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Whatever happened to Second Life?

Posted on 4 Jan 2010 at 14:01

It's desolate, dirty, and sex is outcast to a separate island. Barry Collins returns to Second Life to find out what went wrong, and why it’s raking in more cash than ever before

Three years ago, I underwent one of the most eye-opening experiences of my life – and I barely even left the office.

I spent a week virtually living and breathing inside Second Life: the massively multiplayer online world that contains everything from lottery games to libraries, penthouses to pubs, skyscrapers to surrogacy clinics.

Oh, and an awful lot of virtual sex.

Back then, the world and his dog were falling over themselves to “be
a part of it”. Rock stars were queuing up to play virtual gigs, Microsoft and IBM were setting up elaborate pixellated offices to host staff training seminars, Reuters even despatched a correspondent to report back on the latest in-world developments.
Brighton pier
At its peak, the Second Life economy had more money swilling about than several third-world countries. It had even produced its own millionaire, Anshe Chung, who made a very real fortune from buying and selling property that existed only on Second Life servers.

Three years on, and the hype has been extinguished. Second Life has seen its status as the web wonderchild supplanted by Facebook and Twitter. The newspapers have forgotten about it, the Reuters correspondent has long since cleared his virtual desk, and you can walk confidently around tech trade shows without a ponytailed “Web 2.0 Consultant” offering to put your company on the Second Life map for the price of a company car.

But what has happened to Second Life? Have the hundreds of thousands of registered players logged off and found a real life? Has the Second Life economy collapsed? And what’s become of the extroverts, entrepreneurs and evangelists I encountered on my first visit? There’s only one way to find out. I’m going back in.

Where is everybody?

The first thing I notice upon dropping out of the Second Life sky once more is how empty the place is. On my first visit back in 2006, I couldn’t walk through the training level without clumsily bumping into the throng of fellow newbies. Now, there’s enough room to swing the contents of Noah’s ark, let alone a cat.

I walk and then fly around the landscape for ten minutes or so, but can’t find a single soul to shoot the breeze with. Well, except for a smattering of Second Life bots, which is the intellectual equivalent of striking up a conversation with The Speaking Clock.
I decide to seek out Second Life’s tourist hotspots, using the game’s search engine as my guide. I check out an amazing Gothic castle, which must have taken someone half a real life to painstakingly cobble together, but I’m the only one admiring the architecture.

I dash off to a shopping mall, listed as one of the most popular sites in the game, and yet it’s only me perusing the countless fashion stores. Admittedly, it’s noon on Saturday in Britain – making it an indecent hour for Second Life’s US-oriented audience – but finding people was never this hard back in 2006.

So I change tack, and search for live events taking place now. Surely, the person who organised them would bother to turn up? The first draws a blank, the second likewise. Finally, I find a huddle of people at a “disco”, a good 20 minutes after I first completed my re-entry into Second Life.

I’m suddenly aware of French accents seeping from my laptop’s speakers. It takes me a few minutes to realise what’s going on. I vaguely remember reading that Second Life had introduced voice chat a while back, providing an audio accompaniment to the text-based chatter we used to make do with in “the good old days”.

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User comments


Kerb Crawling - not Curb Crawling !!

By Dannyt on 4 Jan 2010


My last few visits were curbed by the time the game took to render and the feeling of swimming through treacle. (had 20Meg connection at the time and PC has Q6600, 4GB RAM and 8800GTX)

By malfranks2 on 4 Jan 2010

Typo corrected

Good spot. Now corrected.

Barry Collins
Online Editor

By Barry_Collins on 4 Jan 2010



I have been an active member of SL since 2006.

I have an active and busy RL life but I still find time for SL which I find to be an interesting an rewarding experience.

My spending has gone fro zero to over $1000 in 2009 alone.

You stated, " Second Life seems so increasingly obsessed with aping the real world." SL is really a lot like RL. You have to set your own goals, create your own motivation.

I use SL to explore my own creative ideas. You can do this with your avatar, your virtual clothes, and most importantly with your own land.

With my sim, I've recreated a memorial in memory of the real life industrial tragedy in Bhopal, India, where toxic fumes killed thousands in 1985, and ho have not been properly compensated up to today.

Whatever that moves you, you can create it and display it for the world to see through SL.

I have also been able to expose my photos and the paintings of a friend to a wider audience through SL, on my sim.

You can check out my sim at:

Just like RL, you have to know here to go to find people and a community that suits your own taste. Just like RL, it takes time and a few mistakes. I am a member of a few groups that offer good company, conversation and activities whenever I am online.

You will not find many people at random spots because most people do as you did. Teleport to different locations for only a few minutes and most people do their shopping on Xstreet - an online shopping webiste for SL customers, similar to Amazon.

Just like RL, SL can be either a rewarding or negative experience if you make it so, and of course, there is the element of luck. Being in the right place at the right time and meeting the right people.

I hope that SL continues into the indefinite future because it has become a rewarding part of my life, more so than any other online activity.


By MechaInnis on 4 Jan 2010

Education in SL is Alive and Well

I wish that this article focused more on the education side of Second Life. Collins would have seen many useful and interesting places and met some very creative people. There is a lot of growth with colleges in SL such as the projects going on in Washington State. The state college board bought one island and there are medical simulations going on there and they are expanding it with three more islands. The author should contact "Community Colleges in Second Life" to see that this is not an isolated example. Second Life has lots of education applications that involve role-playing, simulations, and modeling. To say that there is nothing or no one there just means that the author did not have sufficient time to actually research how people are using SL. There are people in Second Life when there is a reason to be there (class meetings, presentations, simulations and rolepleying). Despite all of the porn and advertising on the internet, we manage to find at least a little value with it.

By geoffcain on 4 Jan 2010

You get out....what you put in. Just like RL

Well, Barry you seemed to want to find and explore sex spots each time you are in SL. Thus, for you SL means...pseudo-sex. (aka :masturbation). Yes, you did make a slight attempt to find "popular" places...although I've been in SL almost three years and have yet to seek out any of the types of places that you went to.

Did you visit places like Caledon or New Babbage (Steampunk-Victorian communities)?

Cyberpunk communities? Places where SL residents actually spend time.

