Second Life’s Virtual Tech Days May Be Numbered

second life

Second Life now wants to host your company’s trade shows and employee meetings. In what appears to be yet another desperation move by another early Web 2.0 startup, the Second Life virtual reality world is reaching once again. This time the target is again business, but this time the Linden Labs creation is trying to create a niche for itself in the teleconferencing venue. With something over 1 million visitors a month, the “hot spot” of next generation technologies appears to be breathing its last gasps to this beta tester. Regardless how much we admire the creative genius behind technology, the practical application of it will always be the core constituent of success.

Back in 2006 I was beta testing just about everything that came onto the Web 2.0 scene. One of the most interesting startups back then was a virtual reality world known as Second Life. The excitement of new innovation on the Web at that time promised to transport us all to new frontiers of communication both in business and on a personal level. Second Life, like so many others since, simply has not “cut it” with regard to re-creating the ways in which we utilize the Web. Sure it was and is innovative, but the reality of people interacting is sadly not much further along now than it was 3 or 4 years ago. The long and short of “reality” for Linden and its brain child Second Life can be summed up rather easily in my opinion. When it comes to money, the spending of in either direction (investing or consuming) that is, business is just not child’s play these days. For all it’s cuteness and spectacular interaction, Second Life is still pretty much what it was in 2006, a waste of time except as a testing ground for business ideas perhaps.

Bandwidth, UI, Navigation Graphics, Bugs and the Lot

Without doing still another test of Second Life, I thought it would be at least a little more fair to revisit the platform before hammering the virtual world to pieces. To my amazement, on the positive side that is, in 3 years the Linden people seem to improved just about every aspect of user experience at the front of the development. The initial experience at Second Life now is at least 10 times more appealing as when I wrote about the experience back when. Second Life users can expect a virtually unlimited flexibility in not only creating their characters, visiting highly interesting places within the world, and communicating, but a rather vast array of interactions that make SL far more appealing now. That was the good news, now for the bad.

Me, Elvis, trying to teleport to Rome - no luck!

Me, Elvis, trying to teleport to Rome – no luck!

Being able to interact with other users is at the heart of what SL excels at. However, going places within the world is pretty much a “core” aspect of anyone’s reason for being there in the first place. Without getting too technical, perhaps my most recent experience will shed some light on why even these two elements cast a huge shadow on Second Life ever becoming a viable platform for anyone but Sims enthusiasts.

First, most of the people inhabiting this world, were and are people with what you might call a “gamers” mentality. What does that mean? Well, for one thing Second Life (or any place like it) will tend to be a rather hostile environment. Simply put, you get flamed in places like SL about 50 times faster than in real life. I won’t go into the specifics, but it took about 1 minute for some idiot to approach my avatar and get really nasty (I was not disguised as a bimbo either). If the reader has had their fill of shopping malls and the cretins who inhabit those pricey halls, then Second Life will probably appear as a shopping mall version of hell.

Secondly, in highly technical environments like Second Life there will always be technical issues. The easiest way to put this is to remind the reader of the KISS principla, which applies particularly to engineering. “Keep it simple stupid” is simply not something a virtual world navigated and interacted upon via a person’s PC (and controls) is ready to adhere to. The learning curve for non technical users at Second Life will certainly still be drastic, and the types and numbers of operations daunting. The really bad part for Second Life on my visit was the fact that teleporting within the platform would not work. So, trapped on a small Island, with my nemesis “World of WarCraft Will” (the idiot with the impractical jokes), pretty much cut my visit short. I can only imagine 20 dark suits heading for a conference center at Second Life being assailed by such creatures.

Last Chance for a Second Life

I honestly gone from being technological innovation’s biggest supporter to being one of the industry segments gravest skeptics. The reasons for this are long and details, but basically people using the Internet have been sold a bill of goods as far as I am concerned. Businesses like Linden and so many others have put all their eggs in one basket hoping against hope that their ship would come in simply because of their ability to attract users. This same Internet business dogma is prevalent in every startup from Facebook, to Twitter, around to Digg and far and beyond. Not one company I know of has managed to grasp the simple concept that traditional advertising (no matter how it is packaged) will simply not support costly IT solutions. “The cloud” as it is so fondly called, is in point of fact not nearly as cheap to operate as it was billed to be. The costs are not the problem though, the revenue is the issue. Aside retail activities which have their own built in practicality, not many companies are making money at all online.

Second Life is reaching pretty far to entice large businesses to utilize their product. Billing Second Life as an alternative to “real world” meetings and conferences may sound plausible, but for anyone who has spent an hour just trying to get a WebX or Skype conference set up correctly, well, Second Life is a nightmare for new users. A news flash for Linden and other startup geniuses would read something like this; “Attention innovators, people want to use the Internet to make their lives simpler, not more complicated!” Please don’t get me wrong, Second Life could be a superb platform for meetings like this at some point. The idea behind Second Life was and is astoundingly visionary with regard to one simple conceptual fact – sooner of later people will use such worlds engagingly. For Second Life, I guess the big question is; “How much money and how long are their investors willing to wait for the future to appear?” Is conferencing and big business salvation for Second Life? I do not think so unless they have something I am not privy to.

