“You proceed from a false assumption”: the myth of SL’s failure

Ciaran Laval (once again!) lead me to an article on The Register concerning “Ten technology … FAILS” by one Tony Smith. Some of the entries will doubtless raise a smile or two or have some pundits nodding sagely and muttering, “Yep, said it would never work at the time…”

However, on page four of the item comes … Second Life, which is given a dismissive paragraph concluding, “And then, of course, they all realised that living one, real life was busy enough. And social networking was born…”.

Thus, Mr. Smith joins a growing clique of journalists all eager to proclaim that SL has not only failed, it is in fact like the proverbial parrot famed of Monty Python, “No more”. Not only is his view demonstrably wrong (to sum up what follows, “We’re still here, aren’t we?”), in pointing to Second Life, he again, like many who cite its “failure”, reveal a complete lack of awareness of the platform.

Ciaran asks why attitudes such as this prevail in journalistic circles. He points to an article on The Ancient Game Noob, which also attempts to address the question. Both raise fair points. However, there is really only one answer that matters where views such as those expressed in The Register are concerned, and it can be summed up in two words.

Lazy journalism.

Birth of the Myth

Anshe Chung and Business Week – success and hype

For a time, SL was undoubtedly the darling of the media – whether it be bold predictions of a new kind of “virtual entrepreneur” being the wave of the future. The hype, as I’ve covered elsewhere, began in late 2005, in an article which appeared on CNNMoney and which essentially catapulted Anshe Chung onto the cover of Business Week.

This saw the birth of a story which ran and ran, across more than a year through 2006 and 2007, when the media couldn’t get enough of SL – and nor, for a time, could big business – for reasons neither could fully understand (and nor, in fairness, could LL). All that was apparent, was that the bandwagon was passing by, and it was time to jump on or risk missing out – even though “jumping on” and “missing out” were never actually quantified.

And when it comes to media we’re not just talking the “traditional” forms of media, real or digital print; leave us not forget that CBS jumped aboard in 2007, working with Electronic Sheep to bring us a CSI immersive environment, and the appearance of Second Life (albeit rather badly) on a two-parter of CSI:NY. Other shows also jumped in as well, and even pop stars around the world got in on the act, with Duran Duran (2006) perhaps being the most notable (and still very present), while Italian singer Irene Grandi released her 2007 hit Bruci la città (“Burn the City”) with a video produced in part in Second Life, featuring an avatar based upon her.

It all seemed so good at the time, but the fact is almost all the hype was built on shifting sands. When the platform “failed” as a marketing tool for the likes of Toyota, Nike and others, and no more Anshe Chungs popped up to be embraced by the media, the bubble burst. That Second Life continued on its way, and many within it continued to successfully use it as either a primary or supplementary form of income generation (quite aside from all those simply having fun), was entirely beside the point. Within the world of journalism, the myth of Second Life’s failure had been born.

And it is a myth that has persisted, despite all evidence to the contrary, simply because it is easier to embrace the myth than to look at reality. After all, so many articles have been penned outlining why SL has “failed”, and even those once deeply engaged in the platform’s development have written of the “failure”, that it all must be true, right? Why actually go to the trouble of looking for oneself – even if it’s just to ascertain what former Lindens were actually saying.

Chip and Dan Heath: still perpetrating the myth that Second Life has “failed” in November 2011 (Photograph by Amy Surdacki, courtesy of The Slate)

In some respects, we, as users, don’t help matters. Rightly or wrongly, much of what is written / said about Second Life by those engaged in Second Life is focused on doom and gloom and the imminent arrival of the sky upon our collective heads. Even LL’s efforts to provide tools with which to create more immersive environments in SL or to increase its potential attractiveness to users from other environments have been negatively – in some cases scornfully – received, even before the new gateways have actually been implemented.

Still Standing

Yet the truth is that Second Life, through all the assorted press commentary regarding its “failure” and all the doom and gloom we sometimes generate ourselves, soldiers on. Despite claims it cannot survive as niche product, it continues to do so to the point where Linden Lab refer to 2011 being one of their most successful years in terms of revenue, with it and 2010 providing them with the cashflow to enter into diversification and brand strengthening through a raft of new products. And while some may well be unhappy at the idea that LL are diversifying, it’s still no reason to consider them to be a sign that the Lab is any less committed to the platform than they were in 2010.

Yes, there are problems which do need to be addressed; tier is going to have to be looked at some point – although it must be done with more caution than some calling for an immediate drop in tier prices may appreciate. The issue of user retention also needs to be handled more pragmatically and visibly and – dare I say – more cooperatively with the user community. But again, as Ciaran comments, these are highly indicative of a complete failure within the platform, and while they do present something of a threat, there is still time for LL to take considered and measured steps to avert any crisis.

