There's been a drastic change to the website of SL: you can see a new graphic and link to a site called "Second Life Grid". It seems that Lindenlabs doesn't want to rely any longer on land sales alone as main source of income and is now starting to market their grid more for certain 3rd parties, which is a good move to me.
It's giving some insights in what the grid can do, about the dimensions and so on and on. The website is clearly targeted on corporate viewers, no doubt about that, and telling about how others use it and how you can participate with it. There are the old target groups like Education and Non Profit and Solution Providers, but there's a new target group, Global Providers. To cite the site about them:
The Second Life Grid Global Provider program is designed to assist
international online communities in creating their own presence on the
Second Life Grid. This program has significant requirements,
obligations, and program fees. It is only available to operators of
existing online communities outside the United States.
So to make it short: who's the target group? Big communities like internet providers, for example, or perhaps big web communities outside the USA. Since it is not going to be cheap to be such a provider and you should have at least about two million accounts, this is surely not for everybody of us. But it also means that Lindenlab is finally opening up their grid to 3rd parties, for example there's already a company in Brazil as far as I know that did very much things for SL on their own like giving it away, translating it and so on. Now such a company can open up their own space in Second Life and localize it. I don't expect existing online games to use it, of course, since they got their own special needs.
This here is about communities, really big communities. So for example, I wouldn't be surprised to see a Tiscali area somewhere in SL or T-Online for example as Global Solution Providers. The benefit side makes the target group even more clear, stating for example this as benefit:
Official designation as a Second Life Global Provider, including program branding and press release support.
So this looks for me basically like that: Second Life should spread even more further, but Lindenlabs is unable to do that in all countries on their own. So they open up their grid for paying 3rd parties, who get certain rights but also the risk, and if those providers work good in their country, they expect to get even bigger user counts. If those providers are now big communities somewhere (like myspace.com, which is not eligable) or internet providers doesn't seem to count on that point.
So we all should wait and see who's going to be the first company to open up such a local experience.