Saturday, January 06, 2007

Second thoughts on Second Life

Gigagamez cites an analysis that shows that on average, about 35 to 40 percent of the total Second Life population log in. Numbering around some 200,000-230,000, these active Second Life users reportedly spend $50-60 a week within the Second Life Economy - commerce between fellow Second Lifers is healthy, it would seem.

Eventually, Second Life might end up with 7.2 registered million users with 1.6 million logging in over the previous sixty days.

These are early times to be analyzing what fate awaits Second Life.

There are many questions apart from ‘actual users versus registered users’ controversy:

1. Why are other Second Life type startups? We see new Web 2.0 ‘me-too’ startup coming to life every other day, so why is Second Life enjoying the benefits of being a first and only one of sorts?

2. What is the fun in living in a life where you will see the same brands proliferating as you do in real world? The graphics is not of the PS3 realistic type either. Is Second Life just a “Try me” virus? A ghost town? PR hype backed up venture capital money? In the World of Warcraft, users have to do something – hunt, fight, loot, make money. What is there to be done in Second Life other than reading news from Reuters and looking at the latest Toyota that you cannot buy in real life?

3. Is it true that the mainstream media is more excited about Second Life than web users? The PR money is working full time, it would seem.

4. Will Marketers spam Second Life just as they did with Myspace?

5. What happens when robots invade Second Life? Faceless, nameless avatars exploiting gullible cash-heavy, web-unsavvy people lured in by gushing mainstream media writeups?

6. Is Second Life just a glorified Web server rent play?
The Second Life idea is so simple it is brilliant. An excerpt from an excellent write up in Gigaom:
Unlike other online worlds, Second Life has no monthly subscriptions– instead, if you want to own virtual land for a home, a business, or other project, you pay Linden a monthly land use fee, based on the amount of acreage in your account (from $5/month up). For the most ambitious subscribers, Linden also sells private islands of 16 acres each, which they can buy outright from the company for about $1600, while paying a monthly land use “maintenence” fee of several hundred dollars. (Each island is actually a single server; in fact, think of Second Life land as analogous to renting out server space for a website or file storage or whatever– it’s just that in SL, the data is represented in 3D.
More questions on Second Life here.


At 5:46 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't really see any need to answer these questions at all.

At 8:27 AM , Anonymous Clay Shirky said...

Anonymous, can we presume you work for the Linden PR firm?

At 8:13 PM , Blogger csven said...

Clay, can we assume you have a personal stake in SL *not* succeeding? Give it a rest already. The TN "Standard Metrics" thread could still use your cynical POV, or are you going to slink away instead of actually helping to solve something?

As to my personal "answers" to this:

1) There's a big, big difference between standard web development and a three-dimensional virtual space. If I recall correctly, LL didn't even develop their 3D modeling tool system; it was outsourced. So what you have in LL is a combination of some real networking smarts - recall Rosedale's background - and the talents of a very talented hired gun. Now what company is ready to dump money into an effort that is still getting trashed by people like Shirky?

2) Note that some critics, like myself, have spent considerable time using SL but don't simply dump on it like others who have spent essentially no time using the application (e.g. Shirky). Heck, he didn't even know that some of the numbers he wanted were already available. So ask yourself: why are people listening to him instead of the critics who USE the application? Does it make sense to someone mired in the mistakes of the mid-90's? Not to me it doesn't.

As to "Why" people use it, you just have to give it a chance. Those people who expect everything to be handed to them as if they're still living in the passive broadcast television age (and that includes pre-set game goals), are going to have a hard time understanding. That's fine. Back in the early 80's lots and lots of people didn't understand why *anyone* would ever need a personal computer. Not everyone has much of an imagination either; and others have staked their reputation on something *never* coming to pass (like those elusive videophones).

3) To what PR money are you referring? I very rarely see LL taking out any kind of advertising, so it can't be of that variety. Last time I saw an ad it was maybe a year and half ago (on Boing Boing iirc). I'd suspect most of what they spend on PR is actually traveling and talking to people about SL. Is that better or worse than watching commercials on television? Would you rather have it shoved down your throat or would you rather have someone giving talks at conferences and colleges?

As one reporter stated when asked why he wrote about SL (thus giving LL some free publicity), it's more than just the numbers, it feels like something new and important. And as one Terra Nova person reminded naysayers, SL has been in the news since before the numbers ever got anyone's attention. I read a WSJ entry on Tringo back in Dec 2004 and had heard about the IP handover around the same time. I'd say the WSJ is mainstream.

Be critical of the numbers all you like, but please be equally critical of the World of Warcraft numbers, the MySpace numbers, and all the rest. There's reason to believe they're not all they're cracked up to be either.

4) Of course they will. And consumers will do the same thing that the Chevy Tahoe YouTube refuseniks did: rip on their products. In addition, you'll have users flocking to "anti-spam sanctuaries". Those might be branded spaces or they might be independently maintained. We'll see.

5) The same thing that happens now when nameless, faceless salespeople force themselves on people in real life. Next.

6) Is the internet a fad?

Do you know what PLM is and how it's used? If you do, then you might want to consider that SL may be one step toward a PLM-like, Mechanical Turk, immersive system that helps accelerate the growth of start-ups like Threadless and Etsy. If you don't, know what PLM is, I'd suggest looking into what companies like UGS are up to. You might find that this is the 70's and SL is the Altair.

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