It’s fair enough to talk about Second Life in terms of how it has perhaps not lived up to the potential expressed for it by its founders – the Snow Crash vision et al. It’s also fair enough to dissect the platform’s history and look at where things may have “gone wrong” (from a user perspective, from a business-enablement perspective and a media hype perspective, etc). But the fact that it remains the largest grid-based virtual environment of its kind, warts and all, with people passionate enough to spend their time not using it, discussing it, blogging about it and helping to develop elements of it. And while in equal fairness there may yet come a time when we can definitively say SL has failed (as the last server is powered down and the last regions poof) – that day has yet to arrive; it therefore remains far too early to discuss Second Life as a viable platform in the past tense.

So to all those journalists who persist in scribing about the failure / passing of Second Life, I dedicate the following (slightly tongue-in-cheek) on behalf of all of us still happily logging-in to SL:

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27 thoughts on ““You proceed from a false assumption”: the myth of SL’s failure

  1. I would like to remind that Italian automaker Lancia (which is struggling due to almost two decades of mismanagement at the hands of Fiat) used Second Life as a marketing tool as late as 2008, for the launch of the current generation of the Delta. Here are the links to the news articles:

    http://www.worldcarfans.com/10802192206/lancia-delta-to-be-unveiled-on-second-life-the-day-before-geneva

    http://www.lancia.com/com/#/news-lancia/detail/?itemid=45

    http://www.lancia.com/com/#/news-lancia/detail/?itemid=60

    Now, of course, I’m not sure if that sim still exists. However, what matters is that they did give it a try – and during a year in which Second Life had supposedly failed.

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  2. The list in the original article is a bit suspect anyways. There are a number of items on there, like PDAs, that were in no way a failure. It was simply a product that evolved, perhaps not as originally envisioned, into the smartphones and other subcomputing devices we enjoy today. But they are in more pockets than ever.

    So, kind of a biased article to begin with. But I should stick up for my journalist colleagues a little here. I don’t see this prevailing attitude as a failure of the media to understand Second Life, as much as it being related to the Lab’s communications issues that you have mentioned before.

    Media don’t get stories of fringe tech out of nowhere, and by far the prevailing commentary from SL bloggers is of a negative tone, and in many ways downright hostile. The Lab does little (well, nothing I have ever seen) to trumpet the positive things going on: Relay for Life is one example, the incredible art communities are another, the myriad ways people around the world are using this technology to communicate, build relationships and understanding … the list goes on.

    There are endless stories the lab should be sending out through PR channels to get positive space in the media world, and counteract the prevailing doom and gloom, or at least provide an alternative view. But, from what I can see, the Lab doesn’t have much of a PR policy or an overall communications strategy.

    Second point LL should be making with their PR is that SL and VWs are evolving. Evolving into something that wasn’t planned isn’t a failure, it’s just life. And for the doomsayers, aye, there are problems. Always will be. SL will disappear at some point. But something else will replace it, VWs are not going away. In the meantime, old favourite builds fade away, but new ones come online that are even more incredible… I just like to enjoy SL for what it is and what it can offer me now, not what I think it should be.

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    1. That LL could be doing more to get the message out there is a fair one – to a point.

      This is certainly waht they’ve been doing with their new products, but in fairness, part of the problem with SL is that it is so established, it is hard to talk-up because it is, to an extent, yesterday’s news (not failed, just no longer exciting). The media, be it tech or otherwise, want to hear about the new shiny. Ergo, it is very probable that were LL to try sounding the horns (and to be fair, Rod Humble has referred to SL in recent interviews), the tooting / touting is liable to be ignored or given short shrift in favour of news on the shiny things like Creatorverse and Patterns.

      But there is something of a self-fulfilling argument there: LL don’t promote SL as there is nothing sexy enough to grab reporters whoe fail to report on it because LL don’t promote SL … and so SL is deemed to have “gone away”.

      The negativity which is prevalent in the SL (and VW blogpshere) likely has some influence as well; the section of the article where I make mention of that is something I struggled over as it threatened to take over the entire post – so doubtless, I’ll be returning to that theme at a future date!

      Even so, much of what is out there, journo-wise, is, sadly a rehash of what has often been said elsewhere with little attempt to actually fact-check. It’s not just SL that suffers in this way, many other subjects of articles and reports also suffer the same way. I put it down to the Google era: if you search for something and get 10 articles whcih say broadly the same thing, then it must be right. Perhaps unfair of me, but it’s a feeling I cannot shake.