Just like get out of SL what you put in. What exactly do you do with your time in real life…do you just wander about RL looking for "clubs" and "crowds"? Because if that all you’ve done in SL…then you missed the essence of SL.

The creative aspect of a virtual world like SL is the essence….and the draw. Have you tried building, scripting or creating things? Learning creation skills? That is what keeps real life people logging into SL. If you’re just passing through SL…like walking through a RL museum, then that’s all you will get out of it.

By Hypatia on 4 Jan 2010

Yellow Journalism

If I were the editor, I'd be seriously considering giving the author of this article until the end of the day to clean out his cubicle and get out of the building. Why?

1. Smacks of plagerism. Google for the same article title and you'll find virtually identical articles.

2. Locations he gave are almost as if he opened the Second Life map, and intentionally looked for dead places with nobody around for kilometers.

3. Ignores the fact that he's in the UK, and SL's clock (and peak hours) are eight hours behind the UK's peak usage hours.

By BalooUriza on 4 Jan 2010

Second Life Fails at Social Networking

Second Life knows their event calendar does not work - that is one of the main reasons there are no people anywhere- there is no way to let them know what is going on. I had to use the calendar on Facebook to get an audience for events in Second Life. 5 years and SL can't even make a calendar work right.

The New User Experience is a fail also.

And making contact with one's friendlist is an antiquated process.

Once they hire some people that knwo something about Social Networking in the year 2010 they will be able to permeate the internet and become relevant once again.

By bladyblue on 4 Jan 2010

None so blind as...

The best a Resident of Second Life can expect is for other near-sighted dilettantes to consider this 'article' truth and move along.

While it is true that Linden Lab (no "S", by the way), does a very poor job on instructing new people on the ways of this new world they find themselves in, a lot can be said for one's attitude going in. Generally, you find what you are looking for- seems apparent from the choices he made to parade for the uniformed that what he sought was sexual in nature, then he should not have been disapointed.

He says SL has no goals, no way of knowing you are getting ahead- perhaps he meant to download WoW?

By Amaranthim on 4 Jan 2010

Missing the point with the crits, chaps

The interesting question here is not "you find what you want" - the question is, *how* does that happen? The Virtual Barry takes very little of himself into SL, a pared-down essence of the person. Yet he seems to gather a specific interaction. I've seen that effect myself (and I've been in SL since '06 too). It's annoying that this kind of examination always stops at the tabloid stage - either sniping at the investigator or at what he sees. It largely doesn't matter what the avatars get up to: what's interesting is the way that a whole new skillset of 3D modelling seems to have sprung up on the back of the SL delivery system. (Oh and as an aside, I'm pretty sure that writers don't do 3d models. I think it's a "mental tribes" distinction - I certainly can't bring myself to even try...)

By Steve_Cassidy on 4 Jan 2010

Education in SL is Alive and Well

I wish that this article focused more on the education side of Second Life. Collins would have seen many useful and interesting places and met some very creative people. There is a lot of growth with colleges in SL such as the projects going on in Washington State. The state college board bought one island and there are medical simulations going on there and they are expanding it with three more islands. The author should contact "Community Colleges in Second Life" to see that this is not an isolated example. Second Life has lots of education applications that involve role-playing, simulations, and modeling. To say that there is nothing or no one there just means that the author did not have sufficient time to actually research how people are using SL. There are people in Second Life when there is a reason to be there (class meetings, presentations, simulations and rolepleying). Despite all of the porn and advertising on the internet, we manage to find at least a little value with it.

By geoffcain on 5 Jan 2010

Gambling in SL is Alive and Well Too

Gambling never really left Second Life. You can find slot machines all over the grid superficially hidden with names like Zyngo, Devil May Care and Jaded Jokers. There are entire sims dedicated to running these slot machines.

By Charis on 5 Jan 2010

Too narrow minded to be of any use

When one puts on blinders and only looks at a slim negative position, that is what one sees.

On the other hand, I've been in secondlife now for three and a half years and I'm very glad I found it.

You see, in my senior year in high school, just as I was a month shy of graduating, the car I was riding in was hit head on by a drunk driver while we were stopped at a stop sign. I was paralyzed for three days, my left arm for two months. Not only did this bonehead almost destroy all 13 years I worked so hard in school toward my graduation as I was almost unable to go back to school in time, but he also brought an end to 9 years of dancing, 6 years of gymnastics and three years of springboard diving. Laying in a bed having to be fed like a baby, dressed, bathed etc I had a very livid slow burn of hatred for the person who caused this. Fortunately I did regain the ability to move, though I was never again able to enjoy the activities that once filled my every waking hour in some way. I spent THIRTY YEARS locked in an emotional prison separated from my beloved dancing, diving and gymnastics. Lo and behold, in 2006 I read an article in Wired (a fair perspective and open minded article, I might add here) about this new virtual place Secondlife, and I came to check it out. Not only was I thrilled to join, but within a few days discovered that I could dance here. I didn't realize just how much not being able to dance had tormented me for those decades until one day I was filled with pure joy at how well certain animations fit with a certain song. At last, the smile was back in my heart and it was so real for me, I could almost feel the same sensations in my muscles as I used to when I danced.

The grid was relatively new at that time and I found that the variety in available dances in secondlife slightly lacking. Eventually I learned to create my own animations and used them to create a more fulfilling experience. I now sell a few of them and have a moderately successful business. I also film dance videos hosted on, myspace and youtube, and even created a dance tutorial on the SL wiki for other people who also might enjoy dancing the way I do. When I want to be around people, it's easy to find them.

Furthermore, your very tunnel-visioned article says nothing of the many good works the secondlife residents have contributed to real life causes. Everything from relay for life, contributions after disasters, and even many inworld agencies helping people of all walks of life with disabilities and other issues. I've met many people who are disabled like I am, whose offline lives are greatly enhanced by their secondlife existance.

Maybe the next time you come traipsing into secondlife, wallowing through the sex alleys, you might try taking the blinders off and aiming to see more of secondlife and the variety of experiences in it. Go someplace like Inspire Space Park, I've never seen that place empty.

I dare you.

/me shrugs, walks away and goes back to her dancing.

