Late Night with Linden Labs: Zee’s Charts & Graphs

Zee Linden (who appears to be LL’s new “Minister of Finance”) has a post up on the Grand Unified Linden Blog talking about the SL world’s economy, with a page full of charts to go along with it. Strangely enough, despite all the recent glitches, Second Life is actually doing rather well…

SL’s “land area” now masses some 229.376 square kilometers, which is over 4 times the size of Manhattan Island…or, to put it in terms I’m more familiar with, a little over half the size of the City and County of Denver. Total population, though, as measured by total sign-ups, is pushing the 2-million mark, which is nearly four times the population of Denver and approaches the population of the entire Denver metro area. Even if you go by the 60-day log-ins figure, that’s still over 700,000…beating Denver’s population by over 15%. Of course, SL doesn’t feel crowded because not all of them are logged in at once; total concurrent log-ins are at a max of near 18,000, or not much more than the city of Golden…and the population tends to cluster around places like the Welcome Areas and popular clubs, leaving many of those 3,500 sims as empty as parts of the High Plains, most of the time.

Out of those nearly 2 million Residents, only 36,000 or so have taken the plunge and become Premium account holders, thus gaining the right to own Mainland land. This suggests boom times ahead for island real estate companies (since people can own land there without being Premium, paying their tier to the island management company directly, often in L$) and rental companies. However, growth of Premium accounts is up, indicating that more people are “buying into” the overall vision of Second Life.

Much of the growth of SL, both in terms of user accounts and in terms of hours spent in-world, has been happening among people outside the US. While this isn’t exactly news, it’s nice to have a confirmation of this via official statistics. What’s a bit surprising are the economic numbers, showing that, while only 90,000 out of nearly 2 million are buying currency on the LindeX, the activity is on a steady up-slope. Okay, yes, I’m one of the 90,000. But that tells me that the money I lay out on salaries and tips and contest prizes and all those Sploder sessions is being spent multiple times before it returns to the LindeX to be cashed out. The basic Linden Dollar supply (the “M1” of Second Life, if you will), though, seems to be growing slowly enough to avoid inflationary pressures, particularly when there is an ever-increasing supply of goods to be chased by those Lindens. Not a bad set of figures all around.

Of course, every positive story has its detractors…and for once, it’s not Prokofy. 🙂 Clay Shirky, in fact, has written something of a hit piece against SL, suggesting that the “total sign-ups” vastly overstates the appeal of SL, due to the excessive churn–by some reports, in excess of 85%:

I suspect Second Life is largely a “Try Me” virus, where reports of a strange and wonderful new thing draw the masses to log in and try it, but whose ability to retain anything but a fraction of those users is limited. The pattern of a Try Me virus is a rapid spread of first time users, most of whom drop out quickly, with most of the dropouts becoming immune to later use. Pointcast was a Try Me virus, as was LambdaMOO, the experiment that Second Life most closely resembles.

Hey, I remember kind of liking Pointcast! Nonetheless, Shirky seems determined to poke holes in the “hype” he sees around SL…that Xeni Jardin of BoingBoing also dismisses as “lazily reported, hype-heavy tech journalism that reeks of eau de 1999.” And yet…I can’t escape the feeling that, on a certain level, he Just Doesn’t Get It. I’ve seen this phenomenon before…my wife, my brothers, my boss, none of them can look beyond the colorful graphics and unfamiliar jargon and see anything more than a “game.” Perhaps there’s a special kind of insight one has to have…or a special kind of masochism, given the frequent glitches, update-related weirdness, and other setbacks one encounters frequently in SL. It’s that combination of traits that has led me to understand that, while SL may not be the future of the Internet, it will likely be a future. (We won’t scrap all those ordinary 2D Web-based tools; they work well, and will work better still in the future. Smart people, however, will bridge those technologies to the metaverse-worlds of those times, to increase the value of both.)

Something to chew on while waiting to see if 1.13.1 will be a boon or bane…



Filed under Community, Current Events, Philosophy

4 responses to “Late Night with Linden Labs: Zee’s Charts & Graphs

  1. Prokofy Neva

    More on what 36,000 means — it’s up from 6,000 18 months ago:

    And pshaw to Shirky — he doesn’t get it, and probably never really spent time in SL:

  2. The Herald article is definitely interesting. I myself am Premium, but don’t own any Mainland land myself…my tier goes towards some friends’ business (the original Cutlass Club, actually), and, in fact, I just tiered up to help them out as they moved to a bigger plot in the sim next door to their original home. The Evans Family Compound is on Fantasyland turf; the Gin Rummy and Don’t Panic! Designs are on land rented from Crystal Islands. So that probably makes us part of the “middle class,” too, as far as that goes. Certainly we’re not in the “really big leagues”…though not for lack of trying.

    Now, by nature, I’m one of the “tekkies” you have often railed against, yet I’ve always acknowledged that I came at SL from two angles. Yes, the building and scripting parts of it appeal to my inner tekkie, but I’ve been involved with virtual community for a long time, too, and the idea of a community based on a 3-D virtual world was of tremendous interest to me. I daresay I would have ventured forth onto SL much earlier than I did, had I bothered to upgrade my PC at that point to a state where I could actually run the software…

  3. Just a confirmation (whoa, I like the big text in this comment box!) that Zee Linden is Linden Lab’s Chief Financial Officer. 🙂

  4. Thanks for the clarification, Torley. My guess wasn’t too far off…being CFO of LL effectively does make Zee “Minister of Finance” of the Grid. 🙂

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