Lab takes an end-of-year look at Second Life

On Wednesday, December 19th, Linden Lab offered a look back at 2018 and something of a look ahead to 2019. There’s actually been a lot going on, although it is surprising to note that some of the bigger deliveries / anticipated deliveries actually first started to surface in 2017, when I reviewed / previewed them.

I’ll be taking a look through the major changes to Second Life myself in an upcoming blog post, so won’t delve too deeply into things here.

Unsurprisingly, Animesh is featured front-and-centre for the year’s delivery – although it’ll be early 2019 before we really start to see the impact this project has on the grid as a whole; many creators have yet to really embrace it, although there were certainly a lot of creative ideas put forward at the Content Creation User Group meetings.

The Lab’s post also focuses on the changes made to land pricing in SL – arguably the biggest set of changes in 2018. It’s fair to say  that overall, the response to changes both Mainland and Private regions has been positive. In fact, it could be one – and I emphasise one, because there are others – of the reasons people might be spending less: with limited disposal income, people may have diverted some of their Second life spending away from buying things and into premium memberships and  / or land.

For me, the big projects through 2018 and 2019 have been, and remain, the Environmental Enhancement Project (EEP) and the attempt to move Second Life to the cloud. The latter is hard to judge, as it is very much a behind-the-scenes move that has yet to really have an impact on the user-facing side of the platform. however, I fully expect we’ll be hearing more about it in 2019.

EEP, on the other hand, is something I think will help revolutionise the look of Second Life – even if not quite to the extent some may hope. As such, I’m actually more excited about this than Animesh (and have had great fun playing with EEP whilst it has been in beta testing).

In particular, it will finally bring environment control down to the parcel level, as well as allowing different environment settings at different altitudes. These two capabilities have, until EEP, been dependent on purely viewer-side support and limited to the use of the likes of Firestorm. With these capabilities now moving server-side, everyone gets to benefit from them, regardless of the viewer they’re using, and region / parcel holders finally get the opportunity to have users see their regions and locations as they desire (allow for people retaining the ability to override, viewer-side), and without having to request they change their viewer settings manually, or having to worry about whether or not the windlight they are using is generally available.

Again, EEP won’t be appearing fully until 2019, but the Lab’s blog post includes a nice little preview video by Silas Merlin that I’m taking the liberty of reproducing here.

For me, the most interesting part of the Lab’s blog post comes at the end, starting with a chart showing average concurrency over the last two years. It shows levels to be relatively stable.

Of course, there might be a temptation to offer contrasts between this chart and others that report more in the way of averages over shorter periods – such as those found on the Firestorm log-in screen or via infographics such as those shown on Tateru Nino’s stats pages (which appear to be recording again after having problems earlier in the year). However, given there is no actual benchmark for the Lab’s chart, such comparisons would be somewhat off-base; the chart isn’t designed to show averages or daily high-lows. It simply shows a 730-day period in which the peak daily log-ins (I would assume) have remained pretty constant, despite all the claims of falling numbers.

The Lab’s two-year concurrency chart

The flipside of this of course, is that equally, it’s hard to really judge such a broad trend like as this, simply because it is likely taken from one data point, be it peak daily log-ins or something else. For example: if it is tracking just peak log-ins, what were the daily minimums? How long per day were the peak periods? have there been any changes in this over the two years?

A more interesting stat is that for the amount of USD cashed-out. Put at $65 million, this is only $2 million less than that quoted for 2017, and still above the US $60 million for 2016. As such, it stands at odds with claims that the Second Life economy has been in some kind of slump during at least the second half of 2018, suggesting that things have been relatively stable overall. Which is not to say that some merchants haven’t seen a downturn in sales; but these could be the result of people shifting their spending habits more that not spending their money – see my comment re land, above.

The final two listings on the Marketplace and the Destination Guide make for interesting reading, but little more – although the fact that men’s apparel comes in 10th on the Marketplace  while women’s comes in second might be an interesting topic to plumb. Is it simply because there are fewer creators focusing on menswear, or is it a combination of fewer creators and male Second Life users perhaps being less driven by the demands of fashion?

As noted, I’ll have more on the technical and other updates to Second Life in an upcoming article, and for now will leave you to read the Lab’s summation in peace 🙂 .

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18 thoughts on “Lab takes an end-of-year look at Second Life

  1. What about bakes on mesh? No mention of it in the article, though the project viewer appears to be continuing active development. That will trigger a wave of body upgrades and new clothing designs when it hits the main grid.

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    1. As I said, I’ll be covering all of SL’s technical developments in a separate article that will be forthcoming. That’ll include BoM (as well as other things); I avoided it here as it deserves a deeper dive, even if it is a drier subject than something like EEP. BoM is however, mentioned in the Lab’s post.

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  2. re. the male/female clothing disparity;
    I have been paying attention to those around me whenever I drop into a shopping venue, especially ones that cater to a general clientele (eg. landscaping and decoration as opposed to women’s clothing, makeup, etc.). The female to male ratio is almost invariably on the order of 2 to 1. I suppose it is possible that female avatars just shop more, but more likely, SL is dominated by female avatars; regardless of member’s RL gender. Of course, creators cater to the avatars they see in their stores.