By PhoenixaSol on 5 Jan 2010

yeah but you're not dancing are you. Get out and actually move your legs instead

By TimoGunt on 5 Jan 2010

Bad Timo! Baaaaad!

Now now Timo; can't you see that the use of "I" there (as in "I can dance") is pretty much what the whole SL experiment is about? He or she has prefectly good reasons to believe that the thing doing the dancing is what he/she calls "I". That's pretty astonishing - they don't make it clear whether they are *choreographing* dances, or simply borrowing other people's (admittedly, eloaborate) animation sequences - but still it works for them. Very strong proof that you tend to find what you expect to find. In another case of that effect, I have to confess, when I took the advice of the earnest tour guides and went round some of the Great Places To See In Second Life, it took me about 15 minutes while visiting Caledon (as suggested by a repsondent here) before I tripped over an Opium den full of Vampires...

By Steve_Cassidy on 5 Jan 2010

Another sad article, finding what he wants to find

Why is it that so many journalists writing about virtual worlds in general, and Second Life in particular, seem to completely miss the point?

I'm a "resident" of Caledon, a Victorian/steampunk region and activity seems to be at an all-time high here, with a lot going on. Sure, there's more activity at US-friendly times but there's still plenty of UK activity.

At the same time SL has changed a great deal since I was first here in 2007 and I would not expect many of my old landmarks to work.

Why didn't he visit places like Steelhead, or New Babbage, or Caledon? How did he miss amazing places like the Second World War Poetry Digital Archive's recreation of the Western Front in Frideswide? Or the Frank Lloyd Wright Virtual Museum? Or the Dresden Gallery? Or the Alexandrian Library System's latest exhibition? Presumably because he didn't want to find them.

Since the turn of the year I've been invited to over two dozen events of one kind or another. There is certainly plenty of stuff going on in-world. How could he miss it all? And I don't even *go* to Zindra!

My experience of in-world activity suggests that Linden Lab figures are fairly accurate, and I don't think everyone's in the "red light district". Yes, the Lindens make silly mistakes, sometimes quite big ones, but despite these the environment is moving forward. I'm actually glad the mistaken hype has fallen away and we can get on with doing something more interesting.

I'm much more interested in the educational possibilities, the low-carbon virtual conferencing, the exciting new creative possibilities in art and music, and all the new, different stuff that's going on in-world. How did he miss them all?

By RichardGE on 5 Jan 2010

Invent SL?

If Second Life did not exist and if you had the chance and capital to create it - would you? This is a moral question. I think that I would rather pootle on with my rather austere and modest life.

By Alperian on 5 Jan 2010

Well done

Despite the growls from those hardcore users above, you've pretty well nailed the problems that SL has always suffered from; difficulty of use and a poor new user experience.

I'd take issue with some of your comments (I'd be lucky if I see another soul when I walk around the supposed city centre of Zindra) but your experience confirms how LL completely failed to understand and resolve the problems of the new (and old) user experience. Although your article does smack of going to Holland and having no idea what to see so after looking at a few pretty windmills you end up in Amsterdam in the red light district.

SL unfortunately *is* a quest to find whatever entertainment you are looking for and it is a lot harder than 2006 - there are more sims, more venues and proportionally less people for the size. Those who claim they have a whirl of a social life inworld have managed to find those hard to detect entertainment veins, which most new users have no idea how to find and don't have the time to keep searching for. Very few people have the patience to keep trying until they finally find it, although those who do though may discover a richness not available to them in the rest of their lives.

In the end, SL is a place that most non "residents" consider to be a time sink and not particularly good entertainment value for the time spent. The retention rate amply demonstrates that. I do think the reputation that SL has for sleaze has always been inaccurate. I have never seen this claimed depravity everywhere I looked and only occasionally saw people behaving what I would consider to be unacceptably in certain public places. I've certainly seen typical gaming of keywords in the various search types which would lead people to believe it's more of a hotbed of vice than it really is.

I run a successful business inworld and realised a while ago that if I didn't have to go in to deal with the business then I'd rarely go in. I'd rather go out and see a band or a play or visit a galley or just catch up with friends over a drink and these days begrudge the amount of time I need to spend inworld. SL doesn't replace or even augment my entertainment needs and there's only so many of those beautifully crafted but empty sims a person can visit before boredom sets in. That doesn't mean that I'm better or worse than those who have built fulfilling lives inworld, it just means that these days SL isn't offering me anything substantial outside of the business to justify spending my time the on it.

It's no different to going on a skiing holiday for the first time, some will love it but a lot will never go back. If SL gives you something that you can't have in the rest of your life you'll persevere despite the obstacles that result from the poor quality and usability of the platform but if you're looking for quick and easy entertainment then you'll probably be disappointed.

By Maybe on 5 Jan 2010

What? All you need is a tour guide.

Seems the main complaint here is that Second Life's population density is way down. While this may be true (perhaps the user base is not expanding as fast as the geography is growing), if you find a community that resonates with you, you will never be bored. A good example of this are the very active roleplay sims such as the Wasteland and City of Lost Angles. No matter what time I log on, these sims are populated and full of stories, conflicts, combat, goals, and interesting sights. Second Life didn't fail you, you failed your Second Life.

By Paquot on 5 Jan 2010

I've read much worse :)

Thanks at least for giving Second Life another review, after 3 years. Most journalists don't even bother to log in after so long; they just get some reviews from other magazines and simply invent the facts based on what they feel their editors believe that will sell more ads.

I notice in your article that you have tried very hard to understand why Second Life's numbers have shown such promising stats in all aspects... but your own personal experience shows otherwise. Indeed, your search for entertainment of a sexual nature seemed to show that LL's strategy has worked well: it's now confined to a single continent. (In practice, it isn't, but it's a comfortable thought)

I think that no matter what the criticism on your article might be, there are two things worth pointing out. First, it's as hard to find "interesting things" in Second Life in 2010 as it was in 2006, but you were more lucky in 2006. The explanation is simple here: SL has not changed much in terms of facilitating knowledge transfer between residents (it's the same old tools to index content and search for it), but it has grown in size... three or more times... so there is far less likelihood of hitting "just the right thing" by mere chance.

