Is it the End of Second Life?

So we’ve heard about the death of email, the demise of the book and finish of face-to-face contact, is the end of Second Life (reported in the BBC online magazine) worth getting worked up about? Or is it just in having some down-time in Gartner’s Hype Cycle?

For those who have missed the whole phenomenon Second Life is a virtual world, “a free 3D virtual world where users can socialize, connect and create using free voice and text chat“, launched back in 2003. In the past virtual worlds have existed (primarily in the gaming arena) but had not really been engaged with by the masses. Second Life is accessible via the Internet and for a short period of time there seemed to be no boundaries to its potential. It offered opportunities to the commercial sector and the public sector alike. The three-dimensional modelling tool available meant that those with basic programming skills could build simple geometric shapes and virtual objects, almost anything could be created, virtually. Second Life was somewhere to interact with others, hold events, have virtual meetings, create learning environments, build properties and have a presence. For a while we were all encouraged to get on to Second Life.

As Lauren Hansen, BBC News Magazine, explains

Newspapers fell over themselves to cover it, devoting many column inches in their business, technology and lifestyle sections to profiles and trend pieces. By the end of 2007 Second Life had secured more than 600 mentions in UK newspapers and magazines, according to the media database Lexis Nexis.

In 2007 over four million users had registered. However interest fell just as quickly as it soared, “references plummeted by 40% in 2008 and dropped further this year” and many businesses “diverted their resources back to real life.

Me and Second Life

My own experience of Second Life has been fairly limited. I first took a look back in late 2006 egged on by colleague Andy Powell. Andy, who now works for Eduserv, was about as enthusiastic a user as you can get (though he may deny this). At one stage Andy regularly ran virtual events and symposiums in Second Life and Eduserv gave out grant funding for studies and small pieces of work including the ” snapshot” of UK HE and FE developments in SL study. A search on the second_life tag on the eFoundations blog will give a quick insight into the work carried out.

Unfortunately my own experiences were similar to many other noobs: it seemed interesting and looked great, but it took an age to load and after a few attempts I still hadn’t really got the hang of it, so real life and real work got in the way. I’ve got a new PC since the last time I accessed Second Life and the idea of downloading the software fills me with dread so I can’t even show you what my avatar (Pixel Wildcat!) looks like.

Why isn’t it working?

Recent reports seem to suggest that Second Life has suffered a recession just like the rest of us. However the likelihood is that their recession would have happened with or without the antics of our real world banks.

The key problems seem to be:

  • The media attention fell on the ‘first-to-do-things’, attention dwindles if you are the 20th so there is little point in making the investment.
  • Much of the world’s broadband cannot handle the graphics so speed is a real issue.
  • The technology is always improving so users can find themselves constantly having to update their system.
  • Second Life hasn’t met expectations as a social networking site, maybe people prefer to be themselves when it comes down to it?
  • The learning curve is too steep for many, it’s not particularly intuative and only the hard-core gamers have stuck with it.
  • Second Life works in real time so users have to be logged in at the same time. UK users often find that the streets are empty because the US users are all in bed.
  • It has yet to provide a usable mobile presence and this is where the future lies.

The comments on the BBC article are interesting because Second Life continues to divide opinion. Many see it as the ‘ultimate sandbox’ with lots of great uses but others just haven’t got the time or the energy to spend on it.

For us remote workers it doesn’t look like we’ll be throwing away our web cams, creating our own avatars and heading off into Linden Land for our virtual meetings just yet.

What do people think?


7 thoughts on “Is it the End of Second Life?

  1. Interesting that you report “only the hard-core gamers have stuck with it”. That it wasn’t game enough was what meant I wasn’t interested. My experience of Second Life includes being flung high into the air for trying to steal a car – where is the fun in that?, being told off for standing in the wrong place (often), and lots and lots of flying around boring looking places (even when the poor souls have spent ages making things look good) with nothing going on.

    No swords, no magic, no carelessly nicking a car to do a job for a gangster? Why, 2nd Life is just like life but with a worse interface. Games are supposed to be fun! 🙂

  2. Pingback: Is it the End of Second Life? « Ramblings of a Remote Worker | Portal site of Second Life and metaverse"MetaLog-meta log"

  3. I think one day we will all boot up our PCs to find ourselves logged into a Microsoft 3D virtual world, the desktop will become a 3D virtual world. Or maybe not!

    In the meantime if anyone fancies a break:

    My judgement is still open. Broadband will go mobile, speeds up to 100 MBS, hardware will become more powerful. I know I’m talking maybe 10 or 15 years in the future (5 year?), and I have to say I only volunteer as a greeter on the reference desk for 2 hours a week because it is fun to meet all those people all over the world (I’ve met a librarian from the Gaza Strip can you believe it), but we still need to think library ends and new technology.

    Also what I like about Second Life is I can make friends with library directors all over the world and have a conversation with them about libraries, while only being a humble library assistant myself – I would never talk to the director of my own library authority!

    Gotta go.

  4. Pingback: Is it the End of Second Life? « Ramblings of a Remote Worker | Portal site of Second Life and metaverse"MetaLog-meta log"

  5. This is the first critical article about Second Life that I read, that gives it some fair appraisal with insight of someone who has been enganged in it. In fact SL doesn’t provide the users with a concept of what to do with it – or with themselves and their lives. For most potential users this may already be the critical point. For quite a lot of people however this is the chance they were looking for. Unlike in any other platform they are the ones who create the content. Most articles written about SL just don’t get that. And once you got it, you may ask yourself, why people – although you can play it without paying – spend almost 2 million real dollars daily to enjoy themselves inworld. The fact that using it is somewhat discriminating in terms of skills and technology, doesn’t keep them away. These are people who don’t go for simple consumerism. They are the ones who cannot find much fun in that. They like to learn things and create stuff and share with others. I don’t see anything bad in it. As for the technological boundaries, they are permanently fading. Every new computer generation offers the hardware to play SL satisfyingly for the same price it did before.

  6. I was in Second life nearly 4 years, and its no use to me any longer, as i owned Airports in the ocean areas of Blakes seas, which have so much lag, you can’t fly or sail any large Vehicle from the sim to the next without it crashing, after spending £3000 and collecting / making 29,000 items, since 2007, I now play on EAs Battlefield, series MMORG where Im to become an Admin and have own server within a group called OG Old gamers community of which we use team speak . On a 2-5km land, you can engage real time Emenys, fire anti tank missiles use appache helicopters, and take flags, sniper rifles SMGs and a lot more, and do it all with very little lag, even with tanks your driving. The urban combat sims i played for most of my time in SL have nearly gone, because of the huge mistake of LL adding the teen grid, which, has made trying to fight in these sims without griefing, harrasment, cheating, and general disregard for the rules admin and staff, so bad, many owners just closed the urban sims out of sheer Frustration. My new Win 7 with the graphic card as rated by LL to be one of the top end, did Nothing to improve sim crossings, lame freezes and support is none excistant. Clubs hardly excist anylonger, and i made money dancing in 2007, going on to manage a club in 2008, then it all declined because of greedy Share holders In LL putting up land tiers, at a time, the world was going into financial meltdown. LL has no idea of EU problems and rising fuel and food prices, rocket each week, and until LL look further over there noses and see the real picture and reduce land tier and ownership by at least 50%, in a year, i think it will be bust, cos im not the only veteran gone, and they not recieving my 250US$ a month anylonger, so there turnover is just receding , now at a higher rate.

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