Accounting for Second Life

By Johnson, Richard A.; Middleton, Joyce M. | Journal of Accountancy, June 2008 | Go to article overview
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Accounting for Second Life

Johnson, Richard A., Middleton, Joyce M., Journal of Accountancy



* Second Life is a virtual world with education, public relations, and economic implications. CPA Island is the center of the public accounting profession in Second Life.

* At a minimum, CPA Island presents a creative communication medium to appeal to a new generation. This generation has grown up with high-speed Internet connectivity, instant messaging, and multiplayer online gaming.

* The spirit behind CPA Island goes beyond clearly demonstrating an awareness of the different skill set of this new generation. It embraces and celebrates these skills as important to the future of the accounting profession.

* The economic implications of Second Life are just now unfolding. Suspend disbelief, log on, and experience CPA Island and the other aspects of Second Life for yourself.


Thanks to the pioneering efforts of the Maryland Association of Certified Public Accountants (MACPA) and Katz, Abosch, Windesheim, Gershman & Freedman PA (KAWG&F), a Maryland CPA firm, the public accounting profession has joined the ranks of leading corporations, organizations, universities and millions of individuals with a presence on Second Life ( Second what? Second Life is a virtual 3-D world on the Internet. Think. of it as the marriage of online video game technology and social networking tools, like MySpace and Facebook, with e-coramerce potential. It is not really a game and isn't intended for children. Public accounting's presence in Second Life is called CPA Island. CPA Island may be a way to attract the next generation of young professionals to careers in public accounting. (Figure 1 shows the welcome sign outside the MACPA headquarters on CPA Island in Second Life.)

In this article we introduce readers to Second Life via CPA Island and describe the emerging importance of Second Life to accountants, as it goes beyond recruiting and continuing professional education.

Second Life is just one example of emerging virtual worlds developing on the Internet that may be a catalyst for a new range of public accounting business opportunities. It has attracted mainstream business media attention, including coverage in BusinessWeek and The Wall Street Journal, and a CNN blog featuring stories about Second Life. The Reuters news agency has a bureau in Second Life. IBM, Pontiac, Toyota, H&R Block, Sears and many other corporate groups are found there. On the education front, Ohio University, Princeton University, and other universities have established virtual Second Life campuses.



An interesting folklore surrounds the origins of Second Life. A quick Google search indicates that the inspiration for Second Life is the science fiction novel Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson, in which he coins the term "metaverse." The definition of metaverse can't be found in a paper dictionary,

but online Wikipedia describes it as "a user-defined world of general use in which people can interact, play, do business, and otherwise communicate" under its definition for Second Life.

Second Life was introduced in 2003 by Linden Research Inc. (also known as Linden Lab), a privately held corporation based in San Francisco. Accountants may recognize its Chairman of the Board Mitch Kapor, who developed the Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet in the 1980s. While Linden Lab owns Second Life, inhabitants design, build and own most everything in it using software tools provided by the company.

Free memberships in Second Life provide general citizenship rights, but paid memberships are required to own land and other objects. Humans are represented by animated characters, called avatars, that walk, fly, and teleport (instantly travel) through a rich geography with features that parallel our real world. Specific destinations are found either with a map searching feature or by entering the specific map coordinates.

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