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Nov 10, 2011



I seem to recall an entire decade (the 90's) when people told me that the Mac and Apple sucked. I learned everything I could about Macs, built a successful tech career from it, and then proceeded to learn other operating systems (Windows and Linux) while using my Mac to publish, surf the then-new world wide web, and pursue a myriad of other interests related to computing.

So I agree with you, Greg, that the naysayers are hopelessly lost. Especially in comparing Second Life to the iPhone. The Slate article is clearly coming from the perspective of a bubble burst based on hype and misinformation in the first place. Second Life remains uniquely successful as a 3D virtual world operating system.


Maybe it failed because people wanted to do more than live in a virtual world. Maybe if you could meet people from your neibourhood or build easy houses, then it would have worked better.
Also it was a trend that just faded out.


Thanks for the shoutout! A couple quick comments. First, it behooves to recall that the dismissal of Second Life has never been separate from the dismissal of all online worlds and games. This is linked to the way that population and money get conflated with what's interesting. Anthropologists study small groups of 100 or 1,000 people all the time - when I started my research in Second Life it had about 5,000 accounts and max concurrency of around 250, and I would have been able to do my research just fine had it stayed that size. There's a reason social scientists don't just study China and India - smaller socialities often have much to teach us with broader import.

Now that my 5-year tenure as Editor-in-Chief of American Anthropologist will be done fairly soon (next summer), I'm thinking about new research projects. One likely candidate will probably involve gay men's use of Facebook, cellphones, and other online technologies in Indonesia, bringing together two big areas of interest to me. But I think I might also do some follow-up work in Second Life. I barely get into Second Life nowadays - once every two months or so is all - but there is so much there worth further exploration.

Thanks for these thoughts!


"population and money get conflated with what's interesting" - exactly. There are a large number of interesting things in Second Life that for a while got lots of press, then the confusion that this interesting tech thing must therefore be the future of everything happened. Yes the people who wanted to make gobs of cash out of Second Life being the future of everything are disappointed, but it remains an incredibly interesting virtual world that we'll be learning lots from for a long while.


Is that a millon a month paying users? I retain a greatly scaled down presence in SL because you can still do such cool things but like others have started up in InWorldz where you can do the same cheaper. Social aspects of SL are now done better on Facebook, Twitter etc


I can think of several ways in which Second Life has done an awesome job of filling needs. It is a great social resource for the handicapped and homebound. People who have never been able to walk or dance get great satisfaction from doing so virtually. Gay men and lesbians living in repressive societies can safely socialise in SL, and Saudi women can drive a car, if only virtually, without getting bits chopped off. Many architects and designers use it so that clients can do a walkthrough in which they can really interract with the environment. Some of the machinima videos made in Second Life are real works of art. Check out "Watching the Worlds" on youtube for a really profound experience of this.


Sl has no 1kk users
SL sell shakes (or maybe i wrong and its charity organisation that lives on donations?)
SL is 'still' profitable but with comparsion of other media/creative/tool -it's FAIL
Oh i forgot Second Life also fail about their name, and many other thing but who cares.


When I first found out about Second Life, I really wanted to like it. After creating an avatar and exploring around, I discovered that as much as I wanted to like it, I couldn't. Maybe it's just me, but I have never gotten the point of what SL is all about. I hear people talk about it, but I could never get as excited about it others seem to be. I never could understand why all the hype. Maybe it's just me.


I think Second Life did a great job and I like it.


Thanks everyone for the comments. I was reading the reader comments on Slate and many are (justifiably) much more pointed than mine.

This is off-topic, but is comment 9 here (Marvin) a form of link spam? I don't get why it would be spam, since it's just a brief comment with a link to Marvin's QQ email address, not a URL. I see the same email listed as the contact on a bunch of flash game websites.

Marvin -- are you legit? Do you use Second Life frequently?


Before evaluating purposes I think we should look at accessibility and immersion which are a prerequisite for engagement.

On this levels SL is a failure, at least for people playing 3D video games; the way to move and look around doesn't follow the standards set by the industry and is counter intuitive to gamers (therefore setting an unnecessary and frustrating learning curve right from the start).

Immersion is also a failure, the world looks cold and angular, despite plenty of polygons the characters modelling and animations look so awkward... Within the same technical constraints the video game industry is light years away.

