I was introduced to Second Life last year and found it very intriguing but, I never really felt like it was something I’d spend a lot of time doing. To me it was just a neat tool; however, for some it is a money-making business. I’ve read two articles in the last few weeks on Second Life and other virtual realities. Security in Virtual Worlds: Blurring the Borders and Griefer Madness: Terrorizing Virtual Worlds Both talk about the idea of making money in a virtual reality such as Second Life. This really made me stop and think about this phenomenon in a new light. Someone can make real money in a world that doesn’t exist. How completely bizarre!! And yet, this is where the future of these technologies is heading.

But, like any new technology, problems have arisen. Both articles also discuss the security issues that have come to light in these worlds. First of all, there’s the small problem of those “people” that don’t play well with others. In Second Life, those are called griefers. Basically, they go around wreaking havoc on the virtual world. Just like in the real world, the virtual world has to deal with vandalism and petty crime. However, unlike the real world there is no virtual police…at the moment. Could this be where these virtual worlds have to turn in the future…actually having a legal body to deal with these types of issues? If the problems get much worse, they may have to.

In addition, there are bigger issue that have come up in these worlds. There is always a security risk when you type personal information into a website. These virtual worlds are no different. The potential for identity theft is real. People steal this information to use for crime in the real world. Since real money is exchanged, many users have credit card information in their Second Life accounts which could end up in the wrong hands and cause serious financial problems.

Finally, there is the problem of fraud. As the articles point out, there is no regulatory body in these virtual worlds. There is no good way to track the money changing hands, nor to know who is receiving that money; therefore, transactions could be happening in Second Life that no one knows about. This could also present serious problems in the real world.

So, what does this mean for the future? Well, security may become tighter in these worlds; regulations may need to be established for money exchanges; and for all intents and purposes the reason for using a system such as Second Life may change. This may become more than just a game for many people and those that just want to play, may find that these security measures are too much to deal with. The whole dynamic of this other reality may change into a marketplace for corporations to do business, rather than a place to just get away from the real world for a few hours.