Monday, June 29, 2009

« Top Five Things To Know About SL/OpenSim From Last Week | Main | Second Life Tut Moves to OpenSim »

Second Life Is What Twitter Isn't: Unique, Sticky, Profitable

Twitter vs SL

"Twitter is what Second Life wasn't," marketer Chris Abraham argued recently in Advertising Age, seeking to quell anxiety that the current media hype about Twitter means that it's inevitably destined to suffer the backlash Second Life did in 2007. Unlike Twitter, Abraham notes, Second Life is not "light, cheap, and open". That is, it requires a large client install, has relatively demanding hardware/broadband specs, and isn't readily interoperable between the web and most other applications.

Those are all valid points, but Anderson's assessment greatly misunderstands Second Life overall -- and in doing so, understates the potential pitfalls Twitter faces now in at least three ways:

Twitter isn't as unique as Second Life: While the core value proposition of Twitter is indeed revolutionary -- instant microblogging and communication across multiple platforms -- it's also an extremely easy one to imitate. Which is why Twitter has several competitors, including Facebook, Plurk, and Friend Feed, while Second Life, six years after launch, has no direct and successful rival. (Except, of course, OpenSimulator -- which is to essentially say that Second Life is only competing with an open source version of itself.) As it turns out, making a dynamic, economically leveraged, fully user-created immersive virtual world isn't all that easy an enterprise.

Twitter isn't as sticky as Second Life: When it comes to social networking, it's not enough to be occasionally useful; to succeed, the system must also be sticky, a pervasive part of a user's Internet experience. How do the two systems compare in that regard? For January 2009, Nielsen Internet estimated the average Twitter user hit the site 98 minutes total a month. That same month, Nielsen Games estimated the average Second Life user logged in 2080 minutes total a month.

Twitter isn't as profitable as Second Life:

  • Estimated revenue of Second Life holding company, in 2008: $96 million
  • Estimated revenue of Twitter holding company, in 2008: $0 million

All that to one side, it's definitely true that Second Life will need to be more like Twitter, to grow beyond its existing hardcore user base: enable open development across lighter and cheaper platforms, especially the web and mobile phones. Then again, to succeed and flourish over the long term, Twitter will need to become more like Second Life.

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341bf74053ef0115717373f1970b

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Second Life Is What Twitter Isn't: Unique, Sticky, Profitable:

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Arcadia Codesmith

Next week in pointless comparisons: why Second Life is better than an alpaca.

Doubledown Tandino

I'm dumbfounded that the Chris Abraham's article the past two days got so much play...
or rather, his comparing twitter to SL article got so many retweets....
not by second lifers, but by people who just use twitter.
Its so hard to understand why there is a undercurrent on social networks that is so opposed to second life and virtual worlds.
Chris Abraham's article doesn't provide any expertise, knowledge, experience, logic, or wisedom... so why the hell is everyone reading his article? (because Chris Abraham is a good twitter marketer, but has no clue what he's writing about.

When someone writes about second life, everyone that USES Second Life knows immediately if that person is just writing with no knowledge. Us SLers know immediately because the article is so unconnected with any truth about SL. The writers/journalists/media experts that don't use second life (prime example is Chris Abraham), and write about it, it's showing off a level of stupidity to an entire world.

Yeah, Second Life is a bubble, moving along separately from the real world. ... and ALL of those people now have an opinion about you Chris Abraham.

Viorel Daviau

A comparison between Twitter and SL is ridiculous at best, both as an original statement as well as retort.

That wasn't the author's point though. He's suggesting the fall from the hype Twitter is currently getting.

In order for Twitter to dump, it would take a new service to support it with applications similar to TweetDeck, etc. People don't like staring at a webpage for hours on end, waiting...hoping...for some kind of response.

Folks don't like change much and if it's not broke, heh. A competitor really needs to offer a bennie that catches the public's eye. Otherwise, it's the same thing with a different logo.

Crap Mariner

I agree with my cohort SecondLie... this is like trying to compare the engines of a John Deere and a Porsche, then try to mow your lawn with the Porsche.

Abraham's being a marketing troll for links, doing yet another SL-bash that's behind the curve of his equally-incapable marketing cohorts.

These are different tools with different features and requirements. To an SL-er, Twitter can be a tool to circumvent 25 group limit and the EPIC FAIL that is groupchat. Or it can be an offline chat mashup. Or it can be a way to follow headlines, scores, etc. without a full RSS reader.

Maybe some folks prefer the Pandora streams, other folks want the whole music venue 30-second-shoutcast-lag-live experience, and others want to buy CDs and smoke a joint in the tub and be left the heck alone... each has its appeal, each has its use, each has its audience.

