Wednesday, October 14, 2009

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New World Editorial: Only Mass Adoption of Second Life Will Best Address All SL's Major Challenges

Let's start with several uncontroversial facts:

  • With some 750K monthly active users, Second Life is by far the most popular 3D virtual world regularly used for non-game applications.
  • However, Second Life is still a very small part of the total virtual world market, which is somewhere in the vicinity of 130-150 million users worldwide. (See chart below, based on data I gathered for my GigaOM Pro paper on the MMO industry, which only counts worlds with over 500K monthly active users.)
  • The virtual world market, taken as a whole, is dominated by titles very much unlike Second Life: 2.5D, Web-based, and primarily aimed at kids/teens.
  • There is no evidence that this audience is moving to Second Life or any other 3D immersive world in large numbers. Teenagers, for example, are not for the most part moving from open-ended MMOs like Habbo and Gaia Online (both with memberships in the millions) to join SL. The largest virtual world for adults is not Second Life, but YoVille, which was launched in May 2008, and already boasts 20 million monthly active users on Facebook alone. (Yes, far larger than Warcraft.)
Total MMO users versus SL

In recent months, Linden Lab has emphasized the need for Second Life to gain mass-market adoption. At the last SLCC, that was a central theme for both T and Philip Linden. To be sure, user growth will be good for their bottom line, too. But speaking for myself, as someone who continues to think Second Life has the potential to change the world, the reason for this focus on user growth is just as important. Here's why:

Only mass adoption of Second Life will best address all SL's major challenges.

By "mass", I mean millions of regular users, not hundreds of thousands as there are today. And this statement applies, in my opinion, to all the major user groups in Second Life and their chief concerns about SL as a world and a platform. For instance, it includes enterprise developers and educators, who want to see SL become a platform for real world business applications. And the internal content creation community, who want greater enforcement against in-world content theft. And SL's established Resident community, who want new features like better group support. And SL artists and musicians, who want SL to become a viable new creative medium. And anyone associated with Second Life, who wearies of hearing uninformed comments that SL is just a haven for sex maniacs or people without a first life.

Ultimately, only mass adoption is the best solution in every case. Why do I say this? Let's look at each sector one by one:

ENTERPRISE USE

Without significant growth of the user base, enterprise advocates are asking their clients and bosses to invest time and money on a medium with a high learning curve that few have prior experience with, which for all they know, is destined to become a moribund application. Skype, by contrast, was initially launched as a consumer product, but is now a standard business tool. Why? Mass adoption by the tens of millions, which made major companies and other organizations willing to embrace it.

NEW RESIDENT FEATURES

Without significant growth of the user base, the Lindens have little incentive to invest resources on features that only serve a small percentage of their users. (Recall that just 133K Residents account for 90% of all user activity.) Residents clamor, for example, to have more than 25 groups in their account. But why should the Lindens work on upgrading their database technology to make that possible, when tens of thousands of people try Second Life every week, and rarely linger long enough to join even one group?

CONTENT THEFT

Without significant growth of the user base, the Lindens have no pressing incentive to devote additional resources to policing content theft. (Especially when in-world economic growth, if not total user numbers, continues climbing strongly upward.) However, a Second Life with millions of users would mean tens of thousands of content creators who make an extremely good living from their in-world work, not the few hundred who do so today. With that kind of money, whole law firms and trade organizations entirely devoted to protecting virtual content would join the economy.

THE ARTS

Without significant growth of the user base, one of the Internet's most innovative and diverse creative communities will remain a secret to the rest of the world. Immersive art as created by talents like AM Radio and Bryn Oh deserve to influence all the contemporary art world. But because Second Life has such a relatively small user base, their patronage, which should be in the millions, is in the thousands at best. Second Life has some of the best machinima makers among all platforms, but it's extremely rare that even the best SL machinima will attract more than a hundred thousand views. (The silliest World of Warcraft machinima, by contrast, often attract millions of views.) The live music community is vibrant and diverse, but without millions of potential listeners, most performers will never build up a fanbase large enough to turn their passion into a full-fledged profession.

