Second Life still lives

John C. Tanner
27 Apr 2009

When I read the news that Second Life is cracking down on adult content and creating the virtual equivalent of a red-light district to contain it, I confess my first thought was: “Second Life is still around?”

Of course, technically I knew that SL and its creator, Linden Lab, were still in operation .But it did seem to drop rather sharply off the Web 2.0 Hype Meter after being The Next Big Thing for most of 2006 and 2007.

Since then, tech media have become more fascinated by the triumph of Facebook over MySpace as the social network of choice and the (for many) inexplicable rise of Twitter. Oh, and iPhones. And in the absence of constant coverage – as well as the fact that the majority of new subscribers barely used it, more often than not because of performance issues with older PCs – many have declared Second Life to be old hat and, well, virtually dead.

But in fact Second Life has been quietly but capably trundling on. Apart from a few mild dips in monthly unique users with repeat logins in the middle of 2007, and a more serious drop in user transactions (in Linden dollars) in the second half of the same year, SL is still essentially a growth story. Here’s some highlights from its Q109 Economy report:

• 124 million user hours, up 42% year on year

• Peak concurrent users: 88,200, up 33% year on year

• $120 million in user-to-user transactions, up 65% year on year and an all-time record for SL

• Gross sales on the Xstreet SL marketplace grew 23% over Q4 of 2008 and 72% over the same quarter last year

The only real downside was that overall square meters of resident owned Land has dropped 5% in the last year, which Linden says is more to do with Island/Region consolidation. And it’s arguably negligible, as Linden also says it’s running in the black.

Meanwhile, many of the businesses who set out a shingle in SL haven’t given up – yet. Linden says 68% of business owners are planning on maintaining or increasing their investment in Second Life in the next six months, while 61% are “optimistic that their revenue from Second Life will grow”.

Telstra is apparently one such business. A spokesperson told the Sydney Morning Herald that Telstra still has 16 islands and a service kiosk in SL and considered its SL experiment a success.

As for this week’s decision by Linden to partition off a region exclusively for “adult” activities, it’s being taken as a sign that SL is ready to broaden its user base even further – and wants the virtual streets a little less intimidating for people unable to cope with the experience of demented mutants invading your living room and having bondage sessions on your couch.

To say nothing of sights like this.

I’m the sure the virtual staff at Telstra will be relieved.

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