Is Second Life about to enter its “second life?”

You probably have forgotten about Second Life (the virtual world from Linden Lab), right?

Remember, that’s that virtual world that got a TON of hype back in 2005/6. It was on the cover of magazines. On CNN and other TV shows. It looked like it was going to be THE new thing of the decade.

What happened?

Well, a few things.

1. Corporations figured out that they’d need to spend a lot of money to build an island in Second Life (Microsoft spent somewhere around $100,000 if I remember right back then) but soon they figured out that each island could only hold 100 people. Not a good ROI.

2. It had game dynamics. Games are fun for a while, but eventually people get bored of playing games. That’s what happened. People who were very excited and evangelistic about Second Life eventually moved on.

3. It lost its “new and shiny” patina. That’s most of why the press forgot about it. We only pay attention to new and cool stuff. Heck, just look at Techcrunch. Do you read about older technologies there? No.

Anyway, one thing happened that I find very interesting: it continued to grow in users, time spent on the site, and dollars spent in it.

On Friday I sat down with Mark to find out why.

First, the users remained very evangelistic. Second, corporations like IBM found other uses for its islands and kept investing (they now use these islands for training and replacements of expensive conferences). Third, the technology has been steadily improving. Fourth, the company has found new ways to bring new users in and make the experience easier to get into.

But he admitted that they had been pretty quiet and avoided doing more PR work until just recently.

Why is that changing this week? You’ll see why tomorrow morning at about 11 a.m. on building43.

But to tease a bit, I find that their new direction, the first part of which you’ll see tomorrow in the video I did with Mark, is interesting and represents a new life for Second Life and its host Linden Labs.

To wrap this up, have you used Second Life lately? Even if you haven’t, see you on building43 tomorrow morning for more.

About Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, I travel the world with Rocky Barbanica looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology and report that here.

110 thoughts on “Is Second Life about to enter its “second life?”

  1. There is lots to see, create, experience in SL. I have met some of the most amazing people in SL, and some serious idiots. Just as in daily life, you have good and bad.

  2. I've never gotten into SL nor do I know too much about it. I do remember hearing a lot about it, though, when it was the “next big thing” but I could never really understand the appeal of this particular type of game. Don't get me wrong, I love video games, it's just that the kind of experience SL brings to the table just isn't for me.

  3. I am coming up on my third year in second life. When I first entered, it was a mystery and frustrating because I could not find anybody. But I was amazed by all the different artistic creations and avatars that people created and the ability to fly.

    Then I found people and now I spend entirely too much time in sl!!! The new viewer is amazing. You can operate and utilize websites on a prim!!! Straight to you.tube or any other website easily and quickly.

    The truth is you do not have to spend a dime in second life. There are great freebie places that have clothes for men and women for zero. Like mine :-). What you do need is an imagination, a thirst for new things and new ideas and some creativity thrown in. You will have a blast!

  4. and yes, you're right about things talking to you if you stay in a spot long enough. I knew somebody that worked for fedex and he ended up stranded on a desert island and his football started talking to him.

    We're not safe anywhere.

  5. Cat, there's a big difference between having a private conversation with a close friend in a virtual world and leaving a review on amazon.com. On amazon.com I want my words to be recorded.

    But sure, let's not worry about privacy. After all there can be security in transparency. So come on Linden Lab, open up your employee's activity logs and account details to all your customers. Trust us, Linden Lab, we won't peek!. Or rather we'll only peek if we suspect you've been naughty. Promise!

    Transparency my bum..

  6. You are aware that pretty much every single site on the entire internet records every word and movement you make… right?

    Once it's on the internet, it's forever…? Ring any bells…?

    I don't think Linden Labs is any more iron-fisted than anywhere else. People get up to some pretty crazy stuff in Second Life, and no one seems to care. They only care if you're doing serious trolling, harassment, or running a child porn ring (which is why they kicked up their surveillance in the first place).

    That's pretty standard. Pretty much everywhere online has those same basic rules.

    So if you think Second Life is “so oppressive,” what exactly have you been getting up to?

    “Where do you live in RL where the government is recording your every word and movement?”

    They're getting pretty close in the UK, I must say. About a year ago a middle school was discovered to be putting cameras INSIDE the girls' bathroom stalls. In London, you're on camera an average of 200 times a day. They even have cameras hidden in the fountain at Piccadilly Circus that TALK TO YOU if you sit in certain places on it. (I lived there for a while).