MAINSTREAM RECOGNITION

Without significant growth of the user base, mainstream perception of Second Life will always skew skeptical or even negative, if only because most of the mainstream will have no first-hand experience with it. When the Internet first began evolving into a commercial service, in the early 90s, the mainstream also dismissed it as a medium for sex perverts without a life. However, the total number of Internet users kept growing by the tens then hundreds of millions, until all the people who'd rather dismiss it felt forced to join it themselves. If Second Life were to grow even a fraction as large, a similar shift in perception would obtain.

The good news is that mass growth of Second Life is still quite possible. As I said above, the total number of existing virtual world users is probably about 150 million already -- that's nearly 1 in 10 of all Internet users who grasp the concept of a virtual world, and are already in the market to enjoy one. Over the next few months, the Lindens promise to announce features that will expand this mass market appeal, including a greatly retooled user interface.

This should help, considerably. But I think a few other features and fixtures would also accelerate that growth. Over the next few weeks (hopefully), I'll be discussing those too.

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jjccc coronet

fix the lag this should be simple but not, fix border crossing simple but not, fix crashing simple but not, adopt an engine that makes it real. I want to see face wobble birds flying arround if i talk to someone i dont have to help them go through endles menus to turn on voice, hundreds of thousands of people are prepare to put up with these faults but millions are not. Hey linden labs get off your bike and fix it

Wildstar Beaumont

I found myself wondering :

- in order to have a significant experience in SL the resident must have access to land/prims, which in turn means "tier". Are today's level of tier compatible with mass adoption? Access to 1000 prims costs probably more than most internet subscription.

- Is the platform ready for hundred of thousands of concurrent residents ?

chrisf1

Most of this also implies significantly better handling of crowds/audiences. Non-trivial I think without some limits to the very flexibility that attracts its existing user base. The comparison with Blue Mars will be interesting.

Jovin

I agree with the other comments - Second Life will never go mainstream until LL address the issues of concurrency. Having a limit of no more than 40 avatars in any one sim at a time is ridiculous and becoming increasingly laughable as other virtual worlds better it. It should be the one overriding priority for LL but it seems it isn't. However they do it, P2P technology or distributed networking, they need to do it first and foremost or we're forever a niche community made up of little crowds of 10 to 12 avatars.

Dale Innis

To take my usual contrarian position :) I see nothing at all wrong with SL remaining a niche community made up of little crowds of 10 to 12 (or, as time goes by, 20 or 30 or 50) avatars, and with all those millllllions of facebook fans staying over there on (wince, gack) "Yoville".

Not every business has to serve the largest possible number of customers; there are lots of markets which don't consist of the lowest common denominator, but instead sell to people who have more unusual and specialized tastes. I for one think it would be great if SL continued to cater to creatives and oddballs, to the active experiencers rather than the passive watchers, to people who are willing to invest a bit in the learning curve for the sake of having an overall more nuanced and rich experience, and so on.

It's possible that SL can be both of course: provide stuff that will draw in The Millions while still doing things that please its current users cohort. That would be great. But various people (Philip, and now Hamlet) have been talking lately as though it's self-evident that Second Life *must* become mainstream, must grow grow grow, must draw in as many people as possible, even if that means sacrificing the stuff that many of its current users like the most.

And in fact that's not self-evident at all...

Jura Shepherd

I agree with the overall idea but I always try to temper my expectations because many of us tend to think SL is a lot bigger and more important than it really is. That's not to say that it can't be, I just think we should focus more on making it awesome and less on why the atomic world doesn't like us.

Your "mainstream perception" idea is a bit cumbersome for me because I think we can change that perception incrementally even with the relatively small numbers we have and gain some momentum towards mass adoption. For example: SL writers and other media need to push their stuff outside of the comfort of the SL audience. Hamlet, I know you've done it. I also have to a lesser degree but that's the kind of thing that changes perceptions and grows the base. Same goes for other stuff like music, art, business etc. Put your work out there with the idea and confidence that it transcends novelty and little by little it will.

I'd love to see a more vibrant SL so I'm not really arguing I guess. I just always want to be conscious of what I can be doing and not get to comfy with the idea that it'll all work out when the masses flood in.

