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I had an idea several years ago for a web site that acted as an exchange for real and virtual currencies. I was never an avid gamer but, after discovering Second Life and IMVU, I realized how many people were spending (and earning) money in these 3D virtual worlds. While there are some companies (IGE and others) that facilitate buying and selling of virtual goods and currencies, there didn’t seem to be a true virtual/real currency exchange market yet. One that would provide daily exchange rates for directly changing one currency into another, virtual or real, for a small fee. Like most of my ideas, this was added to a very long “projects” list. I had a good idea, I was sure, but neither the time nor resources to develop it.

Fast forward to 2010. IMVU and myYearbook are the first partners of the new Currency Connect, “a service that allows virtual world and social networking site members to exchange virtual currency among partner websites.”1 They don’t (as far as I can tell) offer exchange with real currencies, though. That would certainly involve regulatory compliances which would complicate matters. But how long can these virtual currencies, purchased with real money, be unregulated? Over two years ago, “Linden Lab, the company that runs the popular virtual world Second Life, announced… that all in-world “banks” must now be registered with real-world banking regulators.”2 Dave Rosenberg noted, in his blog on CNet News last December3, that the door is open for much larger players to bring their huge user bases to the game. Certainly PayPal, Facebook, Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft could stake a claim in this, as yet, wide open territory.

Where does that leave me? Crossing yet another promising idea off my list? Probably. I still don’t have the resources needed for development. So I’m throwing this idea out into the blogosphere. Maybe someone with capital or connections can make use of it.

What do you think? Thumbs up or down?

1 http://www.currencyconnect.com/FAQ

2 http://www.freedom-to-tinker.com/blog/felten/second-life-welcomes-bank-regulators

3 http://news.cnet.com/8301-13846_3-10415702-62.html

Image courtesy of Pulsar Media

Reading some of the comments on the Robert Scoble v. FaceBook issue this morning, which centers on an issue of great importance for all of us. It seems FB suspended Scoble’s account because he was using a script to gather data from his account. FB’s IDS probably caught the activity and took automated action. But this is where it gets sticky. What is the purpose of banning the scraping of data from your own account?

I don’t see how it can be a violation of any reasonable TOS for a user to employ a script to gather the information stored in their own account, the same data that could be harvested with a pencil and paper. The only possible issue is the load on the servers, not data ownership. Who owns the “relationship data” that exists in my cell phone? T-Mobile? Samsung? Ridiculous! I own it. It doesn’t matter that I used the tools and services these companies provided to make new social connections. They were paid for the use of those tools for that very purpose.

If the system load is the issue, that is a valid concern. The burden is on the providers of the service to offer a way to export your data in a way that taxes the system minimally. If they can’t afford to do this in the context of a free service, perhaps they need to reexamine their business model.