A virtual world is a computer-based simulated environment intended for its users to inhabit and interact. The 'world' is represented in the form of two or three-dimensional graphical representations of humanoids, called 'avatars', and you get to control one or more of them. Some popular virtual worlds include Second Life and the Sims, to name just a few.
There's been a lot of talk about how these worlds can best adapted for business practices, and there are some differing opinions. Melanie Turek of Collaboration Loop thinks that IBM's new Codestation in Second Life, a kind of virtual place for sharpening programming skills, might turn out to be a non-starter for a pretty simple reason; Codestation might be fun, but real work is not always so. And she questions, rightly so, whether workers are going go through the hassle of getting into a virtual world and manipulating clunky avatars do their work, when they could just do their work at their desk using traditional tools.
Not everyone agrees - rebuttal here - but it does seem silly to do what you could be doing on 'Earth' in a virtual world, particularly when the latter realm uses up real world resources, such as energy. In fact, Nick Carr reports that each virtual person uses as much energy as the typical Brazilian. Let's take it a step further to a ridiculous conclusion - should we use computers in a virtual world to login to another virtual world, and do our work there? What benefits would that acheive? Seems like we should stick to keeping most activities Earth bound as much as we can.