Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Future of Second Life by Lizard Howl

The Future of Second Life by Lizard Howl

Second Life has shown remarkable growth over the past few years. As a daily visitor to the online community known as Second Life I have my own opinions and speculations about the future of Second Life. When I first started Second Life, in October 2006, I used to see roughly 11,000 to 12,000 people logged on at one time. Over the following six months or so it crept up from 12,000 to 15,000. I stopped keeping close tabs on the growth after that, but these days I see anywhere from 49,000 to 51,000 people logged into Second Life at any time of day or night. No doubt about it that is a lot of growth!

Linden Labs, the company that runs Second Life, is going through growing pains of its own. Philip Rosedale, the founder of Second Life, recently stepped down as CEO and brought in a replacement from an outside company. As a Second Life user and virtual land dealer I sincerely hope that this new CEO can fix the leaks on the ship that is Second Life.

The new population seems to have the resources of Linden Labs stretched to their limits. Crashes, glitches, region down times, and other mishaps, are now nearly daily occurrences. The new trend in Second Life seems to be big crashes during the weekend, starting from Friday night and sometimes covering most of Saturday as well. There are many of us who are Second Life residences all week long, while thousands more are weekend tourists. I come from a beach community in real life and am used to dealing with the traffic and stupidity that tourists inflict upon the locals. But I sure don’t want to have to deal with that in the virtual world too.

Many Second Life residents are currently disgruntled, not only from the service issues, but also from Linden Lab’s attempts to cool the virtual real estate market by reducing retail pricing. Hundreds if not thousands of Second Life land dealers saw their portfolios lose 25-50% of their value overnight. Combine that, with the service issues, and the apparently overwhelmed Linden Labs staff, and it seems clear that Second Life has reached its peak.

There are already groups active who are developing and promoting virtual worlds that are very similar to Second Life. The two most prominent alternatives right now are based on open source platforms. While the open source philosophy is admirable, the open source worlds do not as yet offer the copy protection and robust virtual economy that Second Life has.

Earlier this year I thought that Second Life would last another 3 to 5 years in its current incarnation. Recent events such as the land devaluation, poor server performance, and personnel changes at Linden Labs, have caused me to revise my estimate. I have a strong feeling that Second Life as we know it will be gone within a maximum of 2 years. In 18 months or less there will either be a strong commercial alternative to Second Life, OR a major company will buy Linden Labs and make the kind of changes that will drive out the loyal residents.

This is entirely speculative on my part, based simply on what I observe as someone who spends far too much time in Second Life on a daily basis. As a Second Life land dealer I would love to see Second Life thrive for another 10 years or more. As a Second Life resident though I can see the writing on the wall.

See you in world!

Lizard Howl

IM Lizard Howl for all your Second Life land needs!

No comments: