My Answers to the Ask-Me-Anything (AMA) Questions!

It’s 2:00 a.m. and I have an absolutely wicked case of insomnia, so I decided to write up most of this blopost in the wee small hours of the morning, and answer the questions I received in my Ask Me Anything (AMA) blogpost.

You might find it interesting to see my recent daily blog statistics from WordPress. As you can see, there has been a slow but significant increase in my blog views and visitors within the past two weeks:

In the old days, last year, if I got over 500 views per day, I was quite happy. Now I am regularly getting over 500 views by noon, and well over 1,000 views per day! In the past week, I have even hit 1,200 views per day several times. The overwhelming majority of that traffic is my Second Life content, particularly my coverage of Second Life steals, deals, and freebies.

Despite this level of activity, you are still a rather quiet bunch: I only received three questions!


Andrew Heath asks me:

What features do you think Facebook needs to add to Facebook Horizons, to make it stand out to its rivals?

Well, Facebook has lots of money to throw around at things like advertising and programming talent. Facebook has also been buying up popular VR companies like Beat Saber, and will no doubt find ways to provide exclusive access to Facebook Horizon users, shutting out competing platforms who don’t have such deep pockets.

Facebook will ruthlessly use every tool and tactic at its disposal to ensure that Facebook Horizon stands out and gets attention. Expect massive news media coverage when the social VR platform does open its doors to the general public. Until then, they will be keeping a very tight lid on the alpha testing process, with very little information released.

Another point I want to make is that Facebook is not aiming at the traditional virtual world user community (the classic example being, of course, almost 17-year-old Second Life). Facebook is aiming Horizon at their social media users, the Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp crowd, an estimated audience of over six billion individual accounts, which gives the company massive leverage.

Social Media Statistics as of February 2020 (source)

Whether they succeed at enticing these people to take the plunge into virtual reality remains to be seen, but sales of Oculus Quest in particular have been strong, despite supply chain problems due to the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, the coronavirus pandemic may give an advantage to Facebook, as millions of people around the world self-isolate at home and seek ways to interact and socialize in ways that feel more immersive than Discord, Zoom and Webex. The timing might be perfect.

However, your Facebook Horizon avatar will be clearly associated with your real-life profile, and you can bet that Facebook will advertise to you in a similar targeted fashion to what you now see in your Facebook social network feed. While this link to your real-life profile may well cut down on griefing, trolling, and harassment, it is also likely to be unappealing to many current metaverse platform users for exactly that same reason. I wrote more about it in an editorial here.


Chamberlain asks:

Has anybody had any commercial success with any of these ventures, other than Second Life?

Well, the only company that I know that’s generating a profit (and that’s because because I was extremely nosey, and I asked them) is ENGAGE, which seems to be doing quite well for itself in the educational social VR market. And, of course, Cryptovoxels is making enough money to enable its lead developer, Ben Nolan, to work on it full-time. The rest is a question mark. And that’s perfectly fine with me; metaverse-building companies are certainly under no obligation to tell me/us if they’re making money yet or not.

The key here seems to be: start small, grow organically and incrementally, and let things evolve and customers come to you. I do know that some social VR platforms and virtual worlds have seen an uptick in business because of the wholesale shift of things like conferences from the real world to the virtual world (in fact, one company I know is working lots of overtime dealing with all the extra business!).

From my vantage point, it seems pretty clear that the strategy of throwing years of software development work and millions of dollars of venture capital at platforms has not worked out well so far (e.g. High Fidelity, Sansar), mainly because the consumer market for virtual reality failed to ignite as predicted. However, the coronavirus pandemic is now a potential game-changer for a lot of metaverse-building companies. The longer the public health crisis lasts, and the more quarantines, lockdowns, and social distancing are imposed on restless populations, the more people will look at these platforms as a place to work, meet, rest, and play.

On the flip side, the mounting economic crisis will also cause some poorly-thought-out metaverse projects to fold due to lack of investment. I can see this happening for many of the start-ups in the blockchain-based virtual worlds, for example. Not the three front runners (Cryptovoxels, Decentraland, and Somnium Space), but the also-rans, many blockchain projects which seem to consist of nothing much more than: a white paper full of crypto-bafflegab; a .io website domain spouting senseless use cases; mystifying, vague promotional videos; and a tired Telegram group flogging a struggling ICO. Expect to see a lot of shutdowns in this market segment. Those who were lucky enough to get in at the right time might (might) make a tidy profit; the rest are doomed.