Walking in SL without a guide (human or, well, a book/blog...) continues to be terrible. Your article shows that very well. The few clues on "interesting things" (in the sense: things that actually interest *you*) come from irregular meetings with people scattered around the landscape. And, obviously, not all people you meet will have the same interests as you have. Since you found so few, the likelihood of finding the "just right" person was quite low (infinitesimally low, in fact). You were far, far more lucky in 2006.

Now this is definitely a shortcoming of Second Life: people log in and get no clue about what's going on, and how to find what it interests us — not what interests *others*. This is hardly how any social networking platform works. No wonder, thus, that there is a churn rate of 99% or even more. People have no time to find out things that they like: they have to find them *immediately* or leave disappointed.

Imagine the following example: eBay, at some point, has about the same concurrency (number of simultaneously logged in users) as Second Life. Although the number of items for sale on Second Life is an order of magnitude higher than on eBay, the example should still be familiar. Imagine that instead of the terrific search engine that eBay has, you had to navigate across a range of randomly connected pages with items, where you'd have an option to chat with the people that were visiting that same page.

On average, only one in thousand pages would have a single person there. So you'd have to go around and around the site, hopelessly finding one page with a single visitor, and finally ask them: "where do I find a link to X?" (assuming that X is the item you wish to find). And the likelihood of that single visitor knowing the answer would be very low; with luck, they might just give you another link to another page (which wouldn't interest you in the least) in the hope you'd find someone there who could help you out...

If eBay worked like this... what kind of article would you write? Very likely, that it's "almost empty" (while it certainly wouldn't be!) and that "you couldn't find any item worth buying" (since even taking just 10 seconds to view a page would mean that you'd just find one visitor every 3 hours or so) and, well, that eBay as a whole wouldn't be interesting at all. Nevertheless you'd look at the numbers published by eBay in terms of users and sales and be baffled how people do it.

Second Life is *exactly like that*. It is so vast that if everybody would be uniformly spread around the world, and you had your viewing distance set to 128 metres (a reasonable default), you would NEVER SEE ANYONE. With the setting on 256 metres, you'd see, on average, just 1-3 persons per region at most. In practice, people clump together — meaning that most regions will be empty, while a handful — perhaps a thousand or so — will be thriving with activity. However, from the perspective of someone who just randomly walks around SL without a guide, the probability of finding a region where "something is happening" by pure chance is around 3%. This means that 97% of your time, jumping across regions randomly, you won't be seeing anyone *at all*. And, of course, that is hardly a guarantee that you'll find someone/something that actually *interests* you — just that you "find" someone.

This "guideless" tour through Second Life is pretty much what made Chris Anderson be infinitely disappointed with it in 2007 (
-i-gave-up-o.html). However, the good news is that 2010 will (finally!) see a big change on how the very first moments that someone steps into Second Life will utterly change — to the better:

I'm looking forward to read an article from you in 2011 :)

By GwynethLlewelyn on 5 Jan 2010

... oh, and next time, send me an instant message :)

I'd be happy to take you on a tour ;)

By GwynethLlewelyn on 5 Jan 2010

Analysis summary: Right on the mark!

Barry Collins's summary of Second Life is right on the mark!

Second Life has been wilting away for the past 18 months or so. The new 100% marketing-orientated *comment censorship supporting CEO* Mark Kingdon has been sucking the life out of the frail Second Life economy with a whole bundle of destructive changes which negatively impacts the Customer's liveliness and mental well-being.

Completely one-sided "Community partnership" programs, abrupt server rental fee hikes (designed to suck more hard-earned cash from paying customres), encouraging more favouritism (special benefits to a select few hardcore fans, while other paying customers get screwed around), getting rid of Founder Rosedale's "Your World, Your Imagination" motto and replacing it with something along the lines of "Linden-controlled world, Linden-controlled imagination: Lindens control YOU 100%!!" - to name a few of the destructive policies and changes Kingdon has rolled out since he was CEO (~18 months).

(Possibly) As a result, Second Life concurrency levels have been dropping (around 10-15K). Not to mention, most of my Second Life friends that I met around 2006/2007 hardly log-in anymore.

Just have a look at what Second Life customers are saying about the frail Second Life platform, in response to pro-marketing CEO Mark Kingdon's 100% marketing blog post:

Second Life has no future, when Yesmen-type CEOs like Kingdon are running (ruining) the platform. A mere puppet for the company investors to control as they please, unlike former CEO and founder Philip Rosedale.

Philip wasn't perfect. But at least when Philip was in charge, Second Life concurrency levels kept rising and rising!

To quote Dale Innis, a Second Life *customer*:

"Isn’t it supposed to be *our* world, and *our* imagination? Is there anything wrong with just keeping the grid running, and letting us Residents decide what to do with it?

Why do you feel the need to offer special privileges and benefits to those groups that apply to you in attractive enough ways, and fit well enough into your own ideas about what the world should be like?

I want […] a virtual world created by its residents, not a virtual world created by a handful of people at Linden Lab, with help from those residents that are approved into “partnership” programs."

By NetAntwerp on 5 Jan 2010


That is so poor - please give up journalism before you do some real damage - I'm on UK time zone I have a very rich social life inside of SL with lots of live performances hourly - I see wonderful surreal builds all the time. many artistic shows - so you don't have the sex everywhere anymore, that a good thing and has improved second life.. where it fails is in its requirements to actually not be spoon fed. If you didn't get SL you just didn't try hard enough or were blatantly writing what you think people want to read instead of a truthful insightful / realistic account.

By electroRogue on 5 Jan 2010

I understand what happened and have some tips

Barry: I've been using Second Life for three years and I'm always appalled when I help a new person out and re-live how complex it is to figure out what in the heck is going on, from the user interface to the funding content and people and value.

I do have some advice for anyone who is considering exploring in Second Life or any virtual world: DO SOME GOOGLING :)

There are over 1,000 blogs and websites dedicated to Second Life and other virtual worlds, some more active than others, but you will find an incredible wealth of information about choices, events, places, people and above all, tips for making your first hours easier.


By BettinaTizzy on 5 Jan 2010

I want to do da seex!

Ok not really. Never been of interest. Happy to see the creation of Zindra, never visited that place.

