Google rumoured to be building a virtual world

Techcrunch yesterday reported rumours that Google is building a Second Life competitor.

I have a couple of observations/thoughts about that :

  1. Is it me or are virtual worlds suddenly more fashionable than toga parties in freshers week? To my knowledge just about all the major tech companies have a play in this area now – and for many (Sony, Microsoft, and now Google) the play is to build their own world. Also I am seeing lots of virtual world business plans and am talking at two conferences on the subject before the end of the year.
  2. Distinct strategies seem to be emerging, or at least being talked about with a clarity I haven’t seen before. They include virtual world for kids (Club Penguin, Habbo), virtual world come game (World of Warcraft, Eve Online etc.), virtual world as anything you want it to be (Second Life), virtual world as social network extension (which is where Google seems to be heading) and virtual world with a content angle, which is a mix of the last two or three categories (Doppelganger, Playdo).

All of which leaves me increasingly excited about this segment. As I’ve said before I think Second Life will come through the current bout of negative sentiment and we will see some big businesses built in this space.