Doreen Garrigus

I'm with Dale on this one. I see no reason SL has to become mainstream. It could keep on as a (profitable) service for a niche market. Or it could go mainstream. But it's not, and hopefully never will be, anything like YoVille. >.< YoVille? I can't quite believe that's even getting serious consideration.

hexx Triskaidekaphobia

Whether or not SL will ever attract more than the 0.75 pictured in Hamlets stat-chart, doesn't depend on Linden Lab alone. That would be a too easy, if not even cheap, solution. It's up to us residents to create the amazing content that will attract those masses. And where art (music, writing, machinima, etc.) is concerned, it can only benefit from being pushed outside of the cozy little comfortzone we've created for ourselves.

So yeah, like Jura says: take it out there. Every million miles start with the first step.

Merchant

the xstreet office hours today had the lindens complaining too many freebies had been eating up their resources.

yet very little of the sl population even uses xstreet

if they can't even manage the website without going under they certainly wont manage the in-game platform if far more users jumped in to play

Loraan Fierrens

Actually, concurrency is something that is going to be a massive challenge for Second Life, and I think for any similarly open world.

I've been playing a lot of WoW lately, and one of the things I've noticed is that the same fundamental issues exist there too. Blizzard just masks them better because they can control the world content and can partition their users out into smaller pools. There are places you can see the issues more clearly in WoW. If you have a level 80 character there, try playing a Wintergrasp match or two (Wintergrasp is the large-scale player-vs-player zone). When the fighting gets hot and heavy there, the game's performance rivals Second Life's worst days. Wintergrasp never has more than 80 people fighting in a match, by the way… not that far from Second Life's 40 avatar per region default limit. If that's not enough, just try walking through Dalaran (the capital city in the new area), which some of us lovingly refer to as "Lagaran." Everyone and their pet wolpertinger are there, and it can be a challenge just walking down the street without banging into a wall because of the lag.

At least when it comes to issues of concurrency and performance, I don't think the issue is that we need more people using Second Life to goad Linden Lab into "doing the right thing." I think the issue is that MMOs as they are currently done have some fundamental limits, and the very concept behind Second Life makes those limits all too apparent. Can Linden Lab make some improvements to performance? I'm sure they can, and they are working to improve some of the internal protocols to lighten the load. We already see the benefits of some of that work (at least I do). All the same, don't expect miracles.

As an aside, the comment about walking someone through the menus to get voice working in Second Life made me giggle. I just went through that exact exercise in WoW without success (we never did get the in-game voice chat to work and had to switch to Skype). So, in that case too, having millions of subscribers hasn't done anything to make confusing UIs better. At least voice in Second Life actually _works_.

Iggy O

I don't think that numbers alone will bring in more educators. It would increase mainstream awareness, but I'd argue that the very name works against SL. It reeks of "creepy treehouse."

Changing a name is easy, however, compared to what would help mainstream adoption of SL.

We need an easier UI and one that will run on laptops that students carry around. LL's statements and actions toward EDU users imply that the answer to every problem with SL is "put another graphics card in your tower" or "buy a newer computer."

Uh, yeah.

Ann Otoole

Your assessment is correct Hamlet. And guess what? That is exactly what LL appears to be working on. Of course when you are "down among them" then it might appear things are being ignored. And well yes they are. People are choosing to work on what is most important to them to further their personal goals and agendas. Of course many of us in the SL Jewelry and building business would appreciate it if LL would be so kind as to roll out the pending fix for http://jira.secondlife.com/browse/VWR-13868. Then again, given the remarkable advances being made in third party viewers (Emerald has "jiggle technology" now) then we begin to wonder about LL's viewer delivery capability lol.

But if you know of something that can make a huge difference in any particular segment and selflessly make the correct Linden aware of it then sit back and watch what happens. No pjira needed. No votes. No blog mobs. Nothing like that is required. If it clearly makes sense and will be a goal multiplier and LL would be dumb to blow it off then watch and see how fast it happens. Of course you are not going to get credit for it but who cares if it advances the residency and the economy improves for all?