I wonder if the journalist realised how much of the content in SL is created by it's users. If a resident in SL wants to recreate the Tower of London and place it on a sim called "Hawaii Sunrise" next to a giant snowman.. they can (if they wanna fund it of course). And then the journalist can stop by and write about how poorly planned that was of "Second Life". :)

If I want to hang with crowds, I find them easily. Sure, as a noob it was a bit more challenging, but at least back then I realised the problem was mainly me being clueless. I decided to give it a whirl anyway, and never regretted. The absence of goals, objectives, levels to be won, is what keeps me here. I have no interest in gaming, but goofing around in this world suits me just fine. If it doesn't suit YOU, then I'm sure you'll be able to find something that does. WoW is not for everyone, SL is not for everyone, Facebook (omg what a comparison THAT was..) is not for everyone.. etc.

oh and I definitely agree with Bettina, use google. Visit flickr and search for Second Life. Look at what people experience and share from their Second Lives. Then by all means, get on with your proper life, while many of us continue to enjoy both. :)

By G_Luckless on 5 Jan 2010

Ya made me laugh in a good way!

Well you hit a home run with me. I have been in SL for 7 years and I hear you; or you heard our now daily woes. I actually laughed a couple of times, you clearly hit the mark on somethings and for that I thank you. I was shocked to hear that child avatar sex was still being offered, I expect there will now be another crack down on that; for that I thank you :) I keep to myself these days mainly because what I do see is a lot of wasted space in SL. Ignore the fanboyz, you nailed it :)


By CatCotton on 6 Jan 2010

Paquot you hit the nail on the head

"Second Life didn't fail you, you failed your Second Life"

By DelindaDyrssen on 6 Jan 2010

Search for your interests

I have been in Second Life since 2003 and still log on everyday.
My advice for finding people in Second Life is to search for things that interest you using the in-world search.
I also agree with another commenter, that Second Life's "prime time" seems to be from 6 PM to midnight PST (UTC -8).

By ZakEscher on 6 Jan 2010

that's not information, that's propaganda

i've never read such an "oriented" article!

Yes, you can find empty sims. Yes ther's sex and money in many places (as in RL).

But... SL isn't only that (unless you WANT to see only that).
There are many galleries (some show "real" artowork, some others show "virtual" artwork, i even saw places that show a sort of artwork you can only find in SL), places where you can talk about various "serious" subjects (politics, philosophy... even soccer), places where you can just meet ppl from other coutries or continents and "share" knowledge and culture... and also many charity organizations that explain what they do in RL and give informations (such as Telethon Island, a french sim, where scientists come and explain their researches.

If you haven't seen any, wether you didn't want to, or you need to learn how to use a search module...

By Ice_Arkin on 6 Jan 2010

"Sense of shared place at a distance."

That's what your "greeter" should have replied when you asked the point. That sense of sharing place comes in handy in myriad ways--some ugly, some perverted, and many productive and fulfilling. The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) this past fall confirmed a new Special Interest Group for Virtual Environments, one of the only twenty SIGs for the 85,000 member organization, to explore potentials of VEs like Second Life. The potentials are all there and all of them center around that sense of place at a distance. You find what you look for, Barry, my friend. You find what you look for.

By scottmerrick on 6 Jan 2010

You Missed All the Best Things

SL is like the internet, but 3D. You find what you go looking for. It seems you went looking for shopping malls, discos and what was happening with porn. If I had ever gone looking for that I expect I'd be disappointed too.

I use SL to get the writing and publishing community together and to organise events. The way we can use voice now means it's the best place on the internet for interactive voice events like open mics and performances. It amazes me how journalists go on and don't find the writing community. Writing on SL has really flourished over the past 3 years.

Education also does really well. There are more than 100 colleges and universities on there. I've recently started helping the London School of Journalism whose tutors meet their distance learning students on SL for lectures and tutorials. Again, it's the possibility of having interactive voice that makes it work so well.

Mainly I organise my own Written Word project which has nearly 1,000 members. We try to provide everything writers could want to find on the 3D internet, whether they're published, hobbyists or at any level. And it's all offered for free.

People even come to writing workshops, book discussions, and the people offering to host these are skilled and qualified in real life. It's a fantastic resource for anybody interested in writing and books.

I'm sure it's the same for people with other interests, but I'm an author and freelance journalist myself so I went straight for the writing groups and started building my own.

You see, we build Second Life ourselves, so it's what we make it. I didn't see what you saw because I had no interest in any of that. There wasn't enough for writers so I started to build it - nobody else does it for us so there's no point complaining as if the Lindens should provide it all.

To get some idea of what we create you can see open mic videos on and to see televised interviews with published authors who appear in SL look at It has all genres and bestselling authors aswell as debut novelists.

We back up what we do on SL by using other websites, so it's not a question of either/or, Second Life or Facebook etc. We even have our own social network with authors and publishers who are both off and on Second Life on

Second Life is a great place to network with publishers and one of the writers at our weekly open mic was spotted by a publisher there who is signing the contract this month.

It's hard to believe journalists go on to Second Life and only find such basic stuff. If you want to see what happens for writers on SL contact me via this message, or on SL as Jilly Kidd.

By AdeleWard on 6 Jan 2010


I signed on to Second Life early in 2007. I had a proper "Real Life" then, and I still have a proper "Real Life" now. You immersed yourself in something for a week and consider yourself to be an expert. How quaint. I believe one must invest themselves in something to be able to make judgements. I rent on a Sim that hosts live musicians every week. The Islands art gallery runs continual showings. The residents are people I have known for almost three years and I love and enjoy every one of them as if they were my neighbors next door. I like the experience of watching my Avatar dance and have had to find alternate places to go because the clubs I frequent are usually filled to capacity. Are there two Second Life worlds? I just don't see the one portrayed in this article.

By Chinookwind on 6 Jan 2010

You Got Paid

You did a good job of accurately reflecting your honest experience.

SL tends to reflect your soul back to you.

It takes effort to use the SEARCH button with tabs like you would on to find something to your taste, and more effort to keep looking, and that's not for everyone.

I'm glad you've gotten the one or two paid articles out of it -- SL continues to monetarize in amazing ways for everybody, even its detractors.

