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.
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…