Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Second Life unWired

Frank Rose at Wired magazine has taken a close look at Second Life and, well, it doesn’t look great from where he is sitting. For a start, the numbers don’t stack up. Second Life partisans claim meteoric growth, with the …

Wed, Jul 25, 2007, 09:31

   

Frank Rose at Wired magazine has taken a close look at Second Life and, well, it doesn’t look great from where he is sitting.

For a start, the numbers don’t stack up.

Second Life partisans claim meteoric growth, with the number of “residents,” or avatars created, surpassing 7 million in June. There’s no question that more and more people are trying Second Life, but that figure turns out to be wildly misleading. For starters, many people make more than one avatar. According to Linden Lab, the company behind Second Life, the number of avatars created by distinct individuals was closer to 4 million. Of those, only about 1 million had logged on in the previous 30 days (the standard measure of Internet traffic), and barely a third of that total had bothered to drop by in the previous week. Most of those who did were from Europe or Asia, leaving a little more than 100,000 Americans per week to be targeted by US marketers.

Then, what do people do when they get there?

Once you put in several hours flailing around learning how to function in Second Life, there isn’t much to do. That may explain why more than 85 percent of the avatars created have been abandoned. The big draws for those who do return are free money and kinky sex. On a random day in June, the most popular location was Money Island (where Linden dollars, the official currency, are given away gratis), with a score of 136,000. Sexy Beach, one of several regions that offer virtual sex shops, dancing, and no-strings hookups, came in at 133,000.

It may be time to issue some stern words to the marketing departments at the 50 major companies who’ve decided to do business on Second Life to date.

The Sears store on IBM’s Innovation Island had a traffic score of 281; Coke’s Virtual Thirst pavilion, a mere 27. And even when corporate destinations actually draw people, the PR can be less than ideal. Last winter, CNET’s in-world correspondent was conducting a live interview with Anshe Chung, an avatar said to have earned more than $1 million on virtual real estate deals, when Chung was assaulted by flying penises in a griefer attack.

So why the hell are the corporates, ad agencies and brands flocking to Second Life? Veteran advertising expert Joseph Plummer puts it down to, well, terror.

“A terror has gripped corporate America. The simple model they all grew up with” — the 30-second spot, delivered through the mass reach of television — “is no longer working. And there are two types of people out there: a small group that’s experimenting thoughtfully, and a large group that’s trying the next thing to come through the door.”

Enter, then, the Second Life sheep.

Actually, how many On The Record readers are on the Second Life buzz?

We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 10 days from the date of publication.