I have to say people's experiences vary wildly. I own a motel and a mall on the Zindra continent that I visit only for maintenance so most of my experience is more of the PG variety on the Mainland where I have most of my properties. I have lots of activities I organize or take part in and I'm happy enough and it pays a bit.

SL and RL relate for me, but I surely see that they are quite separate for many others, and I attribute this to a very hardcore geek and tech media class that doesn't see how it benefits financially from this platform.

By ProkofyNeva on 6 Jan 2010

Is There Really A Difference Between SL and "Cops"?

I've tried Second Life. In fact I have a friend who still swears by his experiences in Second Life.

And yet, despite the wails of it's apologists, there are very distinct reasons why Second Life is nothing more than a joke to the majority of the online community here in the United States and elsewhere.

It's interface is clunky at best, Byzantine at worst. It offers absolutely no content worth experiencing. If you are astronomically lucky enough to find others with whom to communicate, they almost always fall into only two camps: Mormon-esque tea groups or BDSM ultra-extreme fetishists. To accomplish anything requires an endless series of micro-transactions that are the real reason SL is still turning out anything like a profit.

I have continually tried to theorize why there are still those who defend Second Life despite having these faults placed before them and I can come up with only this: they suffer from Battered Wife Syndrome. On some basic level they desperately need to feel that this thing into which they have invested so much time and money still has some worth that they are willing to do any number of mental back flips to justify their loyalties.

I picture them outside their trailer, yelling to the cops who are hauling their computers away, "Don't take him, officer! He's a good program! He don't mean to overcharge his users!"

No, the fact remains that SL has a very limited lifespan and if we are talking about it at all in five years, it will be in the past tense and may even be in regards to how it managed to convince so many that it was making a profit at all and will be taught in business schools alongside Enron and AIG.

By djsmeg on 6 Jan 2010

The Point of Second Life

The point of Second Life is wish fulfillment.

It's thriving and alive and doing well, and you dismiss it because you missed the point.

I entered into it seeking possible business tie-ins and ended up getting hooked because of two reasons - 1, I found like minded people by joining groups associated with my interests (check out the writing groups, Barry) and two, one of my new found friends practically gave me some land and I started playing around with building things. If you were ever a kid who loved playing with Legos, this place is your wonderland. The artistic expression found here is amazing and multifaceted.

The women I've met online seem to be reliving their days of dressing up their Barbie dolls -- if there is a girl who loves Barbie dolls and playing house, this is HER wonderland. There are reportedly far more women on Second Life than men, and a huge amount of income is generated by outfits, shoes, and virtual jewelry. And all these things are created by people who are frustrated jewelers and fashion designers in real life.

It's called Second "Life" for a reason -- just like in real "life" you get out of it what you put into it. This is just a visualized life where your possibilities are endless and your dollars go much further. There are live plays, there are readings, there are poetry groups, there are film-makers and photographers, there are people who in real life may be wheelchair bound or disfigured who, in Second Life, can be fashion models and movie stars.

Also, and this I've run into many times, the people most into Second Life are the ones who are the most disappointed in their real lives. I'm not sure if this is a positive facet or not -- you could call it therapy or you could call it avoidance.

Anyway, I was rather disappointed by the lack of depth in this article. You could have easily googled for contacts or other information instead of just dropping yourself in world and then pronouncing it pointless. If you dropped in on Earth from afar and did the same thing, you could have come up with the same conclusion. And I feel your conclusion is mis-informed.

By JJDavis on 7 Jan 2010

Kind of agree with DJ Smeg...

(sorry in advance if your name is actually DJS Meg, but one can never really tell)... anyway, I think you are largely right. There is some room for a whole different interest group though, that you've not covered: the 3d modellers. I think theres a whole chunk of humanity who don't do words quite so well, but who are demons when it comes to mouse-waggling to end up with 3D objects: and there was no really public forum in which they could work on their talents, before SL. The other constituency widely alleged to include "BDSM types" is probably a study worthy of a coachload of PhD shrinks, and is a bit outside the PC Pro remit...

By Steve_Cassidy on 7 Jan 2010

Step back a bit

The real significance of Second Life isn't Second Life, or Linden Labs, or the current state of the SL world. It's what has been learned--and continues to be learned--by people from all walks of life about the value (and limitations) of virtual environments for doing...well, whatever it is that they want to do.

For example, educators (of which I am one) are learning how to use virtual environments to teach themselves and their students, but also how NOT to use them. And various people (big companies and non-profits among them) are learning about best practices in setting up new virtual environments (cf. Immersive Education or ReactionGrid or ScienceSim) that will most likely cater more to a particular niche (long-distance meetings of businesses, higher education, gaming, and even sex).

Second Life deserves attention, then, for the many (MANY) ways its impact will be felt upon the near-future of virtual environments and their integration with and into both Real Life and other forms of distance communication.

By Dewey_Jung on 7 Jan 2010

Second Life crowds go where the action is

The author complains that a lot of spots he visited seemed empty. I coordinate the concert series at Music Island, Sea Turtle Island, which is a Showcase destination. Many days/times it would be totally empty. Why? Because there is no concert scheduled for that time period. Music Island offers live concerts of "serious" music: classical, new compositions, world music, and multimedia art. On average there are one or two concerts a week with occasional theme-based mini-festivals offering a flurry of activity for a few days. When concerts are happening the venue is filled to capacity. When they are over, everyone leaves. Not an unusual state of affairs.

In order to know about live music events, you can't randomly jump about Second Life, you need to join one of the many interest groups and receive their notices, or search "events" in the SL search engine.

By Katemir on 7 Jan 2010

1st or 2nd

I've still got to get a first life let alone trying out 2nd life.:-)

By Jaberwocky on 8 Jan 2010

Second Moon

I got my Second Life account back in 2005 and used it in my astronomy classes from 2006 until 2008. Unfortunately, while the communications majors "got it" the strangeness of SL was too much of a hassle for some of the others. This might change in time as kids that play "Club Penguin" and "Barbie Girlz" grow up and enter college.

