'Second Life' to begin selling real names

For anyone who has used the virtual world "Second Life," the last names Gjellerup, Godel or Stapovic probably mean a lot more than their real last names.

That's because historically, "Second Life" users have had to choose names from an ever-changing but prescribed list provided by publisher Linden Lab.

For those who want to play for free or want to avoid spending much on "Second Life," that will remain unchanged.

But in recent months, a whole host of big companies, such as Reebok, American Apparel, Warner Music, Sun Microsystems and even have begun setting up shop in Linden Lab's metaverse.

And with that influx of corporations--and the similar arrival of digerati celebrities like Cory Doctorow, Lawrence Lessig and others--has come the need for real names, or at least corporate last names, since many think it's unprofessional to be representing a Fortune 500 firm with a name like "Hamdog Appleby."

To date, Linden Lab has doled these real names out on a very selective basis. Many "Second Life" residents have been asking about the company's policy, but to date it has been mum, largely because it didn't seem to know what it planned to do.

Now, according to an internal source, Linden Lab has finally settled on its plan for real names. And if you're a single mother on a budget, you probably won't be benefiting.

That's because the company has decided, CNET has learned, to charge individuals who want a real last name a $100 setup fee and a $50-a-year maintenance fee. Companies that want their corporate name can have unlimited accounts for a $1,000 setup fee and $500 a year.

That means that we'll be seeing more instances of companies like Sun populating the world with last names like "SunMicrosystems."

We can't say just yet whether you'll be seeing anything like "Daniel CNET."