The Rise and Fall of Internet Communities: Lessons for Social VR Spaces and Virtual Worlds

One of the subReddits I follow is called Data is Beautiful, where a user named splittyoassintwo (?!) posted the following chart which interested me:

Internet COmmunities Popularity Chart 7 Apr 2018.png

This picture is a bit too small to read properly, so here’s a link to the original.

I had a good laugh at the rapid rise and equally rapid fall of Google+ (green line). That is EXACTLY how I remembered it, too. Google did their best to destroy something that was initially wonderful, popular and heavily used, through their sheer ineptitude.

This diagram illustrates something I have always thought about Internet communities, which I feel also applies to social VR spaces/virtual worlds. And that is: you might be on top now, but there’s no guarantee that you’re gonna stay there. Second Life has actually had an extraordinarily long run as the most popular virtual world, and still has a significant number of people logging in regularly (according to this recent article in The Atlantic, 600,000 users). But that number has been slowly declining over time. And a number of newer virtual worlds (among them, Sansar by the same company as Second Life) are working hard towards snatching that crown in the era of virtual reality.

VRChat is currently the most popular social VR platform, largely due to the livestreamers on YouTube and Twitch who have profiled the platform. But their user concurrency numbers are still pretty low compared to Second Life, and have gone down from their peak in January of this year.

Moral of the story: you never know what’s going to happen.

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