Now, before you all get your torches and pitchforks and tar and feathers out, and angrily run me out of town, I do want to reassure you: Second Life is still going to be around for many, many years. It still reliably generates millions of dollars of profit every year for Linden Lab, it still generates a fair income for a great many content creators, and it still has—at the ripe old age of 16—approximately half a million regular monthly users. Linden Lab would be absolutely crazy to shut down this cash cow, especially as their latest social VR platform, Sansar, is still struggling to attract users.
Based on what happened in 2019 with High Fidelity, and based on the recent layoffs of much of the team building Sansar at Linden Lab, it is important for people to realize that these platforms are not charities run for the benefit of their users. These are private companies that are doing the best they can to provide value and generate income for their staff and investors, and they are accountable to management, boards of directors, and (in many cases) shareholders and venture capitalists—not to us.
Do not for one second assume that Second Life will be around forever. After observing how Linden Lab is handling the Good Ship Sansar, I am beginning to suspect that when they do decide to shut Second Life down, it will be sudden, unexpected, and brutal.
So how do you prepare for the inevitable? How do you deal with the loss of a beloved virtual world, which will happen someday in the future?
Well, here’s a few tips to get you started.
First, do a little personal research on the process of grieving. Whether you like to admit it or not, you will probably go through all of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ five stages of grief:
In other words, it is normal to feel bad after any loss, even a loss that you might not see as very significant at the time. Depending on how you use Second Life (ranging from an idle pastime to an essential source of income), your reactions to the eventual shuttering of SL are likely to vary. You may go through the steps of grief out of order, plunging directly into depression rather than denial (I myself often do this).
Second, remember this harsh truth: these are businesses, not utilities, charities or non-profits. As I mentioned up top, in business anything can and does happen, and it often happens unexpectedly. Sometimes companies are mismanaged into the ground. Sometimes companies have to do things that you as a user of their products might not like.
For example, it is within the realm of possibility that a behemoth company like Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, or Microsoft buys out Linden Lab and shuts down Second Life, perhaps even to force them to migrate to one of their platforms. (We already saw this happen when Yahoo! bought up the short-lived virtual world Cloud Party, just to grab the programming talent, and then they shut that world down completely. They did hold a lovely farewell, though.)
One of the reasons I got so upset about Sansar is because I got emotionally attached to the platform, associating it with my most recent recovery from serious clinical depression. Unfortunately, my soft spot for Sansar became a major blind spot, and I landed up getting triggered and getting extremely upset and angry when unfortunate things like the layoffs occurred, even though they did not affect me personally.
So it’s probably best to try and reframe your perspective on Second Life. I admit that many people feel about Second Life the way that I felt about Sansar. Hell, even I sometimes feel that way about SL! But after I processed the shock of the sudden Sansar staff layoffs, I do consider myself more emotionally prepared for when the inevitable does happen, and Second Life does shut down. It’s a matter of when, not if.
I look at SL as a hobby, a way to pleasurably pass the time that satisfies my creative and social needs, and if it all goes away tomorrow, well, I had a wonderful time, I got to know some great people, and I will have many happy memories of countless hours of (mis)adventure. (And one hell of a lot of avatar makeovers!)
Third, it’s probably time to gently begin exploring other options. When Linden Lab shuts down Second Life, there will be a massive diaspora, who will likely land up in various successor social VR platforms and virtual worlds. However, the whole process will go a lot smoother if you do not put all your eggs in one basket.
Now would be a good time to see what Sinespace has to offer, for instance. Or perhaps you decide that Sansar is for you, after all. Or any one of the platforms in this spreadsheet I prepared last November (which I will try to keep up-to-date as the market changes and evolves). Who knows? Maybe you will be attracted to the upcoming Facebook Horizon (even if you can’t be whoever you want).
So get out there are explore alternative social VR/virtual worlds. In almost all cases, it costs you nothing to get started. And you might be pleasantly surprised to find a place you quite like, and want to spend a bit of time in. Having options is usually a good thing—and having options is a necessity if you are a content creator. Many designers and creators already have their brand in several different virtual worlds, and they will have some sort of cushion when Second Life fails.
I hope that you find what I have written here to be helpful, and not see it as an attack on Second Life or Linden Lab. It’s not. But now might be a good time to start preparing for the eventual, inevitable end of SL.
Because someday, probably when you least expect it, it will happen.