Second Life and the Future of Prototyping

In a few hours San Diego will awake to another wonderful day of ETech. I, on the other hand, was last minute forced to stay on the other side of the Atlantic, now trying to stay on top through the near-realtime coverage pages.
One particular session I’m sorry to miss, is news from Second Life, CoryOndrejka’s Web 3.0 talk. Cory and his Linden Lab colleagues have been among those pushing the envelope the furthest in drawing the lines between the inherently open nature of the Internet, the rise of Open Source, Web 2.0 (or the architecture of participation if you prefer), and the rediscovery of user-created innovation.

The biggest appeal of Second Life from a creator’s point of view has been generous 3D building tools and the embedded event driven scripting language to control and manipulate avatars and objects. Cory is now adding the ultimate feature to the toolbox — Firefox embedded in Second Life.
Combine this with the aforementioned scripting language and you have a wonderful prototyping environment for real life gadgets, objects and experiences. Ever wonder how users would react to your new context-sensitive location-based social application? Don’t scratch your head for 12 months learning J2ME and phone intricacies, but power up Second Life and hook it to the web service you’ll be building anyhow.

Some will probably say that most of this can already be done in Second Life, but the Firefox extension allows for the virtual world to weave with the real world, spinning back and forth. Data goes in and out, and one really just becomes an extension of the other. A few years down the road, we won’t even consider it prototyping, but will look at Second Life as just another natural platform to support. To paraphrase the teenage panel at the Web2.0 conference — why shouldn’t I be IM’ing or buying ringtones in Second Life?

If you’re there, don’t miss Cory’s High Order Bits at 11:15.