      As to VWs, SL and the future, I agree, at some point SL will pass (not fail, pass as something supercedes it) – as will OpenSim and the rest. I’m frankly very curious as to what LL have up their sleeves vis-a-vis virtual worldS (capital S intentional). However, until they chose to reveal their thoughts, I will – like you – continue to enjoy SL and shared both my explorations and my thoughts and not try to confine it to any given box / pigeon hole / hook / label.

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  3. It is kind of funny to be discussing success and/or failure of things we can hardly define.
    Linden Lab is doing just fine economically (as far as we can tell) and Second Life is it’s cash cow.
    The Second Life platform continues to steadily improved, setting the standard for other grids.
    The Merchants and creators continue to make money and an ever more awesome array of products.
    The Second life community (what ever that is, I know it when I see it) is alive and well. Fractured, diverse, always changing and somewhat anarchistic though it may be.
    The Linden corporate culture follows a similar path to the SL community, evolving in ways that look strange from the outside but seem (mostly) to work.
    If forced to make a judgement I would say Second Life is, by most measures, a somewhat fragile success.

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  4. There is one significant down side to negativity in the press and out.
    The fulcrum on which all of Second life is balanced is the investors. If they loose faith in SL all bets are off (for better or worse).

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    1. I’m not sure the press will influence the board directly. Numbers will. Should the balance sheet show an irrecoverable downward plummet, then we’re in trouble. How much the press has to play in that happening is debatable.

      Despite all the finger-pointing at declining private region numbers, it’s reasonably safe to say SL is not at that point yet, and there is time still for LL to make further efforts to shift the revenue focus away from SL and potentially bring easement to the platform as well. As we saw last year, they also have other options by which they can boost revenue and offset losses in the very short term. Not something I’d actually recommend (I think it would actually do more harm than good), but they’ve shown it can be done.

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  5. “. And while in equal fairness there may yet come a time when we can definitively say SL has failed (as the last server is powered down and the last regions poof)”

    That makes the only criteria for success whether or not there’s a server still plugged in. Which I guess is a fine retort for journalists using the word “failed” as if there’s no more failures to come, but if any out there are calling Second Life a “failure” in the context that it’s an ongoing thing, they’d be 100% right even if they didn’t accurately describe the reasons why it’s a failure.

    99% of those signing up for, downloading and trying Second Life quit almost immediately as far as we can tell. That’s a huge failure.

    Tens of regions shed away from the total count every week, and more dire than a downward trending line on a graph is that often one or two of those regions are or contained beloved places; first and continued reasons for sticking around in Second Life that’d been there for years and aren’t necessarily ever replaced if region numbers increment up.

    Features roll out half-ass (mesh without deformer, shared media 2 years before everyone has a viewer that can see it). Some square peg in round hole features gain little traction at all (who needs pathfinding and quasi-AI without riggable NPCs? Only so much willingness to swap sculpt maps to fake it.)

    Linden Lab had aims for Second Life that went beyond it just being plugged in. It failed at those. Linden Lab continues to fail everyday Second Life continues to shrink and the top issues of it’s users go ignored. That is of course addressing the needs of Second Life and it’s users is still an aim of Linden Lab. If not, then sure, Second Life is a success, but mostly only because the servers are still plugged in.

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    1. Everything else you say I can mostly agree with, but this one:
      “shared media 2 years before everyone has a viewer that can see it”
      – Shared media came out -with- a viewer on which everyone could see it. From day one of Shared Media, V2, and now V3, have been there.

      Their mistake was only in not disabling V1. While many did not like V2, by V3 – that was clearly a mistake.

      The rest of what you say is a very valid critique. But I would say SL hasn’t failed, LLs has failed to manage it.

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    2. I would venture to suggest 99% of those signing up is a tad over-stating the situation – although the numbers are high. But then again, is that any different now to 10 years ago when looked at in terms of percentages? Yes, there was a period of time – that of the “hype” period – when more were sticking than quitting, but it’s probably fair to say that that was as much a blip on the radar as anything else, taking in SL’s longevity to date amd the issues facing new users today are pretty much as they were 5, 6, 7, 8 years ago.

      Has SL not been as successful as it might have been – very likely; although there is a case in point that had it been so, it wouldn’t have have been afforded time to grow and would have risked collapse simply because (again as the boom period demonstated), the technology couldn’t handle the numbers.

