With Relee Bayskelf, in "Furry Like Me"
How many furry Residents are there in Second Life now? Last October, veteran community leader Michi Lumin gave me an estimate of 15,000-20,000, based on the count of furry avatar outfits purchased by the world's main vendors in anthromorphic identity. That was when the total active user base of SL was roughly 150,000-200,000-- defined as Residents who logged into SL weekly, three months after account creation-- meaning some 10% of the community donned the fur with pride. Now that the total active population is around half a million, has the furry citizenry expanded commensurately? Curious, I put that question to Michi recently.
"Individual statistics would have it doubled," says Michi, "but I don't believe that's true." Instead, she believes the current total is anywhere from 28-35,000-- about 6% of the total Second Life populace.
"Luskwood has around 20,000 individual customers as it stands," Michi (left) goes on. (Luskwood is SL's oldest furry realm, in which Michi is an officer.) "Looking at avatar sales data (this doesn't count furries who build their own avatars or stick with freebies) that number is around 28-30,000. Taking last year's baseline and applying the growth rates we've seen puts it around 28,000 as well. I'd put some wiggle room in there because really, the only sample data we've got is avatar sales and growth from that. But if you look at the 'overlap' between customers of the top three avatar makers, it hits that number. If you apply the growth rates seen in the last year of avatar sales, it hits that number. If you apply SL's growth rate, it would be higher than that, but I don't trust that, since I do think that while 'furry population growth' hasn't plateaued, it has slowed...
"In any case, I think 28,000-30,000 would be a conservative estimate, 30,000-35,000 would be 'plausible'. I'm sure there's more math that could be done, but on some level it's a bit hard to define absolutely if someone is even a furry or not. It means different things to different people, of course. But I feel pretty confident about that range."
But why the proportional dropoff? Whether it's a slowdown or an outright plateau, my guess it reflects a wider, more diffuse new user base. Disproportionately computer savvy and creative, the furry population were among the vanguard of early adopters who stormed the world in its first three years, pointing a paw forward into a new medium.
Or perhaps the 28-35K number reflects the absolute upper limit of furries on the Internet in general, who've already tried SL and moved on-- or stayed to put down roots. (Or a Taco, as the case may be.)