Under the plan, the companies will work together to develop standards that, if broadly employed, would allow online Web users to move their digital personas seamlessly across virtual environments like Second Life and other 3-D worlds.
To kick start the effort, Linden Labs has launched an open forum called the Architecture Working Group -- where some of the more tech savvy Second Life citizens can help create a roadmap for the project. Other virtual worlds that Second Lifers could potentially connect to include Dreamville, There, and The Sims Online.
IBM says universal standards will help drive the use of virtual worlds beyond gaming and entertainment and make them more practical for businesses. Among other things, the company envisions online malls where avatars can stroll around, chat with "sales avatars", view product demonstrations, and make purchases.
"We see users demanding more from these environments and desiring virtual worlds that are fit for business," said Colin Paris, IBM's VP for digital convergence, in a statement.
IBM has already embraced Second Life for internal use. The company has held staff meetings and other employee events in the virtual world, and CEO Sam Palmisano has his own, persistent avatar. The company also recently issued a list of employee conduct rules for Second Life.
However, some IBM employees are using Second Life in ways the company likely didn't intend. A group of disaffected workers at IBM's Italian operations recently held a virtual demonstration against IBM in Second Life to protest wages and working conditions.