      I agree that LL have frequently made a rod for their own back, deployment-wise. It’s something I’ve commented at length upon earlier this year. That said, I’m not entirely in agreement with your views on shared media – which was actually available to all from the day it was launched but was hamstrung by other issues (notably a poorly-conceived viewer which encouraged people to stick with V1.x) – and pathfinding. Yes, there is a very vocal group who have made their feelings totally clear on the subject – but with respect, that doesn’t automatically convert into pathfinding being unwanted by all; many actually did welcome the news that pathfinding would be rolled-out in 2012, and many are using it / experimenting with it / testing the capabilitiies; they’re just not shouting about it. Again, if there is any “failure” with pathfinding (and I’d venture to say that it’s far to early to call either way) it is actually in the way LL mishandled all communications relating to it, allowing a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings become established as “fact”.

      While mesh does suffer somewhat from the lack of a deformer – and LL’s short-sighted insistence that clothes would not feature in a world of mesh – it’s hard to call it a failure. Mesh clothing still sells very well despite the lack of a deformer and people have accepted the use of aplha masks (althought obviously, we’d all be a lott happier if the clothing did fit out own shapes 100%). Either that or there are an awful lot of exceptionally gifted content creators wasting their time making a lot of goods which aren’t selling…

      Falling regions is an issue; I’ve said so myself – but not in terms of the usability of SL, but simply in terms of LL’s vulnerability in only have one major revenue source (for the present). Even then, and as Tateru and I have both commented, while it would be stupid for LL to ignore the issue of declining revenue through region losses, simply cutting tier is not necessarily the automatic answer, and certainly no guarantee of renewed growth. If anything, it is more of a gamble / risk to LL than it is for them to accept the current decline while (hopefully) working on means to offset the revenue loss and bring about potential and lasting easement within SL.

      Don’t get me wrong. I’m not pronouncing SL an earth-shattering success. I’m simply pointing out that the typical line taken by the media that the platform has already failed (and is referred to in the past tense) is wrong. The fact that you and I are still engaged in the platform alongside some 50-60K average daily concurrency of users tends to point to the fact that it has yet to reach a point of failure. Yes, numbers are falling – but the drops (users and regions) are a long way from being irreversible.

      Unilke you, however, I do not think “the top issues of its users go ignored”. Quite the contrary, in fact. Where many of the demands of users are loudest – from fixing lag through to improving the viewer, stabilising the platform, imrpoving performance and so on – LL are working hard to see that matters are improved through a range of on-going projects which encompass server-side improvements (multi-threaded region crossing, server performance improvements, interest list management, etc), through joint server / viewer projects (HTTP capabilities to improve a range of server / viewer interactions; the newer avatar baking service to overcome bake fail issues, etc.) and in the implementation of better infrastructure and hardware to meet the platform’s demands.

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      1. “I would venture to suggest 99% of those signing up is a tad over-stating the situation – although the numbers are high.”

        What other number could it be than 99% and some other trailing 9s? 10,000-20,000 are signing up a day as Rod has mentioned time and time again, but where does that reflect in-world?

        Whatever the percentage of attrition is, it’s a huge failure.

        “Has SL not been as successful as it might have been – very likely; although there is a case in point that had it been so, it wouldn’t have have been afforded time to grow and would have risked collapse simply because (again as the boom period demonstated), the technology couldn’t handle the numbers.”

        As unique a distributed system Second Life was and is, it wasn’t the only product in the 2000s to grow very, very fast and had to scale to meet demand. We’ll never know if they’d have failed in the long run to meet that demand or not because they failed in the short run.

        “That said, I’m not entirely in agreement with your views on shared media – which was actually available to all from the day it was launched but was hamstrung by other issues (notably a poorly-conceived viewer which encouraged people to stick with V1.x) – and pathfinding.”

        Which is just more failure on Linden Lab’s part. Along with more things you mentioned. I won’t beat a dead horse though. So long as we’re clear those things and more, aren’t myths, and even though outside journalists tend to be unable to describe exactly why Second Life is an underused enigma, they’re correct in that they like most tried it never use it anymore. That’s the perfect criteria for calling it a failure. And it’s always been a fixable problem by Linden Lab.

        “Unilke you, however, I do not think “the top issues of its users go ignored”. Quite the contrary, in fact. Where many of the demands of users are loudest – from fixing lag through to improving the viewer, stabilising the platform, imrpoving performance and so on – LL are working hard to see that matters are improved through a range of on-going projects which encompass server-side improvements (multi-threaded region crossing, server performance improvements, interest list management, etc), through joint server / viewer projects (HTTP capabilities to improve a range of server / viewer interactions; the newer avatar baking service to overcome bake fail issues, etc.) and in the implementation of better infrastructure and hardware to meet the platform’s demands.”

        Has improving lag, stabilizing the platform, improving the viewer, improving performance etc. never not been in the pipeline since day one? Not to dismiss it, nor the hard work Lindens put in, but this is a multi-million dollar company we’re talking about with a CEO that’s stated they won’t redo the viewer entirely. A multi-million dollar company with third-parties providing the most popular version of their viewer and third-parties working on the most watched new features.