Edelman PR has done award winning work for Second Life.


  1. Simeon Beresford says

    being compared favourably with compuserve is not a exactly a guaratee of long term success.

    My memories of that company are fond. They treated existing customer far more gently. but Compuserve did not cut it long term. It failed to make a paridigm shift. LL seems determined not to make that mistake but in failing to carry its users with it during its frequent policy shifts. it is making a different mistake.
    any group that can “create the impression of a “voice” of SL,” becomes more than a lunatic fringe. Seeding message boards and blogs is a large part of what PR boils down to nowadays.

  2. Phil Barish says

    Faulty data and false assumptions. There is a very loud “cult” of content creators with no grasp of paradigm shifts, the natural evolution of the internet, or much of anything else. Since they apparently have nothing to do with their days but seed message boards and blogs, they create the impression of a “voice” of SL, but LL knows they’re a lunatic fringe. LL actually has a much better understanding of their users than compuserve or myspace did at this stage in their evolution.

    • Phil Butler says

      Wow Phil, I think my first article about Second Life used the very term Paradigm shift in the description. The problem with shifts is that they do not always occur before the money runs out for the instigators of the shift. In the end, someone else may carry the shift forward, no?


  3. Simeon Beresford says

    I would not be at all surprised to see SL go to the wall with in five years. not however because I doubt its economic model. It makes money up front providing a service that many users find essential. But because it has easily the worse relationship with its customers of any Web2.0 company I know. If web2.0 means anything it means cultivating your customers. Linden Lab seem not to have moved beyond slash and burn.

    The LL economic model is not about ads its about service. and it is there that it will fail. As customer friendly competitors appears its userer will migrate.

  4. says

    Thank you for a very insightful post, and for engaging your readers’ protestations with kind humor. I came to this thread looking for an informed sense of what the future holds for SL.

    While we look for technological innovation, it seems a human need has yet to grow to define what RL role there is for a virtual world. I cling to the hope that SL will reinvent its inviting atmosphere, be it commercial or artistic. SL can offer participants the venue to amplify their personal interactions and leave social networking to the status-spamming genre.

    But without divination of a human behavioral leap, I think discussing a reading of SL’s palm can only be emotional and unscientific.

  5. says

    Hi Phil. Yes only time will tell, and nothing is set in stone, It could all collapse tomorrow, could be a fad, although its a 6 year fad as it stands atm in time.

    And yes a very interesting article. We shall see what happens. I did say in 2007 that Linden Lab needs to start teaching its residents how to use the viewers, and also to start letting the grid grow up and mature for it to be able to survive and be a viable business tool. It looks like the recent moves by Linden Lab in its new policy’s are a move towards the goal, also moving adult content to a separate place.

    I think it could and is a good tool to sit alongside other business tools. And it is FREE to use and FREE for anyone to look at and make up there minds. Users going down i don’t know, i have just logged in with 69k in world as we speak, not a bad figure.

    • Phil Butler says

      Yes Andrew, I agree. We have always relied too much on numbers of users though. It is an indicator, but not the one investors or writers should focus on the most. I focused on it for a bit because LL and other blogs have used the user figures to express a degree of success. In the end, it is how users operate from the platform, what they get out of it, and whether they are willing to spend money to support it. Free, is a word that probably should no exist.


  6. Robert Martin says

    Not a real corporate type but a few things that can help a business

    1 please please send a couple/few employees inworld to “scout” before you burn capital that could be a write off (hint any of the NCI sims are a great place to hang out and use as “safe” areas)

    2 anything with more than about 20 folks at once needs to be on multiple sims

    3 make buildings for anything that needs speed (break up sight lines)
    the common open air plaza thing causes lag

    4 make sure that if you buy an island (or 2) that it gets put on at least a “class 5” server if you cna get a “class 6” server that would also help

    5 hire some good builders so you don’t cause lag by bad building and remember SL and RL buildings use many of the same principles

  7. Liliana Dumitru-Steffens says

    I see this happens to you too, Phil… you get comments from people who don’t read – or don’t understand – the article. We need a new comments policy.

  8. says

    This is a definite ” Let me judge a book by its cover ” scenario.
    The bulk of the main business of hosting corporate content and bringing the big money corporations from first life are doing so without big announcements, basically because its being done as a daily job. Also Second life has grown in numbers but its grown in huge proportions with skills and with Second life homegrown company’s being used who understand how virtual worlds work.

    The platform is huge, and yes it can be intimidating to the new user, but there are plenty of books and in world classes to teach new residents. Is second life struggling, Well we are in a global recession and although people may not be spending as much in secondlife, more time is spent in secondlife. PLus the firstlife/real life non virtual content and companys are arriving. How do i know, well that is exactly what we do in Secondlife.