Things that cannot happen right now is a huge advertising campaign. Sorry but we get to wait for the SL2009 or whatever it is called viewer is delivered and issues worked out. Without an easy to use viewer then we will simply not see the "surge" needed to dispel the impact of other certain negative effects we are having to deal with these days that Hamlet pointed out. And when the new viewer is ready and other technology in place conducive to scale then hey imagine what would happen if we all got busy marketing our little communities?

coco

This sounds alot like the reasoning that "gave" bailouts to the VC bankers instead of "Gamblers Anonymous Cards"

And "billions" to GM Corporate Staff instead of saving Detroit from actually becoming like in ROBOCOP.

Anon

Habbos figures are misleading - if you think alts are a problem here, go there. Also Habbo has awful concurrency compared to SL, they have sep. servers for each hotel, and their concurrency and lag is far greater with much less concurrency. If you think SL cook the books on figures, then you would be astounded at how Habbo does.

Hamlet Au

"For example: SL writers and other media need to push their stuff outside of the comfort of the SL audience. Hamlet, I know you've done it."

I appreciate you saying that, Jura, but part of the reason I wrote this was based on my experience during last year's book tour -- it made me realize how few people have heard of Second Life. In the California tech world, it has a lot of name recognition, but I was surprised how even a lot of tech shows I went on for the promotion were barely aware of it.

skribe

It's more than just lack of recognition, bug fixes or concurrency. They are only part of the problem. Even when people have heard of SL very few feel they have a need to use it - and that's ignoring all those that are turned away by SL's dire reputation. In many ways SL is a solution to a problem that a great deal of the population don't have. Mass adoption is a very long way from happening.

LIttleLostLinden


I don't mind the mainstream staying away. I don't actually care for mainstream so much. To me mainstream just means copycats\drones.

Even when in SL I stay away from the boring clubs like GOL-Sensual.

And get this, some of the dress codes in those places now are borderline PG. Lame. Might as well go to DisneyLand.

What I do wish for though, is cutting edge...

I would love to see dynamic shadows working properly. I dunno, give us another Windlight experience, only this time, for people with the graphic power.

Video cards are down in price now because there aren't many games that utilize them. Let's see some Linden graphic magic.

Windlight was an amazing experience to go through. It's time for the next level.

And the lag, maybe there is a mathematician here that can explain why after 5 years the lag is still just as noticible as ever. What is causing this lag beast? I mean, when I connect, I don't use a FRACTION of my cable modem's speed, where is this huge slowdown coming from?

I've read all the lag tweak guides but the lag is still there, everywhere.

Lindens, Windlight was great. Give me something new.


Lili

I wonder how many of the worlds allow players with no identification? Asking a real question, cause I don't know. I think it's a big problem here.
Go to a welcome center, like ahern, and watch the treatment new player get from the "punks". If their voice doesn't work, they are much better off.

Griefers, punks, buttheads, whatever they are, need to be gone. I would say a large percentage of new players don't come back, because of the welcome center experience. If you aren't aware of this, go to ahern some night. And apparently, as far as I see, there is no way to AR people for the vile things they say on voice. I'm so sick of the "lulz" crowd!

And the people that come here and pay, are paying for these people to come and destroy the experience and steal what they can get. Cause it's all a big joke to them. Start taking names LL, real ones! People wouldn't do this if they couldn't just start a new account in three minutes time--so they can come here and harass everyone about how stupid they are to come here.

I think SL would probably run a lot smoother if a few hundred thousand dead and griefer accounts were not in the databases.

Balthasar Bookmite

Frankly I don't want SL to go mainstream. It will lose the close-knit community feeling it has. At best we will have some famous people playing, but LL is not willing to do the stuff necessary for their expansion.

Plus you have to win over my generation, which isn't happening. For me the main reason I play is because I get to chat with people, not really for the 3D art projects. In a way, SL is just a glorified 3D chat room that you can make stuff in and play music. It won't be the new wave of communication.

When ever I talk with RL friends of mine, they never understand why I put so much time and money into SL, they are off doing things in the RL.