As for Sansar, I honestly fail to see how pursuing the exact same strategy that failed when they were owned by Linden Lab—a focus on live events to the exclusion of just about anything and everything else—will make the slightest bit of difference now that they are owned by Wookey, barring some miracle. I could very well be wrong; perhaps another year or two of runway, and Sansar will indeed take off in flight (my apologies for that rather mangled metaphor). But many of the world designers and builders who helped shape the early days of Sansar, and built many of their most popular worlds, now feel alienated by this pivot and have simply given up, migrating to benefit other platforms such as Sinespace. Many former Sansar users are now kicking the tires on Helios, a brand new social VR platform based on the Unreal game engine. Sansar’s loss is their gain.

Ironically, one or more of the three forks of the open-source High Fidelity code may yet take off in popularity, although there’s obviously still lots of work to do. However, there is an energy and enthusiasm I see taking place in these forks that is encouraging, and frankly infectious. I do wish these projects well, and I will follow them closely.


And finally, John has a longer comment and a question for me:

Not sure I have a question. But would very much like to say that the occasional glimpses into your ‘real self/world’ moments as opposed to the ‘virtual world’ moments/posts, are incredibly powerful and reassuring, reminding me that all of us are human, and these glimpses are what keep me coming back to your blog. They comfort me and reassure me. You are real. You are trying your best. And you help me (us) when you show us what is beyond the successful veneer of the top notch librarian/researcher. Just wanted to say thanks. Your blog is part of my morning ritual, along with the newspapers, and it is even more of a requirement now, in these difficult times. Oh yes, I might have a question. Can you keep this blog of yours going till the ol’ Internet fades?

Thank you for your kind words, John! I’m glad I can be a small part of your day.

I would like to thank, from the bottom of my heart, all my readers. Some of you have chosen to express your appreciation via my Patreon page, and that money now covers my blog hosting costs on WordPress, for which I am extremely grateful. Whether or not you are a Patreon supporter, your support means the world to me.

And yes, I do plan to keep this blog going as long as I can, and I’ve even thought a bit about having it archived in some way after I pass on, to create a sort of time capsule of an interesting era in social VR and virtual worlds. I am currently in the process of creating a will and a healthcare power of attorney, still waiting to hear back from the lawyer that my financial planner recommended. (I also plan on leaving many of my Second Life avatars to other people via my will. My lawyer is going to have a field day drawing up my will!)

In the interim, especially in these precarious days of pandemic, I will be writing up a detailed document to share with my friends and family, with all my accounts and passwords, making my wishes clear in the event of my untimely death. I will not leave you hanging!

But I don’t plan on going anywhere! I am just starting to hit my stride here.

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1,500 Blogposts!

Today I reached a new milestone for my blog: this is my 1,500th blogpost! I have made 1,500 posts over 830 days, which works out to almost two blogposts per day!

Here are my Top 15 most popular (i.e. most viewed) blogposts since I started this blog on July 31st, 2017:

  1. Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: Free and Inexpensive Mesh Heads and Bodies for Female Second Life Avatars (originally published on Sept. 24, 2018, and with 12,101 views to date)
  2. The Dirty Little Secret of VRChat: Hidden Adult Content (March 28, 2019; 10,647 views)
  3. Meet the Man Who Has Lost 200 Pounds Playing Beat Saber in VR (August 6, 2019; 10,207 views)
  4. More Details on the Upcoming Ability to Change Your User Name in Second Life (March 22, 2018; 7,009 views)
  5. Linden Lab Announces a Mix of Good News and Bad News for Second Life Users (May 29, 2019; 5,689 views)
  6. RyanSchultz.com Reader Poll: What Social VR/Virtual World Do You Spend the Most Time In? (Feb. 21, 2019; 5,553 views)
  7. Oasis: A Brief Introduction to a New, Adults-Only Social VR Platform (Aug. 7, 2018; 4,670 views)
  8. Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: The Four Best Freebie Stores in Second Life (May 15, 2018; 3,830 views)
  9. Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: Free and Inexpensive Mesh Heads and Bodies for Male Second Life Avatars (Oct. 4, 2018; 3,541 views)
  10. The Mesh Project Releases New Mesh Male and Female Mesh Bodies for Second Life Avatars: Why I Won’t Be Buying One (April 23, 2019; 3,402 views)
  11. Comprehensive List of Social VR Platforms and Virtual Worlds (which is a constantly updated page; 3,092 views)
  12. Second Life Versus Sansar: Why Linden Lab Can’t Win, No Matter What They Do (March 9, 2018; 2,816 views)
  13. Linden Lab Lays Off 30 Staff (Nov. 4, 2019; 2,697 views)
  14. Lindsey Stirling to Perform in Wave Monday, August 26th (Aug. 22, 2019; 2,556 views)
  15. Earning Money Creating Custom Avatars in VRChat: An Interview with Ghoster (April 27, 2018; 2,435 views)

I still find it somewhat amusing that #2 and #7 are ranked as high as they are; obviously, people keep searching for adult content in virtual worlds, and they keep finding those two blogposts in their search results! And #3 somehow got picked up by Google News, which explains the spike in viewers. Most of these posts were made in 2018 or early 2019, with the notable exception of #13, which was posted only three days ago!