    And working within the industry i know content is being developed and new technology being developed as well as new uses for secondlife. So to answer your question….NO. they are not numbered….

    • Phil Butler says

      Hi Andrew, Well, you of course have your opinion. I have mine. In the end we will see who is right no? Oh, BTW the numbers of users is going down. I think you guys will eventually find out how the read world works, and that it is not all that different in the end than the way virtual ones operate. Unless of course you guys can pay for bandwidth and infrastructure costs in Linden dollars, now that would be an innovation.


  9. Charles says

    Hi Phil
    I have followed this discussion with interest. It appears you struck a nerve. Good job. I want to see SL succeed but their success depends on how they respond to their own members simple as that. There is no getting around good old Customer Service. The success of an organization is on shaky ground when people stay because they have no where else to go.


  10. says

    Phil, ow most of those comments were directed at sonnys and not you ;)

    But I would like to add something my partner has said and that’s, “If Linden Lab doesn’t start lisening to their customer they have now they eventually will cut their own throats.”

    This is there latest frustrating move. Some of us would like them to fix what is broken before adding new toys.

    • Phil Butler says

      Sorry Sphire, just over sensitized I guess. It seems to me that a million people should have a say in how things go n any platform. I agree on the over engineering thing, this happens so much to all these startups, going too fast to fix what needs fixing. I think if they simply added some easy ways to see and purchase things, perhaps some deals one could not get anywhere else? As you say tho, fixing problems people have has to come before figuring out new ways to get user’s dollars :)


  11. Khyle Sion says

    I honestly can’t take seriously a blog entry about someone preaching the ‘end’ of Second Life when a) they say they’ve ‘been there from the beginning’ when they obviously haven’t (Second Life actually started online in ’03-’04. SL only became really popular in ’06, when they took down CC verification and basically ‘opened the floodgates’ to the ‘general public’.)and b) probably spent less than 20 minutes on the Welcome Area and didn’t care nor take the initiative to try to get out and see anything else.

    What most people need to understand is that Second Life is in constant Beta. It will never ever, ever, ever be a ‘full program’. It will always have bugs, because it is continuously changing. It will always have some form of awkwardness due to the ever-pliable nature of SL’s surroundings and the near endless customization of the content therein. It will never be perfect. It will simply change. And it’s changed a lot since 2003-2004.

    If you plan to take another go at trying the SL experience again, I’d suggest trying to get in contact with someone who has been in Second Life for awhile. Even though Linden Labs is making SL a lot more corporate, the popularity of SL certainly hasn’t gone anywhere but up since 2004, as there is a lot of beauty here, and a lot of things you can experience that would not be possible in real life.

    I mean, where else on the internet can you experience a Van Gough painting by walking through it, then drive across the floor of a giant house in a toy car with a friend, and after that sit on an apex of a giant fractalized spiral and try to figure out exactly how someone managed to create something like that in 3D, all in one day?

    SL is about a lot more than just business.

    • Phil Butler says

      Hi Khyle, Wow, I musta made you mad huh? You are right though. I was not there in the early stages, no one was I guess. I was one of the first Tech bloggers to report on it though. Don’t I get credit for that?

      As for your vehement advice about making a go of Second Life, I never intended to Beta test it again, just to gather a general idea of the differences in the UI and things that could be gleaned quickly. As you can see, just writing a post about what I feel is a waste of time in many regards, has taken a good deal of mine. Sorry to go off the edge here, but when one is constantly assailed by people whp haven’t the common decency to figure out who the hell they are talking to, come and piss an moan because I looked at their baby from the wrong angle. Good lord, get a life. All the people at SL have to do is figure out something to sell to pay the light bill for crying out loud. If they would pay me, I would figure it for them. Thanks for taking your time to come and enter into discussion, but please spare me the authoritative admonishment about a 3d video game, I played counterstrike after all.


  12. says

    @ sonnys
    Please do not make that sort of assumption about us. Have you delved past the newbie ridden areas? Have you been to established communities? Of course not because second life search is a bit of a joke but at least now Linden Labs is trying to clean it up.

    After being in secondlife for awhile some of the gammer hostility dies down. Most of us grow up and frown at drama and egomaniacs. Most of us long time members of second life are here to be anything we want to be such as a vampire, elf, dragon or any other creature great or small. We build for profit or for the most part to break even and have enough left for some in world shopping. We create lands and we explore others. We hold funds raising events for charities such as Relay for Life. But mostly we are a part of second life to connect with others around the world. The boarders between all of our countries soften with second life. And in a land where anyone can be pretty as we want it becomes a rather moot point. Eventually and hopefully it leads to most of us looking beyond the surface of things. Also some of us with second life are able to do the simple things that some take for granted such as walk, swim and dance.

