Virtual Holland Coming to Second Life from ING

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Dutch bankers ING, in partnership with metaverse services company Rivers Run Red, are getting ready to set up a virtual Holland within the virtual world of Second Life. While the OurVirtualHolland project’s Web site doesn’t say how many sims it will cover, it sounds a substantial project, featuring Dutch architecture, landscapes, windmills, tulip fields, and even deltaworks. Residents will be able to own land and run businesses there (i.e., it’s a place designed to attract residents, not just visitors), and the virtual Holland will come complete with its own third-party registation site and orientation experience. The project will be built and opened in stages, but ING notes, “We expect a first release to be ready in weeks not months.”

ING also hopes to build or attract educational and not-for-profit builds, and will also build an art museum that will feature virtual versions of works from the company’s extensive collection. The museum will also have a wing for new (presumably virtual) artists.

On the project’s FAQ, ING also notes something interesting about where it sees its business heading: “ING is taking the virtual-world phenomenon seriously and expects that part of its future Internet activities will become three dimensional.” For one thing, “ING seeks to gain a better understanding of improvements it can make to products and services by assessing valuable feedback from inhabitants who will experience ING in Second Life.”

If this experiment includes the opening of an ING-managed virtual bank in Second Life, it could have important repercussions. Banking in SL has been a Wild West affair until now, plagued by pyramid schemes and promises of astronomical interest rates. Having an already trustworthy entity open a working bank in Second Life would actually cause deep ripples in the economy there, as the bank would no doubt start making loans and immediately increase the velocity of money on the Grid, which would probably lead to higher prices for various goods and services — something that’s arguably been a long time coming.

ING wants OurVirtualHolland to be designed and built in part by residents, and has posted a couple of questions for the public on the site’s proto-blog. The company wants to know things like: What do you think Virtual Holland should look like? And what should it not contain? Which activities do we have to start organising? And if you would get a piece of land in OurVirtualHolland, what would you create or organise for the other inhabitants? What is your first impression about the concept?

It’s hard to tell whether OurVirtualHolland will be open to all comers, or will work on more of a proposal-and-invite basis, as does Pontiac’s Motorati Island. It sounds an interesting project, in any case. We look forward to seeing what develops.

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