[T]he most distinctive thing about Second Life is its banality. While the hype promises a virtual community celebrating every possible form of creativity and diversity, the reality is mostly virtual suburban sprawl. Flying across the mainlands reveals identikit malls alternating with acres of virtual McMansions, and open plots or shops for rent speckled with garish levitating FOR SALE signs….
The difference between Real Life and Second Life is that you can have your fantasy lifestyle for less cash up front. The fact that you can't touch anything seems to be trumped by the fact that you can own it -- which is evidently what matters most….
This is Libertarian California on Silicon, and…. residents seem to have internalized the real life suburban shopping experience. Shopping is open 24/7, and is mostly impersonal, so you don't have to talk to anyone while you do it, and no one has to talk to you. But go into any virtual mall, and the visual language will seem instantly familiar. Virtual companies have virtual logos with virtual graphic design of frighteningly lifelike pseudo-familiarity…
Second Life is not the web, because the features that made the web so interesting -- open access, reliability, transparency, low cost of entry, and ease of use -- are missing. And other features -- specifically a generation's worth of consumer capitalist Pavlovian conditioning -- have become more obvious.
There's much more, snark, analysis, and prognostication (the News, predictably enough, is not good for the eager free marketeers of Second Life), so go read the whole thing.
And Remember, Always: First Life First.