    I’ve been in second life for nearly three years now. And all I can say is a lot of us everyday users are very frustrated with Linden Lab’s response to customer feedback. Here we are loyal customers and a majority feels that Linden Lab doesn’t seem to listen to us. But until there is another platform that gives the same amount of controls over our own environment and allows us to create our own content we won’t be going anywhere.

    Also Phil, I’d be happy to show you around to some of the nicer places I’ve found. Please feel free to contact me In World.

    • Phil Butler says

      Sphire, I appreciate your passion for using this community. Like you, I have bought into a great many technological innovations, thousands actually. My intent was not to take up life withing Second Life, but to ascertain one thing only, that SL had improved what was a frustrating aspect back in the early development, the interface. They did, aside that, all the other opinions I expounded upon deal with viablility money wise. Many companies have tried to make a go at Second Life. If you had read a little more into this article, then you would have noted this is not a condemnation of SL or its community, but one of the whole sphere of Web 2.0 startups. We have worked for, written about, analyzed, consulted for, advised out of professional courtesy or just outright know most of the people involved in many of these. This is not to sound too arrogant or anything, but we helped evangelize and promote most of the companies we write about in one way or another.

      Second Life is as fantastic innovation, but when you get right down to it, it is nothing more than an elaborate video game. Taking it to the next level, before anything else happens, will require two main ingredients. First, money. Second, critical thinking and more feedback. If you want this community to expand and thrive, I suggest all of you consider ways in which SL can sell some new age advertising or otherwise pay their light bill. Unless of course everyone there is prepared to pay for premium services? Are you? How much is it worth to be able to lally gag around with friends on the Internet? I hope you see my point.


  13. Nulflux Negulesco says

    The enduring vision of Second Life is not to the benefit of corporations or those who only intend to succeed by ‘pouring’ wealth into the system. SL allows you, the individual to have a chance at success based on your unique talent, skills and abilities. You have the opportunity to turn SL into a ‘money machine’ – a constant revenue stream that exponentially increases relative the time, innovation and effort that you apply to it.

    In order to succeed one must realize that you are not in the business of selling products. Sounds strange doesn’t it? Aye, until you realize that every single person using SL is there for one thing: to fulfill their dreams. Their dream could be anything. It could be to satisfy a need for anonymous social interaction; or to stimulate their mind with creativity; or to ride a unicorn through a forest of towering enchanted mushrooms… and of course many of us have the dream of making some RL money. Therefore if you are in SL with any chance to succeed you must be in the business of making dreams come true.

    I agree with you that SL is improving vastly over what it used to be. LL has shown they are dedicated to solving bugs and adding features requested by the community. Overall, the SL experience is tremendously improved over what it was just one year ago, let alone three. However, regardless of the improvements there remain many bugs in the system – for instance we still have inventory glitches sporadically, sometimes we log in and our avatar skins are corrupt or our head is invisible and depending on how smoothly things are running teleports work only ‘sometimes’.

    For a new user or someone returning after a lengthy vacation these types of bugs are annoying. For a business these types of things are catastrophic, especially if their staff logs in to the ‘virtual conference room’ and instead of getting work done they spend their time finding their ‘missing head’ or rebaking their avatar or finding lost inventory. You are totally correct to point out that entire experience is overly complicated and is not to the benefit of a working environment for businesses.

    Even though I agree with the complaints, I am not ready to give up on Second Life any time soon. I’ve been making a real life income in SL for over a year and even though there have been tough times my dedication is finally paying off. I came to SL with the dream of never having to work ‘under’ the thumb of a company again and by making other peoples dreams come true for so long my dream is finally becoming a reality. Don’t give up on SL just yet, it’s potential only increases over time.

    • Phil Butler says

      Hi Nul, I am with you believe it or not. I never said I gave up on any of these technologies (well except Twitter). The bottom line is, I think this latest outreach to new income streams is indicative of a company desperate to pay that light bill. I could be wrong.


  14. sonnys says

    well im a second life resident for a very short time and it didnt take me long to get the hang of it. but as for business advertising online. is pretty good step to hit the gamers that dont watch tv and rather being aint the only business to be doing it either on there virtual world…Microsoft created the xbox360 onine for every gold member a year costs the gamer 59.00CAD. and top that when you do sign into the dashboard they promote more games as demos avatar clothing themes now and then they have companies like pontiac advertising on the dashboard…theres completey nothing wrong with advertising….but someone has to pay the bills to keep the servers up and running…keep there current gamers happy..and trying to attract they say the more the marrier

    • Phil Butler says

      Your are right Sonny, of course. For every gamer though, there is an inherent cost attached. The big deal is whether or not SL can make the earnings ratio go for the aggregate numbers of gamers?


  15. Fae says

    Thanks for engaging with commenters on this post, Phil, I appreciate your openness in learning more about SL and LL, despite your misgivings.
    LL makes its primary profit not from Premium subscriptions, but through purchase and monthly “tier” costs for virtual land and by selling currency and charging fees for the Lindex currency exchange.

