ARS Technica says Google may be working together with Arizona State University on a 3D social network that may even be tied into Google's Earth and Google Maps applications.
Google Earth CTO Michael Jones insisted (first comment after the post) in January that Google Earth would always remain true to the real world and not dive into the type of fantasy world that Second Life has become. Therefore, Google's implementation would be more like "First Life," but in virtual form. If "My World" turns out to be a virtual representation of real life, however, it seems natural to question the purpose of launching such a service. We could, after all, just step outside and see these things from the vantage point of a real human, not a virtual one.
Instead, it makes sense for Google to mesh a bunch of its tools into one, thus creating a whole new advertising opportunity aimed at people, er, avatars, who are "walking" down virtual (real) streets to check out virtual (real) stores and businesses. And if Google wants, it could incorporate some of its more social ventures, such as social networking site Orkut and Google Talk, in order to motivate users to spend more time there. Whatever "My World" ends up being, we think that Google will go much further than just competing with Second Life—if the company makes it functionally useful and ties it in with services that people already use, it may have a chance of succeeding at getting average Internet users to participate.