        Yes, as with all software we want bug fixes, performance improvements and etc. first and foremost, but those are a given. They’re nothing you pat a company on the back about. Especially one where issues have been terrible 10 years and hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue later.

        The way things are right now aren’t good. Linden Lab should have the most popular version of their own viewer. Linden Lab should be working on the most watched, most wanted features. It’s a failure that they aren’t. If their most watched, most wanted features are lag improvements etc. 10 years into the product’s life, that’s a failure.

        Let’s stop saying Linden Lab is doing a good job. They aren’t. They do good things, unrivaled by others like still actually being a company 10 years later in Silicon Valley, having probably the most secure payment gateway a lot of us have ever interacted with, having a 99.9% uptime piece of software they couldn’t just grab off of Apache’s website, etc.

        But, they’re still a huge failure, and there’s so much more Linden Lab could be doing right if only they weren’t praised regardless of all the things they ignore, neglect, or defer to third parties.

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        1. “What other number could it be than 99% and some other trailing 9s? 10,000-20,000 are signing up a day as Rod has mentioned time and time again, but where does that reflect in-world?”

          Rod mentioned 14-16K rising to around 20K a day at the start of the year. since then, the number has declined. As to the number “sticking” – that’s indeterminate as LL won’t tell us. some anecdotal evidence says “not many”, other suggests “more than you think”. My own experience has been that the mix of “old” to “new” residents (i.e. those with accounts 18 months or less old) is slanted towards the latter.

          “But, they’re still a huge failure, and there’s so much more Linden Lab could be doing right if only they weren’t praised regardless of all the things they ignore, neglect, or defer to third parties.”

          I wouldn’t say I praise LL regardless; I’ll certainly critique them where it is due, I simply refuse to decry them at every turn. The rest, we’ll have to agree to differ on in our outlook.

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      2. “– and LL’s short-sighted insistence that clothes would not feature in a world of mesh –.”

        This just baffles me everytime I see it. I cannot stop being surprised by it. A simple 30 second scan of Renderosity would show anyone the improved value of having clothing be actual 3D models rather than painted on textures. There was a short lived movement to try paint-on-clothing around 2003-2005 in the 3D art world… it looked low quality for all but the most limited of uses.

        The constraint in video games has always been about polygon counts and complexity of the sprites used by players – but modern games are getting over this an newer MMOs use 3D models for the ‘armor’ and outfits, unlike something highly dated like World of Warcraft…

        To think, to even imagine, that once the ability to put actual 3D models over the sprites in this ‘game’ became possible for the users of those sprites, that they would not do so…
        – This is the kind of failure to realize what your product is that should result in people getting pink slips.

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        1. Completely agreed, it is surprising. Not just Renderosity, but all streams of gaming, as you know (and stated as much) that they don’t build and texture a naked body—but almost always model the whole characters silhouette value entirely (whether one part or multiple and swappable parts, clothes and all).

          But I can understand where such a thought might have come from. There are camps of programmers that believe that, “you don’t need artists, just use programmer graphics” (from both male and female programmer tutors). While physically true for a program to run, it’s not the whole pie of the market. There are times and places for that kind of thing and SL’s user content model isn’t that kind of place—you’re absolutely right.

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  6. Wait, SL didn’t fail?
    I thought this was the Blue Mars blogs I was on.
    /oops.

    Journalists need stories and hype. Wall Street and IPOs all work from hype. The worst thing you can do in modern business is be…

    Stable and in profit.

    – There’s no drama, no story, in that.

    Apple releases “the most revolutionary change in the human experience since living on land” every year… which actually turns out to be “last years product, now in a white shiny box” because its death not to in this kind of business environment.

    You are either crazy out of control leaping forward with radical new stuff that changes all existence as well know it… or you are dead.
    – Journalism has lost the ability to understand any shade of success in between those extremes.

    SL may be shrinking, and that -IS- a problem. But its doing so slowly. Not like say, World of Warcraft which lost about 1/6th to a 1/5 or so of its user in the last year (and I mention it only because its mentioned on ‘the Register’ as the ‘virtual reality we all went to – pretty soon WoW will wish it was SL… In fact I suspect SL makes more money for LL than WoW does for Blizzard, and has more immersed and loyal users – but that’s just my own self justifications going. :P).

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    1. “SL may be shrinking, and that -IS- a problem. But its doing so slowly. Not like say, World of Warcraft which lost about 1/6th to a 1/5 or so of its user in the last year”

      I think the worry though is, at least my worry is that those aren’t two different kinds of shrinking, they’re just two different phases.