Overtron

To help with mass adoption, "Second Life" needs to reinvent itself, and a trivial change that could go a long way is to CHANGE WHAT IT'S CALLED. Call it anything else but "Second Life", please!

Pyewacket

SL = User Created Content

It's all about money - and clicks don't generate cash. Engagement does.
Engagement is generated by content.

If Linden Labs would concentrate on it's only asset - it's content creators - the mass market would follow.

Lalo Telling

A better title might have been: "Mass Adoption of Second Life May Improve LL's Business Model, But Will Only Exacerbate SL's Major Challenges"

This editorial is full of circular reasoning, implying that Linden Lab is justified in waiting until the (paying!) user base grows before they will deign to address the issues that -prevent- their user base from growing. Ironically, LL's performance (or lack thereof) only reinforces that perception.

Consider this: If the current users who care enough about the quality of their Second Life to suggest improvement are a small enough minority to be generally ignored, how do you surmise that they will be listened to when they are thousands among millions, instead of hundreds among thousands?

"Without significant growth of the user base, the Lindens have no pressing incentive..."

Without significant improvement in the platform, new users have no pressing incentive to remain, in the face of increasing frustration.

Hamlet Au

"Without significant improvement in the platform, new users have no pressing incentive to remain, in the face of increasing frustration."

But they *are* staying, which again strongly suggests the Lindens have no pressing incentive to rapidly improve the existing feature set. Instead, they do so slowly.

Also, with mass growth, it's not just the Lindens who have an incentive to add features, it's third party developers. Facebook and Twitter have attracted a huge number of third party developers who create new apps for those user bases. Why? Mass adoption. Second Life started to see a similar phenomenon in 2006, when it seemed that it was being mass adopted. But when that turned out not to be the case, most of them left.

Arcadia Codesmith

I'm with Lalo. If you want mass adoption, you have to first give the masses something they want (even if they don't know they want it yet). That means, among other things, a browser that's rock stable on all major hardware configurations and O/S platforms; a customer-service arm that's scary rabid about resolving issues and is ready to kick some developer butt to do it; serious rethinking of the real estate model to make it accessible to average users (land barons be hanged); state-of-the-art interface that's been tested by people who don't have a CS degree (or, for that matter, a HS diploma); IP enforcement with teeth; better event listing categorization with aggressive moderation; more and better ways to integrate with other social networks.

These aren't consequences of growth. These are prerequisites to growth. Different people will have different lists, but the ball is clearly in LL's court. And if the Lindens are viewing it differently, they're viewing it wrong.

And if they have no real interest in growth... they still need to patch the place up, because other people are building newer, shinier sandboxes.

Lalo Telling

"But why should the Lindens work on upgrading their database technology to make that possible, when tens of thousands of people try Second Life every week, and rarely linger long enough to join even one group?"

So they're not staying, but they are. ohh kaaay...
- - - - - - - - - - -

"Feature sets" are not the same thing as "quality of experience".

Hamlet Au

I agree those are important issues to address, Arcadia, but only a few of them are evident to new users during the first hour or two of sign-up -- namely, the interface and search. But 95% or more of new users don't even stay long enough to notice real estate, stability, etc.

That's really the thing to consider: a mass number of people already *have* tried Second Life. Not counting duplicate/alt accounts, probably about 10 million people have installed the viewer. But maybe just 10% of them have stayed longer than the first few hours.

Melissa Yeuxdoux

New users may be staying, but what about folks like Miriel Enfield? How many of the best creators in SL are running into SL's limits and deciding they can better express themselves elsewhere, or they just don't want to put up with those limits any more?

Arcadia Codesmith

Hamlet, I wouldn't disagree with that. I think the biggest barrier is the "now what?" factor. You complete the tutorial, you've got the basics of navigation and the interface... now what? I think we need a little more hand-holding to bridge the gap between the end of the tutorial and the beginning of everything else. Players have tried to fill that gap, but I don't think it's enough.

I'm not sure what would be... maybe a 24-hour moderated newbie chat with automatic enrollment for all new users?Not so much for tech questions, but to help with that feeling of "Where do I go? What do I do? Who do I talk to?"

