IBM island, which apparently I’m going to be TP’d (teleported) to later in the day for some virtual schmoozing.
IBM has done some consulting work on virtual worlds, helping out with things like Wimbledon, which has a virtual centre court, using data from Hawkeye (the ball tracking camera that gives us those fancy virtual replays). Their view is that using it in this way makes the event more of a collaborative experience, and IBM users have begun to see this as a more sociable way of IMing other staff, having internal meetings as well as meeting non-IBM people in a social capacity.