In July of 2007, Starwood Hotels announced that their first experiment with virtual worlds, the Virtual Aloft Hotel, had come to completion. Normally when such things happen, the corporation just has the island and the build derez into the ether and everyone congratulates themselves on a job well done. Starwood decided to do something different — they donated their sim to the youth empowerment group Taking IT Global, after holding an open call for proposals for what to do with the sim.
Similarly, I just found out that the car company Pontiac’s foray into Second Life — the much ballyhooed Motorati sims — were being donated to the United Spinal Association. The sims are being rebranded as "Motorability" (click here to teleport) and reportedly will continue much of the car culture activities that made it so popular in Second Life, as well as welcoming the 40,000 members of United Spinal to participate in SL life.
This might be an interesting trend for corporations to donate their virtual land over to non-profits when they don’t have need for them anymore. It certainly makes sense — it garners the company some free publicity and shows that they are being "good corporate citizens."
What’s unclear to me right now is how these donations are being handled. Who is paying the potentially quite costly sim rental fees, which could be hundreds of dollars a month? Does the corporation help the group figure out how to effectively use the land in an economically sustainable and effective manner? Is there any technical assistance? Or do they just turn over the keys to the house and skedaddle? It does little good to donate a house to a homeless person if they have no means to pay the mortgage fees.
That said, it would be awesome if this became standard practice for corporations creating short- or medium-term branded islands to turn them back to the community or a worthwhile non-profit when they are finished with them. And perhaps give the non-profit some technical and financial assistance to get them started on a good foot. That would be corporate responsibility in the metaverse.