Last month, Microsoft launched Virtual Earth 3D. The product is essentially Google Earth, but in a browser and with cleaner building imagery. Though, I’m not here to talk about who has the better interface or prettier pictures. I’ll leave that up to the qualified people like our friends at Download Squad.
I’m more concerned with how advertising can affect these virtual environments. Yes, Microsoft already has plans in the works to inject virtual billboards into their 3D Earth construct. Obviously, since it’s their product, they can do as they see fit with their version of the globe. However, imagine these ads as ubiquitous as South of the Border and Wall Drug signs. For instance, outfitters could pepper the summit of Mount Rainier with icons of boots and granola bars. Also, advertising could turn the Great Wall of China into the next Las Vegas Strip with flashing faux-neon cowboys flanking the World Wonder.
Sure, the addition of advertisements is a hardly as questionable as — say — putting our National Parks into the hands of catering companies, but it does cheapen the experience of seeing places you’d love to visit. I’ll pose the question to you, dear reader: Is there such a thing as the responsible treatment of land when transitioning from the real world to the virtual world?