Seven of my Top 15 entries are either fully or partly about Second Life. Two (#2 and #15) are about VRChat. And only one is about Sansar: #12, which lends further support to my decision to cut back on the volume of reporting I do about Sansar on this blog.

Recent Statistics Show a Slow But Steady Increase in Sansar Users (Also: The Most Popular Worlds in Sansar)

Image by Mediamodifier from Pixabay

I do find it somewhat ironic that the two Sansar users who have posted user concurrency statistics for the platform in the past—Galen and Gindipple—have both largely moved on from Sansar to other projects.

However, I did receive a recent statistics chart generated by Gindipple, courtesy of Medhue (thanks!), which I wanted to share with you:

Gindipple’s stats show slow but steady growth in the number of concurrent users on Sansar. The monthly average concurrent Sansarians figure (bottom chart) has roughly doubled between March 2018 and October 2019.

Galen’s statistics page shows a similar growth in users, including peaks of up to 150 concurrent users at one time:

Even Wagner James Au, of the long-running blog New World Notes, who has often criticized Sansar for its low user concurrency figures in the past, posted the following “infographic” based on Steam usage figures (drawn by the talented artist Danielle Feigenbaum, creator of the regular feature Nylon Pinkney is Online comic on his blog):

Now, I do have a couple of criticisms of this image.

First, it is not an infographic; it is a cartoon. The zig-zag graph in the background is purely decorative, not informative.

Second, the small print along the bottom is almost impossible to read. It says:

Total concurrent users across all platforms potentially 2-3 times larger than Steam CCUs (concurrent users). Numbers based on Steam stats in September 2019 – Source: Steam Database Info

Even Wagner cannot deny that Sansar has had a recent jump in usage:

As of last month, in terms of peak concurrent users, VRChat remains the 800 pound Knuckle [a reference to the Ugandan Knuckles meme], with Rec Room maintaining its distant second place.  There was also a small surprise bump for Linden Lab’s Sansar… After concurrency rates that averaged in the mid two figures (yes, that low) for most of the year, Sansar peak concurrency for September jumped to 220 last Friday. Thanks, at least in part, to a VR dating show hosted by online celebrity Jesse Cox and probably more key, the launch of an official Hello Kitty experience…

The problem with relying solely on Steam statistics in the case of Sansar is that there are two different ways that people can download the Sansar client software:

  1. Via Steam (which does publish public statistics on usage);
  2. Via the Sansar website (Linden Lab does not publish user stats).

We have no way of knowing what percentage of Sansar users downloaded their client software via Steam. Therefore, we still have to guess at the total overall level of usage of Sansar, using imperfect tools such as Steam stats and Galen’s and Gindipple’s statistics.

However, all three sources do show a slow but steady increase in the number of concurrent users in Sansar, which I’m sure Linden Lab is pleased to see. Of course, they also have their own internal statistics, which they do not release to the public, which I am sure confirm this trend.


Gindipple also released a pie chart showing the most popular Sansar worlds. Unsurprisingly (since all incoming users spawn there by default now), the Nexus is the most visited world, with 70% of the total number of recent visitors (I believe that these stats cover the past seven days):

Following the Nexus, the most popular Sansar worlds (formerly called experiences) are:

  • Skyway Avenue (3.69% of total recent visitors)
  • The Point of No Return – Chapter I (2.65%)
  • Susan’s Diary (2.39%)
  • Orphanage of Angels (2.35%)
  • Fire Goat’s Free Avatar Store (1.96%)
  • Ultimate Disc (1.93%)
  • The Slewhouse (1.85%)
  • Once Upon a Midnight Dream (1.77%)
  • Scurry Waters (1.57%)
  • Monstercat Call of the Wild (1.52%)
  • Sanrio World (1.44%)
  • Camp Goonies (1.24%)
  • 114 Harvest (1.07%)

I do have rather mixed feelings about Linden Lab’s recent design decision to have users automatically spawn in the Nexus when they log into Sansar. On one hand, it does make it much easier for avatars to encounter other avatars in-world, and I often see groups of people gathered having conversations with each other, which is good.

But on the other hand, it is an absolute pain in the ass to have to keep going back to the Nexus when you simply want to explore the various Sansar worlds. If you are in desktop mode, you can still use the Atlas on the Sansar website, but if you are in VR mode, you pretty much have to keep cycling through the Nexus to find and select new experiences to visit, which quickly gets tiring.

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.