Maybe it explains why most people I know who use and like SL are not regular 3D gamers, they wouldn't need to unlearn first and would have less expectations (a survey on this would be interesting).

For these reasons SL is for me the first death of metaverses. Niels Stephensons seems to agree when he said recently: "The virtual reality that we all talked about and that we all imagined 20 years ago didn't happen in the way that we predicted. It happened instead in the form of video games"

That said I don't believe the video games industry is there yet but it will.

WoW is mainly a theme park even if it gets accessibility and immersion right. WoW and all its clones are for me the second death of metaverses (rewarding mainly extrinsic rewards, skinner boxes design, strong vertical character progression versus horizontal, no user generated content ...).

The good news is that the current breed of MMORPG are slowly dying (WoW lost 2 millions subs and all new MMORPGS see their subs going down after the initial rush), all this despite an incredible hunger for virtual worlds by gamers who now expect much more from them. Even Blizzard is risking important changes in their upcoming expansion for the genre they themselves popularized.

I'm optimist in the future of metaverses and that we'll see a "renaissance",

They are many MMOs coming in the next few years exploring the frontieres between themeparks and sandboxes and catering for different kind of players.

I'm also hoping that one day the video game industry will provide (by accident or not) the platform to create what should have been SL and metaverses (http://goo.gl/S2Dv8)


Not successful forever does not equal failed. SL has had a good run, and might again if they ever make the creation systems usable to non geniuses.


Internet Relay Chat ...

Or maybe just "Cheers" bar , where everyone knows your name.

As much as the point has been raised and aknoledged, the IRC component of the interest in games is too frequently dismissed.

Different too from something like instant messenger where you talk to people you know in real life, very often people just want to be social with few strings attached (ok not talkings about the cyber sex part thats just one small permutation)

There is some pleasure to finding new people to hang out with and the mmo's allow this....and while some times real life friendships (and even marriages) come from the associations, I think equally often, people enjoy the very fact that they can re-experience the early stages of making friends, or just the abilty to be cordial before people expect you to actually remember things about them.

Just saying hello thought isn't enough a hook for everyone and lots of people play the games to both escape from the real world and yet still have communication with real people.

A CONTEXT, the game, not the platform, gives people something to talk about...hit tables, new ship or piece of equipment people long for, pointers, comiseration, humor about co-players..etc . The ablity to talk with others meaningfully about important things within the context but absolutely unimportant in one's real life..well thats more for most people.

Still, Second life was a fine IRC for people who wanted to chat with strangers about real life stuff...not much in game to talk about.


Why is SL a failure yet Minecraft is incredibly popular?

Is Minecraft just enjoying some temp fame or is it doing world building better than SL?

Also, I wonder if the x-rated role-play stuff had a negative effect or the removal of casinos.


Thoreau do you realy want to know answer?


If the second life is more a "second life", I think there would be much more users. Imagine if how u see things in second life is exactly how u see in real world, and how you move your limbs is the same as how u do in real world, that will definitely result in a blooming user-base and maybe everyone is engaged in it. The "milkshake" here is all the experience of actual sensation with dramatically and relatively low cost.(to say the least,u wont break your leg when you jump of from the 3th floor)



Yeah, I'd like to know.

According to Minecrafts stat page 42000+ have downloaded the game in the past 24 hours and 7000+ have bought the game during the past day.

Is SL putting up those numbers?

16,437,116 registered users, of which 4,067,787 (24.75%) have bought the game.

In the last 24 hours, 43,592 people registered, and 7,317 people bought the game.


What is failure?

It seems rather silly to me to say that Second Life is a failure when there are 1 million people logging into the world every month. Greg noted this point in his write up also. Second Life is a "failure" because it didn't meet people's expectations of what it would become.

Second Life is a success as a platform because of the world that it has created. You can't go into the world and order something from Best Buy or even be fully immersed in it's graphical capabilities. What makes it successful, to me at least, is the sense of community that can be found within the world.

Second Life provides an opportunity for people to find like minded individuals to hang out with. Gays and lesbians around the world can meet new people and discuss things that they may not feel comfortable with in the real world. Role players can get together to live out their medieval fantasy life. Still others can find people who are into S&M.