      Just as growth happens on a curve, so does shrinking. Second Life, like World of Warcraft, no matter the different levels of success in the past, neither were ever going to escape the basic phases of a product lifecycle.

      I think many saw 2007-2012 as an opportunity to have the curve of growth trickle upward years longer before panning out, for the decline to be a blip on the chart and maturity of Second Life still to come but now it seems its fixed into it’s decline.

      Doom and gloom? Yes. Of course. Nothing lasts forever, times change. Products of the same type have to be succeeded by different versions, models or brands altogether. If GM was still pushing the Hummer and Microsoft Windows XP, it’d be time for doom and gloom. If Blizzard wasn’t confirmed working on another MMO years before WoW started declining it’d be time for doom and gloom.

      Fortunately, Rod stated on this blog Linden Lab is working on something closer to Second Life. Which might mean they’re more concerned with getting it ready than extending a meaningful life for Second Life another 5 or 10 years,

      I don’t think it’s time to start discussing Second Life’s death as if it’s right around the corner. It’s not. But bringing up its many and continued failures is fair game. Yes there’s some things Linden Lab can’t do overnight like drop tier prices, but couldn’t they at least say, offer a paid option to freeze and save the state of a sim for some amount of time? Pay 100 bucks and at any time a person can restart tier over the next year? They couldn’t do the deformer and materials system themselves given both are proving more popular and important to their bottom line than things like pathfinding?

      Acknowledging and pointing out failure might actually convince Linden Lab to do something about them. There’s not “myth” about Second Life being an ongoing failure.

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      1. “Just as growth happens on a curve, so does shrinking. Second Life, like World of Warcraft, no matter the different levels of success in the past, neither were ever going to escape the basic phases of a product lifecycle. ”
        ****************

        Yeah… I think we are on the long-toothed side of the product lifecycle with SL. Which is sad, because when I go into the grid in the last year the -quality- of what I have been getting handed to me has gone up dramatically.

        Viewer 3, Mesh, alphas, stability improvements, linkset-resizer scripts (the biggest cause of 2010/2011 lag was single-prim resize scripts), and other changes have caused a major upgrade in what SL is.

        Just as SL is getting good, it is also getting old.

        I think you could get another decade out of it in the right hands, but I’m not sure the hands holding it are those. I think the hands holding up this world don’t realize they’re holding something beyond yesterday’s used pizza box…

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      2. Do you think that LL’s Mesh discounting was an indirect way to offer tier reductions without changing their product pricing scheme by passing on the work to the content creators? I’ve asked the opinion of an estate manager and what that might mean and it was pointed out that even though people could in theory cut their prim needs by a max of half—it doesn’t give them more or the same amount of landmass to play with that on.

        I think that was pointing out, to me at least, that requiring less landmass to consume for the same object types, because of primmage needs, doesn’t really translate to being able to fit it at the same scale. And is that last point why you’re concerned with tier pricing, because of the volume of land to host any amount of content (at the same scale and able to detail it twice as effectively) still costs the same amount debts? Or are you just going for maintaining clients in changing circumstances?

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    2. “SL may be shrinking, and that -IS- a problem. But its doing so slowly. Not like say, World of Warcraft which lost about 1/6th to a 1/5 or so of its user in the last year (and I mention it only because its mentioned on ‘the Register’ as the ‘virtual reality we all went to – pretty soon WoW will wish it was SL… In fact I suspect SL makes more money for LL than WoW does for Blizzard, and has more immersed and loyal users – but that’s just my own self justifications going.”

      WoW is doing brilliantly, they still have around nine million monthly subscribers, the last expansion provided them with a small boost back up to over 10 million subscribers, it will go back down again but with over 2.7 million sales of that expansion pack, it’s still a cash cow whilst new titles can only dream of having sales figures like that this far into the lifecycle of a game like that.

      Second Life is doing fine, but it’s no WoW in the income stakes, not by a long shot.

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  7. When I read this headline, and went over to The Register to see what it was all about, I could only think, “Oh no, not again”.

    The only thing that really “failed” was people prophetising the end of Second Life.

    And why did they fail? Because journalists and marketeers were imagining a Second Life that was mythological: a Second Life which would be a mainstream product displacing MySpace and (later) Facebook and becoming the social hub of the Internet. Since this has not happened, journalists and marketeers have “announced” the “end of Second Life”.

    This is simply just a huge straw man argument. People have described a mythological Second Life that didn’t exist, hoping it would come soon, and when that myth failed to appear, they claimed that Second Life failed.

