In the December 2017 issue of The Atlantic magazine, Leslie Jamison wrote an article about Second Life. The webpage for that article has the original article title, Second Life Still Has 600,000 Regular Users (which you can check for yourself by doing a Google search):
However, it would seem that Leslie’s editor at The Atlantic wanted a somewhat punchier title, and so we have The Digital Ruins of a Forgotten Future, which shows up when you click on that link. (I’m pretty sure that Linden Lab is less than pleased with that particular editor.)
There’s a quote from that article which is, to my knowledge, the most up-to-date statistic we have about how many people still use Second Life:
Of the 36 million Second Life accounts that had been created by 2013—the most recent data Linden Lab will provide—only an estimated 600,000 people still regularly use the platform.
“Only” 600,000? That still makes Second Life, far and away, the most popular virtual world. And yet, somehow, the mainstream news media continues to portray Second Life as quaint, outdated and underused.
Well, today, Jessica Lyon, the founder, CEO, and project manager of the Firestorm viewer project, posted an editorial about their recent decision to separate the Firestorm viewer into Second Life and OpenSim versions, titled OpenSim: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Now, I am not going to dissect all the gory technical details of that announcement here. But one statistic did happen to catch my eye:
Let’s get this out of the way first: 542,967 unique users across 9.9 million sessions spending 17.7 million hours logged into Second Life on Firestorm over the last 30-day period.
That is our most recent set of metrics regarding Firestorm usage in Second Life, directly from Linden Lab. Those are mind-blowing figures. Although we don’t have metrics for how many OpenSim users run Firestorm, it is safe to say it isn’t anywhere near that. My estimate would be somewhere around 2,000 users. But still… THAT’S NOT WHY!
It is because of those numbers that we prioritize Second Life, but those numbers are NOT why we struggle with OpenSim.
So, in other words, over the past 30 days, 542,967 unique Second Life account holders used the Firestorm viewer to access Second Life. Now, Firestorm is by far the most popular viewer. Let’s assume that all the other viewers combined (including Second Life’s own native viewer) have only 10% of the market that Firestorm occupies, which I think is a fairly reasonable assumption.
10% of 542,967 is 54,296. Adding 54,296 to 542,967 (or just multiplying 542,967 by 1.10) gives us…597,264.
Which means that Second Life, still, has approximately 600,000 regular users in the past month.
Why are people still so committed to Second Life after 16 years? As I have written before:
What is the secret to Second Life’s “stickiness”? In a word, it’s investment: investment of time, investment of money, investment in an avatar representation, and investment in community.
Until a social VR/virtual world platform comes along that can offer everything that Second Life does, it is going to continue to be the most commercially successful and most popular virtual world around, and a reliable cash cow for Linden Lab.
One day, one of the newer social VR platforms like Sansar, VRChat, Rec Room, or perhaps even Facebook’s upcoming “Metaverse” project, will steal that crown. But not today. And not tomorrow.
Whether you like it or not, and whether the news media admits it or not, Second Life is still relevant and still rules. Competing metaverse platforms would kill to get the level of usage Second Life still gets, even after 16 years of continuous operation, even as it has been all but written off by mainstream media.