And as long as there's differences, well, there will be folks like Chris Abaham trying to make comparisons and declare winners.

I mean, yeah... the Iranian Counter-revolution appears to have used heavy Twitter traffic for organization and getting the word out while SL was too bulky... when the Basij is chasing you with iron bars, the last thing you need to do fire up SLim to debate riot tactics and the nuances of making democracy work under the Koran while your avatar mimics your thrashing gestures due to Mitch Kapor's Wondercamera in Snowglobe for Farsi.

Might as well call their state-run media an epic failure for not addressing that need, too... and hanging posters while police and mercenaries roam the streets tearing them down... and other media.

Nope. Focus on SL. It's the in-thing to compare everything to, you know, just to highlight its weaknesses.

Meanwhile, at SL6B on Saturday, a 50+ avatar crowd appeared on Cyro to discuss the concerns about the new Australian communications minister's online crusade to censor/block various internet services. Australians were there with their perspectives, added a few facts to fill in the gaps, educated some of us yee-haw Yanks, proposed a few ideas... (audio transcript at SLPN, btw)

For that, it worked. And it would NOT have worked on Twitter because a lot of the discussion was way longer than 140 characters long (minus hashtag footprint) and the concurrent discussion would have taken time to follow and re-follow people... a total mess.

Instead, pop into same virtual space, fire up microphone, add a bit of civility in taking turns to take or the principles of creative cacophony, and boom. An hour well spent.

So, Chris Abraham, does that mean Twitter is an abject failure because SL worked for the Aussie talk and Twitter was good only for promoting it?

Internet Marketers. Like Billy Mays, but pushing virtual snakeoil. Ugh.

Thanks,
-ls/cm

Ghosty Kips

Your post almost made me LOL. Almost.

1st: Twitter not unique? Really. I suppose you can tell me what service was performing Twitter-like functions before 2006? Oh, right, there were none. Facebook, Plurk, and Friend Feed do NOT do what Twitter does, and to throw them into the mix demonstrates you really have no clue what the differences are between them. Twitter is often called "the messaging service we didn't know we needed until we had it" because of it's simple concept - it IS unique because no one was doing it before Twitter was, including Facebook, Plurk, and Friend Feed, who are ALL now trying to be Twitter, and failing miserably at it.

2nd: Twitter users do not need to "hit the site" to use the service. Unlike SL, downloading software and web access are completely unnecessary after initial signup. I tweet multiple times every single day, and only look at the site maybe once or twice a week.

3rd: Yes, Twitter makes no money at all. What, exactly, does that have to do with anything? If we were to judge an online entity's success by it's dollar margin, SL had better become a lot more like WoW. Or Microsoft. Sheesh.

Comparing SL to Twitter is like comparing engine oil to seat-covers, and off-handed exercises in creative writing like this make my head spin.

As for the "fall" Twitter may experience from the hype it's getting: note that it's getting it's hype from being *useful*, something SL is still trying valiantly to prove to itself and everyone else. For that reason, I don't expect Twitter to fall any time soon - even if the service were to suddenly find itself in desperate need of cash, someone out there WILL fund it because it's ultimately necessary. SL is NOT ultimately necessary, a major discussion point.

Holocluck Henly

Considering how much goes into making cheesecake, it's a wonder how so much of the stuff sells considering the availability of an apple around here. Not only that, one normally has to take out a plate or at least grab a plastic fork for the cheesecake in order to eat it...

Erbo Evans

Comparing Second Life and Twitter isn't just comparing apples and oranges; it's comparing apples and digital watches. The two services are designed for two completely different purposes, with two completely different goals, running on two completely different architectures. About the only thing they have in common is that they both use the Internet...and comparing the two of them because of that is like comparing me to an aardvark because we're both mammals.

Maggie Darwin

This kerfluffle just goes to show you how much of Advertising Age's readership is abjectly clueless.

Viorel Daviau

Apples to digital watches. I like that :)


As far as Plurk is concerned, it DOES do what Twitter does, and ALSO offers threads off of the original comment.

Are there programs/other features as wide-spread as Twitter? Simple answer--no.

Crap Mariner

Maggie:

"This kerfluffle just goes to show you how much of Advertising Age's readership is abjectly clueless."

Or unaware that there was also an Age Of The Dinosaurs.

Will likely end the same.

-ls/cm

Hamlet Au

"Are there programs/other features as wide-spread as Twitter? Simple answer--no."

Actually Facebook now has all the functionality of Twitter, and it has some 250M monthly active users. Twitter is still at around 5-8M, depending on what figures you look at.

"Apples to digital watches."

Experientially, sure. But really, Abraham's editorial is strictly about the place currently occupied by Twitter that Second Life once had: the Web 2.0 Internet system widely considered to be The Next Big Thing.

