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Second Life has seen its status as the web wonderchild supplanted by Facebook and Twitter. On my first visit back in 2006, I couldn’t walk through the training level without clumsily bumping into the throng of fellow newbies.The newspapers have forgotten about it, the Reuters correspondent has long since cleared his virtual desk, and you can walk confidently around tech trade shows without a ponytailed “Web 2.0 Consultant” offering to put your company on the Second Life map for the price of a company car. Have the hundreds of thousands of registered players logged off and found a real life? And what’s become of the extroverts, entrepreneurs and evangelists I encountered on my first visit? Now, there’s enough room to swing the contents of Noah’s ark, let alone a cat.It had even produced its own millionaire, Anshe Chung, who made a very real fortune from buying and selling property that existed only on Second Life servers.Three years on, and the hype has been extinguished. The first thing I notice upon dropping out of the Second Life sky once more is how empty the place is.It looked authentic - the graphics, the text, the disclaimer at the bottom were identical to the ones used by Yahoo - even some of the details about my account were accurate.I panicked, distracted by all the activity around me, worried I would lose all the precious material in my emails. I filled in all the boxes, including my password, and pressed the enter key.My life was in chaos as calls continued round the clock from Afghanistan and India, from Africa and Washington, from anxious friends and people I knew as a journalist working internationally. I could not raise anyone at Yahoo - there were no phone numbers listed and my electronic pleas for help on their website disappeared into the black hole of cyberspace.Several Army and security people joked that they might have believed the email if it said the Taleban had kidnapped me in Kandahar. Just before midnight I unearthed a 'corporate public relations' phone number somewhere in California where it was still office hours.

I spent a week virtually living and breathing inside Second Life: the massively multiplayer online world that contains everything from lottery games to libraries, penthouses to pubs, skyscrapers to surrogacy clinics. Back then, the world and his dog were falling over themselves to “bea part of it”.I walk and then fly around the landscape for ten minutes or so, but can’t find a single soul to shoot the breeze with.Well, except for a smattering of Second Life bots, which is the intellectual equivalent of striking up a conversation with The Speaking Clock.Within a minute my screen went blank, my electronic lifeline was severed and the nightmare began.I had become one of thousands of victims of 'phishing' - the word is a combination of 'fishing' and ' phreaking', which means breaking into a phone system.

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