Gwyneth Llewelyn

Awesome article, Hamlet! There are a few echoes of the 2006 statements by Philip when he wanted to reach one million users in Second Life, which everybody deemed "impossible" (that year, it reached almost 3 millions), and then he raised the bar to talk about "hundreds of millions" (with no set date for that to happen). The arguments haven't changed much, although there is a slight difference since then: the (unplanned) growth of the artistic, academic, and business communities.

I'm really not sure what the real reason to prevent mass adoption is. Some things are obvious: the tens of thousands that test SL every week never stay around — from the very slow growth, I think that it's not 90% that go away after the first 15 minutes, but probably far more than that — 95% or 97%. This pretty much means a psychological effect: the number of people that "get" SL and understand what it's all about has stagnated. It's not a mainstream product if most people (and 95-97% is definitely "most"!) cannot understand it.

There are a combination of reasons why Second Life is not a mainstream product now. It's not just lag, or a clumsy interface, or a terrible "first hour experience". It's not the group limits, or the bad social networking interface, or limited profiles. It's not just being hard to find what you're interested in, or looking up people you know (imagine you could send a request to find all your friends registered for SL via your email contact list, just like every other social networking tool allows. It's all that put together, but much more: it's getting used to the idea that the next generation of human-to-human interaction is happening in a 3D environment. A third of the world's population barely manage to understand that current paradigm is communication via 2D environments (the Web!). We're demanding of all of them too much in a short time! We went from SMS to Twitter, but most people don't see why they should pay more for a smartphone when voice and SMS are more than enough forms of communication.

So mmmh I'd say that the problem with having mainstream users in SL is that a whole mindset has to change first. We will need schools to teach teens how to work in virtual worlds to have them come out to college and feel comfortable in virtual campus, and take their degrees with courses not only in "basic computer skills" (i.e. using Word and Excel, but also Google and Wikipedia, as well as setting up a Facebook account). The Web took 15 years to become fully mainstream, and even so, it's not as if 2 billion people have Facebook accounts — yet. The Internet has this advantage that you can use whatever features and applications it offers, one step of the time. I can imagine that the vast majority of all Internet users are still on the Internet email stage as their primary means of communication — a technology that was launched in 1972!

While on virtual worlds, you have to take it all as a whole. You can't just say, "oh, I'm just using IMs for now, it's enough, I don't need the whole 3D thing". Virtual world immersion is a whole package, you can't split it in small bits and let people get familiar to it. That's the problem with all disruptive technologies: they usually require a complete change of mindset to accomodate to the new paradigm. It's like moving away from riding horses and buying automobiles as the primary means of transportation. That doesn't happen overnight — but history shows it happens quicker than we sometimes think!

It's too early for widespread use of virtual worlds. But that doesn't mean they can't be simpler to use. That's for Linden Lab to wow us with — a next-generation design that appeals to the mainstream user, and not only to the early adopter geeky types :)

Hamlet Au

"the next generation of human-to-human interaction is happening in a 3D environment"

This is the part I'm not sure about any more, Gwyn. WoW has been available for 4-5 years now, and that's the biggest 3D environment, and it seems to be topping off at 11 million. That plus SL plus some smaller MMOs, and you have maybe 15 million people total in a 3D environment. And that number isn't measurably growing. Meanwhile, you got about *120* million people in some kind of 2.5D virtual world. Maybe 2.5D is the next generation.

Again, 20 million joined and are active in 2.5D YoVille... in a year!

Melissa Yeuxdoux

A friend was curious about YoVille. He told me that after the first ten minutes or so of "loading items, please wait" he gave up.

Iggy O

@ Arcadia's "better event listing categorization with aggressive moderation"

Thank you, Arcadia. Yesterday in class we saw how broken the events system can be.

My writers are going on a class "field trip" this weekend. Most of them will go to Burning Life, but some may choose the SL events listing as an option, using the LL Web page:

http://secondlife.com/community/events/

None of my students are adult-verified that I know about, but some of the listings are XXX events. While you can sort by category, there is no way to filter results by rating. Thus "500L THINK PINK @ SEDUCTIVE NIGHTS STRIP CLUB" appears on the unsorted default list along with the tame "A Great Shopping Village - Browse New England."