  7. hey Scob… have you hibernate for the past couple of years? could only be… due to your post… second life is alive… and people is doing awesome things in there… maybe you should log in and check it!!
    and about the new viewer, there is an interesting post about the “21 Reasons the New Second Life Viewer 2.0 is a Huge Improvement”, from Ron Blechner: http://www.secondtense.com/2010/02/21-reasons-n

  8. Hello, I am Ginthian Source in SL. I have been on SL for just over 1200 days. Look me up, I love to meet new people.

  9. Then you got the wrong people (grin). Well, Prok pretty much covered it: You can pay $500 or $50k for a website, but the price doesn't always reflect what you're getting.

  10. Also, Scobles…. you'll notice you've received tons of comments from Second Life users on this post…. most of these people I know, know well, know their work in Second Life, and consider my friends. These are people that probably rarely ever read your blog…. but when you start talking about Second Life as if you're an expert on the topic, you're going to have us Second Life users fly in and put you in your place.

  11. Also, Scobles…. you'll notice you've received tons of comments from Second Life users on this post…. most of these people I know, know well, know their work in Second Life, and consider my friends. These are people that probably rarely ever read your blog…. but when you start talking about Second Life as if you're an expert on the topic, you're going to have us Second Life users fly in and put you in your place.

  12. Scobleizer, I hate to say you are sooo far off base on this one. You've got no clue what is going on inworld in Second Life and it shows by the way you're talking about it. Many a “social media guru” before you have written this same exact thesis… the good ol blogpost “Second Life's second life”
    … and the problem with each and every blog post like this, is it's coming from an outsider's perspective. They have absolutely no facts other than a few interviews or a few blog posts from other people outside the world of Second Life.

    You, and anyone that is not IN Second Life, and is not USING Second Life will never understand that Second Life is and always has been flourishing with business, education, fashion, live music, art, and community. You'll never know until you are living Second Life

    http://djdoubledown.blogspot.com

  13. Scobleizer, I hate to say you are sooo far off base on this one. You've got no clue what is going on inworld in Second Life and it shows by the way you're talking about it. Many a “social media guru” before you have written this same exact thesis… the good ol blogpost “Second Life's second life”
    … and the problem with each and every blog post like this, is it's coming from an outsider's perspective. They have absolutely no facts other than a few interviews or a few blog posts from other people outside the world of Second Life.

    You, and anyone that is not IN Second Life, and is not USING Second Life will never understand that Second Life is and always has been flourishing with business, education, fashion, live music, art, and community. You'll never know until you are living Second Life

    http://djdoubledown.blogspot.com

  14. Won't help that people like me with Windows 7 have been excluded from SL with the latest update for the viewer. SL help (support) people claim Windows 7 is not supported despite the fact I was using it up until a week ago!

  15. Of course Linden Lab employees aren't watching everybody. That's not the point.

    How would you feel if the real world government started recording your activity regardless of whether an official actually viewed that recording?.

    You may say that Second Life is just a video game and nobody really cares. Well that is exactly my point. It is just a video game. Nobody is going to be murdered in Second Life. And yet Linden Lab feels justified in recording their customers activity.

    What happens in another 20 years when we're all logging into virtual worlds 24/7? Will we dismiss the surveillance with “Oh who cares? It's just a game!”

    Well for me personally I'd rather risk having my L$200 stolen or being blown up by a terrorist than have to put up with being recorded 24/7, thank you.

    * Logs out *

  16. Yes, we have been using Second Life for past four years and now are doing monthly training events for CPAs on our CPA Island. It is also a great tool for remote workgroups and colleges and universities.

  17. You must have forgotten a zero.

    Sexual content in SL is much more than 50% (which doesn't necessarily mean *sexually explicit* content).

    You are confusing SL with other virtual worlds (There.com etc.) where sex is not allowed.

  18. Basically SL is like any other community. You get out just as much as you put into it.
    Show up and announce “entertain me” and you are gonna be disappointed. Show up with an open mind and an active imagination and you are in for a treat….assuming the lag isn't too awful that day!

  19. If you would starting up a website, you'd spend as much or more than an SL island.
    You would not expect to spend $10,000, put up a website, then leave it unattended, never refreshed with content ever again, never managed. So, too, an SL island.

    It's like your video shows, or a magazine, you know what it's like — work. Show up, keep baking the donuts and putting them out. You can't not do that or you have no presence.

    Even if MSFT had done something useful like put up a 3-D display about how to get rid of typical Windows annoyances and tips for efficiency it might have had more customers.

  20. If you would starting up a website, you'd spend as much or more than an SL island.
    You would not expect to spend $10,000, put up a website, then leave it unattended, never refreshed with content ever again, never managed. So, too, an SL island.

