August 26, 2007 3:40 PM PDT

'Second Life': The promise and paradox

CHICAGO--In Second Life, avatars can fly with the push of a button. Maybe that's why it seems like the virtual world's enthusiasts sometimes have trouble staying grounded.

At this weekend's Second Life Community Convention, Philip Rosedale--founder of Second Life creator Linden Lab--ambitiously declared, as he often does, that "this is something that everybody on Earth is going to use" and that the virtual world will be "bigger than the Web."

Minutes earlier, however, Rosedale had been jokingly boasting over PowerPoint graphics showing the extent of Second Life's problems with server lag time, maintenance both planned and unplanned, and glitches that occasionally cause people's virtual inventories to disappear.

"Second Life is still very early and very small," he said, hinting at his disapproval of the media buzz that swarmed the virtual world several months ago. "Everyone in the media (jumps ahead) a lot more than the people here," he said, gesturing to the audience of loyal metaverse residents. "Everybody wants to jump ahead and say, 'Oh my God, the future's alive!'...It's the natural myopia of emerging systems like this."

Then the idealism came back. Outsiders "don't appreciate how big this is going to get," Rosedale said.

It's that disconnect between enraptured mass-market idealism and a 'wait, don't overhype us!' cautiousness that makes the current state of Second Life somewhat difficult to grasp. If anything, the negative press about supposedly fruitless corporate marketing efforts and overhype in Second Life has energized enthusiasts, made them eager to focus on progress.

Second Life

The convention, as Rosedale stressed in his keynote on Saturday morning, was packed. Crowds were estimated at 800 (several hundred more than last year's convention in Linden Lab's home city of San Francisco), and many of the panel discussions and lectures were so packed that attendees were standing in the back of the room or sitting on the floor. The weekend's agenda was divided into four "tracks"--business, social networking, machinima and education?and each one was characterized by an attitude of sky-high possibility.

In the business track, topics ranged from the potential for retailing physical goods through the virtual platform (by far the hottest subject) to the evolution of intellectual property standards in-world. The social track touched upon event planning, translating virtual relationships to the real world, and the viability of launching a music career through Second Life. The machinima track, meanwhile, featured a number of classes and tutorials to help people capitalize on a form of filmmaking--animation using a virtual world or video game--that's growing mainstream enough to be used in Coca-Cola ads and South Park.

Even more lofty were the possibilities mentioned in the education track: using Second Life as a platform for emergency-preparedness training, for rallying around nonprofit causes and for enhancing the classroom experience of a generation of kids who have already shown a penchant for virtual worlds like Zwinktopia and Club Penguin.

"In terms of kids using Club Penguin and Yville, I think the natural next step is Second Life," said Connie Yowell, director of education in the MacArthur Foundation's Program on Human and Community Development, which has made Linden Lab's virtual world a prominent part of its recent digital learning initiative.

All for one...
But some prominent Second Life figures thankfully realize that enthusiasts need to do more than just dream.

"We're all in this together," Sibley Verbeck, CEO of the virtual worlds development firm The Electric Sheep Co., said in a speech geared toward dozens of people who wanted to hear more about business opportunities in Second Life. "When you look at an industry that's as new as open-ended virtual worlds are, and a platform that's as new as Second Life is, we're all going to sink or swim together."

But to continue the aquatic metaphor, there's no central island to swim to. It's both a valuable asset and a roadblock to progress that Linden Lab is vocally hands-off with its creation. Second Life is a largely member-generated world; Linden Lab wants to be responsible for the technological stability of Second Life and leave the rest to the masses. This has led to explosions in creativity and the proliferation of unique in-world subcultures from role-playing anarchists to "furries" to virtual zombies.

At the same time, it's made for a world that can easily come across to outsiders as fragmented, tough to navigate, even pointless. Second Life cannot yet boast of an attraction that drew in mass "newbie" crowds and kept them coming back.

CONTINUED: Virtual crowd control…
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35 comments

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Good Article...
I've been in Second Life since they were barely over 100,000
strong - they have come a long way since then. Interesting
points are being made here although I lean toward the Linden
side of rapid development. A few cultural sections that I see
taking real advantage of SL's metaverse are creative artists,
musicians, and others who are not there for the technology so
much as the sense of community that is possible. There also
seems to be a growing section of charity and non-profit types as
well as political groups. A stable environment is a necessity for
these groups. I think Second Life is essentially on the right track.
Let's hope the progress of the last year continues...
Posted by tsilverl (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I want what your drinking
IF you were around when the base users were 100,000 you would never say this. I hope LL is paying you enough to say these lies. because if they are not paying you you been USED! More lies tall tails, and outright BS.

