Why Second Life STILL Has 600,000 Regular Users at 16 Years Old

“Peace? …” by Alice Buttigieg
(Second Life Pic of the Day 07.22.2019)

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 And yet, somehow, the mainstream news media continues to portray Second Life as quaint, outdated and underused.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.

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7 thoughts on “Why Second Life STILL Has 600,000 Regular Users at 16 Years Old”

  1. In my opinion, more data regarding those numbers is needed. Given the fact that 16 years is a long time..it is highly unlikely that most of those 600,000 users are the same 600,000 users from 16 years ago. Life happens. A number of old school users that I know, have passed away. People have moved…gotten new careers…started families.. it makes little sense that numbers would stay the same for nearly 20 years…that is, unless they were artificial, or that 600000 remains part of some hard limit.

    1. There were no 600,000 SL users 16 years ago. Second Life started with ZERO users. That 600,000 is NOT a constant figure over time.

      That 600,000 user figure is counting unique Second Life accounts who have signed into SL in the past month, an estimate based on the actual figure of 542,967 unique Second Life account holders who used the Firestorm viewer to access Second Life, according to statistics Linden Lab provided to Jessica Lyon. I just added 10% to account for people using other SL viewers (like the default Second Life viewer most newbies use).

      All I am doing is pointing out that Second Life has maintained 600,000 regular monthly users between December 2017 (when Leslie Jamison’s article was published in The Atlantic) and today.

  2. Hm, Your blog has eaten my first comment. I try it with a different browser.

    Several wrong assumptions in your post. Not 90% of all SL users use Firestorm, but about 60% to 70%. This was communicated a year ago by Linden Lab in an user group meeting. In my circle of friends, even more than half of the people use the official SL Viewer, because it simply runs faster in many areas.

    On the other hand, there are many users who have 5 or 10 or even more alternative avatars. And many of them sign up at least once in SL within a month. Therefore, I would reduce the 540k users of Firestorm to about 200k real users. Which is still a very positive estimate.

    All in all, I think the monthly number of actual active users is under 400k. However, unique users who log in over a three-month period could still reach the 600k.

    1. Hi Gordon! No, I got both versions (I published the second one). Comments are held until I review and approve them.

  3. Second Life has roughly a maximum of around 20-25k accounts logged on during off hours and only increases by another 20-25k during its peak times, and that is per day. Some of those accounts are bots, or afk avis and should not be counted. So, in earnest, there’s actually only around 40-50k active accounts in Second Life. Linden lab is inflating and exaggerating those numbers to make it seem as if they’re still boasting a very robust population; when in reality… the total actual, and active population in SL is roughly 40-50k. That’s a huge difference in showing actual numbers from exaggerated ones.

    1. Again, I will give the exact quote from Firestorm: “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.” And those statistics don’t include non-Firestorm users (the people who use SL’s client, for example).

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