    It's like your video shows, or a magazine, you know what it's like — work. Show up, keep baking the donuts and putting them out. You can't not do that or you have no presence.

    Even if MSFT had done something useful like put up a 3-D display about how to get rid of typical Windows annoyances and tips for efficiency it might have had more customers.

  21. If you would starting up a website, you'd spend as much or more than an SL island.
    You would not expect to spend $10,000, put up a website, then leave it unattended, never refreshed with content ever again, never managed. So, too, an SL island.

    It's like your video shows, or a magazine, you know what it's like — work. Show up, keep baking the donuts and putting them out. You can't not do that or you have no presence.

    Even if MSFT had done something useful like put up a 3-D display about how to get rid of typical Windows annoyances and tips for efficiency it might have had more customers.

    1. I do so on purpose sometimes, Fleep. The students never stop laughing.

      Say what one will about SL, but having an intact sense of humor is the best item to have in one’s inventory.

  22. The box on your head thing disappeared like 2 years ago. Boxes now one-click open into inventory.

    Customer service has gotten better at policing the stalkers. Ageplay is really very much banned now. Creepy child avatars remain a chronic problem because of the lib Lindens lib notion that they aren't a marker for ageplay, which of course they are, time & again. They need to get over that, as the rest of the world comes in. But you can arrange your experience now to avoid all this handily as there are now filters and bans for PG, M, Adult — and it really has gotten cleaned up on the mainland.

  23. I just reached my second rez date in SL earlier this month. I'm gonna say that SL does have it's problems, but all in all, it's definitely a fun world for anyone who makes it so. I started SL and within a couple of days, I had free land (owned by someone else which I didn't even have to get a premium membership). Even now, I live on free land with my business partner/husband and other business partner. I have a group of friends that are to die for. There is always something to do. I do alot of free work for SL, helping people not be so noobish. The game is free. I haven't put money into the game…. since I met my husband (and now RL boyfriend) on there… 2 years ago.

    I am a builder and I try to script. I try everything in SL. I've been in several RP sims. I've been in combat sims. I live on a homestead SIM (which I don't pay for — lovely friends~). I have owned a club. And presently, I'm going to school on there… for a degree. Texas State Techincal College is pioneering the way into SL (UT – Austin is following very soon from what I read recently). I'm in their digital media program and the delivery method for our classes is perfect for me. I already have a degree in music, but this tops going to class with people who're rude and can't be quiet. We went to Dell Island one class to sit inside the computer there and learn the parts. We went to the IBM Server area to check out how backup servers work. That in itself is a unique experience. There were videos to watch, notecards to be gotten. We went on a story quest for another class so we could learn critical thinking.

    And in SL these days, I've sold more stuff (I only have 50 items total) and I fund my way through service or sales.

    SL is sometimes about the delivery method of RL things. My husband is a psychic in RL and does readings in both RL and SL. He teaches witchcraft lessons to those who want it, mostly close friends since he doesn't advertise, which is fine. He has made many friends who still talk to him after 2 years (which I don't… alot of drama from psychos <.<). Some friends we've met in RL. And they'll remain our friends forever. SL brought those friends to us and we continue to build our relationships in the virtual world.

    SL is something that is popular because of word of mouth. If you don't want to spend the time to learn how to use the UI or to find good looking free stuff, then this isn't the virtual world for you. But if you want an experience that you can make your own, SL is the place. You can look like anything, do anything, go anywhere there.

    I live in Texas and I've visited Galvestion in SL… an almost perfect replica of the downtown city and sea wall. It's pretty epic! :)

  24. You deserve the compliment. You've got great stuff..even when it doesn't jive with my opinion..actually I like some of those the best. Completely agree on techmeme and thanks for being a proponent of the twitter lists. You've listed me in a couple of yours and I appreciate it!

  25. Alright, fair enough. Realize it has been a very chilly couple of years, media-wise, for those of us who use Second Life and other virtual worlds for business and non-profit uses.

    Appreciate you taking the time to respond to my critique and trying to see things from my perspective. That's all I can ask!

  26. I've tried to post this twice but my text keeps getting eaten. I think it's a Chrome prob. Grr.

    Whatever the failings of the platform or LL's specific implementation of it, they were hugely successful at introducing the concept of a non-game-based virtual world to millions of people, and most importantly IMO, a world created by the users rather than the company. User generated content and crowd-sourcing is practically passe now, but back in the day, those were still very untried, untested concepts. The idea that an immersive 3D space could be populated with content using the same community/random user model as Wikipedia was definitely not a given. That it succeeded at all in Second Life still seems miraculous to me, especially given the technical skill required and the dreadful interface.

