My report on SL usage from 2007
Disappointing but not surprising: Some zealous Second Life enthusiasts (including some who currently have a paid marketing relationship with Linden Lab) are trying to dispute a passage from Wired UK reporter Rowland Manthorpe's great story on Sansar and High Fidelity, where he notes that Second Life hit a growth plateau pretty much a decade ago:
Then, in 2006, Second Life stopped growing. No matter how many people registered, the number of users remained stuck at around a million. In 2008, Rosedale stepped down. The following year he left the company altogether.
Rowland got this report from Philip Rosedale himself, and as I confirmed with him via e-mail, this is basically accurate. (If anything, Rowland is being over-generous to how large Second Life actually is*.) Back then, Linden Lab published lots of user stats, and by 2007, it was very obvious even outside the company that the stagnation had already started. Millions tried SL because of the excessive media coverage, but 99.5% would leave after/during the first try. As I wrote back then:
This despite explosive media attention in October, when the world was featured in two top rated television shows, The Office and CSI: New York. But despite estimates that these tie-ins lead to 100,000 or more additional sign-ups, most of whom were using a significantly improved version of the software, nearly all of those who came, left.
This ancient history wouldn't be worth re-hashing, except for one small problem: Sansar and High Fidelity seem dead-set on repeating the same mistakes which greatly helped contribute to that stagnation:
Specifically, both are developing a fully 3D interactive experience when very few people outside hardcore gamers are comfortable or familiar with using them. And then to make matters worse, both are developing an experience which for all intents and purposes looks and acts like a 3D game, but without all the game-like hooks, mechanics, and play features which made Minecraft a massive success. (On top of that, optimizing these experiences for premium VR hardware, making their potential market even smaller.) And so it seems we're heading for a similar fate in 2016 which should have been avoided in 2006. I'll write more on those topics soon, but meantime, I hope we don't keep trying to rewrite history -- especially when that makes us even more likely to repeat it.
@draxtor huh - you're the second person to say that. philip told me internal figures showed stagnating user numbers from 2006. I'll check— Rowland Manthorpe (@rowlsmanthorpe) October 25, 2016
Rowland strugging mightily with the faithful
* Since 2015, total Second Life usage has dropped to about 900,000 unique users a month, but that stat is somewhat misleading because historically, only 600,000 or so of those active users are regular, returning users -- with the rest new users who mostly churn out.
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