Sliding, but not yet dead

A little while ago, Nalates Urriah pulled together a set of statistics from diverse sources (all of which are duly credited) which help to paint a decent picture of where SL stands away from all the hype over falling region numbers, etc.

When taken together, the stats – which cover daily sign-ups, concurrency (daily / monthly), region numbers and even forum usage, all for periods of at least a year – present an interesting picture of Second Life which Nalates interprets in her own inimitable way. While they show that Second Life has in many respects been on a steady downward slide (particularly in terms of overall usage), the situation is far from unrecoverable. Indeed, some of the figures are, at least for a moment, trending upwards again – although without more detailed data and a wider breakdown, it is impossible to draw any conclusions as to what this might signify in the short-term and thus how it might be projected in the medium-, or long-term.

There are significant gaps in the data (through no fault of those who gathered / present it – the information simply isn’t available). For example, while sign-ups can be shown to have been at least constant (or have increased slightly) through the 2-year period, there is no practical context to the figures in terms of users actually being retained. A further problem with the figures is that there is no indicator as to the percent / proportion of these sign-ups actually being alternate accounts, rather than actual new users (although LL does apparently have a mechanism in place for distinguishing between the two).

Daily sign-ups, as reported by Tateru Nino and extrapolated and presented by Nalates Urriah, with monthly concurrency for 2012 inset  – click

Certainly, Rod Humble did state at in his first (and last) SLCC address in August 2011 the rise of user sign-ups did coincide with an upswing in identifiable uniques (i.e. genuine new users, rather than alternate accounts), which he clearly defined as people signing-up, downloading the viewer and logging in to SL.

The user concurrency chart is somewhat more meaningful, in that it charts concurrency for a more extended period from December 2009 through to the present day. As such, any trend shown is liable to be somewhat more reliable, although there are still problems in interpreting the data as a whole. For example, it does show a consistent downward trend in concurrency since the late “boom” period when SL was at the height of its own Hype Cycle “peak of over-inflated expectations”; but precisely what this means is still somewhat open to interpretation.

Daily concurrency, Dec 09 through Jan 2013, from Tateru Nino, as extrapolated by Nalates Urriah

Less Doesn’t Automatically Mean Fewer

A decline in concurrency doesn’t automatically mean a substantial drop in overall user numbers (although it is hard to completely divorce the two). There have been a number of factors which have contributed to some aspects of the decline outside of falling user numbers. Linden Lab caused something of a decline when they clamped-down on the use of bots. More recently, factors such as changing demographics and changing user habits appear to have also contributed to falls in concurrency.

These latter points were indicated again indicated by Rod Humble in his SLCC 2011 address, when he drew attention to the fact that the overall demographic of SL users was shifting, age-wise, more toward people in the mid-to-late 20s, and that they were collectively logging-on to SL for shorter periods. He also indicated that LL had charted a noticeable increase in the way SL users were interacting without actually going in-world – through the mechanism of profile feeds, for example.

Continue reading “Sliding, but not yet dead”

Commerce Team announces Magic Box retirement

The Commerce Team have announced the retirement of Magic Boxes is to commence in April. The news, made via Commerce Team Linden, is being circulated to merchants via e-mail as well as having been posted to the Commerce Forum,. It reads in full:

As you already know, about a year ago, we introduced Direct Delivery, a more reliable and faster method to deliver merchandise to your Second Life Marketplace customers. To complete the migration from Magic Boxes to Direct Delivery, we’re starting a phased shutdown of Magic Boxes. In order to keep listings that are currently using the Magic Boxes active, you will need to convert them to the Direct Delivery system. We will be sending email to all Merchants who have active listings that are still using Magic Boxes.

Important dates for this plan:

  • April 2, 2013:
    • Merchants will no longer be able to list unlimited-quantity items for L$10 or less using Magic Boxes.
    • Any active, unlimited-quantity listings for L$10 or less using Magic Boxes will be unlisted.
  • April 16, 2013:
    • Merchants will no longer be able to list unlimited-quantity items using Magic Boxes, regardless of price.
    • Any remaining active, unlimited-quantity listings using Magic Boxes will be unlisted, regardless of price.

For the time being, limited-quantity items can continue to use Magic Boxes and will not be affected. “Limited-quantity” refers to items that the Merchant does not have rights to copy (such as breedable animals which are “no copy” for the seller).

We do not have a Magic Box shutdown date for the migration of limited-quantity listings at this time. After we designate that date, we will give 30 days’ notice so that Merchants will have time to migrate those items. However, to avoid disruption of your listings by the Magic Box phase-out, we strongly encourage you to convert all of your listings to Direct Delivery as soon as possible.

For more information on Direct Delivery and migrating to Direct Delivery, please see the Knowledge Base. If you have questions or problems, please contact customer support for help.

SL Marketplace: Magic Box "retirement" commences in April.
SL Marketplace: Magic Box “retirement” commences in April.

Direct Delivery launched on March 21st 2011, I was perhaps one of the first to dive in a give it a go, and my own experience was – and remains – broadly positive. However, it is fair to say that it wasn’t long before issues started to occur – and to grow in significance. So much so, and despite attempts by the Commerce Team to drive merchants into using Direst Delivery, the date by which Magic Boxes have been due to start being retired has been repeatedly pushed back over the course of the past twelve months as issues with both Direct Delivery and matters such a listing errors, repeated errors in listing enhancements billing and other upsets, served to erode merchants’ trust in both the Marketplace and LL’s own Commerce Team.

This latter point was not helped by the Commerce Team themselves, who rather than engage with merchants, opted to withdraw from communications (despite Rod Humble stepping into the fray – twice), and in obfuscating matters further by simply ceasing to publish updates on progress made in fixing issues (the last update being around November 2012, prior to all updates being quietly removed from the Merchants’ sub-forum within the Commerce Forum.

The current situation regarding outstanding issues with the Marketplace and Direct Delivery remains unclear. While reports of issues and problems seem to have decreased somewhat, it is unclear whether this is due to the Commerce Team making progress in resolving issues or perhaps merchants have simply given up trying to raise the same concerns over and again. As such, it is possible that this announcement may be met with some trepidation, even though no final date for shutting down all Magic Box capabilities has been given.