Ultimately people need to stop looking at Second Life as a game with set rules and more like a place where anything can happen. SL is definitely not for everyone. But, it certainly provides some very simple distractions from the real world.


Pooky Amsterdam has a fine rebuttal to the original article at It's All Virtual.



Thank you for linking that article. There is a treasure trove of economic data there that will help me with my final project coming up next month.


I am no huge fan of Second Life, but I read the article by Dan and Chip Heath. It reads as a sort of lighthearted rant. It really never gets angry, but you can tell the two authors do not like it very much.

So which one do you think has the andrognous skater as a virtual girlfreind? Dan or Chip? See! It is pretty easy to respond as a lighthearted rant. Maybe I should make a book!

With the recent onset of 'maker' culture Seocnd Life would seem poised to inherit a whole new culture of virtual makers. If only they would find thier way to Second Life.

No wonder Dan and Chip have to give thier book away... not sure if anyone would pay anything for it.


Second life might have been a lot more successful if they scrapped that bloody currency that made everybody less interested in fun and more interested in shaking each other down for cash, and gotten all those companies that wanted to set up in there and marched them out at gunpoint.

Seriously, walking around that place and seeing all the IRL businesses set up there gave me the creeps. I do that 9-5, not 5-9.

Of course I was saying this 5+ years ago, and it was heretical. I think history has proven me right. If it aint fun it aint worth it.


And I'll eat my hat if theres really 1 million people playing that gave. EVE-O barely scraped a quarter of that number, and that place is teeming compared to this.


the in fact and in my oppinion, second life has started badly, in essence, the question is not "if we need virtual worlds" the main question is how the heck we keep this virtual world working. How to keep this world "under control". I had mention this post after post, these people like philip linden they are much more programmers (ideologist) rather than hihg skills on economics, costumer services etc. Try to compare with a eveonline for example. Yee you pay a fee to have an account, yes the custumers service it is good, yes every month there is something new and even more attractive. Does second life have this??? No. Now that is where sl fails.

The rest it is just retundant questions for pointless answers


I happened upon this article as I was looking for information on using Kinect to create animations for Second Life.

I have been a resident of Second Life since 2007. I am in SL at least a couple of hours every single day. When I lost my job, I spent every waking moment in SL when I wasn't doing housework or job hunting. I am not interested in cyber sex or fantasy role play, but I know people who are and we get along just fine.

My husband introduced me to SL in 2007 because he saw an opportunity there for me to have fun with my graphic design skills and artistic talents. He still has an avatar but rarely ever goes in anymore because he would rather play structured video games. He needs to have a path and a goal laid out for him. I am quite the opposite. I prefer unstructured environments where I can create my own goals and activities. And if I can create the environment as well, then I am in nirvana.

My husband was exactly right when he told me I would love Second Life. For me, SL is like a blank canvas that I can turn to and create upon whenever I choose. I also have a built-in community of appreciative like-minded souls with which to share my creations if I wish.

Just as importantly, every week I get to hang out with my 30-something daughter in SL. She lives in another state but we share a plot of virtual land, and together we terraform and landscape it to suit our fancy. For several years we had a tropical paradise. This year we decided upon a swampy marshland. At the end of our respective days, we have a peaceful environment where we can meet and relax and listen to the crickets and chat about things that moms and daughters chat about.

Our virtual lives may not sound very exciting to a lot of people. We are not chasing cars or shooting things or blowing up buildings. Those things are fine for other folks, but not for us. I like to design clothes and build structures. Frequently I have Photoshop open at the same time as Second Life, and I am uploading textures (for free if I'm testing them) to make all sorts of things. Now I am trying my hand at animations. My daughter and I like to explore beautiful sims together and marvel at the creations of our fellow residents.

As I am writing this I am thinking of the other hundred things I/we love to do in SL but which would be enough to fill a book. I would need to have been blogging for the last four years to tell you all about it.

Occasionally I enjoy playing video games with my husband, but it is never as satisfying for me as it is for him. And that's okay. The way I figure it, there are different strokes for different folks, and I am glad there is something for all of us. And on that note, I need to go and continue my never-ending pursuit of knowledge, so TTFN! Peace.

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