A walk through SL’s history on the way to the future

Second Life History
Second Life History

Open now through until the end of July 2014 at LEA23 is Sniper Siemens’ brilliant installation Second Life History, a glorious walk through the platform’s past, marvellously presented in a series of visual vignettes which recapture events which are bound to be both familiar and new to Second Life residents.

From the landing point, one is invited to tread a watery path through a partially submerged park, only the trees, lamp posts and railings visible, the route leading the way from the gates and 2001, through successive years charting the highs and lows of Second Life’s past and present, before climbing a set of stairs towards the open door of the future, and the promise of the Lab’s “next generation” platform.

Second Life History: the arrival of new primitive shapes (2004)
Second Life History: the arrival of new primitive shapes (2004)

Along the way you can meet a Primitar (looking rather broken and forlorn, lying in the water) and various characters who point the way to different events and occurrences represented by information boards and self-contained scenes which evoke those moments of history and / or the emotions to which they gave rise.

So it is you can learn about (or recall, if you’ve been around long enough) such events as the initial Second Life closed beta in 2002, the opening of the gates to all in 2003, the tax revolt later that year, the arrival of the Linden dollar as a virtual currency and the advent of free accounts, Black September (2006), the banking shutdown of 2007, the Lab’s withdrawal from paying VAT on behalf of users in the European Union, and so on.

Second Life History: marking the arrival of the Teen Grid
Second Life History: marking the arrival of the Teen Grid (2005)

Technical innovations are also marked, both by overhead SL version numbers, and by their own little vignettes – LindenWorld, the first viewer, the arrival of the famous blue UI, prims, pay-to-TP teleport hubs, streaming media, open-sourcing the viewer, voice, windlight, viewer 2.0, it’s all here, as well as all the more recent technical innovations on the platform.

To call the installation a delight is an understatment; if you have any interest at all in SL’s history, it is guaranteed to stir memories, raise a smile, and more. There are a lot of cheeky little touches, and one or two personal pieces; one little vignette marks the rezday of sniper’s first avatar incarnation, while further around the installation is a wonderful little poke at Philip Rosedale’s stepping-down as CEO. Similarly, the arrival of viewer 2.0 is announced by the appropriately named (given users’ reaction to the viewer’s arrival) Curveball Resident.

Second Life History: a whimsical look at Philip Rosedale vacating the CEO's chair
Second Life History: a whimsical look at Philip Rosedale vacating the CEO’s chair (2008)

While exploring the build, don’t miss the web icons; clicking these will take you the official blog posts on the subject being displayed / discussed. These include the very first official blog post from Philip Rosedale in 2004.

This really is a marvellous installation, and shame on me for not having found the time to write about it any sooner. If you’ve not already dropped-in, I really do urge you to do so before the end of July; I seriously doubt you’ll be disappointed!

Given the subject matter, it seems only appropriate that I close with yet another look back at LindenWorld from August 2001.

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7 thoughts on “A walk through SL’s history on the way to the future

  1. I spent over an hour walking through this exhibit and it’s well worth a visit. I joined SL in Jan 2007 so much of it I was here for. Some of it I had forgotten about! Thanks for posting this Inara. =) I for one can’t wait to see what the “future” holds for us all.


  2. Hello Inara, thank you for listing this exhibit, I took a look on the w/end and was surprised, I came to be in 2007 and found myself thinking how ‘primitive’ it was way back then, now 7 years on the changes fantastic.
    Snipers hard work is certainly appreciated.
    Some people have voiced concerns that LL may close down SL given their new investment Project, I certainly hope this is rumour only, any gossip on it?


    1. There’s no foundations in the rumours concerning Second Life’s demise. So long as the platform remains profitable to LL, there is no reason to assume it is going anywhere, whether or not the Lab are working on a next generation platform. If you’re interested in finding out more about the future of SL, I can recommend a read on my transcript of Oz and Pete Linden discussing it.

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