"I think Second Life is essentially on the right track. Let's hope the progress of the last year continues... by: tsilverl"

This alone shows the writer is either a LL worker or staff member.
Don`t believe what people write in a positive way. Bacause its just more lies then truth.
Posted by play7 (926 comments )
Link Flag
Great article!
This is the sort of well-balanced, well-reasoned, and well-presented article that's just refreshing to read. It really contrasts with other media coverage, the ones that do the over-hyping or numbers bashing. I hope you get some recognition for this excellent read! Thank you!
Posted by AySz88 (44 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I wonder if those in the photos
Are those posting on this page? That is a big yes.
Posted by play7 (926 comments )
Link Flag
No more Second Life Articles please!
Ok, maybe one a month might be justified, but even that I doubt. The endless hype is tiresome, particularly how every trivial event is covered, and it makes CNet seem like a shill for Linden Labs.
Posted by radioFlash (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Not really...
I really don't think you had read the article, or maybe you're not talking about this one. I think this article is pretty damn balanced and realistic. I don't know about other articles from CNet, but CNet's Download.com doesn't even have the latest versions to download - I doubt they're looking out for LL (at least as a company).

I don't think this article should be lumped with others, or CNet with the rest of the media.
Posted by AySz88 (44 comments )
Link Flag
boring
I tried SL and found it extremely boring.
Posted by Arrgster (92 comments )
Reply Link Flag
SL is what you bring to it
SL is a place rather than a game and that seems to confuse people. Search the events, there are always lots of things going on... classes, dances, live music, etc. Like any social network situation, you actually have to dive in and be social in order for it to be fun.
Posted by Rosmairta (3 comments )
Link Flag
The emperor has no clothes
They can hype all they want, but SL is a dying animal unless they can resolve their stability problems, move to a graphics engine that doesn't look like trash, and give people a legitimate reason to visit there regularly. If they can't do that, it'll stay a cult novelty.
Posted by VandelayIndustries (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Nice But BLA
LAG SEX and the hoping you don`t crash!

Those electric sleep people are making ahell of alot of money! Why in the hell would they care, and since when are the rank the same level as us THATS BS. Second Life is no life these days, its full of hate, greed and people without a real life. Those that have made their money can careless. Many of those charter members that have changed 1,000s of lindens for over priced land and objects are the ones laughing at LL now a days. Those that are common users are the ones hurting. Don`t group those that are making a killing off Second life users and those that are just getting by. The common users are the ones hurting not those that are ripping off users with outlandish prices for Sexual parts, Skins and greddy land owners. Another price of junk writing by a LL lovers. Thateither never played the game, and or are payed to say great and outright lies about how good the game is now. Nobody is fooled.
Posted by play7 (926 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This is stupid
These guys and CNet are all stupid. SL is a very bland and stupid video game. Come on people buying Virtual Real Estate and things and paying real money. Sounds like a marketing gimick to me. Only a few losers in the world would even use it. And check this out, HP is holding a Job recruiting Fair on SL. *** is with that? Coke made a video. What is wrong with these people. Nobody is going to use this. Unless its like Futurama's internet idea. and thats internet not this second life crap.
Posted by sevenalive (122 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Have you BEEN there?
Nobody is going to use this? Nine million people aleady use Second Life... And some people have become rich in real life, selling Virtual Real Estate to people in SL. As to HP holding a job recruiting fair in SL - what better place could they do it, than where nine million 'geeks' reside? Is your FIRST life bland and stupid? Maybe your SECOND one won't be. MINE isn't. :)
Posted by CirceBroom (1 comment )
Link Flag
I dont get the attraction
I have never used it or bee "in it", but I just dont have a desire at all. Same goes for social sites like myspace and facebook. I have friends that waste SO many hours playing WOW as well.

The real world has enough to see and do for at least one life time.
Posted by Maclover1 (440 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What this non-ending Hype of useless & boring 2nd life!!
1st SL SUCKs because:

1- Who wants to download a 40MB software package which changes every few weeks requiring another download of the darn thing! BY now (2007) it should be clear that if an application is not Web based, then it is useless, that is it should instantly be useable inside a Web browser and not require a separate download to use it.
2- It is slow, slow & slow
3- Why put up with this download & slowness when all 99% of people want to do is chat in a place like SL. And there are plenty of great chat software that offer Avatar chat and MOST IMPORTANTLY offer instant Web based access, example SiteSticky chat (www.sitesticky.com)
which offers Avatar chat with Voice chat, something that 2nd life still does not offer.

2nd, if one wants a 3d world to enter then one wants to play, one wants action games, and to
see how this is done right check out World of Warcraft:
www.worldofwarcraft.com

3rd, There were many 3D chat worlds before 2nd life, such as BlackSun, OZ, etc. they all
failed because of the reasons listed above. That is after 1 hour of chatting in a 3D world,
it becomes BOARING and certainly not worth the bother of ever downloading the software
again and waiting for it to load and being slow, so if people want to chat they will go to sites
that are powered by instant chat products such as Sitesticky, if they want to play they will
go to World of Warcraft places.