I agree Barry that SL seems very vacant now compared to a few years ago. The science educators that I work with in SL used to share just one island. Now we have 40+ island but not 40X as many people. I think the dilution of our efforts over this expanding virtual terrain has made the world seem less lively. Oddly, the most active spot in our SciLands archipelago is my old Apollo 11 sim, inhabited now by Portuguese speakers for some as-yet-to-be-determined reason.

I was curious when I saw the image of the Apollo 11 landing site in this article and realized that it wasn't my own. I can't seem to find the place Barry visited anywhere using the Search tool. Any suggestions on how to locate this second Second Moon?

By acrider on 9 Jan 2010

Thanks for the comments

Wow - I don't think I've ever seen so many lengthy, considered and informative comments on one article. Thanks to everybody who's contributed.

I'm currently in Las Vegas for CES and don't have much time on my hands, but I'll write a blog post in response to all these comments next week.


Barry Collins
Online editor

By Barry_Collins on 9 Jan 2010

My Second Life

I've been in SL for 3 years now, and I have to say when I first joined, yes I too found a lot of places in SL to be dead and also felt what was the point of it all, I logged of from my first visit disappointed, and didn't log in again til a few months later, out of curiosity. Well I decided to go back, joined some groups, joined a club, and yes was a SL stripper and, even escort, for a time. Through that club I met and made friends with co-workers and patrons. I eventually left the club and bought my own land. I socalise with many of the same people I did back then, at my own home, or in group chats/ IM. I no longer search for 'popular places' as these tend to have traffic figures that have been inflated by in store 'models' and bots. I follow the SL blogs and shop at the real popular places in SL and often see lots of like-minded people there. Barry should try this the next time he goes into SL, instead of the drive-by noobish visits he has already done. Fashion is a BIG market in SL, there are many talented designers making gorgeous high quality clothes, skins, hair, shoes that are to die for. I am not a designer, I can't build and I don't do photoshop. I enjoy shopping in SL and making my avatar look the best it can because in SL I can afford to wear high quality fashion, whereas in RL I can't. I have made friends on SL who I chat with most days of the week, and this extends to RL also- facebook/ MSN/ Skype/ the phone. When I'm not chatting/ socialising with these people, I do many of the grid-wide hunts that always seem to be on, but I do ones for fashion items/ furniture which, admittedly I spend hours sorting through what I want to keep or trash, lol. And, yes I do have a busy RL, I am married, I work and I have 2 small children who keep me busy. SL is a virtual world where u can be who you want to be. For me it allows me to be who I want to be; sexy, fashionable, confident, instead of the tired, fed up working mother I am in RL. I have met people who in RL are deaf who love that in SL they can communicate through text without any bias/ pity and simply be accepted for who they are.

By TrinityBeltran on 9 Jan 2010

ever moved to a new town?

you wander round dirty streets occasionally meeting a stranger who brushes you off. finally you meet some one who invites you to a club that plays the worse music you have heard in years.

So you wander of to find a decent pub and the only one that looks friendly is full of monoglot poles.
there do not seem to be any cheap shops, indeed there dont seem to be any at all apart from some weird place selling crotchless panties and coffins
and as for the kebabs...

That is what SL is like when you first arrive.
give it a few months though and you find the place with the decent music the night class on pottery you always intended to take. the Pub where you find yourself running the darts team.

but that transition from wasteland to homeland does not come overnight and is the single biggest problem when it comes to keeping new residents

By SimeonBeresford on 9 Jan 2010

SL's Point

I've been on second life for 3 years. It does in fact have a point. If it weren't for SL I wouldn't have met my RL fiance. In fact meeting and falling in love is rather common in Second Life. That especially goes for the Furry sims.

By ZearothZenovka on 9 Jan 2010

The twilight of SL

As an older regular user of Second Life (5 years), I must say that I agree with this article for the most part.

I have read through the comments here, and read all the denials and dismissals by a lot of Second Life apologists. But most of their arguments seems largely based in neglecting the facts.

Second Life is dying out. I have noticed it and so has the few old friends of mine, who still bother logging on.
I have belonged to several vibrant communities in my years as a Second Life content creator and shop owner. I have had many many friends on my friends list, and I was part of the corporate "boom", when big money moved in and hired developers to build their sims.

I have made a lot of money from Second Life in my time, and always found the metaverse interesting because of it's creative potentials.
For me the attraction of the place was the building tools, creating stuff from scratch and giving it 'presence' through making textures for it. Most of all, Second Life is a place where you can create your own environments and moods, which is the ultimate challenge for any artist. The opportunity to create something that affects other people.

But the pioneer days are over now. The goldrush came and went, and now we are left with that empty feeling you have, when you realise that the best times are behind you.

Out of the hundreds of friends I used to have on Second Life - a large collection of the most creative and innovative people, who played a huge part in developing the place - only a few people still bother logging on now and then.

People are figuring out what the corporations figured out, before they left in throngs; Second Life is largely pointless. Beyond the ability to make things, there isn't much to do inworld. You can run around buying stuff to pretty up your avatar, new hair, new clothes, new skins, but you can't really use it. The world is closed within itself. Anything you buy in SL stays in SL. Your avatar is limited in it's abilities to do anything, and no matter how many times you change it and buy new clothes for it, your avatar is still a rather primitive and stiff, useless bunch of pixels. I see no real point in spending money on it, unless you get a creative kick out of doing SL photography for flickr groups or you are a clubbing person.

Second Life feels very tired. It permeates the entire grid. A sort of pixel fatigue spreading through the world, causing people to log off and forgetting to log on again.
I feel it myself. Longer and longer periods of time goes by between my visits.

Unless something serious happens in the way you interact and and use Second Life, I don’t see much future in it at all. There will always be some isolated enclaves, where people hang out. Some club enjoying a couple of weeks of popularity before people move on. Trends have always come and gone inworld. But the problem is larger and more expansive. The exodus is happening on a larger scale, leaving the vast majority of sims devoid of people 24/7. Business owners feel it in the increasing lack of income. And since business owners are also the content creators of Second Life, once they leave the virtual world will die too.

I miss the good old days of Second Life, with all the great communities and all the many strange and cool people you could meet everywhere.

But there is a rule of the internet (based on research), which SL seems to be following: Any new thing on the web has a peak period lasting 2 years on average. After that other things will come along. It happened with chat messengers being kicked out by social networking like MySpace etc. Now it’s all Facebook and Twitter. And those too will fade with time, as other technologies and sites become popular.