RIGHT. The howls of derision among my 15 students (all 18 or 19 years old) was immediate. I joined in, because our larger topic for class was, in fact, "what limits or enables the spread of a communications tool." We had supporting evidence for SL's marginal role in front of us, provided by its maker.

Imagine not a crazy professor but a business considering using SL for meetings, when a curious middle manager clicks on the events listings....yeah, they'd adopt SL in a heartbeat.

Arcadia Codesmith

The virtual world game space is quaantum in nature, marked by sudden and largely unpredictable expansion of the market when a game captures the public imagination and pulls non-gamers into the game.

Meridian 59 topped out at a few thousand players, and if developers had thought that was the total market, there would never have been an MMO industry.

Then UO launched, and the market exploded to a quarter million players. EverQuest doubled that peak, to half a million.

And then... plateau. For awhile, nobody could touch EQ's numbers, and most couldn't even top UO's peak. It looked like the market had stabilized.

But WoW! how little we knew! Blizzard's baby blew the numbers out of the water. Blizzard didn't do anything new or different -- they just took systems that had been done a dozen times before, executed them nearly flawlessly, and made them accessible to people who were intimidated by more advanced MMOs. Bingo.

The bad news for Second Life is that the quaantum leaps in gaming have always occurred when a fresh young rival appears on the scene, and the reigning title is in decline.

The good news is that SL's adoption curve doesn't match any MMO (with the possible exception of the semi-viral Eve Online) and its slow decline and demise is not preordained. Fight the entropy.

Arcadia Codesmith

And nothing ruins the rhythm of a perfectly good rant quite as thoroughly as the realization that you've misspelled "quantum" throughout. Oh well... the extra "a" indicates really IMPRESSIVE increases in state.

Noreen Strehlow

I sort of "play" Yoville and yes there are a lot of people in there and many may spend some RL$ to decorate, but you really can't DO ANYTHING. Second Life is such a rich environment that it really does give you the opportunity to design, build, and live a life you would not get to live with the RL limitations of materials, time, and space. You may learn strategy from WOW but I believe nothing holds a candle to Second Life.

Vax Sirnah

I don't think we will ever see mass adoption of Second Life. It's not because of bugs or concurrency or such. Rather, it is because it is not something that HAS mass appeal. Second Life is an immersive virtual 3D space in the vein of Snow Crash and that is really a rarefied taste.

The success of things like Twitter and Facebook is because they are NOT immersive. Rather, they are adjunctive. You can Twitter from your phone, while you are at work, etc. It's low cost of entry in terms of effort and money, and is easily slipped into your daily life.

On the other hand, SL requires a significant investment of time to really get much out of and takes higher end systems to really get the most out of it visually. What SL is best at is sandboxing - something thats mostly an interest to artists, builders and people who like to socialize in a manner that only an immersive virtual environment allows (escapists, you might say).

So if you want to go mass market, you have to change how Second Life works and expand into the greater realm of virtual environments beyond the Hollywood concept of VR. Bring the best of the social networking revolution into Second Life - your avatar shouldn't just be a 3D representation in the VR - make it an web entity as well. Something like an OpenID so your 'avatar' can go anywhere on the net. Expand the SL viewer to be able to aggregate RSS, check your email, IM and the whole nine yards from in SL (maybe even a cool HUD environment for it you could toggle). Look at what Google is doing with Google Wave. Learn.

Or SL could just decide to specialize in what it does best - the 3D virtual environment for people building Metaverse style interaction. Thing is, enterprise adoption isn't going to help with this. Having the suits in SL lends legitimacy, sure. But it isn't suited to what they want to do either. Focus on the hobbyists. Focus on entertainment - bringing in real gaming into SL. Making SL a strong platform for games, art, and builds. Make SL a programmer's paradise.

But worry adult policies, 25+ groups, corporate interests? Bah. There's no future in any of that.

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