The question then becomes why this continuos non ending Hype of 2nd life by Cnet and the rest of its BigMedia machinery! Answer: Silicon Valley VCs have stock in 2nd life and are hyping it for an IPO so they can dump the stock of this useless junk on the public or have a Google like company buy it, which is an indirect way of dumping their stock on the public.
Posted by Sea of Cortez (67 comments )
Reply Link Flag
A new user's comments
I joined SL about 3 weeks ago. I could care less about chatting
with strangers but the live music scene is definitely viable. I saw/
heard a great band last night. They performed a 45 minute set
of original music to a crowd of about 50 people. By the end of
the show at least 20 audience members had inquired about
purchasing the band's music. Many more joined the band's
mailing list. Also, they band received tips totaling about $10
(real money).

Many of the acts on SL are singer/songwriter types. Also, there
are many cover bands and original music groups from almost
every genre. Just like in real life, most of the groups are weak at
best however (just like the real world) there are some really
talented musicians. The group I saw last night had extensive real
world gigging experience and a well honed show complete with
humorous and interesting talk-ups between songs. A hierarchy
is developing in which good bands can play big and better
venues and reach more people.
Posted by Thorax2 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Is Cnet on their payroll?
Please no more!

The only reason to talk to anyone online is if it leads to PvP. If there's no flags, spinfusors or some sort of magic count me out!
Posted by JJWhitney (32 comments )
Reply Link Flag
again?
Another Second Life story? Why? Please, please, please cNet bloggers, MOVE ON.
Posted by cartablst (32 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I can agree on some level that SL will be bigger.
But I think Second Life is only a fad and the kinks need to be ironed out first.

Second the graphics need to be improved.
I mean really now. Nobody will think to be running something that looked like it was designed on a 1982 CAD computer.
Posted by inachu (963 comments )
Reply Link Flag
And another thing!
Second Life would be better if it was treated as an Operating system and not some program to load.

Perhaps Second Life on an XBOX or PS3?
Posted by inachu (963 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Indeed
not sure about your Xbox/PS3 comment, but as a development
platform, that does seem to be where it is headed. The important
things are the open sourcing on the server side and as the astute
post further downthread points out, a vibrant community of
developers and new companies who use SL as a starting point for
new businesses.

EB
Posted by valleyinvestor (2 comments )
Link Flag
You get what you ask for just look
Yes there are problems in Second Life I will be the first to admit that. The issues of lag at the most popular sites can be terrible. But, one problem that you do have in Second Live is finding things. I for one have some problems when I first started out just fining where something is in my inventory. There are groups like the Free Dove that do hold classes to help those who are new to Second Life. There are areas that do offer games within games. Uru has their own island that can be found by searching Second Life. Can you tell where else can you can find a virtual Yankee Stadium? What I think is needed is in world tour guides for Second Life. I know that the biggest problem is finding your way around. You are put into the world and then forced to find your way. If you do not like to explore things then Second Life will be hard for you. If you are a total introvert you are going to have problems with Second Life. I have made friends in Second Life I never would have meet any other way. I do find the down times and the lag to be a real pain at times. But, that can be helped by going to places that are not as popular. I find that Second Life is what you make of it. I for one do not like games like World of Warcraft.
Posted by Big_Wally_Gator (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
SL Developers Are the Thing to Watch
Like someone said upthread, SL is better viewed as a development platform of sorts. Therefore, the the interesting thing to watch are companies that are using Second Life as a platform to form new businesses.

To me that's one of the keys that will determine whether Second Life is a key part of the web or not. I looked at some of these, such as SLexchange (an ebay like portal for digital assets), Beatenetworks (a company providing integration between the web and SL), Yellowlanes (a directory of SL related businesses), and so forth. If that community remains vibrant and succeeds, then SL has a good chance of success. It's also one of the under reported areas of SL as too much press focus goes to Linden Labs itself, and not to the nascent development community.
Posted by R. U. Sirius (745 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Interesting Point
I agree with your assessment. The development of new companies
that use Second Life as jumping off points is vital. Any idea how
one could get in touch with the principles of the companies you
looked at? Would appreciate any info you might have.

EB
Posted by valleyinvestor (2 comments )
Link Flag
Inflated numbers
Linden Labs uses their total signups as their current population, but you got alot of people that login once and never come back, but to linden labs, you're a frequent user!
Posted by thedreaming (573 comments )
Reply Link Flag
WOW, couldn't have lived without this article!
The quality of the articles on this site is really going down the toilet.

Isn't there any REAL news out there?
Posted by hounddoglgs (74 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Oh No!
The day that Linden Labs makes Second Life remotely like AOL is the day when I'll leave!
Posted by lindar14 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Methinx the lady doth not protest enough
Whenever people say Great Article to a collection of dribble like this you know they are the CNET staff writing as alternates! Someone map those Ip's already!
Posted by Slain99 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Why waste your keystrokes?
So the only response possible is a negative response or a person is
corrupt, unethical or an idiot? Would it be fair to say then that
whenever anyone disagrees with CNET they are moles for the
competition? Geeesus, where does that leave us? Makes Second Life
look even better. Why don't you tell us what you think is dribble -
you may well be right - and at least it would be something we
could think about whether we agree or not. Thanks.
Posted by tsilverl (6 comments )
Link Flag
 

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