    Journalists have been doing rough back-of-envelope calculations of overall profit and expenses, using openly published data on amount of Regions on the grid and Lindex volume, for a couple of years.
    Extrapolating the data from this NWN post of last year with the Q2 09 economy post from the chief product officer should give you someplace to start, with current data. You can verify this on several independent third-party sites where customers publish regular data about the publicly searchable and reachable grid.

    It’s notable that there are multiple other channels that LL monetizes – there are fees for content uploads, advertising, and now they have acquired xstreetsl, the online marketplace for virtual goods, where they make a commission on sales and have another advertising channel.

    If you want to know more about how the inworld economy is working, and exactly how small independent businesses and individuals are monetizing using SL, instead of worrying about LL’s profits and their long-term viability, there’s lots more data where that came from too.

    I look forward to your further commentary. :)

    • Phil Butler says

      Hi Fae, Thanks for stopping by to add to the discussion. Sometimes I am forced to write posts which are by my own admission more editorial than investigative. Some of these, like the one on SL, do not reveal everything I am privy to, let alone what I can find out. It is a function of time as you might guess. All that you have suggested, and not meaning to sound arrogant or cutting at all, is stuff I have gleaned just in scanning the web since my first article about Second Life way back when. I apologize now for not having done a more in depth post about all this, as I see now startup expertness, or even first hand knowledge only alluded to is not enough. I could have easily have said; “Second Life may be in trouble” and let it go at that.

      The problem here is just like the one for ANY Web 2.0 startup. They all had some degree of innovation, but in the end have been hit between the eyes with two rather large bricks. First, bandwidth costs and other back end costs are a monumental hurdle to be overcome. A million dollars a month sounds like a lot of money, but not when you are spending 2 million. Second, there is only one company I know of (well maybe two) which actually makes truckloads (as one commenter suggested) of money off of ads – that would be Google. I am talking about net profit, because it does not matter if Facebook makes $50 billion a month if they spend $51 billion doing it. I hope you see my point there.

      Lastly, if LL is making boat loads of money, I wonder if they have paid off Benchmark Capital, Catamount Ventures, Kapor Enterprises, Inc., Omidyar Network, Mitch Kapor, Jeff Bezos, Globespan Capital Partners, or other investors off yet? Or, are these guys in for the long haul when Titanic finally arrives? I have always liked Second Life in case anyone still wonders. If someone will release their balance sheet to me, I will be happy to do a write up on that you can bet. Getting Arrington or any other tech blog to spit out possibilities is not going to get it when the light bill needs to be paid.

      I am hoping these guys do make it. Like you I do not blame them for seeking other streams of revenue. It makes sense. It is just that this tangent seems a little far off and removed from what virtual reality should be hitting on right now. It is symbolic of problems in my book, that is all. Next time I will do a more in depth analysis, if SL is still around for me to review. I liked it when it was created, and I said so. I still like it, but it may in fact go the way of the Dodo.


  16. Virtual World says

    It is not a secret that Linden Lab is looking for new streams of revenue, if they wish to target businesses trying to sell Second Life as a place to conduct business and create a niche for themselves who can blaim them. They invested in staff and development of new software to communicate so they now wish to rake in money. Question is if this will become popular. No one can blaim you for being sceptical about this. Soon Linden plans to release Second Life 2.0 so something to look forward to.

    • Phil Butler says

      Hello Virtual, Skepticism is not a bad thing. I supported what these guys are doing years ago now. Facebook and the rest too. Point is, they had better get cracking if they are going to convince anyone they can make money. If I were an investor right now, and someone came up and asked me if I wanted 10,000 shares of Facebook stock? Uhh Hum. Well, I guess you know I would ask; “For Free?”

      Everyone is coming here from SL alluding to money streams, new innovations, the merits of virtual, when all along I was one of the first proponents of Web 2.0 and innovations like Second Life. Imagine what that feels like, people telling you what you told them and not listening to what you are telling them now. Perhaps everyone was “told” so well, that I need to re-tell the story better huh? No one has come here or anywhere and said; “The lights and employees cost $1 million a month, and the Linden land and other resources bring in $1.4.” Pretty simple huh? So what is the number? (and please no BS answers).


  17. says

    I recently concluded a rather long-winded conversation with a talented developer through the Association of Virtual worlds. He sparked my interest by concluding that every virtual world out there runs the risk of collapsing in on itself(I’m para phrasing) by ignoring some very valid rules. One is centralized servers and the other is scarcity of bandwidth.

    Phil if you’re not a member now sigh up real quick and read the thread. I certainly opened my eyes. Go to My page. The thread is titled “If we know the rules why do we ignore them” by William G. Burns III.

    Charles Gatlin

    is a Global Ambassador with
    The Association of Virtual Worlds

  18. Ari Blackthorne says

    “he “hot spot” of next generation technologies appears to be breathing its last gasps to this beta tester.”

