Linden Lab, which develops and operates Second Life introduced a new beta version of its desktop viewer software on Tuesday, the first big upgrade in many years. Will the new software help bring about a renaissance of the once-trendy service?
You remember Second Life. It’s a virtual world, a three-dimensional environment like World of Warcraft or Grand Theft Auto. But it’s not a game, it’s a simulation of a world. You can build virtual buildings and vehicles, create virtual clothes, play live music, role-play as a vampire or cowboy, and buy and sell virtual goods for real-world money. It’s the closest thing we have now to Star Trek’s holodeck.
Second Life drove a huge amount of hype in 2006-2007, with many tech journalists predicting it was the future of the Internet and would be bigger than the World Wide Web. Then, like a lot of hyped things, the Second Life bubble collapsed. Now, Second Life has a reputation as a failure.
That reputation is, quite simply, wrong. Second Life continues to keep a loyal user base, which has been growing, albeit in fits and starts, since it was out of the limelight. The service is now running 680,000 active users, defined as users who spend more than an hour in-world any given month, said Tom Hale, chief product officer for Linden Lab, in an interview in Second Life on Monday. That’s not competing with the Web, or even Facebook, but it’s respectable.
Second Life is also profitable, Hale said. The service is free to use, Linden Lab gets revenue from people who want to lease space on the company’s servers to host their own virtual islands and tracts of land.
Now, Linden Lab is looking to bring the service the mainstream appeal that eluded it. They want to make Second Life mainstream, starting by increasing active users by 40%, to 1 million, by the end of 2010. The dream over the long term: Linden Lab wants Second Life to be bigger than Facebook. Much bigger.
“We have a long way to go until we reach Facebook scale, but that’s a reasonable goal,” Hale said. “However, I’m not going to sign up for those numbers until we have ample evidence that the market is ready to see that kind of adoption.”
Read the rest on the Computerworld Tool Talk blog: Second Life seeks mainstream adoption