Ghosty Kips

@Viorel Daviau: No, Plurk does not. Name a social networking service that Plurk exports it's user data to. Just one. I'll wait.

Right. Lots of things talk to Plurk, but Plurk talks to no one. I can post to Twitter, and my tweet goes to Plurk, Indenti.ca and a slew of other places. I post on Plurk, it stays on Plurk. NOT THE SAME.

QueenKellee Kuu

Um, no, you're wrong. Currently Plurk can go to Friendster, Facebook, Twitter and Multiply.

Spartanic

The biggest issue I had with with that article was the notion that Twitter would 'out live the hype cycle' - as where SL had 'failed'. The product feature comparisons are pretty irrelevant.

The strength of Twitter is a fairly generic concept - micro blogging. Yes that will persist into the future - but Twitter itself? Hmmn, not so sure. Anyone can do that fairly easily - that is why Facebook is making its move slowly but surely into this space.

CyFishy Traveler

The Me recently signed up for Twitter (with some reluctance) and is finding it relatively easy to use and a pleasant enough diversion. Twitter may indeed avoid the hype backlash that SL suffered because it doesn't promise that much to begin with, and thus has an easier time delivering it.

I remain baffled how Twitter can operate in an economically sustainable manner, but that is not my problem to solve. The Me has bitter memories of another dot-com notion that she grew to love that ended up collapsing (kozmo.com--movies, magazines and ice cream delivered to your doorstep by hot tattooed boys, ah, those were the days) and has few expectations that Twitter will last in its present form.

Simeon Beresford

twitter is simple concept that will is to useful to discard. It reminds me of ICQ.
any one else remember ICQ? If you do could you tell me what stops twitter meeting the same fate?
That is the trouble with simple concepts.

as for second life no its not web2.0
its a throwback to bulletin boards.
LL have a lot more in common with Compuserve than Twitter,
when we have convenient and easy transition between a plethora of independent virtual world. then we will forward to something comparable to web.


Nexii Malthus

Twitter is slowly dying in my world.

I'm moving over more and more to Plurk. Which offers the same thing, but with better features, a stronger system and the highly vital ability to see responses/replies in a users' plurk easily and intuitively.

Instead of one huge massive thread of independant twitters like twitter does, it doesn't offer and ease-to-use ability to follow a discussion easily.

Arcadia Codesmith

It's funny how the author gets huffy in the comments section when he's called out about his obvious lack of knowledge of Second Life, resorting to the old ad hominim "fanboi" attack. This guy writes textbooks? Sad.

Gwyneth Llewelyn

Bravo, Hamlet :) Yours was indeed an excellent answer to the Allmighty Chris Abraham.

And yes, it's important to understand that the comparison is about "surviving hype", not really about technology — which obviously can't be compared. Second Life has indeed transcended hype — now that the hype is gone, people (and companies) can focus on doing long-term projects in SL, which will be around for years or decades (either in its current form; either as a fully open source solution based on the foundations of OpenSimulator; either simply as the "Metaverse protocol" as defined by the MMOX; no matter what the ultimate "form" will be, Second Life will remain around).

Interesting statistics about Linden Lab's revenues. At the end of the day, no matter what the marketing experts and the geek fans of all those Web 2.0 cool things will say, it's not even about number of users or stickiness — it's really about how much revenues your company generates. Twitter, like almost all others, survive by burning venture capital (Facebook sold a large share of it to Microsoft back in 2007, which will allow them to survive for another few years). When that money is gone and the management fails to prove to the venture capital companies that they actually have a business plan (but merely a "wishful thinking" plan), the company will close down. It's plain and simple :)

I came from the office today (we share it with a company doing plain, old, boring websites) where a friend was just explaining how none of the currently existing Web 2.0 thingies will survive for much longer. Two years, five years... we can't tell. But if you're unable to generate a revenue, you haven't got a long-term project. You just have a short-term "squeeze our funders dry" project.

Linden Lab not only is a reasonably profitable company (not like Blizzard, of course... :) ) but, more important than that, they have returned all the investment just in 2008 (and very likely in 2007). That's what a serious company is supposed to do: not burn venture capital like there isn't going to be a tomorrow, but use it to kickstart their operation and making sure the investors get a return.

So, sure, perhaps SL will never have the half a billion users that Philip predicts. That's ok. A company that make US$100 million in revenues every year is fine. It can remain like that for eons, no matter what the "hype of the day" will bring.

Thus, my advise to all those wannabee "Internet marketeers and self-appointed gurus" out there: before you praise a company for their "success", ask them how much they're generating in profits. Then you can safely claim if they're going to survive their hype era or not.

Post a comment

This weblog only allows comments from registered users. To comment, please Sign In.