Last November, Slate ran a piece on why Second Life failed; according to Dan and Chip Heath’s article, which compares Second Life to the Segway, SL is “like a job candidate with a fascinating résumé—fluent in Finnish, with stints in spelunking and trapeze—but no actual labor skills.” In my opinion, the Heaths, besides ignoring the fact that SL is still a profitable project, make the same mistake that many have made regarding SL – among them even Linden Lab: they don’t grasp what SL really is all about – it’s not a game, but an entire virtual reality platform with the potential for developing a strong social element, which could, under the right conditions (I’ll get to that later), provide excellent opportunities for everyone to take advantage of its abilities for various purposes. Such purposes are:
- The creation of immersive worlds for various entertainment and educational uses.
- The reinvention and reimagining of one’s own personality, which would enable them to express aspects of their own psyche with considerably reduced fear of stigma (thanks to a general anonymity and the fact that segregation of RL from SL is the accepted norm within the userbase of SL).
- Creation and sale of virtual goods.
- Creation of immersive 3D environments to showcase products, builds etc.
As for the social element of SL, I respect it much more than I would ever respect the brainchild of Mark Zuckerberg: very good to excellent privacy, no obnoxious ads littering my screen, and SL, unlike Facebook, doesn’t surrender activists and dissidents to the authorities of totalitarian regimes.
SL is an extremely promising and powerful platform, yet it has not fulfilled its potential; instead, it loses thousands of private regions annually (as documented by Tyche Shepherd) and seeing even large companies leave it, unable to justify the monthly $295 tier for a whole region, even though their top executives are paid several thousand times this money per month. And many regions in SL are usually emptier than gun-crazy crap-rocker Ted Nugent’s skull. OK, so what has gone wrong?
Contrary to what far too many people claim, I do not attribute LL’s failure solely to the (admittedly high) cost of tier. This is a cost that cannot be easily lowered, because of the high running costs of SL and its massive infrastructure. Instead, I’m going to look at a number of other reasons that make SL less attractive than it could (and deserves to) be.