|One of the "Become Your Avatar" Marketing Banner for Second Life|
I've also been a bit confused by the push to make Second Life more like Facebook. Very few of the people I know who are avid Facebook users seem very interested in Second Life. And those I know who are active in Second Life seem unlikely to want to bump into their mom or neighbor while in avatar form.
So why was M. and his team so hot on creating an influx of people who connected their human and virtual identities? Well, I can't speak to their actual motivations, but I've come up with something that makes sense to me.
From a marketing standpoint, the most compelling benefit of increasing the number of Second Life residents who will connect their human and virtual identities isn't merely that they comprise an untapped market. The game changing factor is the potential for Second Life to tap into the type of word-of-mouth marketing that has fueled Facebook's viral growth.
Most businesses depend upon personal referrals to supplement their own marketing efforts. But the high level of pseudonymity within Second Life undermines this "natural" process of growth. Many (most?) residents extend "What goes on in Second Life stays in Second Life" to the fact that they even visit the virtual world. So word-of-mouth is untenable.
Despite the positive potential of word-of-mouth marketing, I still think it's a very risky idea for Linden Lab to take actions that significantly increase the percentage of non-pseudonymous residents. If there's one thing that would cause a massive exodus of current residents to other virtual worlds, it would be a change in culture that makes them feel uncomfortable in their pseudonymity.