Spending good money on nothing, it’s not a new concept.

Dis­clos­ure: I’m involved with an organ­iz­a­tion that has vir­tu­al goods and cur­rency  — and yes, you can exchange real money for vir­tu­al goods in it.

fv_250.jpgThe vir­tu­al eco­nomy is heat­ing up. GigaOm reports that Face­book Could Make $250M From Vir­tu­al Goods Next Year; make money from stuff that isn’t tan­gible. Stuff you can’t hold in your hands. Yet, the concept of vir­tu­al isn’t really new, it’s really just a new label applied to an ancient concept.

It is kind of inter­est­ing, when you think of it. For the vast major­ity of human his­tory, ideas used to be the only type of non-phys­ic­al ‘object’ that people would pay money for — ideas mani­fes­ted as stor­ies, con­cepts, music, inven­tions, etc.

Someone had to come up with the idea. And if it was good, then someone paid for that idea.

Then, the idea had to be trans­formed into real­ity — a play, a sym­phony, a build­ing per­haps. The idea becomes phys­ic­al (for a short time if you’re wit­ness­ing a per­form­ance). But still you have the phys­ic­al mani­fest­a­tion of some­thing cre­ated in the mind of someone.

Today, we have the vir­tu­al mani­fest­a­tion of ideas. Vir­tu­al in that when they mani­fest, they exist only in the medi­um they were designed for — a Farm­ville farm lov­ingly ten­ded and nur­tured by someone using a key­board and mouse. Or an Elvish Arch­er who’s vir­tu­al skills and abil­it­ies have been care­fully selec­ted and honed.

Today’s vir­tu­al goods eco­nomy is won­der­ful, excit­ing, and offers huge new oppor­tun­it­ies that didn’t exist before — from the swet­shop gold­farm­er to the (mobile-device-app-store) developer– doing work that has no phys­ic­al mani­fest­a­tion can be both a pas­time and a career.

But it shouldn’t sur­prise us that people and organ­iz­a­tions can make money in this way — because we’ve been doing it for thou­sands of years. Only this medi­um is new.

This post of is one of many I pub­lish weekly at the Future Shop Techb­log. Read more of my stuff here.

Published by Brad Grier

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