The economy may still suck in real life (even if we’ve managed to avoid a Great Depression redux) but in Second Life, it may as well be 2006. New Scientist reports that Americans will spend $621 million (in real dollars) in virtual worlds this year, while the Asian market is dropping an estimated $5 billion (which also fuels the Internet addiction rehab market). Second Life in particular is raking it in with $144 million in transactions in the second quarter of 2009—a 94 percent increase from last year.
What virtual goods are all these real people buying? Well, just about everything, from clothes to art to buildings to sports equipment to…sex gear. Lots of sex gear. And some users are making serious money. As NS puts it:
With its users swapping virtual goods and services worth around $600 million per year, Second Life has the largest economy of any virtual world – which exceeds the GDP of 19 countries, including Samoa.
Give it a couple more years and it might even be too big to fail.
Reality Base: People Are Racist in the Virtual World, Too
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Image: Courtesy of Linden Labs
The rocky economy has led some beef ranches to downsize not just their acreage, but the cows themselves. Minicows, which are shorter and more compact than more standard breeds, produce one-half to three-quarters of the meat of regular-sized cows, but consume less than half of the feed eaten by standard-sized bovines.
These cows aren’t genetically engineered—instead, they’re the offspring of a breed that was popular in the 1800s, before feed became cheap in the mid-twentieth century. Today, farmers once again want more beef for their bucks spent on feed, and so they’re increasingly investing in the minicows, which originally came to the U.S. from Europe.
These mini-mooers might also be more environmentally friendly than bigger bovines. Fans say they produce less methane, a gas linked to global warming. And because they eat less, they help keep grazing fields greener and healthier.
Anyone else craving sliders?
Image: flickr/Thunderchild tm
It may be reaching ubiquity, but Google has just scratched the surface of the Web. In fact, computer scientist Weiyi Meng at Binghamton University is already working on Google’s replacement: a search engine that can give you straightforward answers to questions like “Who is Einstein,” instead of simply listing relevant URLs.
The metasearch engine would tap into the million or so search engines around the world, and present a more complete and accurate list of search results by searching the “deep Internet.” While the surface Web—the part of the Web that is indexed by search engines—has about 60 billion pages, the deep Web has about 900 billion pages—and because Google has not been designed to dig deeper, many of those pages are out of reach.