Heard an interesting rumor today from an academic who heard through the PhD grapevine...Google is working on turning Google Earth into a virtual world a la Second Life. That would be an interesting development both for Google. After hearing this, I was struck by the language on the Google Earth website: "One more step to creating a life-like 3-D model of the whole planet.."
It's certainly true that many of the components needed are already in place, with the latest version of Google Earth having added the ability to build and share rich 3D content using the company's SketchUp 3D modeling software. Having said that, I'd be careful not to pay too much attention to a rumor put out by a partner in the VC firm that owns a substantial stake in Second Life -- any news of Google creating its own virtual world is sure to drive up acquisition interest in Second Life from the search giant's competitors.
Over at VC Ratings, Joshua Jaffe asks how Google building its own virtual world fits into its remit of organizing the world's information? However, I've long considered that Google's real mission is to organize the world around advertising. If it's true that Google is about to acquire game advertiser Adscape, a virtual world would seem like a logical next step.