Vodafone leading the pack in Social Networking?!

Knock me down with a feather, I have just learned that Vodafone is planning to launch a range of services on the virtual world website, Second Life. I was arguing last week at the Telco 2.0 event that operators need to learn from the social networking sites and develop offerings that yoke together communications and content. I never thought that Vodafone would be first into this (assuming they launch before O2 gets its deal with Bebo sorted).

I will mine my mole at Vodafone to fully understand the business model. I suspect that the Vodafone services are paid for by on-line users. This would be consistent with the Second Life business model where users buy products and services for their virtual world rather than receiving free goodies paid for by advertisers (users spend a hefty $500k every 24 hours and the growth rate remains very high). Such a model would be easier to swallow for Vodafone. I cannot believe that they would bear the prospect of giving those wonderful mobile services away for free and receiving advertising money instead.

More to follow.