    As it stands now, Linden Lab's biggest advantages are 1) that enough of us who saw the potential in those early years have managed to stick it out through thick and thin and continued to populate the world with experiments, interesting use cases, and compelling content, and 2) they got a very lucky reprieve, just when things started to not just plateau but decrease, the economic crisis dried up a lot of funding for potential competitors. Anyone professionally interested in the future of the metaverse has little choice at the moment BUT Second Life (or its cousin OpenSim).

    Hopefully it will give them enough time to fix what's broken, especially with the interface and new user experience, but just as importantly with the scalability issues and lack of APIs that have hindered integration with other platforms and enterprise data systems.

    Either way, whether Second Life as a platform (or Linden Lab as a company) endures through the ages is less interesting to me than seeing where the concept of the metaverse goes from here. I still think robust competition from some wholly different conception of a virtual world will be the best medicine for Linden Lab, but I worry that they've got such a corner on what little market exists that it's actually stifling innovation in other directions. It wouldn't be so troubling if I saw more evidence that they could continue to innovate, but the Second Life we use today is not _markedly_ different than the Second Life I logged into in 2003.

    Perhaps whatever they're going to announce will prove that statement wrong, but if my long experience in Second Life has taught me anything, it's not to get my hopes up too high.

    Having said all that, I still give them all due credit for what they've accomplished, and for what they've made possible for people who have had the patience and foresight to understand that this is still very, very early days for the metaverse indeed.

  27. I don't blog about everything I do. I've been keeping in touch with the company over the years I just didn't find the company very interesting, even though it continued to grow almost all that time. Now that they are doing some new stuff it's time to talk about them again. Personally I found what IBM was doing in research labs to be more interesting than what they were doing in Second Life, so I decided to focus on that. I have to chose where I spend my time, can't do it all.

  28. Really? It has turned into more of a spam house, noisy interface…my opinion. Used to find extreme quality in the articles but now it is hard to separate the noise from the value. My original comment wasn't meant to disparage them but more based on the shear volume of 'stuff' on a daily basis. Much of which is low quality..again my opinion. I'd rather read one of your posts vs. 20 of theirs.

  29. Well, sorry, but I only have what you publish to go on what you know. I re-checked and see no mentions of IBM and Second Life on Scobleizer.com since early 2008. – For that matter, I ran a general Google search on “Scoble 'Second Life' IBM” and again, didn't find anything in the same time frame.
    Meanwhile 2008 and 2009 has been a big year for IBM using Second Life and their own technologies. Examples:
    1. http://www.virtualworldsnews.com/2009/02/ibm-sa
    2. IBM helping test the SL Enterprise package – the behind-firewall solution so decried as a barrier to entry by “serious business” back in 2007.

    So, I have to go by what you publish. If I've missed something, I'm sincerely sorry – point me at the URL and I'll read and link and so on. But if you've visited what IBM does with Second Life in the last 2 years, why didn't you write about it?

    You said it yourself:
    “It lost its “new and shiny” patina. That’s most of why the press forgot about it. We only pay attention to new and cool stuff. “

    Read this from my perspective – this to me says, “I have not payed attention to Second Life since 2007.” Am I completely an idiot for drawing that conclusion?

  30. “There needs to be an open-source Second-Life-like world that is more of a PLATFORM than a single company's product”

    The opensource product that makes up this platform that you ask for is called OpenSimulator (OpenSim) and it can be found at http://opensimulator.org/

  31. When I visited IBM's research labs they showed me the work they were doing in Second Life. Nice to know you think I don't actually see a lot of this stuff going on.

  32. When I visited IBM's research labs they showed me the work they were doing in Second Life. Nice to know you think I don't actually see a lot of this stuff going on.

  33. What do you mean by that? In my view, the divide is more like, “Social media people” and “those who don't understand that social media is integrated/integrating into everything”.

  34. What do you mean by that? In my view, the divide is more like, “Social media people” and “those who don't understand that social media is integrated/integrating into everything”.

  35. I was on the team that funded our island and it was pretty damn expensive. Hiring people to watch the island, not to mention build it, is expensive for corporations. I've heard of some spending a lot more than that in Second Life.

  36. I was on the team that funded our island and it was pretty damn expensive. Hiring people to watch the island, not to mention build it, is expensive for corporations. I've heard of some spending a lot more than that in Second Life.

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