    Yes. For you perhaps.

    Actually, the sooner the ones like you leave, the faster the rest will be better-off. (rolls eyes).

    Linden Lab makes money. Truckloads. They could sit still and rife the wave until it fizzles out like many others (“” anyone?) or they can keep moving around and taking the success them have now and try to push it further.

    The efforts of Linden lab don;t signal the ‘demise’ of the service, but rather the likely stronger viability of it. SL is not the end-all, but it does present an different way to do things with regard to teleconferencing and all that jazz.

    I am far from a Linden lab apologist, but I also know better that to sound like some jealous, spoiled child throwing ‘doom-and-gloom’ statements around just be cause *I* don’t like them or their product.

    I am running a personal bet with myself as to who will last the longest: Second Life, MySpace, Twitter or Plurk. As of right now my personal guess is a contest between Second Life and Plurk as they seem to compliment each other. Twitter still needs a business model and MySpace has more or less lost to FaceBook.

    Huh. My proclamations are every bit as good and accurate as yours. I should write for your blog along side you.


    • Phil Butler says

      Ari, I am so happy you have all that time on your hands. I approved your comment so that perhaps you could show me at some point, proof of the truckloads of money SL is making. Aside some TechCrunch BS about their valuation, and a ton of SL PR hype about premium accounts, I see nothing that would convince me they are solvent at all. As for me getting off of SL, I was never on longer than I had to be. Just so you know, I just recieved a note from a company that has digital ideas far grander than SL’s desperate attempt t engage business with their cartoon video game. Sorry to sound all mean man, but I am not in this game for the fun of MMOG’s or instant gratification. You have no idea what is going on behind the scenes of these companies, while our business has been helping many of them convince people like you to use their products. Who is zooming who here?

      I suggest you do some research about bandwidth costs, and the costs SL incurs from employing people, their overhead, and just how far a million a month goes? As for who will die first’? (and BTW you goofed by admitting the possibility that SL would die up there) It will be SL. Facebook has cost too much for them to let it die soon, MySpace actually turns a little profit, and Twitter is the black sheep of the Internet family, they will keep it propped up until Google Wave comes out.


  19. Jay says

    Phil, thanks for the article. Too many times I’ve read article that either praised SL beyond all measure or slammed it without even a hint that it could be useful. I think that if it could ever reach out into the rest of the internet (and corporate intranets) that it could reach it’s potential. I deal with many very complex systems (both technical and operational) and SL would be able to provide a unique way to traverse the landscape if the technology could ever support it. For a simple example think of a transaction that you’re trying to get the status of. SL could provide a way to go from ‘hub’ to ‘hub’ in various places where a payment could get caught up and let you check the status at each location. Just one idea.

  20. says

    Interesting reading the responses to this thread. One thing that does seem to stand out to me is that people seem to be looking for the answer to the question ‘what is Second Life (or any other virtual world) for and how do you monetise it?’

    On the first part I don’t think there is an answer any more than there is to the question ‘what is life for’. There are always going to be a huge range of activities going on from socialising to conferences to concept testing to education etc etc. It is because it is such a flexible environment that it can accommodate this range of activities. I have got several projects in the pipeline which use the benefits of 3-d, public, virtual spaces without the requirement for large volumes of traffic or of monetisation. I understand that businesses need to make money but there are a huge range of other activities that they get involved with. Some of these can be carried out more efficiently and effectively using virtual 3-d spaces.

    Which then brings me neatly to focus on the monetisation point. In many cases virtual worlds are a tool to help you carry out an activity. They can add value to your business, they can save you money but they don’t necessarily need to make you money. Think of the functional departments within your business – HR, Accounts, Catering, Cleaning – they don’t make money but no-one suggests that you shouldn’t do them. They help the business function and their effectiveness can impact on the bottom line.

    Yes, there are organisations which need to make money. I do, Linden Lab do and many others will do but that doesn’t mean that everyone using SL needs to be making money from it.


  21. says

    Yes one of many items suggesting Second Life is failing. To be honest it doesn’t matter whether it is or not – it is one company and one rather dated service. If it has achieved one thing, there are at least 280 (last count) other social and business virtual worlds out there evolving which Second Life has been partly responsible in triggering. Suggest you go to and have a look at some. Twinity and Blue Mars are interesting as well as many specialised ‘business’ worlds being launched. Well done to Second Life (RIP or not) for actually being part of a much greater evolution. Did you hear that VHS tape is on the decline? :)

    • Phil Butler says

      Exactly Gary, Thanks! Second Life was the instigator for what will become a true virtual presence on the Web. Perhaps they can still pull if off themselves too, but grasping for a life preserver like conferences seems symbolic of desperation to me. Someone simply has to make the connection between virtuality and function though. Playing Sims all day long should be left to the WOW gamers and the like. Folks with nothing more to do than waste time eating the instant chocolate gratification of game experience reality. Heck, these developers need to engage someone who actually has a job for crying out loud! :)


  22. says

    Hello Phil,

    I just fired up a new blog. The purpose is not to bash any virtual world. In fact I promote them and the technology that makes them possible passionately. I must agree with you having visited SL on several occasions that the prevailing discontent among what I call “Avatars in Business” is almost universal. I’ve conducted several interviews and the tone is the same.

