The history of Second Life 1999-2020

The Tower – History of Second Life 1999-2020, May 2020

Sniper Siemens is perhaps Second Life’s most dogged historian, over the years presenting us with a unique look into the platform’s long history using immersive installations. First seen in 2014, with the assistance of the former Linden Endowment for the Arts, they have been outstanding in their curation of information, facts, figures, images and trivia about Second Life.

Unfortunately, circumstance dictated that Sniper had just two weeks to bring everything together for the 2014 installation, which meant some information had to be missed. This was corrected in 2015 with an expanded LEA installation which I had the pleasure of writing about at the time (see Previewing a walk through SL’s history, February 2015).

Inevitably, time marches on, and Second Life, like anything else with a life of its own, continued to evolve. So in 2017, Sniper unveiled Second Life 1999 / 2017 – The Story. Building on the work completed in 2014 and 2015, this brought SL’s story up-to-date at the time, whilst also adding further depth to the information previously presented (see: Sniper’s Second Life 1999 – 2017: The Story, March 2017).

The Tower – History of Second Life 1999-2020, May 2020

Now Sniper has further updated the installation to include the period 2017-2020. The Tower – History of Second Life 1999-2020 follows a similar format to previous iterations, presenting information in a garden-like environment. However, there is one major difference with this installation: the history is presented using a tower, with information presented chronologically as you ascend through the floors via teleport.

The lowest level of the tower – Floor 1 – includes an outdoor area with reproductions of maps of the mainland continents, and a circa 2008 that, whilst missing private islands and estates (and with them Blake Sea) and excluding Bellisseria (as it obviously didn’t exist in 2008), still presents the mainland continents in something of a “world-like” form.

Pretty much all of the significant points in SL’s history are covered, from the Lab’s inception all the way through to the arrival of EEP. The teleport stations include a summary of the key points in SL’s history that can be found on each floor, making direct teleport to a specific point of interest possible as well as making it easier to jump directly to a given floor should you opt to explore the installation over two or more visits.

The Tower – History of Second Life 1999-2020 – the original Linden Homes

Information  provided in a variety of ways – text boards, images, click-to view (via You Tube) videos and links to web pages – with both technical and social aspects of Second Life’s development covered. Some of the latter may be familiar to people – the 2003 tax revolt, the closure of “private banking”, the various CEOs Linden Lab has in its 21-year lifetime; and some may not be so familiar in terms of their history or the facts surrounding them – such as facts behind the 2008 FBI review of Second Life, or the rise (and fall) of the SLLA.

Much of the information is presented as extracts from the official SL / Linden blogs produced at the time. This helps give a further sense of perspective to things, but it can also leave some matters a little open-ended, which can result in a loss of context in places (e.g. the arrival of the Basic viewer is recorded, but not its eventual end); adding a footnote to such excerpts would perhaps add further context.


One of the earliest video ads for Second Life

For me, what makes this installation (and its past iterations) particularly interesting is that – the aforementioned official blog post extracts notwithstanding – this is also a personal trip through SL’s history. Having originally joined the platform in 2005, Sniper has been involved with SL throughout the greater part of the platform’s life, so there are numerous stories events that are included that have a personal connection to her – Gene Replacement / Plastic Duck, personal commentary on some of the non-blog post boards, etc. These give the installation a more tactile, personal feel.

This “tactile” feel is enhanced be the further inclusion of what might be called “trivia” elements of SL’s history – such as Kermitt Quark and Tringo, carried over from the past versions of the history, together with a new series of boards listing some of the more notable original last names the platform offered to users when signing-up (prior to 2010) and their possible / likely origins.

The Tower – History of Second Life 1999-2020 – the original Orientation Island

Given SL’s history is do vast, The Tower – History of Second Life 1999-2020 is an extensive installation. True, not every single event in Second Life long history is covered – but to try to do this would be a huge challenge in terms of the time needed to curate, organise and present it, and in trying to present the best means to present the information and for people to navigate their way through it.

As it is, the amount of written information on offer can be overwhelming, such that even with the floor summaries at the teleport stations, more than one visit might be advisable if you wish to fully absorb everything. These teleport summaries also allow The Tower to be used as resource by those interested in examining a specific point is SL’s history.

The Tower officially opens on Sunday, May 31st. When visiting, and should you be inclined, you can pick up a Linden World Primitar to wear (and which I was happy to pass on to Sniper 🙂 ). Do, as well, consider making a donation towards the continued presence (and potential update!) to The Tower.

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5 thoughts on “The history of Second Life 1999-2020

  1. Inara, Thanks as always for your posts!

    Speaking of history to present date is there a data source for average concurrent users per day, total active users per month/year. These used to be available a while ago.



    1. Thank you, Site!

      There used to be live stats available through Tateru Nino’s Dwell On It blog and also Tyche Shepherd’s Unfortunately, changes made somewhere meant Tateru’s page stopped getting any updates at all in around 2018, and the last time I checked,’s concurrency page appeared to have ceased updating in 2019. If there are other sources for the data, I’m not aware of them, I’m afraid (although the Firestorm viewer reports total currently on-line a log-in).


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