5.11.07

My take on "User Acceptance of Virtual Worlds"

This isn't from Web 2.0 Expo Berlin, I wrote this offline...

In last June M. Fetscherin and C. Lattemann did an article called "User Acceptance of Virtual Worlds - An Explorative Study about Second Life". This is my thoughts about that article.

The first graphic represented in the report tells us, among other things, that the Web 3D started in 2005. While that's highly arguable, the graphic looked so unbelievable that I decided to fire up The GIMP and extend some lines. Conclusions taken: according to it in 2006 "web 1.0 sites" had as many users as "web 2.0 sites", and in the beginning of 2008 the "Web 3D" had 50% as much users as Web 1.0. I call this kind of beautiful graphics "bullshit".

They also state that in Virtual Worlds "there are no levels, no scores and there is no ``game over''". Not only Virtual Worlds can be games, but in fact in some Virtual Worlds have levels, scores and even "game over". While you get no "game over" in WoW, for instance, you have levels and scores. The authors here want to talk about "social virtual worlds" (a term which definition is being highly debated lately), not Virtual Worlds in general... Also, it seems that the authors don't understand in full extent the concept of Avatar: they state that "the behaviours of the users is very similar to real world behaviour", which is quite untrue: users have avatars, and most avatars behave differently than IRL: there are even study fields for those that try to emulate in a Virtual World their real life (sometimes seen in Virtual Worlds like Second Life) since they are few...

Also, sentences like "We also asked respondents if they use other social networks than Second Life" or "Second Life is a social network and hence it enables also to search and meet people and places" or even "the emergence of social networks such as Skype" tell me that the authors don't really know much about what they're talking about: for starts a Virtual World is not a social network, and I wander if they know what that is... But still, they got some numbers I found pretty interesting: like the fact that 39% of the interviewed Second Life residents used LinkedIn. If having almost the same number of FaceBook'ers (39%) and MySpace'rs (40%) tells us that people interested in Second Life are also interested in new trends (FaceBook popularity is recent), their use of LinkedIn might give you a glimpse of the profile of who's going there... I would risk to say that stuff like in-world advertising (if not in context) might fail to a lot of SL residents.

About user acceptance? Well, it's hard not to see that Virtual Worlds are here to stay. With the growth of Internet Virtual Worlds are growing too. As some other studies say, there are really not many mainstream social virtual worlds, and they success, while good for their aim, is far for enough to start talking about a Web 3D. But we saw in the last couple of years a boom in Virtual Worlds for kids, and those kids in a couple of years are eligible to be users of Virtual Worlds for grown-ups. The future of Virtual Worlds is smiling, and users are slowly accepting them. The urge here is to make them better quick enough so that when the general population is ready to massively adopt virtual worlds, virtual worlds are ready to, at least, not disappoint them.