    This is exactly the same thing as prophetising that planet Nibiru will crash into the Earth on December 20th, 2012. It’s just a myth — a lie, if you prefer bluntness. When Nibiru will “fail to crash into Earth”, even the most credulous believer will side with the ones laughing and scorning the prophets. Well, journalists are doing the same to Second Life, and have been doing so for at least half a decade (but myths about the end of Second Life started to circulate at least as early as 2004, and more commonly around 2005, well before the “growth explosion”).

    What the doomsayers forget is that Second Life is something else beyond what they have imagined. It’s a niche market, certainly, one that works only for a selected few. But as a niche market, it grows still — albeit slowly — and has a million regular users shuffling some 0.7 billion US$ among themselves every year. Linden Lab makes a hundred million US$ out of SL every year, 2/3 of it (apparently) being profit.

    What “failed” to happen was Second Life turning into a mainstream product. But that was not what it was supposed to be. People (like myself) just believed the prophets that predicted it would become a mainstream product soon. This never happened, and, at least in the current generation, will not happen. We just liked to believe in that myth, but that’s all it was — a myth. Nevertheless, as said, 10,000 people register every day, still believing in the myth. Out of those, 99%, at least, suddenly realise that Second Life is not the mainstream product that they thought it was — and drop out before even completing their first 15 minutes in-world.

    Niche markets are not “failures”. They have their place in economy. In some cases, they’re highly lucrative, with a steady, faithful user base, moving around millions. This is the case of
    non-mainstream software products coming from companies like Adobe, Oracle, Autodesk, and so forth. It’s the case of watches manufactured by Rolex or Patek Philippe. It’s the case of mundane, trivial things like manufacturers of replacement parts for solar panels or shipwrights building luxury yachts. All these and much more are products or services which are not for the common, everyday use. They’re not mainstream products available on supermarket shelves. Nevertheless, nobody would claim that Oracle failed because they couldn’t develop a database engine for the masses and have everybody learn SQL; or that Adobe failed because they haven’t sold a copy of Photoshop for every personal computer out there (unlike, say, a word processor). Poser, DAZ, Maya, 3DS and so forth — just to stick to 3D tools — are all products for a very small, targeted, niche market. Their inventors have not “failed”: they’re all successful companies.

    In fact, companies addressing niche markets are long lived. Oracle launched in 1977; Adobe and Autodesk in 1982; they’re all giants in their respective industry niches and still selling the same software. Claiming that “software gets old” and thus necessarily becomes obsolete is also another myth; Unix has been around for 43 years and it’s not dead yet (rather the contrary!) although it’s not really a mainstream product. There are even exceptions in this rule, where companies specialising in niche markets suddenly become mainstream: Apple comes to mind, but, to a degree, Microsoft is a similar example, too (nobody in the early 1980s would think that “personal computers” would become a mainstream product, except for a few visionaries and science-fiction authors). Others remain in their niche market and make billions.

    I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t have a Second Life in 2050. It will still not be mainstream. It will still lag 🙂 It will have a small user base — perhaps 2 million regular users, assuming that the world population continues to grow, and, as such, niche markets grow as well: it takes a certain mindset to be a member of a niche group, but, as the population grows, niche markets will grow too. Linden Lab, or whoever buys them by 2050, will continue to make a few hundred million dollars from their flagship product. They just won’t make billions or trillions. So what? That’s not a “failure” but just growing to reach saturation in a niche market.

    So, I wish that people would be able to do to journalists and marketeers the same thing we do to prophets of the end of time: treat them as religious, irrational believers in a myth that they have created, and just worth our scorn and pity, but not our attention.

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    1. Oh, and one could possibly claim that “Second Life failed to meet my expectations”, whatever those expectations might have been. But who is to blame — your (irrational) expectations, or Second Life, which is still around? Think carefully before answering!

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      1. “What “failed” to happen was Second Life turning into a mainstream product. But that was not what it was supposed to be.”

        I think you have to attribute a lot of blame to Linden Lab for Second Life’s hype. Up until this year, Linden Lab’s official slogan was something about changing the human condition, wasn’t it?

        And wasn’t it Philip talking about not building software, but building another country? Was he forced to do a TED Talk?

        And Linden Lab wasn’t forced to do business with and center a lot of their press releases around IBM; a top 10 market cap company, were they?

        I believe it’s blame shifting to put it all on outside journalists. It’s Linden Lab that created the expectations, there’s nothing wrong with others calling it a failure when those expectations aren’t met. Linden Lab didn’t come out of the gate stating their only objective was to keep the servers plugged in and serve a niche audience that represents 1% or less that ever tried it.