    They feel for the most part that their views and issues are ignored. Sl reminds me of the old monopolies just before the fall.
    A period in the life of a business when the focus shifts to profits and not to service. The avatars I spoke with feel betrayed and many are planning to leave.

    Actually the exodus has begun already. Many are hanging on simply because they have no where else to go. Kind if sad actually. You mentioned the “gammers mentality” You hit that one head on. Many of these good folks haven’t yet realised that virtual reality is becoming a serious real world alternative for business and collaboration.

    I’ll end here. Just wanted you to know I enjoyed your insight.


    Charles Gatlin is a Global Ambassador
    with the Association of Virtual Worlds
    Can be reached at:

    • Phil Butler says

      Charles, Thanks so much, not so much for agreeing with me, but in commenting with the right insight and attitude. So often, the only people who engage in conversation are the negative types and the grammar police. My concern for SL and others is that no one has really come up with a viable monetization solution. As you suggest, the demographic has something to do with it. Even if SL and others are for ent4ertainment only, there simply needs to be a better rationale for making these things work. Thanks gain, alot.


  23. Awaken Yoshikawa says

    This is so funny it isn’t. I have been reading these posts about the death of second life on different websites for over 2 years. The end of second life, blah, blah, blah. But the truth is, in order for the creators of these blogs to get people to come to their website and posting responses, they can’t just state facts, they have to juice them up with a title like “the end is near” and make factstc.

    Yes the originator of this blog is biased, it reads all through his post and show little research on the subject. Out of all the social sites, including twitter, ONLY second life is making money.

    • Phil Butler says

      Hi Awaken, Actually my friend, I just wrote about Second Life because I was one of the first people to even see it in its original form. The news popped up, so I looked it over and gave an editorial opinion. I am sorry you do not agree, and even sorrier that you think I need Second Life people to prop up our metrics. I assure you this is not the case. As for Second Life making money, I am thrilled someone is, and sorry if I am wrong about that. The way their traffic is plummeting, those ads must be hitting targets like crazy. Of course, the end will reveal itself, and BTW I never said Twitter or anyone else for that matter was making any money. That is the point.


  24. Mike says

    Hi Phil,

    Your post is an interesting ‘revisit’ to SL for a recidivist newcomer, and the usability/UI arguments are still valid, but there is one thing I would like to point out:

    “Is conferencing and big business salvation for Second Life? I do not think so unless they have something I am not privy to.”

    You did not mention, and possibly are not aware, that Linden Labs is aggressively testing a behind-the-firewall ‘private world’ version of SL for corporate use. Nor did you bring up the open-source and freely deployable OpenSim ‘clone’ of the Second Life platform. Both of these developments will have an enormous impact on the possible range of use cases for SL as a business collaboration and conferencing environment.

    Having a private server for the enterprise — whether joined to the ‘main’ SL world via a gateway, or completely independent — solves about 50% of the issues you noted, including access reliability, griefers, and teleportation problems.

    Dividing the problem space into “things that are inherent to the platform” and “things that are the result of other users, environmental design, or corporate culture” may help you to see the use cases that CAN work effectively, rather than getting bogged down in the relatively trivial complaint of “someone was nasty to my avatar and therefore this whole virtual worlds thing is a doomed effort.”

  25. says

    Yes most attempts at using SL as advertising platform have failed.
    but as Second Life people like to point out while “Twitter makes noise, Second Life makes money.” It is a complex platform that has a huge churn of people who join only to leave but those that stay continue to find new uses. Linden Labs in promoting those new uses are following the the innovators not pushing fantasies.

    The vast majority of people in SL have no interest in It as marketing or PR tool. Any more than the vast majority of cable TV subscribers are interested in it because of the ads.
    The SL users remain resolutely uninterested in Advertisements and since they pay the bills LL is right to promote the thinks that people actually pay to use the platform for namely Discussion and education.

  26. MaggieL says

    I wish I didn’t have to agree with Phil. I’m a huge SecondLife enthusiast, and I and my family have spent many happy hours in-world over the last 22 months.

    I’m also a professional software engineer, and have watched the growth and evolution of networked collaborative tools since I entered the industry in the early 1970’s.

    SecondLife is a technical marvel and incredible involving immersive experience. But it fails as a corporate collaborative tool because it’s too complex for a casual user to pick up and use.

    For people already skilled in using the platform, it’s insanely powerful…almost magical. But it’s very difficult for new users to grasp and use effectively.