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    1. Is it any wonder, Shug? I always though SL, for various reasons, makes the perfect virtual world for girls. We don’t have to fight, shoot and kill, we can sit around in our houses and tinker with decorations and dress our dolls and make photos of how pretty we are. Perfect and much more accessible and nicer than Sansar.

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    2. Which is a fair point. historically, in terms of the gender split, SL had “traditionally” had a higher number of female (or perhaps female avatar centric) users than male. I have echoes of both Philip Rosedale and Rod Humble raising this point in the past at (IIRC) SLCC events (although Rod only did the one before they ended), and I have a vague impression Mark Kingdon may have remarked on it in one of his interviews with Dusan Writer (unfortunately, the links I have to Dusan’s articles are no longer valid, so I cannot check. As a total aside, Dusan’s pieces, if totally gone, are a loss, as they were a good reference point for perspective when looking back on the Mark Kingdon era and what immediately followed (an example of this is his coverage of the large-scale expansion of staff under Mark Kingdon; something that helps put the lay-offs of 2010 into perspective, but which rarely get mentioned when referencing the cuts themselves).

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      1. Re the M/F user ratio vs the M/F avatar ratio: these stats are only for the US and I have no idea what the methodology to determine user gender was, but the gender ratio of the users seems to be roughly the opposite of the avatars: https://nwn.blogs.com/nwn/2018/05/sl-user-rates-similarweb.html. But there’s also the complication of registered vs active users; as a social and creative environment rather than gaming environment, SL may have more to offer women (I’m acknowledging the reality of most MMOs there). As for men’s clothes, in my opinion it’s mostly meh. Tuxedos/suits, t-shirts & shorts, hoodies & barely hanging on your hips jeans. Then again, I don’t shop much.

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    3. Try looking for novel clothes for male avatars that are a match for the outrageous and innovative women’s fashions. You will not find much. So even if you’re among the smallish proportion of the third of avatars who are male , who choose to be well dressed, you’re not going to be well rewarded.

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    4. 2 to 1 because half of the females on SL are really guys playing them because there is more clothing option for females (plus females are nicer to look at lol). I have 2 males and 4 females all with mesh bodies. Just 1 of my females alone owns approximately 60x the amount of clothes than both my males put together (probably even higher than that) If someone like Blueberry or Addams started to make nice clothes for males like they do the females I would buy them all. Guys are so limited when it comes to clothes. I pretty much wear the same 3 outfits on my males, on my females I wear a different outfit for every day of the year (exaggeration but dang near close lol) .

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      1. There is the question of how much time people spend in-world. Back in the the olden daisies when LL released user statistics, there were more men than women registered but female residents tended to spend more time in SL on average.

        Another factor is social vs anti-social uses of SL. There are residents who spend all their time building, and may spend a lot of time using Second Life. But they are rarely seen by anybody else in-world. They also likely don’t bother buying much clothing because they aren’t seen anyway.

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  3. Reblogged this on Thar She Blows! and commented:
    Here, I stole this interesting article from Inara’s blog. It’s one of those End-of-year statistics. And particularly the concurrency chart doesn’t look to bad.

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  4. Back to the main topics of your post: I too am excited about EEP. Now, wouldn’t it be fantastic if it were also scriptable? Windlights that change according to who you’re with, how many avs are present, the SL wind, external data sources (a London sim could mimic London’s current weather), etc. Sadly, these days the only people who might make use of scriptable environments are probably Bryn Oh and maybe a curator or two, but still, what a fun feature that could be.

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    1. EEP will be scriptable, leveraging experiences, so that environmental changes can be applied at the agent level, so there are a lot of opportunities.

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  5. Hi Inara! It’s been a while since we had published concurrency numbers and that’s unfortunate. It also led to some pretty wild speculation, as you point out 🙂 Concurrency is the total number of avatars inworld at any given point in time – which internally we consider one of the most important measures of SL health. It’s also cool to see how much seasonality affects concurrency, don’t you think?

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  6. I have done quite a bit of tinkering with Windlight and trying to get more realistic looking skies into SL. I have some of my skies available in the marketplace. The video looks encouraging, but I hope it allows for some realism as well as the fantasy styles we see.

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    1. Hi Stevie, I actually have some of you sky sets, and wrote about them earlier in the year – great work! I actually frequently use a number of your skies (along with those by Annan Adored) as a basis for my environment settings when photographing regions as a part of my Exploring Second Life series.

      I think the bias with EEP is towards demonstrating the more fantasy end of things right now as it is so new – but the potential for realism is there as well. If you’ve not tried the system yourself, I recommend you contact Alexa Linden in the New Year and request a test parcel on the Aditi EEP test regions and have a play with the EEP project viewer (which includes the option for you to import your Windlight XMLs to see how they work as EEP assets). You can find links to the EEP resources / documentation via my Content Creation User Group meeting summaries.

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      1. Hi Inara, I have been away from SL for some time due to having a new house built, back now. Thanks for the kind words re my skies, I hope to explore some more with making the realistic skies. In some situations it really brings alive SL landscapes. 🙂 Thanks, I shall have a deeper look at EEP after Christmas. Regards, Stevie.

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