The writing on the wall for Second Life is either to change or to die.

By Vulcanized on 10 Jan 2010

Reaction to your comments

Once again, many thanks for all the comments on this feature.

I've written a blog in reaction to (and including) many of your comments here:


Barry Collins
Online Editor

By Barry_Collins on 17 Jan 2010

re: Second Moon

The Second Moon mentioned in the article is in fact a
simulation built by Daden Limited on the Daden Space sim, which Daden will be using for new space and data visualisations. The whole sim has been landscaped to represent the Moon, and with Second Life settings turned to midnight you can even see the Earth hanging low above the Moon's horizon.

Visitors to the sim start at a space station arrival centre, high above the surface. Here they can view a Moon globe marking all the Apollo landing sites, and get kitted out in their space-suit ready for their EVA (Extra-Vehicular Activity). They can also download and attach a Heads Up Display (HUD) which will give you information about the mission as they walk around. By touching the teleport visitors can drop to the Moon's surface.

Tranquility Base occupies the north-east corner of the sim, a short 40m walk from the arrival point. A detailed copy of the Lunar Module (LM) towers over the virtual astronauts. Standing by the ladder triggers a video in the HUD showing Armstrong's famous “one small step”.

Daden ( also found a map which showed exactly where the astronauts actually walked, the tracks they took around the LM, the terrain features, the routes to the science experiments, and where they took photographs and panoramas from. We were able to bring this map into our recreation of the Moon, and use it to guide not only our layout of rocks and craters, but also to key in the photos and show visitors where to walk.

Clicking the Map button on the HUD brings up this map as a huge overlay on the Moon's surface. The tracks walked by the astronauts are then clearly visible and can be followed by the virtual astronauts. Clicking the Camera button on the HUD then shows you where key photographs were taken from, and as you approach those points the images and a short description appears in the HUD.

This combination of map, original photography and the virtual build creates a very immersive experience. The spacesuit gives you the heavy breathing sounds and bounding moon-walk. To be able to follow Armstrong's tracks out to the far panorama point (about 50m away), and then look back at the Lunar Module model whilst also seeing the photographs he took from that spot gives you a real feel for the whole experience. Before doing this simulation all those photos and videos felt very disjointed, but now you can get a great sense of how they relate and what the astronauts actually did on the moon.

The simulation also includes the various scientific experiments they placed on the Moon – and clicking on each brings up more information, images and links back to relevant web pages. And for a finale you can head back to the Lunar Module, touch its rocket nozzle and watch the ascent stage blast off and head back up into orbit to rejoin the Command Module.

There is a machinima of Daden Space on YouTube

By Soulla_Daden on 28 Jan 2010


You hit the nail on the head!
I spent/wasted over a year of my life in secondlife, I did meet many nice people but all with the same issue they either have no RL or do not want to deal with their real life. (excluding the business owners who are making a profit) Some of the comments would suggest that I am just not in touch with my "inner self" PUKE! I got in touch with it and well it is not real life and will never be. Second life will always be just a game and a poor one at that.

By Joentexas on 15 Feb 2010

From a 3d life old/Newbie

I tried SL years ago, when it was new. The combination of my slow DSL connection and the SL technology made it unusable.
I have re-entered, which is why I call it my 3d life. With the new viewer and cable internet, it is fantastic. There is still room for improvement, but it's fun. everywhere I look, I find newbies, so it's not unpopular.
For you old-timers - make the newbies welcome, and they'll stick around.
I like meeting people and swapping tales. My SL is a valued part of my RL.
Forget the sex - it's not worth it; dancing and kissing are nice, but anything else is just too phony.
Try the Avatar Repertory Theater performances to see how this techology can be used.
Sims come and go. Any book you get on SL will likely be out of date as far as locations (and instructions on using the viewer.) There need to be enforced standards for merchandise use - sometimes an article of clothing is a red box, sometimes it's a depiction of the item. Sometimes a red box is a container (which it should be) but sometimes it's somethirg else. This makes it hard on newbies (and others.)
I hope time, experience and improving technology will make SL into what I think it can be. Meanwhile, I'll enjoy it, despite the put-downs in articles such as this one.

By Gnomon on 23 Nov 2011

There is more to sl then this

Dear barry collins

There is more to sl then what you have discovered if you plan on adding more stuff to this article which is a year old I can help you There are two places on sl i hang out the most
New Bastonge which is linke dto hurtgenwald if you go there you might be able to experience WW2 and also Prefabrica Race course

If you go to these two places i can tell you you can add more stuff to this there is always a good part to secondlife please come back on to futhure extend the report

By Kuregi on 21 Feb 2012


Oh dear me. You didn't have a good time did you Barry? Also it seems that some of the former residents didn't give SL much of a chance either....@Joentexas For your information I DO have an extremely fulfilled RL life as does my RL and SL partner!
I've been in SL since early 2006 and have seen many changes, most of them for the good. The SIM we currently reside in has a constant stream of people enjoying themselves and coming back for more.
We welcome them and give them friendly guidance when asked. Why do you think the learning curve for SL has to be shallow? It's indicative of this age that people expect instant gratification and can not be bothered to take the time or effort to learn simple navigational and manipulation skills.
You sadden me when you call SL dirty. You never took the trouble to explore deeper than the murky surface you decided you saw.
Any 'hobby' costs money. The small monthly payment, around $30 in our case is way more than justified by the amount of time we indulge ourselves in our 'hobby'. There are Freebie Shops everywhere these days that provide excellent clothes, skin hair etc. You don't have to pay for a thing if you don't want to but still look good.
I remember the Commodore 64 and Spectrum days of virtual adventures... load "" .. You are in a room ... Type 'Look' etc & etc ... I always dreamed of a virtual world I could actually walk into.
I found it in 2006 and the dream has not tarnished since then. For 54 years I lived in RL. Now I live in SL as well and love every minute I spend there instead of slouched in front of the TV watching Murdochs crap as most people do these days. Don't knock it unless you can point me in the direction of a better virtual world. I know you can't!

By BigMuddy on 9 Feb 2013

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