        “Claiming that “software gets old” and thus necessarily becomes obsolete is also another myth; Unix has been around for 43 years and it’s not dead yet (rather the contrary!) although it’s not really a mainstream product. ”

        No one runs any of the original versions of Unix though. You may as well say software doesn’t get old because we still use the Windows API after nearly 30 years. Sure, but we wouldn’t if there weren’t however many different versions of Windows in the last few decades. Second Life is only like all other software if Linden Lab ever is willing to majorly overhaul everything rather than have a CEO stating bluntly he has no interest in redoing the viewer.

        “Oh, and one could possibly claim that “Second Life failed to meet my expectations”, whatever those expectations might have been. But who is to blame — your (irrational) expectations, or Second Life, which is still around? Think carefully before answering!”

        Irrational expectations? If Linden Lab advertises in a machinima on the frontpage shopping and changing clothes being as easy as it is in the Sims 3, is it irrational to quit and never return to Second Life again after failing to figure out one isn’t supposed to attach a packaging box to their right hand, but instead find a sandbox, rez it on the ground, right click and find Open, know that copying to inventory creates a folder, and then know to open a style card/texture and follow directions of how to complete a look works?

        That’s not so extreme an example of difficulty of usablility. Some shopping is easier, some tougher and additional to the above require an understanding of standard sizing and alphas.

        This lack of usability is pervasive in many other areas of Second Life. We’re numb to it but new users not.

        Its not an irrational expectation to believe a piece of 3d software should behave as advertised. Yes, all advertisers embellish and typically we know better. We know with the Skyrim commercials the action probably really isn’t going to be that intense, so when we see two avatars in a Second Life machinima high-fiving in midair on sci-fi Segways, things probably won’t be exactly that. But, it’s not irrational to believe Second Life should be WAY more usable. That it shouldn’t be 9 times out of 10 the laggiest, buggiest, most crash prone piece of software we have on our PCs.

        Second Life has serious issues, and Linden Lab is not improving them nearly fast enough. You think Second Life will last until 2050 at this rate? Maybe in the same sense there’s surviving brands of light bulbs from 100 years ago still alive in fire departments, or the first website on the first webserver is still active at CERN, but when it comes to having a meaningful life we shouldn’t believe its a given, considering all of Second Life’s failures (particularly slumping concurrency and region counts), that it’ll be around even in 5 years.

        You know most products start declining once they have competition. Second Life has begun in the absence of one. That’s another thing not a given, that Second Life will always be competition free and no one else will succeed in its brand of virtual worlds.

        I personally feel great about Second Life. At the same time I acknowledge all of its glaring problems and believe Rod is doing a terrible job as CEO. He started stating he wants to do things like build a scripted miniature war game and all of its pieces. Where’s that project? I would love to know his experiences with those many tiny meshes and land impact, the lack of basic things like multidimensional arrays in LSL when trying to handle rows and columns in such a war game, and whether he could even rez such a thing in the Linden Home he keeps trying to pitch to the rest of us as satisfactory for the things we like to do.

        Second Life has many problems and it seemed like at first Rod would be engaged enough to confront them. But now he’s totally absent and somehow it’s a good thing that while Linden Lab is working on 4 other projects, third parties are working on things like the deformer and material system and people are fundraising to attempt to save sims.

        Linden Lab is a failure, Second Life is a failure. Calling those two facts a myth only lets Linden Lab off the hook and guarantees there’s no way in hell Second Life will be around 10 years from now let alone in 2050 at the rate the grid is shrinking.

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    2. I think its in the name to an extent. Some of them may have really thought ‘Second Life’ was trying to replace their first life – and call it fail because it didn’t… They should have known better.

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      1. Yeah that’s the case I believe as well, but I think products with odd names and misconceptions in the long run aren’t harmed by it if they’re successful enough to become a little bit mainstream.

        EverQuest and World of Warcraft are great examples. EverQuest caught a lot of bad press over that Shawn Woolley suicide and the mother waging war against MMO addiction. Fast forward to 2004 a lot of moms of EverQuest players were playing WoW more than their children, and still do to this day.

        I think if Second Life was usable, fun, worked like the average person could predict and didn’t lag, etc. “Second Life” and the jabs about people not having a first life would have as little a place in everyday discussion as anyone picking on someone for playing World of Warcraft. Heck, I’ve often felt ostracized/odd for NOT playing World of Warcraft. Similarly I’ve been peer pressured to use Facebook, when without its success it would’ve just been Friendster; a place for people with no friends or whatever jab anyone could think of.

        I think if Second Life broke into the mainstream just enough that everyone had one or two relatives that used it, the name wouldn’t be an issue. But unfortunately it didn’t, so if Linden Lab is really working on a Second Life-level successor, hopefully they pick a better name or at least make sure it’s successful enough the name doesn’t matter.

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