    I think the new CEO is making a huge mistake in focusing on the corporate/enterprise market he is familiar with from his earlier endeavors at the expense of the existing customer base.


  27. says

    Interesting post Phil but I did rather feel that you set out to knock Second Life even before you had told us the story about your latest visit to SL.

    As a professional Second Life developer I am of course obliged to disagree with much that you say. I will agree that the interface is probably not the easiest but there is plenty afoot which will change that soon.

    I also agree that people want simpler lives not more complicated ones and that the internet should be helping them achieve that. What is key is that a lot of the things we do today without much thought were either not possible or were much more complicated 10 years ago when the internet was a bit younger. Explaining to someone how to find and get to a web site was more than just ‘go to’ as you would these days.

    I think that you’ll find that in a couple of years or so that public virtual worlds will be much more mainstream and people will create accounts and go to places to socialise and work. Explaining the concept of avatars today is sometimes a bit difficult but a lot easier than it was two years ago.

    Second Life is one of the best of options at the moment as it allows developers to create content relatively easily. I’m sure that there will be other virtual worlds and that eventually they will be interlinked (a bit like the internet – you don’t need a different browser for each website that you visit).

    As for business types having to deal with griefers it is so much simpler these days. I can drop you directly into a conference venue or my business park or wherever I want you to go simply by giving you a slurl (Second Life URL). Even if you don’t have an account you can go through the creation process and then still go directly to where I want you in Second Life – bypassing the shopping malls, griefers and other people you don’t want to engage with. A bit like giving you a url so that you don’t have to search Google :-)

    I think you are wrong about the approaching demise of virtual worlds like Second Life and I look forward to the time when I can say ‘I told you so!’

    • Phil Butler says

      Hi Pauline,
      I appreciate your remarks very much. I guess it could appear that I was biased some, this is true. However, though I am rather disappointed in many developments which I thought would change the way we do things (Like Second Life), still there remains in my the hope that brilliant developers like yourself, can somehow combine their know how with business people who can dream up as equally innovative ways in which to monetize such start ups. It looks like to me, and I am something of an expert in this regard, that like so many developments, there are virtually no bounds as to what you guys can created digitally. The problem however is that over engineering things, for the sake of engineering them, will not solve the problem of solving these points of pain.

      Second Life, like a hundred others, is pretty much relegated to being for entertainment value until someone comes up with several elements. The reason Twitter is so dynamically popular is because any idiot can use it. Aside that, it is on the fringes of being a marketer’s El Dorado. I applaud your effort to provide a service for these businesses, it is not a terrible idea at all. I know someone had an “aha! ” moment there, and everyone jumped on board probably. But, I think you guys are just back pe3ddling a bit to capture some niche, any niche. I do not mean this negatively at all. It just symbolic of what I would call “the cart before the horse syndrome” we have seen all too many times. Everyone got money to develop these things based on traffic, the ability to attract people to the Web as they were attracted to TV, only supposedly more interactive. This goes a little way to explaining the biggest problem Web entities have – monetizing new age stuff in old fashion ways. The short of it is this, technology has outrun any wizardry advertising could come up with.

      Believe it or not, I am on your side. Just saying it is so will not get it in the years to come Pauline. Ask yourself this question if you will; “Do I want people to buy into this service now, knowing that it is not all it can be and them having them dump us forever?” Everyone has tested the efficacy of using Second Life as it is for their buiness, with mediocre results at best. All I am saying is; “Is this the best your business people can come up with?” Your traffic is going down, the window of opportunity for making this thing fly is closing like so many others, but I am supposed to write a review to praise something that probably will not fly? Believe me, I did hundreds based on my enthusiasm for people just like you, brilliant people withing their specialty.

      I knew you would punch holes in my contention about the negative types. To be honest I was just waiting to address this here. It is not rocket science to make things compartmentalized, the point there was that serious business people may not be ready for virtual reality, or even need it for that matter. If I am wrong, I will come back and say I am. As for now, the indications are fairly clear. As for Second Life, if you guys can keep funding long enough to get to the next level, then onviously you will have a leveraged position. As for the brand, if this latest engagement does not work, well, then you will have damaged it once again.

      Good luck, I wish I had the time to work on some new age monetization scheme for your great innovation. As it is, i barely have time to type this.


  28. PR says

    I will agree with the author that Linden Lab hasn’t much success with its IT solutions it continues to promote for Second Life … and as one of the “gamers” he talks about, not many of the growing number of residents who populate SL really care. There is a tendency by speculators to write off the platform completely, but for those of us who keep that platform alive with our RL dollars, our in-world content creation, and our passion for virtual living … we’d much rather SL be a place similar to what Rosedale initially envisioned it to be, a place where we could have a life of our own imagination. And that’s how we hope we’ll be able to keep it … regardless of whether or not LL can attract Fortune 500 companies to set up virtual boardrooms.

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