Tateru Nino reports that SL user concurrency is at its lowest point for two years.
Why this is the case is subject to some debate in the official forum. While it would be dangerous to blame any single factor for the decline anyway,the parallel between the implementation of LL’s more unpopular policies couldn’t be clearer. At the start of 2009, concurrency was on a high, as the Alphaville Herald shows. However, the start of that year saw what many took to be the final bait-and-switch tacttic in the OpenSpace fiasco, to be followed later in the year by the Adult Change debacle, which was at best handled with a certain degree of outright incompetence by Linden Lab, and so on.
While things did rally a little at the end of the year, the downward trend continued throughout 2010, rallying briefly at the start of 2011 – mostly likely because of a combination of it being the holiday season (and people collectively the world over having more time to log-in) and hopes for the platform rising as a result of the announcement that Rod Humble had been appointed the new CEO.
However, Linden Lab aren’t solely to blame for the decline. much has happened to change the landscape of virtual worlds over the last 2-3 years. Blue Mars pitched up (albeit briefly) and carried a lot of attention away from Second Life – some of which is now drifting back). More importantly, OpenSim Grids started to show signs of maturity and stability. Some of these have become very attractive to SL content creators as being new and exciting markets in which to plunge; as a result of new content becoming available elsewhere, there has been a trend for people to start splitting their time between Second Life and other similar grids such as InWorldz that are now readily available. These other grids are also themselves more attractive to users because their pricing models significantly undercut Linden Lab’s own; whether such prices are sustainable as such platforms grow is debatable – but it cannot be denied that the absurdly high prices charged by LL for server space is limiting SL’s ability to grow, and is indicative that there does need to be a re-emphasis / re-alignments of LL’s revenue streams.
As well as spending more time elsewhere, or whatever reasons (and yes, it’s easy to point the finger and say, “I’m only in X because LL [fill in the blank]”, even when such a statement is not entirely accurate), the users of SL also share in some of the blame: this is a world that exists because we imagine it and create it – yet we seem to be failing ourselves in creating the kind of compelling content that once existed in SL.
What this decline does again demonstrate is that there needs to be a re-evaluation of the LL/ user relationship. If the downward spiral is to be halted, the Lab and the user community need to work more closely together, both in creating a stable, vibrant economy and in the promotion of Second Life to a wider audience. I don’t wish to appear to be blowing my own trumpet here – but the fact is that observations made in post such as Tell Me A Story… and Business, Growth and Collaboration aren’t exactly rocket science – and many SL commentators are saying more-or-less the same things in their own ways.
Stopping the decline is going to take a concerted effort – and no single thing is going to reverse it: not bouncing bewbs, not a revamped new user experience and certainly not mesh; nor is simply taking potshots at LL and blaming them for everything. Second Life is a boat we’re all sitting in together – Lab and users.
It would be nice if we could all start rowing together under the guidance of Coxswain Humble.