Before I get to the whole economy issue and what this could mean to credit unions… let’s do a quick run-through of Second Life.
In short, it’s an online world where users create a character, fly around to different communities/areas of interest, and interact with other users. It’s an incredibly in-depth environment where users can truly create a second life. Among the many activities, users can create their own businesses, find virtual jobs for their Second Life persona, and purchase items for their online home. Want more info, check out Second Life itself, or visit this Wikipedia entry.
So the folks behind Second Life, Linden Labs, created a virtual economy with it’s own currency (“Linden Dollars”) that’s convertible to and from U.S. dollars in order to help facilitate all of those fun interactions mentioned above. And as Biggie used to say… “More money, more problems.”
Those problems started when Linden Labs had to shut down 12 unregulated and unchartered financial institutions/banks that accepted Second Life deposits and offered interest bearing accounts. More troubles followed when one unchartered bank lost $750,000 in U.S. dollars.
As a result, Linden Labs has now decided that only legitimate, chartered financial institutions will be allowed to operate on Second Life. According to the WSJ article, it appears as though banks have little interest in serving the needs of this online community.
This begs the question… is this an opportunity for credit unions?
Our friends at Filene have an i3 group looking into the matter, check out a recent blog post and YouTube video explaining what they have in mind.