Let’s be honest, it’s not even fun anymore to make fun of Second Life. That would be like, stating the obvious. Well, ok, one for the road then. I think this little YouTube video clearly makes the point.
We’re in the mid of summer and I’m currently between two short holidays abroad. My hometown seems to be completely deserted, nobody is on the streets, the roads are empty and nothing interesting is for sale in the few shops that are still open.
Finally, real life starts to resemble Second Life.
Many of the fancy virtual offices, recruiting agencies and town halls are desolate buildings (you may want to go through this LA Times item to get the feeling). Even at peak times, Second Life doesn’t contain more than 30.000 active users, which in terms of Internet marketing is nothing more than a small, cozy niche crowd. And quite a, well, focused crowd it seems to be: the only places that are densely populated in Second Life are virtual night clubs and if there’s one item that is being sold well in the 3D world, it’s genitalia (I know, I know, don’t even ask).
End of episode, we can safely state. All the companies that heroically tried to create a useful, meaningful and value-adding presence on Second Life: take your losses, learn your lessons and set course for the more interesting parts of the web. Information technology should augment real life (as transparent as possible), not replace it. Where ever we find a quality like that, they are likely to be the places where the really exciting IT innovations will hit.
In the meantime, here is how to deal with Second Life: let’s give it back. Let’s return the world to its original users: nice, creative, arty people that tend to be shy – didgeridoo players, really – and let them have their way with their carefully elaborated avatars, their fake spiritual weddings and their swimming pools with dolphins. It all went wrong when marketers, IT people and the scum of the earth discovered Second Life. And now the place is scorched.
Some people argue that there is not a failure. There are many new 3D worlds that are growing rapidly and they all attract their own, more specialized audiences. Indeed, we can join sites like There (it’s like being in a Hollywood television series), Entropia (science fiction world), Gaia Online (for nice kids) and of course Runescape (adventurous role playing) and World of Warcraft (the word says it all, check the vastly superior graphics). And there is already a Chinese alternative coming up; no doubt Hipihi will be better regulated than Second Life, although the makers claim that users will be no less than Gods in their own virtual world.
Probably only after they have become platinum members, that is.
Each of these 3D worlds will have their own, targeted audiences. Some audiences will indeed be interested in shaping their own world literally from scratch. Others will feel much more comfortable within an already given environment, with strict rules and preset scenario’s (like real life, remember). We can easily imagine new 3D worlds that will be particularly suitable for business purposes: just envision ‘World of Shores’ (collaboration platform for offshore projects) or ‘The Think Tank’ (creative environment for brainstorming and change). Companies will not only need to rethink if they want to be active in virtual worlds but also in which one.
One thing is for sure: there will be no compatibility between these 3D worlds, so the imminent Second Life Big Bang will lead to a shattered universe in which nothing is connected. It will be like having a thousand incompatible MSN look-a-likes, it will be like using an e-mail tool that cannot exchange messages with other e-mail tools.
Essentially, we are all stardust. So sooner or later standards will emerge that will bind everything together. It will take years. If anybody wants it by that time any longer.
For now, I’m off for holidays again. Hope you have some builds on this short intermezzo. I will be in Switzerland in the meantime, having a glass of slightly cooled Pinot Noir wine on a sunny afternoon, watching the Matterhorn mountain slopes. As soon as there is a 3D world that provides me with the same experience, I am ready to sign up. Just let me know.